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Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoes



Very comfortable upper and surprisingly weatherproof, but powerful riders will find the sole on the soft side
Excellent comfort levels from the upper
Rubber outsole aids walking
Woven upper is robust
Flexible sole when getting the power down

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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Although I had some initial concerns about durability and warmth, the Rapha Explore Powerweave shoes have really impressed, especially in the comfort stakes. If your rides are more about high performance, though, you may find the sole isn't stiff enough.

Rapha's gravel/adventure Explore shoes have been given the Powerweave treatment – an upper made from a 3D-woven fabric. Knitted shoes have been a thing for a while now, and while they might look as though they have some drawbacks, there is a lot to like. The 100% TPU-reinforced polyester yarns used in the Explore Powerweave's construction creates a very comfortable upper.

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When I first tried them on, I wasn't so sure. The 'strings' used by the Boa system for tightening the shoes didn't feel up to much, and the whole fit felt a little baggy.

2021 Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoes - opening_.jpg

After around 300 miles of riding, though, the upper has kind of moulded itself to my foot shape and they are now amazingly comfortable, even on warm days when your feet can start to swell. No adjustment is necessary as they just follow the contours.

The upper is soft, too, and gives a fit like a very supple leather.

2021 Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoes - side detail.jpg

It's robust as well. Some of my latest explorations have seen some tough hike-a-bike sections over rocks and through brambles and the like, which have had no ill effects.

> How to choose the best cycling shoes for you

These are shoes you'll likely be wearing in the warmer months when things are dry and dusty, but I've been testing them through the tail end of winter where, alongside the warmer temperature seen at the end of March, things have been cold and wet.

They aren't exactly waterproof, but off-road riding doesn't kick up spray like the asphalt does, and if it's raining your feet don't get anywhere as wet as you'd expect. In the wind, I'd say they are no worse than a pair of vented road shoes.

2021 Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoes - boa.jpg

When it comes to the sole, I'm going to disagree with Rapha's claim that the shoe is purpose-built for fast-paced off-road riding. If you like to get a lick on or attack the climbs, you are going to find there is a fair amount of flex.

Compared with the Shimano RX8 gravel shoes that I usually wear, the Raphas are noticeably softer, having a carbon section that extends from behind the toes to just before the heel section rather than a full carbon sole like the Shimanos. That does have its benefits, but at times it can also feel like too much of a compromise.

2021 Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoes - sole toe.jpg

I've got some short gravel routes I use for testing. They're about 90 minutes long, chopping and changing between road, gravel tracks and byways, and here the RX8s win. They've got the stiffness that you can use to pound the pedals and drive the bike up the climbs.

On really long rides, the trade-off with comfort can rear its head. It was here, on four to five-hour rides, where the Explores would take the edge, though I would cuss when I hit a really steep climb.

2021 Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoes - in step.jpg

The Raphas are also more comfortable to walk in, and their chunky tread helps grip.

2021 Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoes - sole heel.jpg

The finish quality of the Powerweaves is very good, and after a couple of months' worth of hard labour they are barely showing a mark on the top or bottom. That's what you'd hope for a £260 pair of shoes, though. They're £40 more than the RX8s, which are virtually the same price as the standard Explores at £220.

Giro's Empire VR70 Knit shoes are cheaper too, closer in price to the Shimanos at £229.


Although I'd disagree with Rapha's claims about the Explore Powerweaves' performance levels, I will admit they are very comfortable shoes for long or short rides out on the trails. Think more long-distance tour than gravel blast, though, and for this kind of money I would expect more of a performance edge alongside the comfort.


Very comfortable upper and surprisingly weatherproof, but powerful riders will find the sole on the soft side

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Make and model: Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoes

Size tested: 45

Tell us what the product is for

Rapha says, "The Explore Powerweave Shoe is purpose-built for fast-paced off-road riding. Tested to the limit by pro riders and amateurs alike, these robust yet lightweight shoes and their innovative 3D-woven upper fabric offer an unrivalled combination of sock-like comfort and locked-in performance. The TPU-reinforced yarns of the Powerweave fabric provide high durability and weather resistance, whilst keeping weight down and comfort high. A strong, lightweight carbon footplate transfers power efficiently when pedalling, but finishes before the toe and heel to provide flex just where you need it for comfort while walking. The footplate is set into an extremely grippy rubber sole with a recess for the cleat that ensures you will remain surefooted on any terrain, in all weather conditions. The sculpted heel cup has been designed to hug your foot, keeping the shoe comfortably in place on and off the bike, while the midfoot is hugely adjustable thanks to BOA's new incremental Li2 dial platform, which is fully integrated into the shoe's upper for a secure fit that's tailored to your foot. Adjustable arch support allows for a range of foot shapes while a spacious toe box with a toe strap for micro adjustments means all-day comfort when riding.

'Tested over tens of thousands of kilometres on bikepacking expeditions and ultra-endurance races, from Dolomite trails to the sands of the Sahara, the Explore Powerweave Shoes are ready for your fastest dirt rides and adventures."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Rapha lists:

High-performance Powerweave upper reinforced with TPU yarn

Lightweight carbon sole, cut shorter for flexibility at toe and heel

BOA Li2 fit system

Durable and grippy natural rubber tread

Lightweight anodized titanium hardware

Signature woven Rapha toe strap

Replaceable Ti cleat bolt plate

2-bolt compatible cleats

Reflective heel for visibility at night

Reinforced heel for durability


100% woven polyester

Sole footplate:

Carbon fibre


EVA insole with soft antimicrobial microfibre top layer

Outsole cover:

100% rubber

Cleat bolts:

100% titanium

Rate the product for quality of construction:
Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for durability:
Rate the product for fit:
Rate the product for sizing:

The sizing is in line with Rapha's guide.

Rate the product for weight:
Rate the product for comfort:
Rate the product for value:

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

A very comfortable shoe provided stiffness isn't your defining factor for buying.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The upper moulds to your foot shape over time.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Flexible sole.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on

There isn't a huge number of woven gravel shoes on the market; the Giros I mention in the review are the closest fit, but they are cheaper and come with a stiffer sole. But they have laces rather than a Boa system.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, for those longer, less explosive rides.

Would you consider buying the product? I really like the fit and comfort, but it's a lot of money for a pair of shoes that are a bit soft for my liking.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if performance wasn't their only goal.

Use this box to explain your overall score

Excellent quality and the upper is super comfortable, but for this sort of money I was just expecting more when it came to the performance of the sole.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 42  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,

With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!

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