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review

Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoes

7
£260.00

VERDICT:

7
10
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
Weight: 
772g
Contact: 

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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.

> Buy these online here

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.

Conclusion

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.

Verdict

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

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road.cc test report

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

Upper:

100% woven polyester

Sole footplate:

Carbon fibre

Insole:

EVA insole with soft antimicrobial microfibre top layer

Outsole cover:

100% rubber

Cleat bolts:

100% titanium

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the product for fit:
 
8/10
Rate the product for sizing:
 
8/10

The sizing is in line with Rapha's guide.

Rate the product for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the product for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the product for value:
 
4/10

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 road.cc?

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,

As part of the tech team here at F-At Digital, senior product reviewer Stu spends the majority of his time writing in-depth reviews for road.cc, off-road.cc and ebiketips using the knowledge gained from testing over 1,500 pieces of kit (plus 100's of bikes) since starting out as a freelancer back in 2009. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 170,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him, he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. With a background in design and engineering, he has an obsession with how things are developed and manufactured, has a borderline fetish for handbuilt metal frames and finds a rim braked road bike very aesthetically pleasing!

Add new comment

9 comments

Avatar
Rapha Nadal | 2 years ago
1 like

A bit of flex in the sole is desirable for an off-road orentated shoe surely?  You'll no doubt be doing some walking and hike a bike at some point.

How has the material held up given that it's powerweave?  Any tears from errant rocks or brambles?

Avatar
bobrayner replied to Rapha Nadal | 2 years ago
1 like

Just to be contrarian: Are you goïng to spend a lot of time walking on hard flat surfaces? Personally, I'm right in the target demographic for these shoes, and I've never thought "Oh no, my shoes are too stiff" when I dismount for a few seconds to open a farm gate or walk through a bog, as part of an hour-long ride.

Good point about the powerweave, though; can anyone really be sure their shoes will still look good after twenty rides through mud and thorns and dust?

Avatar
Rapha Nadal replied to bobrayner | 2 years ago
0 likes

Some of us ride for more than an hour though!  And in some varying terrains that you simply have to walk on/over/through at points.  With the ever increasing love of multiday backpacking ("pack light, travel far" anybody) wouldn't you prefer a bit of give in your shoe to save your feet?  

Avatar
bendertherobot | 2 years ago
0 likes

I find mine plenty stiff enough, marginally less so than the Rapha PT shoes. 

And they are very comfortable indeed. Great shoes, and the price is pretty good really, in comparison to top end Giro etc.

But I echo the other views too that this is gravel, not a high end off road racing shoe

Avatar
zeeridesbikes replied to bendertherobot | 2 years ago
0 likes

Do they fit the same as the PT shoes? I have the PT shoes and they are the only ones which seem to fit my weirdly shaped feet. 

Avatar
bendertherobot replied to zeeridesbikes | 2 years ago
0 likes

Yes, very similar fit

Avatar
theslowcyclistxx | 2 years ago
2 likes

Should we not applause that at the high end price level, especially in gravel, we can find both performance oriented as well as comfort oriented equipment? While some might prefer a stiffer sole, I don't think this should be detract so much from the overall rating. Companies will just end up thinking that they need to only produce stuff for pro riders - which is the last thing we need in the gravel sector...

Avatar
TheBillder replied to theslowcyclistxx | 2 years ago
0 likes

Why is sole stiffness so important when a squashy insole is always placed between the foot and the sole? Or do proper roadies have no insole (and perhaps no sock sole either, or consider removing skin from the feet as too squidgy)?

Avatar
Pot00000000 replied to TheBillder | 2 years ago
5 likes

You're not a roadie unless you bolt the cleats directly to your Metatarsals. Anything else isn't efficient and costs watts. 

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