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Northwave Rockster gravel shoes review

Northwave’s first dedicated gravel shoes are as stylish as you’d expect for an Italian brand that’s never shy about looking smart. But what’s the substance behind that style?

Northwave Rockster gravel shoes
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

Classy looks with excellent comfort and a useful power kick, but wobbly when walking and pricey for lace-ups

For

  • Pressure-free comfort
  • Efficient pedalling sole
  • Simple lace-up fit
  • Fast-drying easy clean
  • Good toe grip
  • Reinforced where it counts

Against

  • Can’t adjust on-the-fly
  • Wobbly when walking
  • Expensive for laces

While some brands save their lace-up shoes for the casual end of the range, the Northwave Rockster mixes retro style and simplicity with some serious power delivery for riders wanting to look relaxed while still crushing the climbs. The Rockster gravel shoe is Northwave's attempt at capturing market share in the highly competitive best gravel bike shoe market.

Performance

Northwave hasn’t been shy about its styling since it rolled out deliberately mirror-imaged colourways on its 90s race shoes. The white microfibre upper with grey or orangey laces (spare in the box) plus natural gum rubber soles will undoubtedly turn some people off. If you’ve read this far then we’ll presume they’ve turned you on enough to be curious as to how they ride.

Starting with that upper, the laser-cut three-point perforations on the flanks help with foot fitting stretch and ventilation. A dovecote arrangement of tiny triangular holes over the toe box adds cooling over your pinkies without flooding at the first sign of a splash or shower. They clean up and dry quickly if you do drown them, too.

The fit was universally friendly to our test crew and with no dial, ratchet or strap hardware to create pressure points the fat laces lockdown foot stability in a classic, failsafe style. There’s an elastic loop to stop them from getting eaten by your chain or wrapping round your cranks. Obviously, there’s no option for tension tweaking on the fly though and there are dial equipped shoes in the Northwave range for less.

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Northwave Rockstar gravel shoes

Laser-cut perforations in the outer are decorative as well as functional (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Northwave Rockstar gravel shoes

Laces are kept out of trouble with an elasticated look (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Northwave Rockstar gravel shoes

The synthetic leather interior helps stop heel lift (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Synthetic leather heel cuff, tongue and lace top detailing increase durability, add grip to the inner heel to stop lift. The cool two-tone styling continues with grey rubber reinforcing on the heel’s outside edge and a full TPU toe lining. The front sole tread also wraps up onto the toe tip to increase durability and grip. You can swap the plastic toe studs for something more aggressive if you’re planning an aristocratic-looking assault on steep slopes and/or cyclocross, too.

You certainly won’t be at much of a disadvantage when it comes to racing either as the Rockster’s carbon-reinforced sole has a Northwave stiffness rating of 10 (the ranging-topping full carbon race shoes are a 14). That means power delivery feels very solid without risking numbness on long days and the enhanced support ‘race’ footbed also helps on extended rides. The downside is that walking is a bit ‘penguin’ especially as the minimalist tread blocks, particularly the narrow heel segment, are unstable underfoot.

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Northwave Rockstar gravel shoes

The sole is stiff for good power transfer, rated 10/14 on Northwave's stiffness scale (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Northwave Rockstar gravel shoes

The tread is a little narrow for sure-footed walking (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Verdict

Despite stylish - almost civilian - looks, the Rockster is definitely a shoe that’s aimed towards performance rather than recreational use. Hard driving sole with comfortable-yet-secure and durable upper mean they won’t disappoint those after elegant efficiency on their aggregate adventures.

Tech specs: Northwave Rockster gravel shoes

  • Price: £144.99 / €159,99
  • Sizes: 39-50 EU 
  • Sole: Composite
  • Weight: 670g (Pair of size 44 with cleats)
  • Retention: Laces