Specialized S-Works Recon shoes review

Light enough for gravel, tough enough for mountain biking - has Specialized created the fastest off-road shoe on the market?

What is a hands on review?

Early Verdict

A great off-road shoe that can excel as both a gravel and mountain bike option


  • +

    Massively stiff sole

  • +

    Durable Dyneema construction

  • +



  • -


  • -

    No extra arch support options included

Why you can trust Cyclingnews Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Specialized doesn’t put its S-Works moniker on any old stuff, it’s reserved for the top-of-the-range equipment and represents Specialized's most advanced equipment. As the best gravel bike shoes in the American brand's range, Specialized is confident that its S-Works Recon off-road shoe is deserving of such an accolade, boldly describing these prized dirt kicks as the “fastest off-road shoes on the market”.

Read more

Best gravel bike shoes (opens in new tab)

Best cycling shoes (opens in new tab)

Rapha Pro Team Powerweave shoes (opens in new tab)

Fizik Infinito R1 shoes review
(opens in new tab)
Bontrager XXX Road shoes review (opens in new tab)

Design and specifications 

When designing the S-Works Recon Specialized has taken technology from its road shoe range where power transfer, weight and comfort are paramount and taken it off-road.

The Morgan Hill company has used a dirt-specific carbon sole that has a stiffness rating of 13 on Specialized’s scale - this is just two shy of its range-topping road shoe, so power transfer should be superb. The toe and heel areas are coated in SlipNot rubber to aid grip if there are sections that need to be walked. Underneath there is a titanium cleat plate and removable toe studs.

The uppers are made from Dyneema which is sandwiched between layers of four-way stretch mesh and TPU. Dyneema is an ultra-strong and lightweight ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene which is 15x stronger than steel and is resistant to scratches and cuts. Specialized uses this material to create no-stretch zones to give support for maximum power transfer. The front of the shoe and tongue feature perforations to handle ventilation when riding.

Specialized uses two Boa S3-Snap dials to regulate shoe tightness over a firmly padded tongue. The alloy construction and function feel beautifully premium and should be impervious to dust and dirt. They are covered by Boa's Lifetime Guarantee should something go wrong. Forward clicks tighten the shoe and they can be backed off by turning the dial the other way - ideal in case you tighten the shoe a little too much and need to release just a tiny bit of pressure.

Yet to be ridden outside, the under-the-desk fit test yields promising results with a reasonably roomy, but not overly cavernous, toe box. The shoe tapers in around the arch and continues on to offer a well-shaped heel cup that provides good purchase and should stop any heel lift. There are no obvious areas of discomfort either with clearance around the ankle and a comfortably positioned tongue although the proof will be in the riding.

Specialized S-Works Recon

The uppers cinch together offset from the top of the foot (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

As with all Specialized products, the S-Works Recons get a good dose of Body Geometry ergonomics which Specialized claims improves comfort, prevents injuries and, of course, improves power output. A longitudinal arch and metatarsal button support the foot while a varus wedge with 1.5mm of angled support for a straighter knee when pedalling.

Specialized doesn’t include any alternative footbeds, so if you are someone who likes to experiment with shoe fit, specific arch support is a purely aftermarket activity. Specialized does sell Body Geometry footbeds separately in three different levels of support, but for a $425 / £340 shoe, it seems a little tight not to include at least a secondary option in the box. However, you do get a nice black on black S-Works tote bag to store your shoes in or for nipping to the shops.

Tech spec: Specialized S-Works Recon

  • Price: £340.00 / $425.00 / €340.00
  • Weight without cleats: 611g (actual, pair, size EU43)
  • Outsole: XC FACT carbon sole
  • Stiffness index: 13
  • Retention: Boa S3-Snap dials and Velcro strap 
  • Colours: Black, white, rocket red, light blue

Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*

Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets

After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59

Join now for unlimited access

Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1