Specialized's Recon gravel shoes get an update + first ride impressions

From pavement-bred performance to walking comfort, the new Recon line aims to please both ends of the gravel spectrum

The 2023 Specialized S-Works Recon and Recon ADV shoes
(Image credit: Anne-Marije Rook // Tyler Boucher)

The Specialized Recon genus of shoes has undergone a revision. Initially launched in 2015 as a shoe solely for gravel, the range has expanded with subsequent versions to meet different specs and price points. Currently the range goes from the Recon 1.0 up to the 3.0, plus an S-Works version.

The latest collection update sees the addition a so-called "Recon ADV" adventure shoe and a refreshed S-Works Recon. With these updates, the Recon line now offers both pavement-bred performance as well as walkability with all-day comfort, hoping to please both ends of the gravel spectrum.

The updated Specialized S-Works Recon

Specialized S-Works Recon gravel shoes

(Image credit: Anne-Marije Rook)

The new S-Works version has undergone a complete redesign, borrowing many of the updates from the S-Works Torch road shoe released last year. The Recon sports as an asymmetrical heel, a new sole design featuring an internal I-beam and an all-new upper with updated BOA routing, which eliminates the need for a separate toe strap.

Since it is intended as a gravel race shoe, Specialized has focused on optimizing power transfer through a system of high-density pontoons and shims in different lengths to maximize contact between pedal and shoe. Additional shim lengths are also available through Specialized.

The large S-Works logo remains prominently on the side, as with the previous version.

The S-Works Recon is available in Black or White colorways, weighed in at 493grams for the pair in size 39, and retails for $450/ £385 / €400.

First Ride Impressions: S-Works Recon by Anne-Marije Rook

I received the S-Works Recon in size 39 and in the white with seafoam and black accents. And, aside from the tread, they are pretty darn similar to my (no longer so white) S-Works Torch road shoes from the 2022 road season. And that's not a bad thing, at all. 

Featherweight, stiff soled and speedy, the S-Works Recon shoe feels just like a road racing shoe with the added benefit of having a sole with traction when, say, the Unbound mud gets too thick and slippery to ride in

I'm actually really pleased that the S-Works Recon borrows so much of the technology and fit from its road sibling because I've grown to really like the S-Works Torch shoe. While the first ride impressions of the notably wider Torch shoe that replaced the S-Works 7 predecessor wasn't glowing, I've now spent a couple thousand miles in them, and they've become a go-to of mine — the ride comfort outweighing the desired 'locked-in' feeling of a tighter heel cup and narrower shoe of the previous models.

I don't need the wider toe box, and the resulting extra fabric tends to bunch a little as I ratchet the BOA reels down quite a bit, but man, they sure are comfortable and light. And those two qualities have carried over into this new S-Works Recon gravel shoe as well. 

For me, this updated, BOA reel-equipped shoe is a welcomed upgrade from last year's S-Works Recon Lace gravel shoes. The shoe fabric is more supple and doesn't come up as high as the S-Works Recon Lace does. The latter had the tendency to dig into my ankle a bit and cause discomfort on long rides. My first impression of the updated S-Works Recon shoe, on the other hand, is that I'd happily wear these on my next eight-hour ride.

My only gripe really is the fact that the heel lugs and tread pads, while durable, don't appear to be replaceable. I should also note that these shoes are made for racing. The carbon sole is light and super stiff, which is great for power transfer but I wouldn't go tromping around in these. For the more adventurous rides or off-road bikepacking trips, the ADV model may be better suited.

With that said, if you like the Torch road shoes, you're going to love the S-Works Recon gravel shoes.  

All-new Specialized Recon ADV

Specialized ADV gravel shoes

(Image credit: Tyler Boucher)

The Recon ADV is also a gravel-specific shoe, but one intended for a more relaxed pace and all-day comfort. It has a lace closure and utilizes a flexible toe that Specialized calls “STRIDE toe-flex technology” for improved walkability. The tread design and updated fit follow the same design parameters.

Like the S-Works version, the Recon ADV utilizes Specialized's Body Geometry technology to achieve a fit that works for a wide variety of foot types.

"Recon ADV is suited for the rider who values adventure, time on the bike, and needs an all-day shoe that will keep going when the gravel ends," Specialized states. 

By my scale, a size 41 weighs in at a respectable 298 grams per shoe. Branding on the ADV is minimal.

The shoes are available in black with a splatter design on the sole, or taupe with pink accents. The Recon ADV retails for $225/ £200 / €220.

First Ride Impressions: Recon ADV by Tyler Boucher

My test pair of ADV Recons came in a restrained taupe, with pink accents and a gum sole. Out of the box they’re sneaker-esque, with a fairly wide fit through the midfoot and toe box. The sole has a pronounced front to back rocker to facilitate easy walking/hiking and the ankle padding helps keep the heel locked in as well as keeping debris from working its way into the shoe.

The laces have a lot of friction; it’s tricky to get them tight, but once they’re on your feet they stay put. It’s not a performance fit, but one designed to allow your feet some space to move. The perforated upper doesn’t seem especially breathable, so if you tend to have hot feet these might not be the right choice.

On the bike they’re very comfortable and transfer power adequately, but certainly feel more “gravel adventure” pace than “holeshot sprint.” The lace-up style is clean and not too technical. They would make great around town shoes for someone bike commuting and getting on and off a train or bus frequently.

For my feet, I would prefer something with a little less volume, but despite that I’m impressed by how comfortable they are. I look forward to putting some more mileage on them going forward.

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