Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4 gravel shoes review
We get out on the gravel in these purpose designed shoes
A comfortable pair of shoes which straddle the road and gravel aesthetic extremely well. The Powerstrap works well, and Velcro is stronger than it looks - but we did find the strap a little too long and were hesitant to doctor it with a pair of scissors.
Wide toe box
Velcro strap overhang
With gravel riding becoming more and more popular, there's a lot of kit suddenly available to 'enhance your experience'. Whilst some of it is nice to have, but not wholly necessary, you will need a pair of SPD ready shoes if you're getting off-road. Unlike traditional road shoes, the two-bolt design is easy to clip in and out of, and the recessed cleat allows you to walk when required without slipping and sliding like Bambi on ice.
Fizik's Terra Powerstrap X4 shoes belong to a line-up of off ready shoes. For just one penny more, you can get the Terra X5s which have more tread and use a Boa, comparatively the X4s have a little less tread, maintaining a more road-going aesthetic.
The Powerstrap has been used on other Fizik shoes in the road line-up - it's an elasticated two-part ribbon that attaches via Velcro. The idea is that you can tighten the midfoot and instep independently, resulting in greater comfort for more foot shapes.
Whilst Velcro can seem a primitive tech in the age of Boa dials, it's actually incredibly strong - it always has been, which is why it's used in industries all over the world. As you can see from the picture below, it does pick up a few passengers from time to time...
On the underside, there's a nylon fibre injected sole, this sits on Fizik's ‘stiffness index' at a level six. Almost all brands have their own stiffness index when it comes to soles - and they're not comparable so not wholly useful as a buying tool. I found these shoes a little more flexy than road models, but not so much I could feel movement when pedalling out the saddle.
On a three hour on/off-road ride in the heat, I didn't suffer any discomfort associated with having your feet held firmly in place for hours.
The underside also reveals a thick enough tread to shed some mud and provide some grip when required to walk the bike. This isn't as deep as on the X5, in dry conditions it was fine but the X5 might be more suited to winter rides.
Up top, the synthetic upper is perforated to provide breathability, and reportedly water shedding on wet days. Riding during the 30ºC heat of our current wave of summer haze, the former rung true though I didn't have the chance to test the latter in downpour.
The tongue is thin, with no real padding to it, but didn't fold over or cause any issues.
I have what I call "spade-like feet" - wide at the front and narrow at the heel. In the past, I've found Fizik's road shoes to be overly narrow for my feet at the toe box. I was surprised to find that this was not the case here, and I opted for my normal size 40 (I wear a 6 in UK shoes, but always a 39 or 40 in cycling shoes) with no issues.
However, towards the midfoot, whilst the body of the shoe fitted well, to get enough tension I had to pull the Velcro right over, leaving an overhang. This didn't cause any major fit issues but did collect mud and dirt, and it looks a bit odd too.
The overhang could be remedied with a pair of scissors, and a lighter (to prevent the cut end from fraying), however, whilst I do this to all helmet straps, it's not a treatment I'm accustomed to giving to shoes.
Of course, it's a balancing act to fit all feet - but I'd like to see it be a little shorter; there's ample stretch so I don't see this being an issue.
The heel cup features silicone dots to help grip the ankle, and I had no heel slip on the steeper climbs. The insole is fairly simple, with no adjustability or spare parts for those who need more arch support, but it did the job for me and you can always fit your own if you have a custom pair.
The size range is wide, ranging from 36 to 48, with half-sizes spread throughout. I tested the Anthracite/Grape (otherwise known as 'Grey/Purple') pair, and I'm absolutely sold on the aesthetic, these work well off-road but don't look bulky - suiting the lycra often worn on a gravel bike.
At £149.99, these are an investment, but compared to the swing tags adorning many road shoes I feel they're not excessively priced and represent good value for money.
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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.
Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor.
Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.
Michelle is on maternity leave from July 8 2022, until April 2023.
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