Rapha's Pro Team shoes are an impressive first push into the high-end racing shoe market. They were slightly heavier than expected and the fit was a bit narrow for my preference, but these are stiff performance shoes with a comfortable upper that feel ready to race.
Super-stiff carbon sole
Heavier than expected
Rapha’s new Pro Team Shoes is only the brand’s second foray into making its own road shoes in-house following on from the Classic Shoes. This time though there’s more science, more research, and enough promises of pro racing level performance than you could ever need. With a £260 price tag, these shoes are expensive, but chipping in cheaper than many of the other high-end shoes like the S-Works 7, Giro Empire SLX, Shimano S-Phyre on the market. But can they match up in performance?
Handed a pair of the dazzlingly psychedelic purple editions after they were first revealed at the RCC Summit in Mallorca last November, I’ve since been able to put in over 2,000km of riding in them, mostly through the bleak mid-winter of south London and Surrey.
The most immediately noticeable feature of the Pro Teams is the unusual woven fabric used to form the upper part of the shoe. This is what Rapha is calling ‘Powerweave’ and is essentially a knitted polyester yarn. Something Rapha is saying provides ‘glove-like comfort’ and is a ‘new benchmark for cycling footwear.’ This proprietary construction is said to be engineered for strength and contains no seams, with the upper designed to have less stretch than rival knitted upper shoes have. The sole is full carbon fibre with an external heel cup. Two plastic Boa dials sit on the outer side of the shoe for fastening.
EF Pro Cycling’s Lachlan Morton attests that he found these shoes a dream to ride in straight out of the box. I can’t say I felt the same immediately. I do most of my rides in S-Works 7 shoes and I found the arch in the Pro Teams in comparison uncomfortably high to start with when using the medium footbed insert (neutral and high inserts also available when you buy). I also found them quite narrow, more akin to the Giro Empire shape than the super-wide toe box of the S-Works. Unlike the S-Works however, there was no initial pain or rub in the fit of the upper, finding that the Powerweave fabric was very comfortable from the off with not friction rub.
It would surprise me greatly if there are any shoes out there that have zero niggles on first ride, and so it took some time to feel comfortable with the arch and shape of the shoes, which have ceased to be an issue over time.
The fit is snug as promised, with dual Boa dials always my preference performance-wise over laces. It can sometimes take a bit of adjustment to get the long tongue in a comfortable position, but once settled the fit is secure, with the heel cup also helping with that feel.
The full carbon sole is super stiff, and was better than most when sprinting or making big efforts. They definitely had the feel of a proper racing shoe.
Weight-wise they were heavier than expected. While the claimed weight is 220g for a size 42, my size 45 shoes weighed in at 298g per shoe; more than I’d expected (S-Works 7 for comparison came in at around 260g per shoe). This weight was fine for me as it’s not one of my major concerns when buying shoes, but these probably aren’t the way to go if you’re a weight weenie.
There are no vents in the soles, which is definitely a plus for protection in the winter and these were certainly better at keeping out the cold air than other race orientated shoes I’ve ridden in. I haven’t been able to use them in the heat however, so can’t yet verify the claim that the fabric helps with staying cool in warm conditions.
I think the Rapha Pro Team Shoes are an impressive first move into the high-end shoe market for the British brand. Despite the fit not being ideal for me and the shoes heavier than expected, they still very much felt and performed like a racing shoe. The Powerweave fabric is a really great innovation, and these are well thought-out and constructed shoes. Definitely worth considering if you’re in the market for a good looking, race-ready set of kicks.
Richard began working with Cycling Weekly in 2013 alongside the then web editor, Nigel Wynn. Taking over as digital editor or Cycling Weekly and mbr in 2014, Richard coordinates site content and strategy with the team.
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