Rapha Classic Shoes review
Style and elegance is guaranteed, but try before you buy
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There's no doubting the top fashion marks, and they're a solid shoe whatever the weather, but comfort isn't as guaranteed as Rapha make out
Repel water well
Major comfort issues
Laces aren't practical for high-end training
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Anything that Rapha produce is usually shorthand for desirable, premium quality at a high price, and their classic shoes fit snugly into that bracket.
Fitting snugly into said shoes, meanwhile, were my feet. A little too snugly, I would say.
Having tested the shoes for close to 2,000km, mostly on hilly and mountainous terrain, my feelings toward the shoes are very much split down the middle, a tussle between two contrasting emotions.
On one hand, they’re the best cycling shoes I’ve ever had. Just look at them! They’re so stylish! The simple, black, reflective velcro strap and the heel are the only move away from blanket white, while the laces add a touch of formality and elegance.
They’re also durable and respond to most climatic conditions. I found them very breathable in sweltering summer heat over 35 degrees, the dozens of air vents an essential component in this regard.
When I was then subject to a torrential deluge in the Alps, water didn’t slosh around in my sole until an hour later, and that was only when I stood in a puddle. These shoes are not waterproof, but they do a pretty good job at repelling water.
Coming in four different colours, I was apprehensive about the white I was given, but I can report that rain does a good natural job of brushing off stains, and more complicated marks can usually be wiped off at home with a little scrub, meaning the white, remarkably, stays quite white (the only exception to this are the laces which, understandably, turn a grubby grey quite quickly).
All good, then, until we come to the crux of my issues with the shoes.
This may just be a problem that I encountered - and internet searches of similar reviews would tend to point towards that theory - but I really struggled with having a comfort fit.
I have, apparently, a wide right foot, and my little toe, and the one adjacent to it, was constantly pressed up against the very edge of the shoe, resulting in a numbing pain. Upon removing the shoe, there were never any bruises or blisters, and the pain subsided, but I could only wear the shoe if I had it very loose, not ideal when doing efforts. The same pinch happened on my left foot, too, albeit with less severity.
The issue really impacted the comfort of a ride, and although the source of the pain could be attributed to technique as opposed to the shoe, I’ve never experienced this before in any other cycling shoes. In ski boots, yes, but they’re designed to be tight for ankle support; cycling shoes are not.
My other gripe is with the laces. Though contemporary, they were not very practical on harder rides, as it felt impossible to tighten them up sufficiently without restricting comfort on the top of the foot. A dial system, on the other hand, creates the perfect balance.
These are not bad cycling shoes, and there is a reason why they score good marks elsewhere, but I’m not convinced by their practicality in racing/high-end training, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one with comfort issues.
My advice would be to try a pair on before purchasing them, and if you’re sure that your feet won’t be squished together, these are solid shoes for most types of riding that won’t let you down even if the heavens open and you’ve not got overshoes. But, please, try a pair first!
Price: £190, $240, €225
Colours: white, black, dark grey, stone
Sizes: EU 36 - 47
Website: rapha.cc (opens in new tab)
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Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.
Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.
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