Niche Needs: Specialized Recon ADV Shoes Review


Niche Needs: Specialized Recon ADV Shoes Review

Spencer takes us on a walk and a pedal with a well-used review of Specialized’s Recon ADV shoes. The pursuit of a clip-in and lace-up shoe without all the other newfangled doodads led him to the Recon ADVs. It’s a simple shoe packed with plenty of technology nonetheless.

I really like being clipped in while mountain biking. Though, I’ve not been super happy with the selection of mountain bike shoes these days. I don’t like ratchets, boas, or even velcro closures. They all seem to fail prematurely in one way or another. I just want laces, but almost all lace-up MTB shoes are only for flat pedals. I’ll try and stave off another rant by saying I’m not a fan of all the Shinkiller-9000 pedals. Beyond my desire to keep my shins from being torn apart, I also enjoy the security of clipless in the rocky chunder of mountain bike trails. This leaves me with limited options for my niche footwear desires. Luckily the Specialized Recon ADV shoes have mostly hit the nail on the head.

For the last few years, I have been wearing a pair of Specialized Roost 2FO clip MTB shoes. I loved the laces, lower profile design, and the fact that they clipped in. They worked great for awhile and then the soles warped causing the cleats to sit unevenly with the bottom of the shoe. I thought it was my pedals going bad until I examined the shoe one day. It seemed that the comfy and flexible sole of the Roosts had found its wit’s end, so I went searching for a replacement shoe with a stiffer sole this time.

The Specialized Recon ADV shoes seemed like an obvious choice as I had found Specialized shoes to fit quite comfortably already. All of their other clip-in shoes had some combination of velcro and boa closures which I wanted to avoid which left the Recon ADVs. Specialized utilizes a suite of Body Geometry technology. The shoes have a Varus wedge (1.5 mm rise on the inboard side of the shoe) designed into the shoe to help keep bones and joints in line with your pedaling motion. The insole also includes a metatarsal button to relieve nerve pressure and mitigate numbness. I still experienced occasional numbness on my first few rides which was alleviated by leaving the lower laces looser.

I was a bit nervous to return to more traditional cycling shoes after so many years in something much more casual. Out of the box, the Recon ADVs were very comfortable. The toe box was slightly narrower than my Roosts. After a few rides and loosening the lower laces, they broke in quite nicely. The heel cup retained my foot snuggly and when paired with the stiffer sole actually made for a decent walking experience, better even than my Roosts despite the stiffer sole. Specialized calls this Stride Toe-Flex Technology which seems overly wordy, but it does seem to work. I don’t think I’d want to walk mile after mile in them nonetheless. If you have ever ridden Bug Springs on Mt Lemmon, you’ll know the mandatory hike-a-bike that starts the ride. The Recon ADVs handled the walk in comfort and style. The upper material is a perforated synthetic fabric, and while not breezy I never experienced any issue with breathability.

I was more than a little worried to see all the exposed carbon on the sole of the shoe. Tucson is rocky and sharp and you can see plenty of beausage on the sole. Luckily, the shoes seem no worse for the wear. I think I would have preferred a bit more rubber coverage, especially in the arch area. Unclipped the sliver of rubber would still grip the pedal, but I think more rubber would increase the longevity of the shoe. Likewise the minimal rubber covering on the toe seemed more than adequate to handle rocky mountain bike rides. I’ll note that I am using these shoes a bit out of their design spec as a gravel (adventure) shoe and more as a dedicated MTB shoe.

The pontoons that parallel the cleat are aptly tall and mitigate most tap dancing sounds while walking. I did find that threading the needle to clip in was more tedious than the more open design of my Roosts cleat area. The Recon ADVs use Specialized’s proprietary Greater SlipNot for increased traction. The rubber seems tacky enough, but the large gaps between lugs mean a smaller contact patch that does not inspire confidence in slippery or slabby conditions.

All in all, I have enjoyed my time wearing the Specialized Recon ADV shoes. They strike a fortuitous balance between an overly rigid XC shoe and a casual MTB shoe. The Recon ADVs include all the features I was personally looking for in my next clip-in shoe, niche and obtuse as they may be. The price may be a bit steep, but it does seem that Specialized squeezed lots of thought and technology into them.


  • Full carbon sole yet flexible enough to walk in
  • Fun colorways and all black if you want it
  • Holding up well to rocky MTB rides/walks


  • The toe box is slightly narrow compared to other Specialized MTB shoes
  • Expensive ($225)
  • Pontoon spacing made clipping in occasionally tedious