Best gravel bike shoes and cyclocross shoes 2023: ridden and rated

Best gravel bike shoes and cyclocross shoes for riding and running off-road

Image shows cyclist wearing one of the best gravel shoes
Image shows cyclist wearing one of the best gravel shoes
(Image credit: Future)
Best gravel bike shoes and cyclocross shoes 2023

The best gravel bike shoes and cyclocross shoes will let you put the power down while riding your bike but also give you the grip you need to keep going when you're off your bike.

While the best road cycling shoes are focused on stiffness and efficiency for swift pedalling performance, slick carbon-soled footwear without a tread on the sole wouldn't get you very far off the beaten track. Foot dabbing, hopping on and off the bike, and generally spending more time on the ground and not riding, means something more rugged and grippy is required.

If you're planning a bikepacking trip, you'll want shoes that you can wear comfortably off the bike as well as on, so check out our guide to the best commuter cycling shoes for gravel use as well.

Until recently, most gravel bike and cyclocross bike riders have just had to pick their way through mountain bike shoes, but with an upward surge in drop-bar off-road riding, more kit specifically honed to the needs of the gravel bike rider (including gravel bike clothing) is gradually becoming available. 

Picking out what shoe best suits you and your riding can be hard work. This guide is designed to help you find the right shoe to match your riding and at the right price point - especially handy if you're still mulling over your first gravel bike and will be looking for shoes to match. There will still be mountain bike shoes in the mix, as well as gravel and cyclocross-specific shoes for depth and breadth of options, to ensure you get the right shoe for you.

Key shoe variables will be sole construction and grip, closure systems and of course fit. We've gone into more detail on all of these areas after the product picks, helping you to create your very own Cinderella moment.

We've split our guide up into shoes we'd recommend for gravel (where long-distance comfort is a priority), and shoes we'd recommend for cyclocross racing (where power transfer is most important) - the differentiation is mostly based on sole material - but of course, there's nothing stopping you from seeking comfort for a cyclocross race or a stiff carbon sole for your gravel adventures. 

All of the shoes in this guide have been tested by Cycling Weekly, and we've only included pairs that got high ratings; click the link after each to read the full review.

The Quick List

Gravel Bike Shoes

You can trust Cycling Weekly. Our team of experts put in hard miles testing cycling tech and will always share honest, unbiased advice to help you choose. Find out more about how we test.

Cyclocross Shoes

Best comfortable gravel bike shoes

Our pick of comfort-orientated gravel shoes that are suitable for long days off-road.

Best performance gravel shoes

Image shows the Giro Sectors which are some of the best gravel bike shoes

Giro Sectors

(Image credit: Future)
Best performance gravel shoes

Specifications

Sizes: 39-50
Weight: 684g

Reasons to buy

+
Quality, lightweight uppers
+
Two-dial adjustment
+
Not too stiff for off-bike use
+
Good value

Reasons to avoid

-
Soles lack a little in grip in the mud
-
Boa L6 dials don't back off tension without releasing completely

Mixing a one-piece upper and a carbon composite sole with tall side lugs, the Giro Sector shoes are thin, supple and supportive with mesh sections for good breathability. We found the sole sufficiently flexible for comfort off-bike but it still gave good pedalling support, although grip was a bit lacking for hike-a-bike in muddy conditions.

There are two Boa L6 dial closures, making for precise fit adjustment, although with the L6 you need to pop the dial to loosen, rather than having both-ways adjustability. But otherwise, the Sectors are a top choice at a reasonable price.

Read more: Giro Sector gravel bike shoes full review

Best gravel shoes for durability

Image shows the Giro Privateers which are some of the best gravel bike shoes

Giro Privateer

(Image credit: Toby Martin for Future)
Best gravel shoes for durability

Specifications

Sizes: 39-50
Weight: 710g

Reasons to buy

+
Seriously tough
+
Good for all year use
+
Practical
+
Comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
One size fits all insole

The Privateer lace-up shoe might be middle of the range from Giro, but it's certainly a great performer. Although a huge slice cheaper than Giro's flagship Empire VR90, these shoes certainly don't compromise on comfort or durability. They weigh in at 355g (size 42) per shoe.

The nylon sole gave us a good level of stiffness for pedalling but enough give for when we had to do a bit of hike-a-bike as well. The rubber-lugged outsole gives ample grip, no matter what kind of surface you're scrambling over.

Read more: Giro Privateer lace shoes full review

Best gravel shoes for value

Image shows the Specialized Recon 1.0s which are some of the best gravel bike shoes

Specialized Recon 1.0

(Image credit: Future)
Best gravel shoes for value

Specifications

Sizes: 36-49
Weight: 662g

Reasons to buy

+
Stiff sole for efficient pedalling
+
Lightweight upper
+
Bombproof metal Boa dial closures

Reasons to avoid

-
Stiff sole makes off-bike action awkward
-
Uppers are not as robust as they look

The S-Works version of the Recon shoes with its dual BOA system was launched in 2019, but the high price tag somewhat limited their appeal. The Recon 1.0 (as well as the 2.0 and 3.0 models) however is significantly more accessible, although this has meant a redesign.

This version comes with a triple Velcro closure and a synthetic upper with a reinforced toe box zone. In use, the minimal ventilation kept our feet warm enough, although this might be something to consider if riding in hot weather.

Specialized says the nylon sole provides a good level of stiffness for on the bike, and thanks to its own STRIDE toe-flex system should help with walking off the bike - we would have to agree with this. The deep rubber lugs are also coated in Specialized SlipNot compound to help with traction on all terrain.

The shoes weigh in at 331g for a size 42, and are available in three colours and in sizes 36 to 49EU.

Read more: Specialized 1.0 Recon gravel bike shoes full review or if you've got a little more cash burning a hole in your pocket (but not quite enough for the S-Works!) check out our review of the Specialized Recon 2.0 gravel bike shoes 

Best gravel shoes for wide foot comfort

Image shows the Fizik Terra Atlas gravel bike shoes

Fizik Terra Atlas

(Image credit: Future)
Best gravel shoes for wide foot comfort

Specifications

Sizes: EU 36 to 47 (half sizes from 38.5 to 46.5) 
Weight: 710g (claimed)

Reasons to buy

+
Wide forefoot and good padding for comfort
+
Grippy rubber sole unit
+
Cleats can be fitted towards the rear

Reasons to avoid

-
Single Boa closure limits fine-tuning of fit

Fizik says that the Terra Atlas is the most versatile shoe in its range. The sole has been reworked to add extra lugs and directional spacing and is made of rubber to up grip and the sole is mid-stiffness for off-bike comfort. The cleat holes are fixed further back, in line with the modern trend.

We thought that the toe box was roomier than many Fizik shoes and there's extra padding, which helped with comfort. Silicone dots in the heel cup help to prevent heel lift. There's a single Boa L6 dial to provide adjustability with 1mm increments, although only having one dial does limit adjustability.

Read more: Fizik Terra Atlas gravel bike shoes full review 

Best gravel shoes for grip

Image shows the Quoc Gran Tourer IIs which are some of the best gravel bike shoes

Quoc Gran Tourer II

(Image credit: Myles Warwood)
Best for grip

Specifications

Sizes: 38-47
Weight: 728g (UK size 10 tested)

Reasons to buy

+
Good grip
+
Stiff sole
+
Three-season shoe

Reasons to avoid

-
Single dial
-
Not waterproof enough

The Quoc Gran Tourer IIs are a comfortable and reliable option for riding off-road in late summer and early autumn conditions. They particularly excel when the temperatures are cool - but not cold - and when the conditions are damp - but not soaking wet.

The upper has proved robust and is reasonably thick. These aren’t an ultra-lightweight pair of summer shoes, but at the same time, there are holes in the splashproof microfibre fabric to help aid breathability. This makes them more of a three-season shoe, suitable for most riding throughout the year, but not a specialist for the extremes.

As with pretty much all shoes that employ only a single retention dial, we found getting the perfect tension a bit of a struggle. Our reviewer found that he was able to get the shoes sufficiently tight around the tops of his feet, but had a bit too much room left lower down. Two dials would solve this but would add a lot to the price - just a simple Velcro strap would have been a nice addition.

Despite the sole being constructed from Nylon rather than carbon, they make for quite a stiff pedalling platform, delivering good power transfer and feeling quite supportive. The lugs are quite deep and offer plenty of traction in the mud.

Read more: Quoc Gran Tourer II gravel bike shoes full review

Best laced gravel shoes with ankle protection

Adidas The Cycling Shoe

Adidas The Cycling Shoe

(Image credit: Future)
Best laced shoes with ankle protection

Specifications

Sizes: 36-55
Weight: 670g (size 42)

Reasons to buy

+
Comfort for all day rides and walking
+
High proportion of recycled materials
+
Gravel fashion points

Reasons to avoid

-
Not water-resistant
-
Sole retains mud

Hot on the heels of the relaunched Road Shoe, Adidas have entered the gravel world with the eponymously named Gravel Cycling Shoe. Largely based on the design of the road shoe there's a little crossover from sister off-road brand Five Ten to make things more trail-centric. The upper of the shoe is made from lightweight ripstop fabric with a distinctive lace closure and ankle cuff for protection from trail muck. The sole has pimply rubber grips on the heel and forefoot as well as enough flex for walking. Colors include trendy pinks, khaki gravel and football boot black. 

The fabric upper, flexible sole and lace closure kept us comfy on long rides as well as those walks to the café counter. The main drawback of the Adidas shoe is there's no water resistance and the sole easily clogs with mud quickly, making it difficult to clip in so they're not for year-round wear.

Read more: Adidas The Gravel Cycling shoe full review 

Best gravel shoes for dry conditions

Image shows the Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4 which are some of the best gravel bike shoes

Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4

(Image credit: Future)