Specialized Recon Mixed (Terrain) Shoes: Remixed.
‘Where the pavement ends, adventure begins.’ A lightweight and stiff shoe with classic stylings, built for road and gravel exploration. After a year of use, here’s our review.
As the latter portion of its name suggests, the Recon Mixed shoe is designed to tackle a variety of surfaces, from pavement to gravel to singletrack trails. It’s made for all-day riding and contrary to its handsome aesthetic, built for the rough stuff. The retail hang tag, die cut in the profile of Mt. Tam (Tamalpais), reads, ‘Where the pavement ends, adventure begins.’ From a marketing perspective, Specialized without a doubt had gravel-grinders pegged as the target audience. When I first received these shoes a year ago, I’d ridden my fair share of class 5, but I still didn’t consider myself a gravel aficionado. Even so, I must admit that when I opened the box my eyes twinkled and I immediately yearned for that familiar bacon-frying sound beneath the tires.
The term all-road has gained main stream traction in the last year. Glamorous industry definitions aside, it’s essentially mixed terrain riding on a road bike, perhaps with larger 40mm+ tires. For bikepacking, the concept is interesting: leave from your front door on tarmac, ride fast, ride far, find an abandoned national forest road, dig a little deeper on some double track, camp, and return the following day in time for lunch at your neighborhood deli. It’s about taking a road bike to the next level. Bikes such as the Niner RLT 9 Steel, Specialized’s new Sequoia, and the 3T Exploro come to mind. Of course your mountain bike shoes will pair perfectly well with all of these bikes, but the Specialized Recon Mixed looks the part.
The Recon Mixed sports a stiff carbon sole, perfect for transferring power over long stretches. We found it ideal for long gravel and road rides, but not ideal for trips with burly hike-a-bikes. That said, these shoes are surprisingly not too bad when lugging a loaded rig over rocky steeps. The pugnacious Slipnot™ rubber tread is fairly soft and grippy enough to provide traction over the cobbliest of hikes. Think portage over a rail bed, or clamoring up short steep sections, not necessarily trudging over infinite passes in the Andes. I am not sure I get the removable hard plastic toe studs though. While it seems like they might add some traction on loose rubble, they often cause slippage on rocks or hard surfaces; but then again, they’re removable. Perhaps they are specific for CX use.
Recon Mixed are constructed from a handsome outer, which appears to be stylish ‘Italian leather’, but is actually a synthetic water-resistant and vented material called ‘Micromatrix’. The toe box is protected by a molded rubber kick. Specialized claims that the classic lace-up design provides a true adaptive fit, which I can get behind. In my opinion, for fine tuning the fit, lace-ups always have an edge on velcro or ratcheting designs. Specialized also upped the ante with water-resistant, non-stretch laces and an elastic lace-lock that keeps them tidy. The added lace holes provide the opportunity for a ‘runners lace’ that allows additional control over heel slippage.
The Recon is ergonomically designed based on Specialized’s ‘Body Geometry’, which they suggest maximizes power and comfort. Out of the box the Recons were extremely comfortable, especially for SPDs. They are not a walking shoe, by any stretch of the imagination, but they fit like a glove without any odd pressure points, typical of many new shoes. On initial impression, they felt like a shoe that could be ridden for for a while without fatigue. And, after some such days on various gravel and mixed-terrain bikepacking routes, and many long day rides, the Recon has proven to be quite the comfortable big mile shoe. And, it’s held up without any issues; it hasn’t stretched too much and the tread has barely worn.
- Price: $225
- Weight (size 10US/43EU): 357 grams per shoe
- Place of Manufacture: Vietnam
- Contact: Specialized.com
Wrap Up (updated)
Performance underpinnings and aggressive tread mixed with a stylish Paris-Roubaix/Italian leather aesthetic automatically made the Recon highly intriguing. They are beautifully rugged looking shoes. And after putting a pair through their paces over the last year, they seem to perform about as well as they look. However, the Recon Mixed don’t come without complaints. Aside from a hefty $225 price tag, my other main gripe is with the odd-ball hard toe studs, but again, they’re removable; although I’d have rather seen soft gripper studs in their place. After doing so, the Recon Mixed is not a shoe I’d recommend for rough and tumble singletrack trips, full of long hike-a-bike sections. I found the soles to be a little stiff for this type of ‘riding’; this led to heel slippage and general foot pain. Otherwise it’s a super comfortable, hard-wearing shoe that performs really well for what it’s marketed for — gravel riding and mixed terrain adventure.
Whatever beef you might have with the Big S, it’s undeniable that they make some of the highest quality and durable shoes on the market. I expect the Recon Mixed to outlast thousands of miles of abuse. If you are looking for a shoe to be used for long days, mostly on the pedals — and one that will last several seasons — the Recon should be on your list.