Gravel Bike Shoes are one of the important factors that affect performance when cycling. In addition, the use of bicycle shoes is also a safety in cycling. No exception for gravel bikes. Of the many bicycle shoes, what should be considered in choosing gravel shoes?
Differences with MTB shoes
Are gravel bike shoes the same as mountain bike shoes (MTB)? the short answer, no. Gravel shoes are not the same as mountain bike shoes. Most mountain bike shoes are well-padded to deflect when going through rocks (and resting) and to protect your feet from high-speed jerking toes.
XC mountain bike shoes that many people use on gravel tracks, are used for uphill sprints and are very useful especially in CX (cyclocross) racing. It’s unlikely you’ll need spikes for gravel bike riding, or really mountain biking outside of racing, so again this becomes an unnecessary burden.
When you remove these elements, you have a gravel shoe. They will still use the same two-bolt cleat bearings as mountain bike shoes and will have lugs on the underside that protect the carbon or nylon plates, but also provide traction for ‘walking’.
Stiffness is not the end
When we talk about road bike shoes, rigidity is often the first choice; When the riding surface gets rough, the ultra-rigid carbon sole does little to dampen the vibrations that get to the bottom of your foot. Take a rough surface and paddle on it for over three hours, it’s definitely going to be uncomfortable.
Gravel Bike shoes aim to strike a balance between stiffness and damping; those designed for all-day gravel adventures tend to opt for nylon or carbon-reinforced plates. Some gravel shoes will even feature a flex zone attached to the front of the cleat plate to make walking less difficult.
Fit, construction and fastening
Fit is the most important aspect when buying shoes for any cycling discipline because if your feet are uncomfortable, you will not have a good riding experience. Gravel bike shoes designed for the racing end of the spectrum will have a slightly lower volume so no energy is lost when your feet are pedaling. Endurance-oriented shoes will have more room to accommodate when your feet start to swell as the mileage goes by.
For the most part, the uppers of all gravel shoes are made with synthetic materials, including knitwear, but some still use leather and even suede. While leather offers more comfort, it doesn’t dry out as quickly or “breathe” as well as many synthetic options
We demand a lot of the uppers of any cycling shoes – gravel shoes perhaps more than most.
Gravel-shoe uppers have to help deliver power transfer like road shoe uppers, but also have to have enough stretch for walking. They also have to be particularly durable and resistant to any scuffs from clambering over rough terrain.
Synthetic uppers are common across the price spectrum. Often, synthetic uppers rely on perforation and mesh inserts for breathability. They don’t mould to the shape of your foot in the same way that leather does, but they don’t cost as much either, and fastening paired with other factors such as insole choice can practically circumvent this issue.
When trying on gravel shoes, don’t assume initial discomfort will disappear with wear. Check that adjustments don’t cause wrinkles that can rub, the tongue sits smoothly with no pressure points, the collar isn’t so high that it nudges against your ankle bones and that there are no prominent interior seams.
Like road bikes and MTB shoes, gravel shoes come with retention systems such as laces, Boa, and Velcro depending on the shoe. The straps offer a lot of adjustment and are low in weight, but you can’t easily adjust them on the fly.
Boa (or similar) use a cord to seal the shoe and offer easy one-handed adjustment and minimal weight, the downside is that they are more prone to breakage. Velcro is the lightest of the bunch and allows for quick adjustments; however, it can be blocked by mud and will deteriorate over time.