Review: Specialized S-Works Recon Shoe

May 2, 2019
by Daniel Sapp  
SW Recon

The S-Works Recon replaces Specialized's S-Works XC shoe as a more versatile yet still high-performance option for trail riding, XC racing, or cyclocross. The shoe was designed to be ultra-light and ultra-stiff, while still remaining comfortable enough for long days of pedaling.

Of course, light and stiff products often have a hefty price tag, and these shoes are no exception at $425 USD. They're available in sizes 36 - 49 in either the black version shown here or in an extra bright 'Rocket Red.'
S-Works Recon Details
• Carbon outsole
• Alloy BOA dials
• Reinforced toe
• Ultra stiff (13.0 stiffness index)
• Shaped heel cup
• Colors: black, red
• 605g (pair, size 43.5)
• $425 USD

Specialized's SlipNot rubber gives the Recon a lot of grip on most surfaces.
The shoe is well constructed with a layer of Dyneema mesh between other layers of stretching mesh that allow for movement and comfort while still providing a secure fit.


That Recon shoes are the stiffest in Specialized's off-road lineup, thanks to the carbon plate that runs the length of the shoe. There's Slipknot rubber on top of that plate at the toe, heel, and around the cleat mounting area for off-bike traction, and it's also possible to screw in toe spikes if things get extra treacherous.

Specialized incorporated the Padlock heel cup that was developed for their S-Works XC and road shoes while carrying over some of the comforts of the lace-up Recon. There's a reinforced toe to help when the inevitable rock strike happens, and the entire outside of the shoe is robustly built and abrasion resistant.

Specialized uses their Body Geometry footbeds in the shoe, and claim that their design provides a great deal of power and efficiency while also reducing the risk of injury. The outsole of the shoe features bonded seams that are held together by alloy Boa dials, which are adjustable in one-millimeter increments.

SW Recon
The S-Works Recon (left) and the previous generation lace-up Recon (right).

SW Recon
After several months in the shoes, there's very minimal wear on the bottom, despite numerous strolls across creeks and up various terrain unfit to ride.
SW Recon
Comparing the wear to the older Recon shoe, which I have put twenty times as many rides on, I expect the new S-Works Recon to last just as long.

On the Bike Performance

I was pleased to see a new version of the Recon come out. The previous version was my go-to for whenever I didn't quite know what type of ride I was getting into, and I've also had a lot of success with the fit of Specialized's shoes. I have a slightly narrow foot and some weird arch stuff going on, so I'm always on the hunt for shoes that fit well and provide ample support for my foot.

It's worth noting that Specialized also have several different footbeds and shims available for their shoes which help with knee and foot alignment. I always end up swapping out their standard footbeds, which do have more support compared to most other footbeds from other brands, for their next level up of support along with a wedge shim in my left shoe which remedies issues. I transfer this set up to whatever shoes I'm riding and it's a huge boost in comfort, especially on long rides.

For the first several rides, I struggled to get the top of the tongue on the shoes to be comfortable. It felt as if it was digging into the top of my foot and this persisted no matter how I adjusted the two Boa dials. Fortunately, after a half-dozen rides, the tongue eventually softened up and the shoes are now much more comfortable.

One of the features of the shoe that is very apparent is how stiff it is. Compared to any other mountain bike shoe I ride on a regular basis, the S-Works Recon is by far the stiffest and most secure feeling shoe I have. Power transfer to the pedals is apparent, and it certainly feels as if I'm in more of a road shoe chassis than a trail riding shoe - these are the polar opposite of a floppy pair of skate shoes.

It's inevitable. Proper mountain biking leads to time on foot.

Off the Bike Performance

The thing about the Recon, or any mountain bike shoe, in my opinion, is that it needs to be functional both on and off the bike. Having a good amount of traction and some comfort for those times when riding simply isn't possible goes a long way in having a better day.

The S-Works Recon is a stiff shoe to hike-a-bike in, but it's not uncomfortable, doesn't develop hot spots, or make you feel as if you're punishing yourself more than you already are. There is ample traction on the sole for navigating slippery rocks and roots, and while there isn't a ton of trail feel underfoot because of how stiff the shoe is, there is a sense of confidence that, with proper navigation, you're not going to slip on some slick rocks and stack it up midway across a sketchy creek crossing, bruising your elbow, tailbone, ego, all while scratching your fancy new bike and bending a brake rotor... Not that that's happened to me before or anything.

Pinkbike's Take

bigquotesAt the end of the day, the S-Works Recon is still a $425 shoe. That's a ton of money compared to a lot of other shoes out there that also perform really well and will work great for many riders. That being said, for what it's designed for, the S-Works Recon is hard to beat and has an excellent blend of stiffness, functionality, and lightweight comfort. It's worth checking out if you're looking for an ultra-high-performance shoe that can handle a lot of different situations with finesse or if you want a shoe that can provide proper foot support.Daniel Sapp


  • 49 11
 Yeah a shoe made out of plastic and made somewhere in the East cost as much a an handcrafted business shoe- seems fair
  • 63 1
 But there’s carbon in them thar heels!!
  • 29 1
 The power transfer ratio matches perfect for my e-Bike.
  • 2 2
 @TyPierce: hahahahahahahahaha
  • 4 17
flag PocoBoho (May 2, 2019 at 6:07) (Below Threshold)
 Why so ugly? Never got this part about XC and pavement shoes. Do what you got to do but make em’ look purdy.
  • 58 5
 I have a 12 year old pair of S-Works shoes, with many thousands of km on them. I use them for gravel and MTB riding Contacted the Boa people when the ratchets wore out a few months ago and they sent me a complete new Boa system for free.

If the only noteworthy comment is the cost you're probably not buying anything S-Works, or even the handcrafted business shoes you compared to.

This is one premium product where if you ride a lot the value proposition actually makes sense. I'm not sure how many pairs of 5.10s I have had that died during the last 12 years, but I suspect it's >4 which would make those more expensive than these.
  • 5 25
flag lkubica (May 2, 2019 at 7:22) (Below Threshold)
 Yesterday I have seen a couple (they looked like 50+) in a vintage Porsche with two Yetis on a roof (using this funny roof rack with suckers). Till now I only regreted not asking if they were dentists. What a pitty I could not show them those shoes.
  • 4 0

Agreed. However, every pair of more fashion casual looking mtb shoes I've tried fit like cardboard boxes. These high end XC/road race Specialized shoes just fit really well. Snug, stiff sole, comfortable, reasonably walkable and with noticeable power delivery and control at the pedals. Sure wish Specialized could build a shoe that fits as well as these high end XC slippers but has a more casual look. Yes I've tried the 2FO and the Tahoe - no bueno fit - weird sizing and shape actually - not at all like their other shoes.
  • 2 0
 Handcrafted bike shoes were $1200 last time I looked. I love sworks shoes. But I cannot get the wide last in NZ anymore.
  • 1 0
 @NotNamed Please elaborate on your valuable comparison between business shoes made out of leather and these bike shoes made out of Dyneema and other synthetic materials.
  • 33 7
 Once you go Boa it's hard to go back to laces. Great shoes, worth it. .
  • 21 7
 BOA should be on all footwear.
  • 6 4
 I agree. BOAs are great in regards to ease of use and also security, especially for clipless shoes.
  • 18 6
 Boas break ALL the freaking time. Gimme laces and an elastic to put them under TYVM
  • 9 2
 @mnorris122: BOA has a lifetime unlimited warranty for a reason.. don't even need to send the old BOA's back!
  • 4 0
 I feel like my wife said the same thing about some sandals she bought.
  • 4 1
 Are they good for downcountry tho?
  • 7 4
 Disagree. I can never make a boa version of a shoe feel as comfortable as a lace version. I often have issues with the boas loosening up over the ride, requiring constant micro-adjustments. Also, I've never had laces catastrophically explode after a minor wash out leaving me with loose shoes for the rest of the ride...can't say the same for boas. I'll take the durability, perfect adjustment and set-and-forget of laces every time.
  • 2 0
 I have both Boa Lake MX300 and the Giro VR90 lace ups. There's no difference except the movements my fingers make to put them on.
  • 5 0
 I've said it once and will say it again, wish there was a good Boa lace shoe with decent rubber for flats. Would buy that in a heartbeat.
  • 2 0
 @connorjuliusjohnson: yep, surprised nobody has tried it, would be great for a high top winter riding flat pedal shoe. The under armour govy hiking boots have them and I use them for snow riding but they have super thick fat tire soles.
  • 1 0
 @Flowcheckers: I want a normal, summer option. Mid to low "normal" flat pedal shoe with good rubber and a boa system. There's dozens of options for clipless riders, you'd think some company would be brave enough to give it a shot!
  • 1 0
 @borisimobike: was really excited for a second... but those are clipless shoes. Looking for a high end boa shoe but for flats.
  • 2 0
 @connorjuliusjohnson: awww dammit. I thought so too, lol. I guess the boa is too expensive to put on a show that only lasts 1 season. Maybe they should just start selling replacement shoe "lowers".
  • 19 2
 To the people complaining: you're reading a review of a top-tier product. Specialized's expert xc shoes are similar and are $225 less than these. They also make a nice pair for $100.
  • 10 2
 I never buy nice shoes. I've never in my life have footwear that I LOVED..... Until now. This is the only time I have ever spent more than $120 on a pair of shoes....of any kind. These ARE worth every penny. I've had them for 3 months and still on every ride find myself thinking "holy crap these shoes are rad!"
  • 4 0
 Yeah, sometimes you buy expensive things that look expensive but feel like shit. But every now and then you wear something that just feels so comfortable that it's insane.
  • 9 0
 How does it compare to ME7s, which as far as I can tell are just about perfect?
  • 1 0
 I love them! I also had a pair of SIDI for XC duties only, and after buying the ME7s they were never used again.
  • 3 2
 I don't have Recons, but I have S-works XC 6s, do the previous model. I think one of the big things that's a major benefit is how light the shoes are. You put them on and the shoe just disappears in your foot while riding. I've not ridden ME7s, but the shoes are also devoid of any flex while also being comfortable.
  • 1 0
 I love the the fit and feel of the Shimano shoes by they met to get rid of the crappy ratchet attachment. I've destroyed two pairs in two years because my for had clipped a rock while peddling and destroyed the ratchets. Otherwise the shoes are great. I sure as hell won't spend 425$ on bike shoes though.
  • 2 5
 @lifeofloon: To be honest, I wouldn't either. I ride for a Specialized shop, so I'm paying much closer to half price.
  • 2 0
 The ME4s are also fantastic with BOA.
  • 3 0
 @t-stoff: SIDIs are a shoe made by idiot roadies. Hard plastic cleats? Why even bother--they are a joke with no grip on anything. Every time I see someone, usually an older guy, about to break his neck on a hike a bike section it's because he's wearing SIDIs instead of something with actual rubber on the bottom like these Recons or Shimano XC7 or XC9.
  • 2 0
 It's tough to argue with Shimano shoes - work great, last forever, and at a fair price.
  • 3 0
I find this comment a bit odd. I wear SIDI Dominator 7s because they come in a 49 wide and because I had many years of positive experience with their Motocross boots in the early 1970's. So I wonder why someone would consider them to be "idiot roadies".

Also, my Sidi shoes have soft urethane on top of the nylon sole plate, which is not "actual rubber" but in my opinion it does have acceptable traction on wet hard surfaces. As far as the Specialized soles go, I do wonder if they plan on suing the "Slip Not" flooring company.

I have no experience with Specialized's shoes. For the right rider I am sure they are acceptable. I have found their tires a bit fragile for those of us in the 100kg+ group. And I have also broken a different brand of carbon fiber soles which were also aimed at supporting much less mass. So I will stick with the Sidi nylon soles, which seem to be holding up just fine.
  • 1 0
 Battle of the $200 Five Ten Kestrel Pro Boa vs. Shimano ME7...which do you choose?
  • 1 0
 @motard5: I had bad luck with the new Kestrel shoes. Found that the upper boa dial mount really dug into my inner ankle to the point of notable discomfort. I happen to like the Specialized Clipelite 2FO
  • 2 0
 @Dangerous-Dan: I rode my Sidi dominator's for nearly 15 years. I didn't give up on them until I had glued the lugs back on several times. They were, and are still my all time favorite MTB shoe.
  • 2 0
 @neologisticzand: lol fight club rules man, don't give it away to the world your EP shit
  • 2 0
 Very different discipline ?
top tier sworks XC shoe vs shimano all mountain enduro shoe
  • 1 0
 @golfman1: Haha, fair point. Lesson learned.
  • 8 3
 I assume the big S are now in the process of suing RockShox for the name of their entry level fork?
  • 4 1
 The 2 kings of cycling industry litigation. That would be a legal battle of the ages.
  • 2 0
 BOA on the side of the shoe is the worst idea. I have 3 pairs of shoes with BOA and all have the BOA in the middle of the shoe on the upper part of the tongue. I've had so issues except the time I hit my cable with a saw. If placed in the right spot, you will have no problems with BOA.
  • 1 0
 agreed, they are safer in the middle and could be a little more low profile and still be functional.
  • 2 0
 I have to admit I've gone away from overly stiff shoes. On long rides the carbon soles really start to take a toll on my feet. I got some Specialized 2FO's with boa closures and they are still very comfortable and efficient. I don't think I'll every buy a fancy pair of carbon soled MTB shoes again.
  • 3 0
 100 Percent in the 2fo...most comfortable shoe I have owned and my feet suckkkkk
  • 2 0
 I have a pair of regular recon shoes, they are heavy but they are also my favourite cycling shoes. They lace up and go. I use them for commuting and mountain biking, they work great with Time pedals. Got them on sale for $125 and after three years of heavy use, they are still holding up strong.
  • 2 0
 As someone who has battled foot pain all my cycling life I've used or tried on every brand imaginable and my S-works 6 are the only shoe I've ever owned that I can do 5+ hour rides in without foot pain. When I know there will be a lot of Hike a Bike I use an older pair of XC experts. Specialized shoes just fit my feet so cost is worth it.
  • 2 0
 I'll never own these because of the riding I prefer but damn I love my Spesh 2FO boas. Best shoes I've ever ridden by a mile. If you're in the market for something like this you can't go wrong.
  • 1 0
 What no one else is talking about is fit. You can spend $5,000 on a pair of shoes but if the $100 pair fits a million times better, than go for it! I've worked as a ski boot/cycling shoe fitter for many years and it's really tough to make a shoe comfortable if it's no where close to fitting from the start.

With that being said, I have a very skinny foot with a very low volume. I own both the Specialized XC expert shoes ($200, flex index 10) and the 2FO cliplite lace shoes ($120, flex index 6). Both fit my foot amazingly well and, with a proper custom foot bed, no numbness or hot spots. I have preferred the lace ups over the boa but each shoe feels different.
  • 1 0
 Favorite shoe in over 20 years of mtb - Spec Sport. Lowest level shoe. Dirt cheap. Perfect fit. Three non-breakable velcro straps. Flexible enough for hike-a-bikes. All black. No mesh. I could buy these Recons if I wanted but doubt they'd work as well al the Sport for me.
  • 1 0
 Everyone here who spent the big bucks says the love the shoes, so either they truly are jesus for your feet or they're not gonna admit they've been swindled. It's just like those magic eye posters; I'm never going to see the sailboat and I'm never going to get a chance to wear $600 shoes.
  • 5 1
 These shoes should cost more.
  • 1 1
 Tell me about it. At $425 who can't afford it? How am I supposed to feel good about myself riding around in poor people's shoes? I need something truly bespoke to convey my status. "who *doesn't* have a BMW?" as they say.
  • 5 1
 My first "real" mountain bike cost less than these shoes.
  • 2 1
 sounds like a real POS lol
  • 1 0
 @golfguy You kids these days! Back in '92, $400 was like $10,000 in today's dollars. A bottle of milk cost a nickel and taking your steady to the drive-in cost a quarter. Stumpjumpers were used to actually jump over stumps and if there weren't a few stream crossings, you weren't mountain biking. Get off my lawn!
  • 4 0
 Next year the shoe will be redesigned with some flex and cost $500
  • 1 0
 Look at the S-Works Exos shoes for road, they are $500 and lightweight as hell. Works for road somewhat but wouldn't for dirt.
  • 13 10
 $425 for bike shoes? Seems fair. Said no one ever.
  • 4 4
 Yes, but with these you can also look not at all like a fool in the pub after your gravel ride. Worth every one of their 42,500 cents.
  • 1 0
 and theyll last forever.
  • 2 2
 I just bought my wife a used Specialized Safire in perfect condition, with a brand new Fox DPS rear shock, for about $50 more than these shoes.
  • 5 2
 "S-Works" is a clever code word for a 600% mark up.
  • 5 4
 $425usd for cycling shoes LoL

Well, when your bike costs $12k what else are you gonna use? I mean, I could try and fix some cleats to the bottoms of my Gucci loafers...
  • 2 0
 I have never understood the little velcro strap.. whats the bloody point ?
  • 7 0
 Its set and forget. This part of your foot does not swell with use/heat etc so dont really ever to adjust it unless wearing winter socks. A 3rd boa dial would be added weight and would be prone to breakage . Having a boa laced from above down this low tightened the toe too much. Making it uncomfortable.
  • 9 7
 $425 road weenie ballerina slippers.. no not never
  • 3 1
 Calling all dentist comments, you are wanted in the shoe aisle.
  • 3 0
 $425 hahaha
  • 4 2
 I wish Rock Show would sue them and win...
  • 1 3
 I will never again wear that narrow heeled ankle buster after having to drag a broken bike 3 miles on single track to get to a fire break road. It was a stupid idea to adapt road shoes to MTB then and it's even more so now recycling 30 yr old tech thats long out served it's usefulness. Specialized, shit can that idea already and come up with something original for christs sake ~ or aren't you innovators in this sport any longer?
  • 2 1
 lol sounds like you need to hike the bike less and climb those hills! lol they rock as XC climbing shoes
  • 1 0
 @golfman1: A busted bike is a busted bike (or did you miss that part) ... I'd of much rather been riding it
  • 1 3
 I used to ride in Specialized MTB shoes and I for many years thought that they were abosolutelu fking briliant. They were comfortable and very long lasting. Unfortunately since day one they were also much more expensive than comeptition and the only way to buy was some sort of mid season sale etc.

Nowadays Shimano is as comfrtable as Specialized used to be with fraction of a price so if they die prematurly it's not a big problem so if you still buy Specialized shoes it's nothing more than a statement that your're better then the "poor" bikers.

Seriously 452$ - ROTFL!
  • 2 0
 lol a statement haha come on. I get it S-Works are expensive but overall they are great quality, you get what you pay for. Now they don't fit everyone's budget haha but they are worth it, if you look past the price. The expert xc shoes are sick too. Dyneema is awesome! The S-Work 7 road shoes the highest quality, the Recons are the same. They are at the pinnacle of Specialized development don't dislike based merely on price lol. Obviously the shoe isn't for everyone, but those that do decide to wear S-Work shoes, sure love em!
  • 1 1
 @golfman1: you're a dentist or what!? Smile
  • 5 4
 I could buy a quarter of a YT for that
  • 2 1
 It might be ultra-light and ultra-stiff, but is it ultra-compliant?
  • 3 4
 My $400 S-Works XC version [previous iteration] have fallen apart twice. Walking in a stream bed would have me shaking in my cleats...
  • 4 2
 That's one ugly shoe.
  • 3 1
 Peanut shoes
  • 2 0
 Moon boots
  • 1 0
 Still waiting for $1000 shoes
  • 1 0
 Look at the S-Work Exos shoes for $500
  • 1 0
 Clocking in at 2 Big Macs, that's one Big Mac per foot! So cool.
  • 1 0
 I was really looking for something with a crepe sole or a cuban heel
  • 1 0
 I'll wait till they come down by £100
  • 6 6
 That s(hit)-works I rec(k)on
  • 7 8
 - these are worth 150 at best
- we need to charge 400+ for those
- hmmm we can use carbon to bump the price
- make it happen
  • 4 4
 Remove the s-works logo and remove $200...
  • 2 1
  • 3 3
 The orthodontist in me wants these.
  • 2 2
 So nice, yet there will be a Specialized logo on your foot. PASS.
  • 1 0
  • 5 6
 $425 for shoes you gotta be taking the piss
  • 3 4
 I remember when my 200 dollar SIDIs seemed like a luxury purchase. They are still in great shape years later while I honestly doubt these $400+ shoes will hold up for three years
  • 4 0
 @theman554: I don't know about this particular model, but in general, the SWORKS shoes tend to last a really long time. I've known quite a few people still riding the same shoes 8-10 years down the road.
  • 1 0
 @ChristophColombo: What's the union of people who spend $400 on biking shoes and people who wear 10 year old shoes? Can't be that many of them...
  • 1 0
 @plyawn: a lot of customers come into my shop replacing parts on their old S-Works shoes that thye have worn for over 5 years. Top quality shoes over all haha
  • 1 0
 @plyawn: As long as the shoes are comfortable and aren't broken, why replace them? Most of the wear parts (tread blocks, BOA dials, insoles) are replaceable, so unless you blow out the uppers or crack the carbon sole, you can keep them running indefinitely.
  • 5 5
  • 2 3
 You could buy some Sidis for that much money
  • 4 1
 That sounds like an even worse deal
  • 1 4
 Specialized sucks. Just say no.

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