Review: Specialized Recon 3.0 Shoes

Aug 19, 2020
by Daniel Sapp  
Specialized Recon 3 shoe review

Last year, I reviewed Specialized's S-Works Recon shoes. Those shoes replaced the brand's S-Works XC shoe as a more versatile, "all-around" option. For the most part they performed great, but the $425 price tag puts them out of reach for most riders.

Thankfully, Specialized have expanded their Recon shoe line for 2020 with three additional options, starting at the Recon 1.0 that sells for a very reasonable $110 up to the Recon 3.0 that I've been riding over the last several months that costs $225. That's not cheap, but the shoe does use much of the same technology found in the more expensive S-Works version.
Recon 3.0 Details

• Fully welded upper
• BOA L6 snap dial closure
• SlipNot rubber sole
• Colors: Aqua, Black, Rocket Red
• Sizes: EU 36-49, half sizes
• Weight: 749g (Pair, size 43.5)
• MSRP: $225 USD
• Info:

The Recon 3.0 has a stiffness rating of 10.0 (out of 13), Specialized's SlipNot rubber compound and flex built into the toe for off-the-bike excursions, a welded upper, BOA-L6 snap dial closures, and Specialized's Body Geometry footbeds. The shoe is available three different colors and in sizes 36-49 with half sizes available for sizes 38.5-46.5.

Specialized Recon 3 shoe review
Specialized Recon 3 shoe review
L6 BOA dials lock things down and Xpel mesh keeps water retention to a minimum.


The Recon 3.0 takes a lot of design cues from Specialized's higher-end S-Works Recon shoe, but there are some notable differences. For one, it's not quite as stiff - the S-Works maxes out the "no-flexometer" at a 13.0, while the 3.0 is a much more reasonable 10.0 on the scale. While it is important to have stiffness in a shoe, it's something that can sacrifice comfort, especially at extreme levels. For the trail rider that typically rides in a skate style clip shoe that likely has a stiffness of 5.0-7.0, jumping straight to the other end of the scale can be cause for a walking stick as you hobble around the house with sore feet the evening or day after a long ride.

The sole's SlipNot rubber is found everywhere minus the hard carbon surface where the cleat rests and there are removable cleats at the front of the shoe that could be changed out for a more aggressive spike if needed. The tread pattern is aggressive and features tall lugs designed to give traction in varied terrain.

Closure is handled by two BOA L6 snap dials. This style of dial has two positions, open and closed, and tightens the laces down when rotated in the closed position, releasing tension only when the dial is pulled up.

The shoe features an Xpel mesh liner. Unlike many typical linings, the XPEL liner doesn’t soak up water when exposed to wet conditions, which helps keep the shoes from taking on water weight, and allows them to dry quickly.

Specialized Recon 3 shoe review
Specialized Recon 3 shoe review
The tread on the Recon 3.0 is aggressive. There's plenty of room to easily engage the pedals and plenty of traction for the occasional hike-a-bike.


The Recon 3.0 fits true to size, and similar to any other shoes in Specialized's line. I wear a size 43.5 / 10 and they were spot on; compared to other brands that fit what I consider to be true to size as well.

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 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.

The shoes offer plenty of stiffness and felt great on any of the XC / trails rides I did, no matter which clipless pedals I used. Clipping in is slightly easier and more intuitive than with the S-Works version, and there's plenty of clearance for debris to clear out. The interface of the bottom of the shoe to the pedal platform on trail style pedals allows for enough room for the shoes to float just a bit. There is plenty of support and the upper and tongue of the shoe are extremely comfortable

If you end up caught out in the rain or crossing a creek, the shoes do a great job of clearing water out and they dry incredibly fast. In fact, they do a better job of draining and drying than any other XC shoes I've used. They're also fairly well ventilated and don't seem to keep my feet warmer than they should. The soles offer up plenty of traction on wet or rocky terrain and after a few months of regular hike-a-bikes they aren't showing any signs of accelerated wear.

The upper of the shoe is supportive, but paired with the BOA L6 dials the combination doesn't allow it to easily cinch down. I find that I have to tighten things a few minutes into riding once my foot has settled in. With the L6 style dial, loosening requires popping the dial up which releases the tension all-together. There's no micro-adjustment to make things tighter or looser as with some other styles of BOA dials. I found this to be pretty annoying, especially since feet can swell during rides, and at times, it's nice to back off a click or two on a BOA style shoe.

Additionally, the dials aren't all that easy to pop up, especially with gloved fingers when the tension is high. Sure, it's something that I would look past and just ride but, the shoes would be a lot better with a different BOA dial.

Specialized Recon 3 shoe review
As quickly as a pop-up-thunderstorm left me searching for safe shelter from a wall of rain and lightning, the Recon 3.0 purged water and started to dry.

Toe to Toe

A lot of times, we'll compare one brand to another but, in this case, I think it's relevant to compare Specialized's Recon 3.0 to the more expensive SWorks Recon shoe to see if if it's worth shelling out $200 more for the top-of-the-line option.

The 3.0, while not as stiff, is still more than enough for almost anyone except a top-level racer. It does weigh 135 grams more for the pair compared to the SWorks version, something to consider if you're regularly putting your food on a scale, or only run 3 out of 6 rotor bolts.

Specialized Recon 3 shoe review

Comfort-wise, the upper of the 3.0 offers more comfort than the SWorks shoe. The SWorks shoe's tongue and upper BOA closure combine forces to make a hot spot for me, along with a number of other riders I've spoken to. Although there is a remedy for this, it involves scissors and, let's be real, a pair of $425 shoes shouldn't need surgery out of the box.

The fit of both shoes is very similar. The SWorks offer an ever-so-slightly lower volume but, at the end of the day, if one fits then the other should as well.


+ Sung, comfortable fit
+ Fast drying, breathable
+ Overall well constructed for the price

- BOA L6 dials
- Upper is difficult to snug up due to stiffness

Pinkbike's Take

bigquotesThe Recon 3.0 is a very well constructed shoe for the price, although I didn't totally get along with the BOA L6 dials. The speed at which the shoes dry is phenomenal, and they offer a high level of performance. For a trail rider looking for a shoe that can handle duty on the trail and cross over to a gravel bike, last for a long time, and handle a variety of conditions, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. Daniel Sapp


  • 18 0
 They did well with the colour names. Rocket red conjures up much better images than red rocket, especially for South Park fans.
  • 2 0
 C'mon rocket!
  • 2 1
 Or anyone with a male dog lol
  • 1 0
 My balls hurt just looking at those things.
  • 5 0
 Nice review, but I don't think the BOA thing can be overlooked. Just like you said, unless you are riding enduro style, you sometimes want to adjust the tension and to have to stop to do that and on top of that fight with the BOA dials? No, thanks. A total dealbreaker, especially for shoes over $200! Most people I know wouldn't pay this money for shoes. They'd either buy cheaper ones or wait for a very good deal on sale.
  • 5 9
flag rexluthor (Aug 19, 2020 at 10:35) (Below Threshold)
 You know what? 3 velcro straps work great. Or go hi end with the ratchet top buckle (or go smart and keep it a velcro strap).

Boa. It's senseless. 4 dental floss thickness wires + marketing = unnecessary complexity and a big MSRP.

It's crappy it takes one using items like this for a bit to figure out, "hey, the simpler stuff actually works better and lasts longer."
  • 3 0
 I've got the Boa L6s and it really is so easy to adjust them. Tightening, super easy. Loosening, not as easy but it's far from inconvenient.
  • 5 0
 @rexluthor: In my experience, Velcro straps are always the first thing to go on any show. Not a fan.
  • 1 0
 Each to their own, but I've liked Boa. I can reach down while riding and clip it 1 or 2 clicks tighter, vs velcro I can't easily do that. And velcro wears out.

Is the comment about "dental floss thickness" with respect to durability? I've had pretty poor experiences with shoe durability in general and Boa is average. I've broken 1 Boa buckle and quite easily gotten a new buckle for free and replaced it (interestingly it wasn't the wire itself that broke, they are actually fairly strong). I've also had normal ratchet straps wear out (on my current Shimano shoes), had the whole sole of the a shoe fall apart, and had velcro straps wear out.

So long story short... I'm not terrible happy with MTB shoes in general. I wish they lasted longer than they do, but Boa really hasn't been a worse experience.
  • 4 0
 I don't get why they now insist on the stupid asymmetric and very closed upper. Had to get rid of my Recon S-Works after only two rides (and take a huge loss) as they put a lot of pressure on the large tendon on the front of the foot/leg when pedaling.
The older ones (I think they were just called S-Works MTB?) was much more open and flexible where a shoe obviously needs to be. I have put over 5000 km on those and done 4-5 hour rides without any problems.
  • 4 0
 I had the same issue here. I got the S-Works Recon for road and gravel, and they cut into the top of my foot. Same thing happened to a couple customers. The Recon 1/2/3 shoes are dramatically more comfortable. I picked up some Shimano RX8 shoes for skinny-tire rides and couldn't be happier. I also ride the Spec Cliplite 2FO double BOA shoe, which has been excellent for trail and park riding.
  • 1 0
 @pinkrobe: plus one on the 2FO cliplite. I love those shoes!
  • 14 8
 would have to put a gun to my temple to wear those... the designer obviously wasn't in a good way that day... =)
  • 6 1
 Agreed. Those are hideous :/

I mean...I'd wear em for free, or to review, but not by choice.
  • 5 11
flag digitalsoul (Aug 19, 2020 at 7:52) (Below Threshold)
 When XC riders can't get enough attention through their bikes then they resort to clothing to get attention.
  • 6 0
 It's ok they weren't designed for you Wink
  • 3 0
 @NorCalNomad: 100% haha
  • 2 0
 @CF519: I'm curious though, what do you find as non "hideous" in the upper end of the clipless category
  • 1 0
 @NorCalNomad: I have no idea. They're not designed for me, so I've never looked into em. I like the black and green 510s I saw a while ago. As for high end carbon shoes and stuff...I wouldn't even know where to start.
  • 3 0
 Here's a PSA to all of you clipless riding trail riders with average or wider than average foot:
Get Shimano XC701 these are the best shoes by far. Very stiff but walkable, so very pedal efficient but still fine for walking.
Unlike all other Shimano shoes, the sole won't break apart since the lugs to are well integrated into the midsole.

These also feature Boa L6 dials that won't loosen when brushing along the trail debris unlike regular boa dials.

The shoes are extremely comfortable and E sizing gives you proper width unlike most clipless shoes that are more like feet torture devices than footwear.
  • 1 0
 I wonder why they went to the Boa 6? I have the older Expert XC Mountain Bike Shoes with the Boa IP1 Snap dial which does have the on-the-fly micro-adjustment. Which I use constantly for the very reason the article stated, on the ride foot swelling. Seems like they're going backwards with this shoe. And, the older shoe, which are one of the best cycling shoes, road or MTB I've ever used, is lighter. Same price BTW.

I guess I better grab a spare pair of the older shoes before they're all gone.
  • 1 0
 I WANT MESH. This perforated pleather doesn't breathe, and holds heat. Yeah, these types of shoes look great. But functionally, they are stupid and my feet get hotter than my sweaty balls in a chamois. Oh yeah and they hold water too.
  • 5 0
 Check out the Shimano SH-SD501.
  • 1 0
 @vinay: All the upvotes for you.
  • 1 0
 I’m just exchanging these in hopes there was an imperfection in the upper but sounds like it’s a known issue. The Right shoe cut way too tightly against the front of my ankle. To the point it was bruising my ankle bone. At least the specialized store has a 30 satisfaction guarantee. Looks like I’m going back to Shimano XC-7s.
  • 1 0
 I have these (in red, matches the colour of the bikes) and find them very comfortable for gravel/cyclocross and trail riding (good stiffness for longer periods of pedalling/climbing), no issue with the tongue/uppers. But have to say those Boa dials get on my nerves sometimes... I have Specialized road shoes with the older boa style, on the road I loosen/tighten them all the time which is much better than this new style (though on those I have to unhook the string since they can't be loosened enough and I can't put my foot inside with it hooked, too tight). I have adapted a bit so that now I let them be fairly loose at the beginning of the ride and tighten them step by step later, but from time to time I have to open the boa completely and start tightening again, sometimes over-tighten and need to start again...
  • 1 0
 I bought and returned these because they cut into your ankle like a son of a B*tch. I've never had anything cut into my ankle like these, i think the tongue is too long to accommodate the BOA system. Was disappointed, but happily changed directions to some 510s...
  • 1 0
 I ordered a pair of these S-Works Recon (black) when my shoes broke last month - paid for overnight shipping - thought - ok I'll splurge and spend $425 + $75 shipping as mountain biking is my only vice - still a recovering weight-weenie, and a sucker for high price. The were ABSOLUTELY the most uncomfortable shoes I've ever worn. On one 2 hour ride and I had sick instep blisters that I had to bandage for the next week; the outside top back of the shoe also dug into my foot - I even tried them one more time the next day - not for long. The size 45 fit fine, maybe a bit narrower than the same size PI shoes I've been wearing for years. Thankfully the retailer was very kind, refunded $425., and I only had to pay the $75 overnight shipping, not return - be sure to check return policy is my advice before dropping half a grand!
  • 5 0
 let's get some shoes
  • 2 0
 Oh, by the way batch...
  • 1 0
 Just bought myself a pair of Giro Terraduro and I couldn't be happier, much prefer a proper ratchet down system rather than boa, velcro or laces, so secure and comfortable and it has on the fly adjustment as well.
  • 1 0
 I love the terraduros too but get used to replacing the ratchets when you hit them on trailside rocks. I've broken two pairs this season.
  • 2 0
 @tempest3070: I have the lace up terraduro and couldn’t be happier. They’re excellent.
  • 1 0
 @pcledrew: Really wish they'd build another round of em, they're harder to find than a rider that doesn't claim their brand bike is the best
  • 1 0
 Those sole tread knobs looks like they're gonna fold off pretty quickly.

A big part of shoe selection for me is durability, and "several months" isn't likey to show long-term durability issues I would wager. Frown
  • 1 0
 Got some Giro Empire shoes with laces. Nice to get perfect fit, but once your feet swell stopping to adjust is annoying. The shoes also gave me a blister on a long hike a bike, although no issues when actually riding.
  • 3 0
 They serve a purpose but they are not.......bonny.
  • 3 0
 These shoes are blue, it had to be said
  • 1 0
 Blue suede shoes, don't step on them.
  • 1 0
 i got some spesh torch 3 shoes i use on my road bike and they're fantastic, these look like they'll be great trail shoes. the boa dials for me are faultless
  • 2 0
 They kind of scream. I'm a roadie!
  • 1 0
 they´ve recon that the recon were too expensive...
  • 2 0
  • 1 0
 Cool. Where are the 2fo’s?
  • 1 0
 Nice colour
  • 2 3
 Wow, they are hideous. I'm pleased I don't ride with clips!
  • 4 0
 @lacuna even if you did no one is forcing you to wear these.
  • 3 4
 wear vans
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