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: Specialized.com
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.
L6 BOA dials lock things down and Xpel mesh keeps water retention to a minimum.Design
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.
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.Performance
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.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.
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