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S-Works Recon SL Shoe Goes Full Gravel, Gets Wider and Adds a Tunable Pedal Interface

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Specialized S-Works Recon SL tops side by side
Photos c. Jordan Villella

What’s New: Specialized S-Works Recon SL 

There are many updates to the new S-Works Recon SL, most notably the reduction in weight, updated wider fit, and a more Torch-like appearance. Still, the shoe is laser-focused on off-road performance but leans more into the gravel side than anything. 

Specialized S-Works Recon SL toebox

Specialized moved the BOA dials slightly, eliminating the constricted feeling of the previous version of the Recons while still having a sturdy fit. Now there are two BOA dials and no extra Velcro strap near the toes. 

Specialized S-Works Recon SL carbon soles

Looking at the bottom of the shoe, you can see most of the updates. The matte carbon sole of the shoe is sculpted. On the structural side of things, Specialized updated the sole with an internal I-beam like the Torch to add stiffness and strength. The I-beam eliminates the need for additional bracing while allowing the shoe to stay extremely lightweight. 

Specialized S-Works Recon SL cleats

If you look at the toebox, you’ll notice zero spots for additional toe spikes. Cyclo-cross racers will be bummed, but this is an opportunity to shave weight and eliminate extra hardware.

Specialized S-Works Recon SL toebox

If you look closer, you’ll notice the toebox is slimmer than the beefed-up section near the cleat. The front of the shoe is slightly flexible, while the mid-pedaling platform is super stiff. 

Specialized S-Works Recon SL heels

Updated Fit 

The new Recon SL and Recon ADV addressed a common thread among many riders: the width of the shoe. The new Recon SL and Recon ADV are 4 mm wider than the standard width and 8 mm wider than the previous S-Works Recon Mountain Bike Shoes. 

Specialized S-Works Recon SL BOA laces

Why the change to wider? The design team at Specialized gathered more than 100,000 foot scans from RETÜL fit data. After studying the scans, the team recognized that a standard fit and a wide carbon base plate would best serve the spectrum of human foot shapes. 

Specialized S-Works Recon SL all colorways

The inside of the shoe is what you’d expect from the Specialized S-Works tier and includes a varus wedge, longitudinal arch, and metatarsal button. A new piece that Specialized is offering for the S-Work Recon SL is high-density pontoons (shims) that allow riders to tune their pedal interface.

Specialized S-Works Recon SL pontoons

Though we have yet to experiment with them, the shoes arrive with two options, threading into the tread. Additional 3mm, 6mm, and 9mm pontoon shims for leg length discrepancy and cleat stacker are available through Specialized Rider Care. 

Specialized S-Works Recon SL both shoes

Specialized S-Works Recon SL: Key Features 

  • High-density pontoons and new shims allow riders to tune their pedal interface for maximum efficiency and a road-like pedal platform  
  • Features Body Geometry technology by way of the varus wedge, a longitudinal arch, and a metatarsal button
  • An asymmetrical heel counter supports the medial side while removing material from the lateral side, allowing for a lower collar
  • Using an internal I-beam adds stiffness and strength — eliminating the need for additional bracing and allowing the shoe to stay extremely lightweight
  • Zoned reinforcement across the quarter and forefoot maximize support while the updated BOA routing improves lockdown — eliminating the need for a toe strap
  • Additional 3mm, 6mm, and 9mm pontoon shims for leg length discrepancy and cleat stacker available through Specialized Rider Care 
  • For a wider fit — the new base plate is 4 mm wider than the standard width (8 mm wider than S-Works Recon Mountain Bike Shoes)
  • Available sizes: 36-49 
  • Weight: 288 g (size 43)
  • Available now
  • Price: $450
Specialized S-Works Recon SL in bag

First Impressions

We’ve had minimal time on the S-Works Recon SL shoe. From our time in them, it’s safe to note — they fit astronomically better. I have a slightly wider foot and gravitate toward Shimano shoe lines. The updated fit is a significant difference from the Recon SL shoe. Those slightly shoehorned into the previous S-Works Recon version will be excited. 

Specialized S-Works Recon SL weights

Weight and fit are the most notable characteristics that stick out. They feel like road shoes when you put them on because of the weight and the locked-in sensation. The updated placement of the BOA dials is another huge update. 

Previously, the wire from the BOA dials would dig into my foot and create an over-tightened sensation that was not great. The new placement, however, eliminates that and adds a nice secure-wrapped feeling. 

The front of the shoe where the toe spike could/would be is slightly flexible. This slimmer toe area could reduce weight and offer off-the-bike comfort. I’m curious to know if this will withstand the demands of running and sloppy hike-a-bike sections of gravel races. 

There’s only one way to find out. We’ll put these shoes through the races and paces this spring and report back with a full review. Currently, the prospects look good; they fit excellent, are lightweight, and look very fast! 

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