Mountain Gear

Specialized Recon 3.0 mountain bike shoe review

The Specialized Recon 3.0 mountain bike shoes offer a sweet balance of stiffness and walkability that gave me control on all terrain.

Review Rating


2 Boa dials; one Velcro toe strap; available in sizes 36-49


Two Boa dials and one Velcro lace allow for zonal tightening; the tread was great for walking; best for cross-country/gravel


break-in period required

Size Reviewed



748 grams





A low-cut, heavily-perforated, synthetic leather shoe, Specialized’s Recon 3.0 was inspired by the company’s S-Works cross-country race shoes, then armored to handle hard use and paired with a sole that will help you keep your speed even when you have to hop off your bike and charge up a hill. It’s on the racy side, but with balanced stiffness and walkability.


The Upper

Despite almost no-mesh, the Recon’s fully synthetic leather upper kept my feet comfortable regardless of the temperature outside. Perforations from toe to ankle, including in the tongue, let sweat escape, but still offered some weather protection on chilly rides. The Recon’s upper is tough and textured with heel and toe scuff guards. The outside is fully welded, not stitched, which reduces seams, but doesn’t eliminate them; it just makes them less bulky and less prone to cause pressure points, while giving the shoe a clean look.

Interestingly, some seams inside the shoe are sewn — the shoe’s Boa lacing is stitched to the shoe’s upper, but I didn’t notice them when I was riding. As a rider with medium-wide feet, the shoe felt restrictive where the tongue and the shoe’s lowest fit-adjusting Velcro strap is sewn-in directly over the ball of the big toe. But this area broke in over several rides, and so did the tongue, which felt like a hard piece of cardboard pressing on my ankle at first, despite the padding that covers most of the top. Water-repelling Xpel mesh lines the upper and peeks out just below the Velcro strap.

Specialized Recon 3
Specialized Recon 3 soles weren’t so rigid that I felt like I was walking around the parking lot post-ride in road shoes. Photo: Berne Broudy

Recon Sole

Specialized says that its Body Geometry sole and footbed can increase efficiency, and reduce the chance of injury by optimizing hip, knee, and foot alignment. Three or four rides in, as the shoe started to conform to my foot, and as hard edges and tight stitching softened, it became one of my favorites. It offered super-efficient pedaling, but it wasn’t so rigid that I felt like I was walking around the parking lot post-ride in road shoes.

That’s Specialized’s Carbon Stride toe-flex technology at work which the company says allows for natural toe movement off-bike, but remains stiff for pedaling, even with a stiffness index of 10/10. The sole rubber is aggressively treaded in the toe and heel.

Specialized Recon 3
Specialized Recon 3 features two Boa dials and a Velcro strap. Photo: Berne Broudy

Recon Fit

The Recon 3.0 adjusts with two independent Boa L6-snap dials for on-the-fly micro-adjustment. Boa laces are paired with a Velcro strap towards the toe. Together, they give this shoe tons of adjustability, though I wish the area under the Velcro strap had been designed with a little more give.


Specialized positions this shoe as a cross-country/gravel shoe, but this shoe’s sweet balance of stiffness and walkability gave me control on all terrain. It was, however, a tad lower-cut than I wanted for the most technical riding. After the initial break-in, it was a shoe I frequently reached for, and also a shoe other riders commented on routinely, most likely because I was rocking it in eye-catching turquoise. It comes in both bright and subdued colors, and in sizes 36-49.