Testing the latest gravel shoes from fi'zi:k. What's a gravel shoe? Find out here!
Words and photos: Mike Blewitt
Fizik are well-known for their contact points, especially in the world of drop bars. Their saddle range covers the spectrum from triathlon to gravity racing, and along with bars, stems and seat posts that are popular with our drop bar brethren, their footwear line spans tarmac to dirt. I have tested three pairs of their mountain bike shoes over the past four years and been impressed. The fit isn;t too narrow, they're stiff, well-made and last a long time.
The Italian shoe maestros recently released a gravel shoe, the Terra Powerstrap X4. It does beg the question – what is a gravel shoe exactly? From experience, a good gravel shoe tends to be something quite light, with a slightly simpler outer sole than an XC shoe, easy adjustments on the bike, and probably available in fairly muted towns to suit aesthetes.
Of course the other sort of gravel shoe is whatever set of shoes that you have – adventure and just getting out is at the heart of gravel riding. Some say the best gravel bike is whatever you have right now, and so it fits that the same goes for your shoes. Be they running shoes, hiking boots or whatever is in the cupboard. Get outside and enjoy the wind in your hair.
The Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4 is squarely aimed at those wanting a specific shoe, and the lightweight shoes came in at 361g per shoe in EU44 on my scales. The outersole has a heel, and tread around the cleat pocket which is quite curved to aid walking on flat surfaces – a bit of hike a bike isn't really as good. There's some extra rubber beneath the toe, but you won't find the deep lugs or tread in the arch that you'll find on a mountain bike shoe.
The uppers are ventilated synthetic leather, with the Powerstrap closure. Unlike a couple of velcro straps, this combination wraps around your foot for a very precise fit. I often find the lower straps on a shoe don't do that much, but with this shoe as much of the fit came from the lower strap as the top, to the point that I didn't even need much pressure on the main strap – and that's a real boon for all-day riding comfort.
The stiffness of the midsole is basic – rated as 6 – which means it's not as stiff as an XC race shoe, although this is all a relatively made up scale! Fizik state that the midsole is fiber injected, so expect it to keep it's stiffness for a little while, but not remain as stiff as a high-performance shoe over repeated use.
On the bike
In use on daily commutes and gravel rides, these shoes were super comfortable. The cleat pocket is nice and long and although the current drought in Queensland meant that getting mud in the cleat pocket wasn't possible, I can imagine they would clear out well – but given it's such a simple tread you don't really want to search out lots of mud.
What really worked for me was the comfort of the shoes, and how easy it was to adjust the straps while on the bike, if you needed to as the day grew hotter and your feet expanded. Like all other Fizik shoes I have worn, they had a really precise fit and were true to size, with a deep heel pocket to keep your feet in place when pulling up, and plenty of range for cleat positioning. I prefer to run my cleats a long way back, but I still have a few millimetres to play with – which is a lot when it comes to fit.
If you're after a shoe for all-day adventures on the bike, with a light shoe that should dry quickly and not look too quirky like some all out XC race shoes do, the Terra Powerstrap X4 is worth a look. They're available in black and 'mud/caramel' here, not this snazzy colour I had as a sample. If you need something to work across cyclocross and mountain biking – you'll be best to stick to a performance XC shoe.
From: Advance Traders
- Super comfortable and light shoes
- Colours suit the gravel palette
- Easy adjustments on the bike
- Missing the tread for adventure rides
- Not versatile enough for cyclocross duties