Color: black with silver highlights
Weight: 380 grams
Features: 2-bolt SPD-style recessed sole; smooth but grippy sole for easy walking; synthetic upper with mesh; two hook-and-loop straps plus buckle; Body Geometry features for increased performance
RBR advertiser: No
Hours tested: 20
Touring Shoe with Road Shoe Looks and Performance
I’ve always used road pedals for much of my riding, favoring Shimano Dura Ace PD-7810’s with their big, supportive cleat. And I’ve used Specialized road shoes ever since bike fit guru Andy Pruitt began to design them, incorporating a number of innovations under the marketing name “Body Geometry.”
(Full disclosure: Andy is a long-time friend and teammate and I co-authored his book Andy Pruitt’s Compete Medical Guide for Cyclists. However, I wouldn’t use his shoes if they didn’t work well. Foot comfort on the bike is too important to let friendship stand in the way!)
I also like recessed cleat systems on road bikes for tours like PacTour’s 2011 Ridge of the Rockies and the 2012 Pacific Crest Tour. These multi-week tours demand sophisticated shoe/pedal/cleat systems due to the 100+ mile days but also require some walkability at rest stops and sightseeing destinations. After fumbling with cleat covers at each stop (and inevitably having them fall off in the dirt), I have converted to recessed-cleat shoes for tours.
Mountain Bike Shoes are Overkill
Unfortunately, mountain bike shoes have heavy lugged soles, overkill for road use and light walking. So last spring the new Specialized Elite Touring shoe caught my eye. It’s based on the design of their Elite road shoe but with a recessed cleat and smooth but grippy outsole for easy walking without the extreme look of their off-road brethren.
I encountered two problems getting the Elite Touring shoes set up. First, the recess for the cleat was too small to move the cleat laterally as much as I wanted. However, it was simple to use an X-acto knife to remove some rubber and expand the recess. The cleat did have plenty of fore-and-aft movement. I wear a size 45 and position my cleats to the rear. Unlike some shoes, the Elite Touring shoe allowed moving the cleat back far enough to accommodate my long and somewhat flexible foot.
On the first couple of rides, the tongue irritated the inside of my right ankle bone. I experimented with various degrees of buckle tightness and finally trimmed off a bit of the tongue. That alleviated the problem.
My feet are sensitive to most shoes: this amount of modification was about average for me no matter what cycling shoes I use. They would probably be comfortable for most riders right out of the box.
Previous Specialized shoes I’ve purchased came with a supportive sockliner, but in the Elite Touring shoes the sockliner was thin, providing little support. I changed them for Specialized’s blue aftermarket model, the middle in terms of support of three insoles available for extra cost. These worked well but raised the effective cost of the shoe by over $50.
Shoes Perform Well on the Bike
On the bike, the shoes work well. The soles are sufficiently stiff to keep hot foot from developing on long rides. The buckle allows minute adjustments. Even close up, the Elite Touring model looks like a road shoe, no surprise since They’re based on the Elite road shoe, a mainstay of the Specialized line.
They are also pleasantly walkable. The sticky rubber outsole kept me from pratfalls in convenience stores, gripped well in gravel parking lots and made short hikes on scenic overlooks enjoyable.
The roadie in me still likes a dedicated road shoe, but my practical side has embraced recessed cleats. With the road-like appearance of the Elite Touring shoe and its combination of walkability and comfort on long rides, I’ve taken the road pedals off all but one of my bikes.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.