Why A Gravel Shoe?

Why A Gravel Shoe?

Written by Isaac Boyden, on November 10, 2023

Whether you're a gravel/adventure cyclist, an XC racer or you like bike packing, you've probably gone into a bike shop looking for some two bolt shoes and noticed the overwhelming number of shoe options available. But what makes any of them better for your intended purpose? Many shoes are now labeled as “gravel shoes”, but what makes those different from an XC race shoe, or a road shoe? We'll break down what shoes you might want to look at based on your ride style and purpose. Every company tends to approach "gravel" with a slightly different mindset, which of course results in some difference in the products. We'll shed some light on the different shoes out there and help you pick the right one!

shimano gravel shoe
What Makes Them Different? 

Gravel shoes have only really started appearing in the last few years, and have a lot of people wondering what makes them different from a traditional XC MTB shoe. The main things that separate gravel shoes from other kinds of shoes, are the fit and the sole. Compared to a road shoe, all gravel shoes will have some rubber tread on the bottom in case you need to walk. They all also feature a 2 bolt cleat pattern, instead of road’s 3 bolt pattern. But, you may be asking, how does that make it any different from the MTB XC race shoe? The biggest difference is volume. XC race shoes will typically have a higher volume toe box and wider profile than a gravel shoe. Imagine the sole of a XC shoe, on the upper profile of a road shoe. But that’s where the similarities between a gravel shoe and a XC MTB shoe tend to end. Each company seems to have a slightly different idea of what gravel encompasses, which means the shoes can all be very different. Take a look at these recommendations and see which ones might fit you!  

scott tuned gravel shoe
Gravel Touring / Adventure / Bikepacking And The SCOTT Gravel Tuned Shoes 

If you tend to lean towards long days and chunky terrain, or maybe some light bike packing, look no further than the SCOTT Tuned Gravel Shoe. This particular shoe calls for adventure, so it features a Nylon sole as opposed to a carbon sole that a lot of companies incorporate into their gravel shoes. With a slim, road-like profile, the SCOTT Tuned Gravel Shoe doesn't have the additional bulk of a mountain shoe, keeping it light on the feet. The key to this shoe is the aforementioned nylon sole. Many of the gravel shoes on the market prioritize stiffness. While a stiff design is great for a racing shoe, for long distances or rides that involve lots of walking, a stiffer shoe can numb the feet, especially over gnarlier terrain. Using a material that isn't as stiff keeps the feet more comfortable when needing to walk, covering days worth of distance, or even when you're just riding on rough jeep roads. 

DMT GK1 Gravel Shoes
All-Around Gravel And The DMT GK1 Gravel Shoes 

Love being the all-arounder? Sometimes short rides, sometimes long, sometimes just road, sometimes all gravel, sometimes a mix? This describes the way most people ride gravel, and this is what the DMT GK1 is all about. With a simplistic lace up design and plenty of color ways, it’s a shoe that can suit everyone. The sole is constructed of nylon like the Scott, but it is thicker. The DMT GK1 also has more torsional rigidity and overall stiffness than the SCOTT Tuned shoe. With an ideal  medium level of stiffness, the DMT GK1 is comfortable for a handful of hours of gravel, with a little more snap to it than a dedicated touring/adventure shoe. This is the perfect shoe for the day-in, day-out average rider who needs that perfect balance of stiffness and comfort. 

Shimano RX8
Gravel Racing And The Shimano RX8

While adventure is fun and all, there is a good portion of gravel riders that love speed. We're talking the day-in, day-out, all-day racer. If speed, stiffness, responsiveness, and no compromise performance is your thing, take a look at the Shimano RX8. Shimano's premier gravel shoe is built like a road shoe, with a sleek fit, full carbon sole, and stiffness as priority number one. Unlike the smooth sole of a road shoe however, the Shimano RX8 still has rubber on the bottom to provide traction, and uses a 2-bolt cleat pattern. The Shimano RX8 features a woven carbon sole that provides the shoe with both its stiffness, and an amazing look as well. The Shimano RX8 is a very sleek shoe, with a BOA ratchet system design and a desire to push faster and farther.

While XC, Road, and Gravel shoes all have their place in the cycling world, hopefully this overview helps give you some insight into the right shoe for you. Whether you like champagne gravel or jeep roads, racing or bike packing, there are options. If you have any questions, feel free to chat with us on our website, or give us a call. You can also check out these shoes in person at our Salt Lake City or Park City locations.

1 comment

  • I ride roads exclusively and prefer two bolt shoes. I’ve found that “gravel” shoes suit my needs much better than mtb shoes which are too heavy and have clunky soles. My gravel Fizik X4 Powerstrap shoes suit my needs very well.

    Mark Haberstroh on

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