Spotlight: Specialized S-Works Vent Evo hot-weather gravel shoes

Hyper-ventilated uppers, super-stiff carbon soles, and a road-like fit, but only barely lighter than the Recons.

Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images

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More of a good thing is always better, right? That certainly seems to be the philosophy inside Specialized’s shoe department. Whereas there was once just one model each of S-Works road and S-Works mountain shoes, today’s introduction of the S-Works Vent Evo now brings the grand total in Specialized’s flagship shoe range to nine — and that doesn’t even include special editions.

In essence, the S-Works range comprises five distinct upper designs, and all but one are now offered with either road or off-road plates and treads. In the case of the new S-Works Vent Evo, what you basically get is the hyper-ventilated upper of the road-going S-Works Vent mated to a modestly lugged outsole and carbon plate borrowed from the S-Works Recon. 

Interestingly, although the uppers of the S-Works Recon and the S-Works Vent Evo obviously look very different, they’re actually nearly identical in concept. Both are made with mesh bodies that are infused with laminated thermoplastic polyurethane, which is further reinforced with non-stretch Dyneema through the midsection and a thick plastic guard around the front of the toe box. But whereas the Recon has a fairly thick layer of TPU throughout the upper — resulting in more of a synthetic leather-like look and feel — the Vent applies that TPU more sparingly, and the mesh is more open in the areas where it’s exposed. 

The result is an extremely stiff gravel or XC MTB shoe purpose-built for hot weather, though the weight savings are surprisingly minimal as compared to the S-Works Recon: just 8 g per pair for some size 43 samples. 

“Much like the eyes are the window to the soul, the S-Works Vent Evo’s ventilated mesh panels are windows to speed and comfort,” reads the Specialized PR spiel (who writes this stuff??).

In terms of fit, the S-Works Vent Evo and S-Works Recon are essentially identical. The last and cut of the upper are shared between the two, the PadLock external heel cup is the same, and there’s once again a pair of Specialized-exclusive Boa S3 dials holding each shoe together. However, the S-Works Recon’s stiffer and thicker upper materials lend a more substantial and supportive feel overall, whereas the Vent Evo’s more pliable materials feel a touch more delicate, particularly around the toe box. Riders that regularly find themselves in wet conditions (stream crossings!) will likely find that the S-Works Vent Evo will dry out faster, too.

So are these as airy and comfortable in brutally hot conditions as they’re made out to be? Beats me; I still see snow on the ground here in Colorado, but based on experience with the road-going S-Works Vent, I think it’s safe to say that the new S-Works Vent Evo will be very impressive in the summertime heat (and positively awful in colder temperatures). You’ll have to decide if keeping your toes cool are worth the cost, though.

Price: US$450 / AU$600 / £400 / €430
Weight: 602 g (pair, size 43)
More information:

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