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Rapha Pro Team Shoes review

24 Feb 2020
Verdict:

The Rapha Pro Team Shoes are almost the perfect pair of kicks, and pack some interesting new material technology

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£260
For 
Very comfortable. • Stiff sole • Knockout looks
Against 
Not best suited to rain

Rapha is no stranger to the shoe market, but the all-new Rapha Pro Team Shoes are breaking new ground with a new material unique to the brand: Powerweave.

Yes, remember that name folks, because (a) Powerweave isn’t like ordinary fabrics and (b) Rapha is going to be using it in a whole heap of new clothing that will drop later in the year, which Rapha’s head of design, Maria Olsson, says will ‘revolutionise’ things such as the humble bibshort. So what is Powerweave?

Well, first, it’s the name of the woven material than comprises the Pro Team Shoes’ uppers. Second, says Olsson, Powerweave is not a fabric you’ll see anywhere else in the bike industry, having been developed in conjunction with ‘world-leading weaving specialists Avery Dennison’*. Thus while the Pro Teams might look similar to a Giro Empire or Fizik Infinito shoe, they are actually rather different, in that those shoes are knitted whereas the Pro Teams are woven.

The difference is that in knitting a single yarn is looped to make cloth, whereas in weaving there are two yarns that cross each other to form cloth.

Why is this important? Well says Olsson, because woven stuff is basically higher resolution, ie more threads per inch, and hence can be made more detailed for patterns and, more’s the point, can be made to create more complex structures much less prone to stretching or abrasion.

Think of a tapestry versus a woolly jumper… the Pro Team Shoes are basically the Bayeux.

So does any of this matter? Rapha reckons it does, and while I’m not going to talk-down those knitted shoes –I rather like my Giro Empires – I do very much agree with Rapha and Olsson’s marketing spiel. ‘Comfort’ and ‘stiffness’ crop up a lot, and rightly so.

*(As an aside, you’ve probably never heard of Avery Dennison, but chances are if you’ve ever used a sticky label, Avery Dennison may have made it, or if you’ve ever been unlucky enough to be injured in a warzone, your wound may have been bandaged in one of its dressings.)

Test riding

In the same way that people squeeze brakes and lift bikes, I can’t help myself but to pick up a new pair of shoes and try and bend them. With the Pro Teams there is absolutely no give, these are seriously stiff kicks.

The rationale of course is that stiffness always equals power – or at least, efficiency, because it takes energy to flex a sole and that is energy that isn’t being put into turning pedals. I generally subscribe to that theory, although as a caveat a stiff shoe really needs to fit particularly well otherwise it becomes uncomfortable fast, your feet having nowhere to go, as it were. Happily, Rapha is as good as its word, and those woven uppers really make all the difference.

The contouring of the sole helps of course, which has a deep heel cup and nicely crafted arch, and the insoles atop do a fine enough job at providing a touch of cushioning. However, from my feet’s perspective, the comfort all comes from the uppers, which possess a wonderful amalgam of stiffness and malleability, moulding to my feet but equally still hugging them down into the shoe for that ‘locked in’ feeling.

The closures are Boas – why go anywhere else it would seem – and they do the job of tightening down the shoe well, having been considerately placed to provide even pressure. But even before you do the shoes up, they feel almost fitted, which again speaks to the way the uppers work.

Other knitted shoes do have this same effect I’ve found, in a way that synthetic leather or microfibre ones don’t so well, those materials being quite stiff. However, I’d hazard to say that the density of the weave here provides a warmer shoe that is potentially more water-resistant and less prone to sponging up water like other knitted shoes.

That said, while Rapha describes the Pro Teams as ‘year-round’ shoes, i.e not just lightweight summer slippers, and while they are good and warm and do have a hydrophobic coating, I would look to another pair if rain was on the horizon. These do wet out more than other pairs of non-knitted/woven shoes I’ve tried.

Buy the Rapha Pro Team shoes from Rapha here.

Conclusion

It’s difficult of course to outright recommend a shoe as fit is such a personal thing, but I can’t see many people having complaints with the overall fit of the Pro Teams; the design lends itself so well to accommodate different foot shapes (I am the proud owner of several bunions, mostly from other cycling shoes reckons my GP, and the Pro Teams were the model of comfort in spite of them).

But, there will always be the bugbear of price, and also of longevity. I always end up scuffing the right toe on my shoes from repeatedly flicking my cleat round to clip in, and I do wonder if the Pro Team’s fabric is more susceptible to wear in this area.

What I can categorically say is that the excessively high polish of the sole makes scratches that much more obvious – and that much more sad, albeit you never really see the sole so who cares?

Buy the Rapha Pro Team shoes from Rapha here.

And that the tongue, for me at least, is about 5mm too long, as it pushes down in a little crease just above my toes, which while not uncomfortable does annoy, and does make be think I might job the tongue down or give it bigger slits at the top (how advisable this is I wouldn’t like to say).

However, ultimately these are small gripes for a shoe that does everything it promises. The Pro Teams are that comfortable, they are that stiff. Oh yeah, and they also look absolutely amazing, which is really the most important thing anyway. Bring on the Powerweave bibshorts!

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