Rapha Explore Shoes review in a sentence: Premium cycling shoes that work well for both riding off-road and exercise bike sessions on a Peloton.
The Rapha Explore Shoes might not be the first cycling shoes that come to mind when trying to compile an imaginary list of the best shoes for Peloton but hopefully, this review will make you reconsider.
The boom in gravel bikes has pretty much made the tough cycling shoe one of the most essential cycling kits and Rapha knows this full well. Its cycling shoes story began a decade ago when it launched the Grand Tour and since then, the brand has garnered a reputation as one of the premium cycling companies for adventure-seeking riders as well as those looking to get a decent workout on an exercise bike such as the excellent Peloton Bike+.
The brand has meticulously built the shoe in an attempt to address the niggles and gripes of experienced riders to give you the pedal power needed for any type of bike. Have they been successful in that task? Let’s take a closer look.
Rapha Explore Shoes review: Price and availability
The Rapha Explore Shoes is available to buy now in the UK directly from Rapha (opens in new tab) for a recommended retail price of £220. At the time of writing, many colourways are been discounted down to £110 - a real bargain!
US and AUS availability and price TBC.
Please note: The Rapha Explore Shoes have an SPD cleat system and not Delta as used by the Peloton; purchasing an adaptor will solve that issue.
Rapha Explore Shoes review: Design and features
Although aimed at the booming gravel market and those looking for longer off-ride bike rides, Rapha has adopted a casual classic look for its Explore shoe model – especially the black synthetic leather option – making them an ideal shoe for the spin bike.
Perhaps it’s the laces that give the shoe a relaxed non-cycling footwear look. I know some don’t like laces least because they take longer to do up but for me, I find they secure my foot in nicely and provide a lot more adjustability should I need it in the case of swelling from prolonged wear. The laces can be tucked away into an elastic loop on the tongue to prevent them from becoming a menace when on the bike or foot when walking around the house.
An extra pair of laces come inside the box making them customisable. In addition to the traditional lace closure, it’s paired with a Velcro strap that is located across the widest part of the foot to provide further support and fit.
As the Explore has been designed as a hybrid performance shoe, versatility and comfort would have been a top priority when making this shoe. It has a carbon footplate that finishes before the toe and heel offering increased flex when getting on and off the spin bike.
Meanwhile, the rubber outsole has a deep grip with a cleat recess. You’ll find an extra pair of insoles inside the box for extra arch support should you need it for a secure and comfortable fit.
Rapha Explore Shoes Review: Performance and comfort
While I am mindful about reviewing items such as shoes as ‘my’ fit, I think it’s justifiable to say that while these have been marketed as having toe wriggle room at the front, (which they have), they are not entirely suitable if like me you have wide feet.
As soon as I took them out of the box, I knew I would have a tough time putting them on as they were noticeably narrow and I had to adjust the lace enclosure running through the fabric to its widest point to slip my feet in. A shoehorn would have been welcomed when slipping these on.
Once I had battled my way in though, my feet didn’t feel too squished. The high heel cup helped keep my foot securely in place which is important if you find yourself pedalling at speed.
As the carbon footplate stops short of covering the toe and heel area, I found the Explore to give the right amount of comfort to walk in around the house when I needed to take a break from the bike. And they didn’t sound clunky when I walked around on my wooden floor. In fact, they were noticeably quiet and made very little sound against it.
While on the bike the lightweight but sturdy carbon shank helped transfer enough power when pedalling at top speed. The natural rubber sole with its deep thread is more than enough to give the shoe ample grip. The microfibre upper and tongue is well-ventilated thanks to these sections perforated by holes. So, in theory, feet should not become too sweaty when going full throttle.
I’ve not worn the shoes long enough to judge them for their durability but they do seem like they should last the distance given the chunky rubber sole, their sturdy build and of course from a price point of view. Only a handful of scruffs formed at the front during my review but an easy wipe made them look near-new again.
Weighing in at 340g for a size 42 shoe, the Explore shoe isn’t the heaviest or the lightest out there. But as hybrid performance footwear, it ticks the comfort, wearability and durability boxes from a pair of shoes like these.
Rapha Explore Shoes review: Verdict
There’s a fair amount of tech in the Explore that's not visible to the naked eye as it doesn’t look too much like a cycling shoe. In my opinion, these shoes are ideal for riders who want to make a transition from the spin bike into mountain biking territory.
Rapha Explore makes for a good choice of footwear when you want that little more from a minimalist cycling shoe. They are robust and grippy yet provide comfort and flex whether you’re hopping on or off the bike. Overall this quality well-made shoe is a good fit for most whether you use them on a spin bike or in the outdoors.
Rapha Explore Shoes review: Also consider
Not quite as versatile as the Explore Shoes but for indoor cycling, you might want to have a look at the Peloton Cycling Shoes (opens in new tab). These are half the RRP of the Explore Shoes and are tailor-made for the most popular indoor exercise bike in the world. Peloton says the Cycling Shoes have a "narrow to normal" fit. If you fall between sizes or have a wider foot, Peloton recommends sizing up. Cleats included.
For those on a tight budget, we recommend the Shimano RC1 (opens in new tab). This is a road shoe that has a similar profile to the Explore Shoes. It's designed for road cycling so not quite as versatile as the Explore but it's practically a quarter of the RRP of the Rapha model.