The Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4 is the new gravel-specific shoe from the Italian brand. It certainly looks the part in gravel khaki, but how do they stack up on the pedals?
You’ll find a rugged upper, reinforced around the toe, and with a series of dashed perforations across the inner and outer foot of the X4. At the heel, there’s a thin black strip with the Fizik logo, which you’ll also find on the instep strap.
Internally, there’s a lot of padding around the heel cup. Topped with a patch of silicone gripper dots to stop any slipping. The tongue is perforated by a grid of circular ventilation holes, and notched twice at the top to suit differing upper foot shapes. Further down, the tongue is reinforced with a thin layer of dense padding. The shoes are fitted with Fizik’s standard insole.
Fizik have borrowed the same Powerstrap design from their road shoes, including the budget level Tempo Power Strap R5 (£109.99/€119/$119.99) right the way through to the highest level of the Ventro Powerstrap R2 Aeroweave.
It seems that Fizik have consciously decided to offer an alternative to the industry-wide accepted BOA dials for closure. Their Powerstrap system is essentially a more advanced version of the humble velcro strap, typically associated with entry-level shoes. Perhaps they’re trying to appeal to riders that don’t get on well with BOA dials, or prefer the simplicity of straps over laces.
You’ll find two separate straps as part of the Powerstrap system; a wider, lateral strap to secure the instep, and a thinner strap over the midfoot that weaves across the foot twice. It delivers what Fizik term as an ‘enveloping fit’, going beyond simple velcro systems.
The all-important sole
When it comes to off-road shoes, the sole is one of the most critical design elements. You’ll find a standard 2-bolt SPD fitting with the neat addition of graduation marks to help you set up your cleats.
Across the midsole, heel and toe, the rubber tread (in this case gum-coloured) has a little give. Forming a flat platform to either side of the cleat with ridged indentations. A similar flat platform at the heel and a covering at the upwards curved toe, presumably to give grip and protection when walking up tricky terrain.
Beneath the rubber tread, the nylon sole is rated with Fizik’s stiffness index of six. I could find no indication of what this index extends to. Shall we assume ten? This sole is a new design specifically for the X4, presumably to offer a more flexible sole than their more race-focussed MTB offerings.
You’ll find three different colour options for the Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4. This light khaki upper with a gum sole seems to be the most popular. There is, of course, a standard all black pair. Your third option is a dark grey upper with ‘grape’ coloured tread and tongue.
Sizes, Weight and the all important price
Fizik offer the X4 in a good ranges of sizes from EU 36-48 and include half sizes from 37.5-46.5 This test pair are a size EU 40 (UK 6.5) and weigh in at 632g, without cleats.
The Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4 retail at £150 (€149/$150). Matching the Terra X5 as the cheapest options in their off-road range. Fizik’s options for the gravel and mountain biker rises to £350 for the top tier Fizik Infinito X1.
The typical ‘wearing in’ process that I personally find with new shoes took about half a dozen rides. Part of this was getting used to the Powerstrap velcro closure system. At first I was securing the shoes too tightly, and after about half an hour, numbness would set in around the ball of the foot. Once I’d remedied this by slackening the velcro straps, they became much more comfortable. Unlike lace closures, they’re really easy to adjust on the fly. Although perhaps not as easy as the most advanced two-direction BOA dials.
The Powerstrap system is beautifully simple and functions well. Both pedalling and walking, my feet were held securely in the shoes, without any pressure points or discomfort. It’s obvious that Fizik have opted to use really high quality, robust velcro here. My only negative feedback on the straps would be their propensity to collect dirt and dead grass. The hook side of the velcro is a magnet for the stuff! Unlike the main part of the upper, the weave of the straps and the exposed velcro makes them tricky to clean. You can’t easily wipe them down with a damp cloth.
Generous padding for all day comfort
Comfort-wise, I can’t fault them. Generous internal padding, a wide toe box and the notched tongue meant that once I’d learnt to tighten the straps accordingly, I could ride for hours and barely notice them. When it came to dismounting for a push or potter around the garage (alas, no cafes at this time), they were really comfy too; no rigid sole preventing normal foot flex.
On the subject of sole, I feel this is where the Terra X4 are really marked apart from other Fizik models. The flat rubber tread simply doesn’t deliver the same level of grip as the aggressive tread of the more generalist X5. This is not a problem if you’re the kind of rider that prefers more mellow gravel; wide dirt roads and dustier, drier conditions. If you’re more inclined to go exploring down little-known trails, hike-a-bike up steep inclines and play in the wet, slippy dirt, I’d recommend you check out the X5 instead.
Dry me out
In terms of ventilation and drying time, the Terra X4 are middle of the road. The ventilation is relatively minimal, which in turns helps resist the worst of splashes which are pretty inevitable off-road. Thanks to the thin, yet robust upper, the shoes don’t take long to dry. The heel cup is a thick cushioned material and takes the longest to dry out. With the insoles removed, you can dry them overnight at room temperature, which is good news for multi-day riding.
Alongside light gravel use, I think the Terra X4 would be really well suited to road touring. Well padded for comfort and the simple closure system means there is little to go wrong. The SPD cleats are also nicely recessed in the flexible sole for ease of walking about. Perfect for the inevitable cafe stops… remember them?
It’s clear that Fizik have prioritised comfort over race performance with the Terra Powerstrap X4. Having produced a shoe specifically for gravel riders that’s not only really comfortable on long distance rides, but also simplistic and looks great.
It’s markedly different from the more generalist X5, which would be the better choice for riders looking for a stiffer sole, option to run studs (not present in the X4) and more grippy tread for tricky conditions.
The quality is up to Fizik’s usual top standard and at £150, I think represents good value for money. There’s evidently been a lot of thought involved with the design; elements incorporated from Fizik’s extensive road and mountain bike shoe experience combined with new features, including the purpose-designed flexible nylon sole.
On a personal level, I’d place the Powerstrap system below the BOA system, but above laces in my hierarchy of closure preference. Perhaps slightly shorter straps would help avoid the mucky velcro I’ve seen. Although this may detract from the overall look. Overall, Fizik have definitely done a great job of making velcro straps more desirable.
Well constructed, comfortable and good value, the Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4 are a great choice for touring road cyclists and gravel riders that prefer more mellow terrain and good conditions.
Fizik Terra Powerstrap X4 shoesRRP £150 €149 $150 USD
A neat looking and comfortable SPD shoe best suited to light, dry gravel and road touring7.5/10
- Sleek, stylish appearance
- Generous width and toe box
- Very simple closure system with little to go wrong
- Lack of grip on sole not suitable for hike-a-bike
- Exposed velcro attracts dirt and grass
Last modified: 31st July 2020