The Rapha GT road shoe (originally named the Grand Tour at launch) was introduced way back in the Spring of 2012 and was touted as the most expensive road shoe on the planet. In typical Rapha style, the shoe’s packaging, colours, and styling have that retro-modern fusion that only Rapha seems to carry off successfully.
The RRP for these fine specimens of cycle footwear is an eye watering £300. Are they worth it? I’m not sure any pair of shoes is really worth that sort of money and although they are very well made, it is definitely more than I’d personally spend.
But wait, here comes Rapha’s famous sale! And the GT shoes are now a much more palatable £180. A retail price that puts them straight in the same ballpark as most ‘normal’ premium cycling shoes.
The Rapha GT is a road shoe, pure and simple, with the standard 3 bolt mounting system that has become the standard thanks to Shimano’s SPD-SL design. If you are looking to slap on MTB style two-bolt SPD’s then you need to look at Rapha’s Cyclocross shoe.
The first cycling shoe to use Yak leather, the Rapha GT uppers are super soft and are described thus:
“…due to the Yak’s ability to survive in severe conditions, Yak leather delivers unique benefits including lightness, water resistance, breathability and superb tensile strength”.
The quality of the construction feels as if these shoes will last a long time. An additional nod to the ‘shoes for life’ feel, is that the rubber grips on the soles are replaceable. So too the ratchet buckle.
Size and fit
One of my biggest bugbears with cycling shoes is that the sizes are never, ever correct. I’m a UK size 10 and in the past have worn shoes from other brands anywhere between a 9.5 and a 12. Rapha claimed that their shoes are ‘true to size’ and that you should select your regular shoe size. I took them on their word and surprisingly, they actually are true to size!
Before you can slip either foot inside the yak, you are greeted by the smiling faces of some Cycling Greats from yesteryear; the right insole bears a silhouette of Maitre Jacques, while the left, that of Fausto Coppi, both accompanied by an appropriate narrative.
Rapha use the Giro SuperNatural footbed system and included with the shoes are two pairs of arch supports; one thick and one noticeably thinner. Since there is no way of knowing which is more appropriate, Rapha suggest you try them both out on a ride to decide. The supports simply attach to the underside of the insole via Velcro attachments.
The shoes have three points of closure: an aluminium ratchet buckle, and two velcro straps, the smaller of the two on these black shoes is white, apparently as nod back to the days of leather toe straps. Whatever… it breaks up an otherwise totally black shoe. Opening all three straps makes it a simple case of sliding your feet easily into what are quite possibly the most comfortable pair of shoes I have ever worn. They feel like a pair of leather slippers!
That simple buckle and strap system allows you all the tension and adjustment you need to set the shoes to how you want them without all the faff and reliability worries often encountered with BOA style lace dial systems.
So we have established that the Rapha GT shoes are incredibly comfortable, but how do they stack up performance wise? Pedal system of choice aside, the efficiency of power transfer lies pretty much with the shoe design. The Rapha GT shoes borrow the same Easton EC90 Carbon for the soles as mounted on the Giro ProLight SLX and boasts incredible levels of stiffness and thus power engagement. Indeed, stomping all my admittedly puny power to the pedals presented absolutely no sign of flex.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am certainly no Peter Sagan when it comes to putting down the power. Heroic sprints have never been my thing, so my max wattage on the pedals is certainly not the hardest test these shoes have had to cope with. Ride comfort however, cossetted inside that luxuriously supple yak leather, my feet couldn’t be happier.
For spinning away for miles and miles, the best thing I can say about the Rapha GT shoes is that I failed to notice them. Totally forgot they were there. Which is A Good Thing. Other shoes I have worn in the past have usually made themselves known to me 40-50 miles into a ride with some pain or niggles, but these? Not a grumble.
Would any of us on the ADVNTR team pull £300 out of our wallets for these shoes? Nope! The sale price as mentioned, does bring these fancy disco slippers down to a more accessible price point however.
If you are looking for a pair of shoes to race in, first of all, you’re probably looking at the wrong website! No, the Rapha GT shoes are not a lightweight pair of racing shoes. The supple yak leather is very comfortable and durable, but it isn’t light. For riding long distances in total comfort is your requirement, then I recommend these shoes without hesitation.
They look great, they fit almost impossibly well, and however good you are a cyclist, I’d contend they’ll make you an even better one.
Note: James purchased the Rapha GT Shoes with his own hard earned pocket money. We were not bribed nor paid for this review and we strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.
Last modified: 17th January 2018