uDog Distanza Gravel Shoe Tries to Reinvent Lacing [Review]

The uDog Distanza bike shoe has a "Tension Wrap System" for its laces, a wraparound tread, and carbon sole.
uDog Distanza bike shoe

Innovation never stops in the bike world, though we often think of hard goods and componentry like bike frames, suspension technology, and so on. This spring at Sea Otter we had the chance to check out the uDog Distanza gravel shoe, a lace-up shoe made for gravel riding (and it can of course be worn for XC/trail rides) with a different take on laces.

It’s the looks that really grab you on the Distanza. There’s a wraparound outsole at the toe and the outer is made from a cozy but sophisticated mesh material. I knew we had to try them.

uDog Distanza wraparound toe

About the uDog Distanza

uDog debuted in 2021 and is an Italian brand, though the shoes are made in China. The biggest feature of the Distanza, and their other shoes, which are all made for road cycling, is the TWS, or tension wrap system. uDog says they have carefully selected the laces for a high-performing bike shoe and their laces create a “rope knot” that creates a great fit on any ride.

The TWS gives the Distanza 16 points of contact between the upper and your feet, according to uDog. The system is made to hug the metatarsal area of your feet for “a more controlled transfer of power to the pedal.”

Laces fold up in the little lace garage.

The upper is made from a lightweight, breathable mesh and uDog say the material gives the shoe a roomy toe box and deep heel cup.

The outsole is made from a molded, sticky rubber which wraps around the toe and heel and has either a carbon composite or nylon carbon reinforced core. These are the first shoes to have a wraparound outsole, says uDog. The two different cores give the Distanza two different price points.

  • Distanza: $200
  • Distanza Carbon: $275

Ride impressions

I’ve been out with the Distanzas on a handful of gravel rides, and while I haven’t ridden with them on a trail ride, I don’t see any reason they wouldn’t work great as an XC or trail riding shoe, as shoes tend to be indistinguishable in these categories.

The laces open up easily and the Distanza slips on as easy as any shoe, with a nice sink into the heel cup. The toe box, claimed to be roomy, is roomy enough but does not feel much wider than other shoes. There is a noticeable snugness around the metatarsals and the widest part of the foot. With the snug heel cup comes a wraparound feeling through the arch of the foot too.

And while there is a lot of support around the arch and the top of the foot, I’ve still found it challenging to get the shoe tight enough at the top. No matter what, they still feel a little too roomy at the top. Even with the non-slip accents inside the heel, with extra room at the top there is some unavoidable heel slippage. In my experience, there doesn’t feel like a big advantage with the TWS compared to any traditional lacing system.

I think there have been some knockout lace-up shoes in the XC and gravel shoe category, and laces can give kicks a timeless, distinguished look that some style-savvy riders will gravitate toward. But in this case, the tension wrap system helps from the toes to the mid-foot but loses some of its grip at the top. This became even more of an issue on a rainy ride when the laces wanted to seize in place instead of cinching down any further.

The Distanza Carbon shank makes for a really stiff shoe though and if you’re looking for an extra-comfy shoe that can put the hammer down, these will check the box. They are also plenty breathable for warm days. On the flip-side, the mesh will take some time to dry out if you are caught in the rain compared to a synthetic material.

Lastly, the rubber outsole does a great job of wrapping around the toes for when you need to dig into some soil on tough ascent. This isn’t really a big deal for mountain bike shoes, but it is somewhat of a unique feature for a gravel shoe and gives in unique look.

Pros and cons of the uDog Distanza gravel shoe


  • Stiff and efficient
  • Good looks
  • Good edge for hike a bike


  • Heel slip
  • TWS could work better throughout whole shoe
  • Laces are hard to get tight and loosen over a ride

Bottom line

The uDog Distanza gravel shoes are a comfortable, breathable, and stiff shoe for big days in the saddle.

  • MSRP: $200-275
  • Buy from udog.cc

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