Back in 2012, Tyler reviewed the Shimano MW81 Winter shoe, with great results. We are now checking back in on them with a long-term test in a much colder climate.

I have used the MW81s for a little over a year now, riding through last winter and this current one on these shoes. One of the most curious things for us was how cold the shoe could go, and with the Polar Vortex of 2014, we had them on the bike in temperatures as low as -14º F.

Click more to read through and see how they did in the extreme cold and snow of Minnesota…


The first good mention I have to give these shoes is how well they wear. A decent MTB shoe for me lasts no more than 2 seasons, when the soles start to wear out, the uppers delaminate from the tread, and the stitching around the ankles starts to fall apart. Maybe it could be that riding in snow is less abusive than riding in dirt and rocks, but these shoes have worn very well. That is, they have almost no visual wear to them at all, they look like a shoe that maybe has 3 rides on them, when they have had 1.5 good seasons of riding.

Shimano-bottom Shimano-Shoe-Inside

The long wearing could also be that for a winter shoe, lightweight, breathable materials are not as important, as thicker, heavier wearing materials are also more likely to provide insulation. The only real venting on the shoe is a perforated leather on top of the toe box. I never had a feeling of too much moisture building up inside the boot, and that could be because of the Gore-Tex helping keep things regulated. On one unfortunate winter beach ride, I did accidentally step into frigid Lake Superior up to the ankles, and surprisingly, had absolutely no water enter the boot.

The only real problem I encountered with the shoes was when they didn’t want to agree with my Time ATAC MX Platform/clipless pedals. The pedal body was interfering with the side lugs on the shoes, and I did not want to get out the knife for any shoe surgery, so I went back to using the standard Time ATAC XC. Shimano being a pedal maker as well, we can’t fault them for this, since they probably designed it around just their pedals, and they clearly recommend the Shimano PD-M780 with this shoe.


So, how did they work in cold weather? Better than expected. Up here near the north pole, riders are typically skeptical of “winter” products being sold by companies based in California. However, I found the MW81s to actually be a good choice for winter riding. I did use them last year in rides as cold as -14ºF, and they were definitely underpowered for that type of chill. Then again, riding at that temperature is not enjoyable no matter what you do, and 9 times out of 10, if the thermometer shows that, I just stay inside. Most of my winter riding takes place between 5 degrees and 25 degrees, and that was also the great sweet spot for these shoes.  To really test the shoe, I bought size 46s, and I typically ride a 45.5 or 46, so I was not layering up on socks in them. A winter weight wool sock was enough to be comfortably warm for 2 hours rides down to 5 degrees. The best part about these boots was the soft neoprene sock with velcro closure that goes around the ankle. When riding in snow, the “posthole” is a common issue when stepping off the bike, and with a lot of winter products that may not be so well thought out, snow can then come in through the top of the boot and start to get your feed wet and cold. Not so with the MW81, the neoprene around the ankle fit tight, kept out snow, and didn’t inhibit pedaling movement. That is also important, as some really hardcore winter cycling boots I have tried were too tall around the ankle and too stiff, and felt like they were locking my ankle movement in the pedaling stroke.


While the folks at Shimano many not encounter much snow in Irvine, CA, the MW81 is a legit choice for riding in the cold climates. If you are some sort of superhuman that regularly rides below zero, you might want to look at the more extreme options out there, but for the rest of us that just want to get a few hours in at reasonable winter temperatures, these are a very solid choice. The best praise I can give to a product: I bought them, and will continue to use them till they are dead. Shimano sells them for $230.


  • Waterproof GORE-TEX® Insulated Comfort liner for maximum comfort
  • Tough, stretch-resistant synthetic leather
  • High visibility reflectors on rear and side of shoes
  • Triple off-set straps prevent pressure points and ensure a snug fit
  • Adaptable cup insole with fleece liner for added insulation and heat retention
  • LAST
  • Volume performance last accommodates fit with thick socks
  • SOLE
  • Glass fiber reinforced polyamide sole with optional spike mount
  • Multi-density lugs with soft arch pad for pedal stability
  • Best matched with PD-M780, PD-M785

Shimano-shoe-weight-2 Shimano-winter-shoe-actual-weight


  1. I have bought these shoes at the start of this season. And I am not that impressed. Dutch wet mud and cold gets through easily. I usually do 3 to 4 hour rides in about 5 degrees centrigrade (41 degrees fahrenheit) and I get cold feet. When the temps go below zero (32F) I get 2 hours max and soaked feet.

    I need waterproof socks or something like that to keep my toes warm. And water will get in through the neoprene seal.

    The shoes are way better than my summer shoes and a worthwhile investment. But they’re not as good for me as the marketing made me believe..:D

  2. These shoes were always reported as running 1 to 1.5 sizes small; would you consider the sizing as running true with the rest of the shimano xc shoe line?

  3. A comparison between these, the Lake shoes & the Giros would be rather helpful.

    An isolated review is informative of that product, but a comparison would be much more helpful for someone looking at everything that’s available right now.

    I’d really like to know what a Shimano MW81 vs Northwave vs 45NRTH Faskerkatt smack down would result in.

  4. I’ve had these for about 3 winters now, we’ve had cold ranging from -5F to 35F most days, so it’s widely variable.

    They do not work that well for me under freezing, especially below 25F. I’ve got about an hour or so before they get uncomfortably cold on the bottom of my feet due to sweat and/or cold infiltrating through the bottom of the shoe.

    Typically I can bear it for a bit, but I have to have a game plan to get home quick once I start feeling the cold. I feel like the bottoms of my feet are sitting on ice. Usually this is fine for my daily commutes, but it’s not great for longer ‘fun’ rides in freezing temps.

    Wearing shoe covers over top of these shoes does help keep in a bit more heat on really cold days since it restricted cold air entering through the vents in the leather. Additionally, I’ve been using neoprene toe covers that sit inside your shoe to help out with the chilling effects of deeper cold (I just cut corners off plastic bags to cover just the toes before I found the neoprene sleeves).

    I’m going to upgrade the insole to a set of $12 to $20 Toasty Toes Aerogel infused insoles that I added to my 45nrth fasterkatt shoes. They increased comfort there quite a bit, but I haven’t tried that with the Shimano boots yet.

    However, the Shimano MW-81 shoes work well as waterproof shoes for spring and fall rains, especially when I have tights or rain pants covering the tops of the shoes to prevent water infiltration from above. They keep my feet dry without being a sweat box. I don’t think that they really leak water much at all. They definitely have kept my feet dry after stepping in many gnarly mud puddles while exploring fire roads and ATV trails.

    Durability wise, I’ve torn the neoprene on the back of the shoes, once on either shoe. I’m guessing it’s from extra stress when putting them on and taking them off by holding the loop of webbing at the back of the shoe. Luckily my local cobbler sewed that back up for me cheap. Some of the neoprene has worn down by the main velcro closure due to some rubbing. It hasn’t leaked yet on the front though.

    Otherwise they have remained relatively intact and remain one of my go to pair of shoes for riding.

  5. My own experience with durability of the Shimano shoes is very good, so I am not at all surprised with how good the shoes look. I have three years on a set of the M87s and they still look great.

    I ride pretty regularly in -20 C (below 0 F for Americans) and I am currently riding the Northwave Arctic Commuter GTX. They are holding up pretty well after 2 seasons, but the sole is way to stiff for a winter shoe. -20 C seems to be the limit of what they can handle for insulation and they are too warm above to use above 0 C, but no one needs a race stiff sole in an insulated boot. The Shimano sole seems a little more reasonable for this kind of shoe

  6. Acceptable value, but underwhelming quality. The neoprene sleeve around the ankle tends t o crack and let water through, often after just a few month of use. But still it’s quite a good product for its price. Still much worse than Vaude Thermatic, though.

  7. I’ve had mine for 1.5 winters now and the coldest temps I’ve ridden is around -10C or mid teens F, up to 2.5 hours with a single pair of regular wool socks…and no issue with cold feet.

    I purchased 1 euro size up to accommodate thick wool socks, but I haven’t had the need to resort to that yet.

    As Patrick sez, sure beats wearing extra socks and shoe covers on summer shoes!

    But like Alexander, when it’s raining hard, water gets in through the top and the warmth factor is greatly diminished…but then again I was just wearing tights and not waterproof pants that would go over the ankle cuffs. When not raining, no such issues riding CX through wet muddy trails.

    Overall, loving the shoes…one of the best best winter accessories that I’ve ever purchased for winter riding.

    (Vancouver…not exactly ‘winter’ conditions like higher latitudes and away from the moderating ocean)

  8. I’d like to know what gloves people are using at -10oC or -15oC. I have the Shimano boots and I love ’em but I can’t find anything to keep my hands warm at those temperatures.

  9. Thanks to everyone who gave first hand reviews. I have been looking for a pair of winter specific riding shoes for a while now and your comments were very helpful. Thanks Again!

  10. I would love a pair but my local dealer dropped Shimano. He told me Shimano does not protect its dealers. He said to order them from the uk dealers. He showed be his cost and the shoes should sale for $230. The uk dealers sale them for his cost. If Shimano keeps this up they will be gone in a few years. I bought the 45n. They the support the dealers.

  11. The 45NRTH Fasterkat seems far better IMO.

    No velcros, no “water resistant” tag written on it, internal lacing system similar to XC ski boot, no seams construction, the list goes on…

  12. I got a pair in 2011 partly for MTB and partly for commuting. For the more wet than cold conditions in the PNW they are great. I use mine with Crank Brothers pedals and they have not trouble clipping in and out, even on Mallet downhill pedals.
    Rain stays out as long I don’t go in deep water and wear rain pants over the shoes. I got caught in hail storm once and water soaking my tights and wicking down my socks left a 1/2″ deep puddle in the bottom of the shoe.

  13. I have the fasterkatt shoes as well. I think they might be a bit better for colder conditions sinec they are less vented, but I find them to be too hot for warmer spring / fall weather past 40F, but that’s my preference. The shimano shoes are pretty much comfortable up to the point where you would want reglar shoes without shoe covers. The fasterkatt’s stock insoles let in a lot of cold from the bottom over time, but adding an aerogel insole helped mitigate that issue.

    The fasterkatts had some bad fit issues the first year they were out (at least for my feet). I still have issues with the zipper barely being able to zip up despite sizing up two euro sizes from my normal size. I’m stuck with them because I was an early adopter. However, they did address the issues with the tight fit and zipper issues for this season, so I woudn’t hesistate buying this years model. If I was riding in < 20F temps regularly though, I'd consider the deep winter lake boots or the 45nrth Wolvhammers.

  14. I believe this is my third season in these shoes and I love them. I wear a US 11, so Shimano 45.5s fit best, but in whole sizes the 46 in this shoe can fit a thick sock or thin and not be too sloppy. I use them mostly for commuting, and St. Louis tends to be wet in the winter and these work great, other than I have issues with the cuffs not being waterproof as enough rain down the front of my rain pants equals wet feet. I use crank bros candies for my commuter, and switch the cleat to match my shimano XTR trail pedals, all without issue. With a thick sock and short (6.5 mile) commute, I’ve ridden comfortably down to about 0 (Minnesota blood helps). I think longer rides or colder temps I may have to cover them to stay comfortable. I’d love to try some of the other offerings, but since my current pair is in decent shape and is sadly at the lower end of the price point for winter shoes, I’ll stick with the MW81s for now.

  15. Few pointers to people who use these in cold whether. I’ve ridden these in -20 C for limited times (1-2 h) hours and what you need is thick merino wool socks and thicker thermal inner soles for the boot. As such they aren’t exceptionally warm when temperatures hit below 0 C, but little tweaking helps a lot.

    Other issue I agree with is the water proofness as the cuff isn’t tight enough. When it gets really rainy I usually wear gaiters that prevent the water getting into to the shoe via cuff.

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