The new Shimano XC5 gravel road bike shoe debuted at Interbike, and where we got the full rundown directly from their product manager. We picked up a pair and have been using them for all sorts of rides since, and they’ve proven far more versatile than billed. We’ve also noticed a few details they didn’t mention at the launch, or at least figured out how some of those details actually work.
Here’s the material basics: The upper is synthetic, micro-perforated leather that’s shaped around their Dynalast foot mold. In our past experience, this means ample toe box room and a comfortable, all-day fit, and these lived up to expectations. The bottom is a composite sole with carbon-reinforced mid-sole section to add stiffness under the pedal, but allow flex in front of and behind it for easier walking.
The entire bottom is coated in Michelin rubber, which grips any surface I walked on in the course of road, gravel and singletrack rides. Tread blocks front and rear, plus reinforced toe-spike mounts, add extra traction on loose stuff.
Up front is a two-step toe bumper, and the heel has a reflective strip.
Shimano claims a size 42 is 301g. My size 47 test pair hit the scale at 354g with just a tiny bit of dirt still on the treads. This is reasonably light, especially for a shoe with a full rubber tread on the bottom and no mesh in the upper. Well done.
Perhaps the most interesting feature is the MPS, or Mini Power Strap. Shimano says it’s there to hold your foot in place. What I found was that it does a remarkable job of holding two separate tension levels between mid-foot and fore-foot. On my first ride, I used even lacing tension all the way up and my forefoot was falling asleep. Next ride, I loosened up the front up to the MPS, then pulled the upper laces tighter to keep my feet securely in the shoes. Perfect, and it’s stayed that way since…which is a real trick that really helps customize the fit to your feet.
Riding Impressions of the Shimano XC5
I’ve ridden these shoes on road, gravel and singletrack, but only on drop bar bikes. Besides the fit, what I like about them is that they work good on all those things. The sole is stiff enough for moderately spirited rides, which is mostly what I do. Racers looking for every performance advantage will want something stiffer. But for general riding, I think they’re great for xc and trail riding, touring, and gravel. Maybe even cyclocross, especially on courses with lots of run ups and dismounts. This versatility has made it easier for me to pack on trips, because I don’t need “road” and “mtb” and “gravel” shoes if we’re going to be doing all that, I can just bring these.
The one caveat on putting too much slack in the front of the laces, is that the laces can end up with bows a little bit too short. As shown above, they just barely meet the elastic lace garage. They routinely fell out, but were short enough not to get caught in the gears or chain. So, maybe sort of a non-issue, but worth paying attention to.
Basically, they’re stiff enough for enthusiastic riding, but still walkable for coffee stops, hike-a-bikes, or river crossings. They come in black (tested) and light gray, each with two colors of laces (orange being the other). Retail is $150 (but REI already has them on sale). If you’re looking for a do-it-all multi-surface cycling shoe, give this one a hard look.