Higher volume off-road racing slippers.
The sponsored off-road racing crowd sure likes Shimano's SH-XC9 shoes. On the starting grid, you'll notice the brightly colored high-viz yellow and electric blue ones on the sport's best riders. The black ones aren't as noticeable but we're sure there are plenty of those out there too. These shoes exude style and quality and that's apparent as soon as you pull them from the box that these shoes are designed for performance. Shimano launched its S-Phyre concept as part of its top-of-the-line road and mountain shoes and the two share some similar construction features. The XC9's are designed for off-road racing at the highest level and if you have a wider foot and value maximum power transmission, superb fit, and excellent comfort have a look at the SH-XC9 Bicycle Shoe - Wide - Men's.
Shimano constructs the XC9 with a one-piece upper using Teijin synthetic microfiber leather that helps keep water out, while the large and numerous perforations allow your feet to breathe. Dialing in the fit comes courtesy from the dual Boa IP1 dials offering independent and micro-adjustable tension and instant release. Shimano believes that the fit is so refined and adjustable, that it didn't bestow the XC9 - Wides with the Custom Fit heat and vacuum system we have known and loved on its high-end shoes over the past decade or so. We agree that the new Boa retention system and the soft upper creates such a near-custom fit that we're not sure if a better or more comfortable fit is achievable.
At the rear of the shoe, Shimano uses a rounded external heel cup that caps the carbon sole and continues up the back of the heel. This design supports the heel preventing any possibility of twisting and rolling, stabilizing the foot for more efficiency. Inside the shoe at the heel cup, a cat's tongue like gripping fabric further bolsters the foothold, providing a solid foundation for the feet without having to resort to excessive tension on the uppers. Shimano employs the French rubber wizards at Michelin to create a rubber compound for the lugs and the surrounding cleat mounting area. The rubber provides excellent grip off the bike and if you botch the clip in after the barriers, the middle of the sole offers a bit of grippy traction so your foot doesn't slip off the pedal. The ability to run toe spikes come in handy when the course is heavy and running while off the bike is a reality.
The XC9 isn't the lightest shoe on the market but Shimano wouldn't sacrifice anything in the performance department to chase grams. However, hitting the scales at 330g per shoe in a size 42 isn't bad at all in our book. When fit, power transfer, comfort, and durability, are factored in, you'll find several shoes that are lighter but miss out elsewhere, yet you'll probably never find a shoe that is this well rounded at any weight. A stiff Dynalast carbon fiber sole harnesses pedal power while putting less stress on the metatarsal zone. It's super thin helping lower the overall stack height of the sole and hits an impressive 11 out of 12 on the brand's sole stiffness scale. Paired with XTR pedals, you'll get a setup that is damn close to being as efficient and light as a road setup with the versatility to use it on any surface. Wide feet cyclist rejoice, the performance shoe you've always dreamed of has arrived.
- A pro-level mountain bike and cyclocross race shoe
- Wider last provides comfortable space for big feet
- Carbon-reinforced sole puts a premium of stiffness
- Dynalast carbon construction increases pedaling efficiency
- Rubber outsole features dual-density Michelin compounds
- Dual BOA IP1 dial buckle provides near-custom fit
- Finished with reinforced toe spike mounts
- Q & A
Ditch your "okay" shoes
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
- Fit: True to size
You can ride a really light bike. You can have really fast wheels. You can have electronic shifting, and a powermeter, and carbon pedals, and a whole host of other fancy-schmancy gear to make you that little bit faster, but none of it matters if you aren't comfortable.
Close your eyes and think about your favorite shoes. Maybe they're your house slippers, or an old pair of Vans, or even some wooden clogs from your trip to Holland. It doesn't really matter. They fit perfectly, support your foot, and (usually) look super fly. The S-Phyres are my favorite shoes.
Now, if the answer to my question was "my cycling shoes," stop reading. You've already found the answer, and unless they're starting to decompose, you'll probably be happiest sticking with what you've got. I'll bet though, that most of you reading are in various states of what I like to call "content discomfort." You wear the shoes that you wear because they were a sweet deal, or they match your kit, or (insert professional rider here) wears them. They probably feel fine, maybe even good. Without realizing it though, you adjust them 7 or 8 times every ride, a toe or two will go numb after an hour or two, and you probably breathe an unconscious sigh of relief when you take them off in the garage. I myself floated in a state of "content discomfort" for years. I've worn Sidi, Lake, Giro, etc, and while all of them were really stellar shoes, the fit was never quite spot on.
Shimano has been making shoes longer than I've been around, and they've always been pretty good. The typical reaction to Shimano shoes has always been that they're dependable, pretty standard, and somewhat forgettable. But then a couple of years ago, the Japanese giant decided to get serious and throw its considerable R&D weight into the world of shoes. When the first pictures of the S-Phyre came out there was an audible "wow" throughout the cycling world. The design was memorable, but not gaudy. Bright, but not garish. I waited eagerly to try a pair, and I was blown away when I did. Out of the box, they feel broken in. The materials are incredible. It feels like you're wearing a rock solid slipper. The boa cables follow an unusual pattern that lends itself to lace-up levels of pressure distribution, and it really shows on the bike. The sole is insanely stiff, but it isn't undermined by poor fit. (A completely rigid carbon sole won't do you any good if your foot isn't held in snug.)
As far as fit goes, my foot falls between the designations of "normal" and "wide". Working here at Competitive Cyclist, I've observed that at least half of the customers I work with have a wide foot, but that most shoe brands hold tight to a Euro-centric, fairly narrow fit. Shimano seems to have realized this and sized the S-Phyre line accordingly. For reference, I wear a "mega fit" Sidi, and an HV Giro, but a normal Lake. My fairly wide, square-ish feet felt most at home in the non-wide S-Phyre, and based on that, I would say that the wide series would be great for those of you with a particularly wide foot. I can't attest to the long-term durability just yet, but my initial impressions have been very positive.
I can't tell you whicht shoe is going to help your foot reach podiatric nirvana, but if you're not quite there yet, you're gonna have to give these a shot. If you want to speak in more detail, shoot me an email at email@example.com and we can talk!