- Stiff midsole
- Comfortable for long days
- Grippy outsole and a little flex at the toes aids off bike activities
- Boa wires are fiddly to adjust evenly
- Mesh toe section lets in a chilly draft in the winter
The Shimano XC7’s prove to be a sleek, comfortable and stiff SPD cross-country race shoe for both gravel and mountain bike use.
I’ve been employing the XC7’s on gravel and cross country bike testing missions where they have performed like most Shimano shoes I’ve worn, they are hard wearing, comfortable and pretty versatile. They are a minimalist pair of shoes that look at home both on the road, the gravel and the dirt. The synthetic leather upper is shiny, reminding me of patent school shoes and made predominantly of one piece which combined with one Boa dial fastening and a small Velcro strap produce a sleek looking shoe that scrubs up easily too.
The midsole is carbon fibre reinforced meaning that it is pretty stiff, if you are used to wearing more ‘all mountain’ style SPD shoes, donning a pair of XC7’s is going to be a bit of a shock. You soon get used to the feeling of less damping, whilst gaining more power transfer, which like as not, you will want for race miles in these shoes. The extra vibrations took a few rides to get used to but once I had worn the shoes in a little there was no discomfort.
The outer sole uses Michelin high traction rubber to help you keep your footing. This is shaped at the heel and either side of the ball of the foot creating lugs of rubber to aid traction. I didn’t get my hike-a-bike on in these shoes but found they had plenty of purchase the few times I had to extricate myself and my gravel bike from a muddy mess I had failed to ride through.
Slipping into the XC7’s and you are greeted by the instant comfort of a Shimano pair of shoes, the upper is supple and there is plenty of room in the footbed. That said though they are a slimmer fit than you might imagine, they are after all a cross-country race shoe so if you want to fit thick socks in as well you might have to size up or opt for the wider style available in sizes 38-48.
I found the Boa dial on the XC7’s a little tricky to tension correctly each time I wore the shoes. I had to put my foot in the shoe and as I did the dial up I had to simultaneously lift and replace my heel in order to work the Boa wire’s through their guides evenly. If I didn’t do this I found it left wire slack at the toe end which would gradually work loose as I rode.
Once fitted though, the XC7’s were supremely comfortable to use, they are stiff but there is also a little flex at the toe making walking easier. The XC7’s offer a good compromise by being stiff but not too stiff that they become impractical. I found the tongue of the shoe to slip to the inside of my foot which didn’t affect performance or fit but did look a little odd. The mesh panel at the toe also lets in a draft, if you want to use these in the winter then you might need some toe covers. The heel cup is very supportive both in the up and the downstroke of the pedal keeping my foot secure and planted in the shoe.
I used the shoes with both Shimano SPD’s and Crank Brother cleats and found the sole and cleat to interact well with both Shimano M530 pedals and Crank Bro’s Candy pedals, quickly locating the mechanism each and every time. The cleat can also be placed quite far rearward too which is great for more technical riding.
I find Shimano shoes to come up true to size, I’m a size 38 and wore a size 38 but I know others disagree with this. Dave over at road.cc tested a pair and had to size up a size to get the fit he wanted. My pair of size 38’s came in at 417g, (with Crank Bro cleats installed), pretty light I think you'll agree.
These shoes will still see you efficiently through a race and will also be a good partner for cross-country pedalling or training without causing the fatigue you might fell in other stiffer shoes. At £160 these aren’t cheap but given the performance they are good value, standing ground against the most refined race slippers. They should stand the test of time too, and seeing as you’ll be able to use them for racing, gravel exploring, commuting and mountain biking, they’ll certainly see a lot of use.
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Regarding the Boa working loose, on the guides nearest the toe the wire is meant to loop through the guide on the outside so it crosses the foot.