Shimano RX8 Gravel Shoes: Checkpoint – by Guitar Ted
Shimano is no stranger to shoes for cycling, having been doing the “SPD” (Shimano Pedal Dynamics) thing since the early 90’s. They have continued to be at the top of the game in mountain and road shoes/pedal systems since then, but what about gravel/all-road? Shimano stakes a claim here with their latest shoe, the RX8, which we introduced to you in our last post on these shoes here.
Riding Performance: Since my initial impressions on these shoes, I have had no reason to walk back anything I have already said about the RX8’s. In fact, they have since gone up the scale to become my favorite cycling shoes. Here following are some of “The Good” reasons why, and then I’ll discuss any nit-picks I have in the “Not So Good” list.
- Fit: The way these shoes can be adjusted is key, but overall, the fit is just spot on. Not too loose in the heel, but not too snug. The heel and tongue at the opening is soft, so it doesn’t chafe or cause soreness. The toe box is roomy. All good in this hood. Your mileage may vary due to your foot shape/size, but I think Shimano has a winner in the fit of the RX8.
- Comfort: Obviously, the fit has to be there, but beyond this, the RX8 exhibits excellent airflow over the top of the foot, so these are very comfortable on hot rides. I experienced no “hot spots”, undue pressure, or other on-ride maladies some shoes can create.
- Walk-ability: Some may think being able to have good walk-able cycling shoes on gravel rides is not necessary. Okay for you, but where I ride, hike-a-bike is an oft used part of our cycling vernacular. One simply does not use a shoe that is uncomfortable, or poor at walking, around these parts. The RX8 shines here, and if you get into the mud, or water, the good news is that the RX8 dries out, drains well, and is easy to clear of mud and dirt if you have to do that.
“Not So Good”:
- Getting In: One of my only nit-picks about the RX8 is getting them on. The upper really doesn’t have a traditional “tongue”, but rather, it has a sort of overlapping clam shell arrangement that, due to the constraints of the BOA system, make entry a bit fiddly. Not a deal killer by any means, but it is what it is.
- Air Flow Almost Too Good: If you suffer from cold feet, these may be an issue in anything but Summer’s hot days. I found that I had to consider covering the toes up after the temperatures dropped into the lower 50’s, and I have pretty warm feet. The air flow over the foot is that good, at least for me. I solved my issue with a “dirt bag” solution by using a typical plastic shopping bag, cut down, and worn over the foot as a vapor barrier.
Beyond those standout thoughts, the RX8 is definitely a performance shoe when thinking about pedaling. These are definitely high on the efficiency scale, and I’d rank these just below the Bont shoes I tested last year. The ability to adjust the BOA on the fly is great too. I utilized that feature several times on my rides to make my feet happy.
Riding Gravel’s contributor, MG, also has a pair of the new RX8 shoes which he has been putting to the test. I asked him how he was getting along with these kicks and he stated, “I love how stiff and efficient the RX8’s feel on the pedals. They let my feet relax a bit”. I was made aware by MG’s comments that this was also something that I was experiencing. I think one reason that I didn’t think about that was that it was an enjoyable experience. We often think about negatives, and we let the positives kind of go as being “not noticeable”, which leads me to……
So Far…. As is often said, the best apparel and components simply “disappear” while riding, leaving you to enjoy the ride. The RX8 shoes from Shimano are the definition of such an apparel item. While either walking a gnarly, muddy dirt road or riding up and down hill and vale, the RX8 just got out of my way and let me do my thing. But more than that, it allowed me to be more efficient at riding too. I cannot ask for much more than that.
That said, these are not MTB shoes, as MG shared with me. He said you are probably better off with MTB specific shoes, even for “light” MTB use. While we both agree that the RX8’s are some of the best cycling shoes we’ve ever ridden with, I would have to agree that they are much more a cross-over to road usage than mountain bike. But each rider will have to decide for themselves on that point.
Stay tuned for the “At The Finish” review on the RX8 shoes coming soon.
NOTE: Shimano sent over the RX8 shoes for test and review at no charge to Riding Gravel. We were not paid, nor bribed, for this review and we will always strive to give our honest thoughts and views throughout.