Shimano RX8 Gravel Shoes: Getting Rolling

Shimano RX8 Gravel Shoes: Getting Rolling – by Guitar Ted

Recently we posted a “Gravel Grinder News” story on the introduction of the Shimano RX8 Gravel Shoes. Please click that link for the pertinent technical details of these new shoes from Shimano meant for riding on gravel and dirt roads. Here I will give you my first impressions of these new shoes and a first ride report.

The Shimano RX8 Gravel Shoes
While at first glance they may seem plain black, there is a subtle pattern on the RX8 gravel Shoe

First Impressions: When I pulled the Shimano RX8‘s from the box I was struck at how light they were. I had been wearing some other footwear to test for the site and the RX8’s claims of light weight were immediately apparent. In fact, I weighed this pair of size 46 samples out at 658 grams for the pair. (No cleats installed)

The next thing I noted was how sleek and smooth they are. The BOA closure and the single Velcro strap being the only things really “sticking out”. This seemed to be a nod toward road shoes and the more aero influence that brings to the table. Finally, in the light I first saw the RX8’s in, I thought they looked pretty plain. Basic black, no branding, no contrasting colors at all. Hmm….. But wait a minute. In the right light this cool “camo” pattern of bluish grey revealed itself. Okay…..ghost camo?

 The bottom of the RX8 gravel shoe
While there is not a lot of tread going on under the RX8, it is just enough to get by with.

The underside was noted to be minimalist but the sole still has a decent amount of tread to grip the road or dirt for the inevitable hike-a-bike sections many gravel events have and adventurers will have to do. The cleat box area is free from being completely enclosed, which is a nice thing when muddy walks can clog up that important interface area and make clearing mud difficult. While there are no provisions for toe spikes, I don’t think this shoe is intended for steep climbing on foot, so I don’t fault the RX8’s for that omission. Shimano makes a point of mentioning the nub at the tip of the toe, calling it a “kickstand” of sorts, for when you put a foot down while seated in the saddle. I’ll have more on that later.

The shoe feels like a high-end shoe with quality materials and expertly constructed uppers. I noticed that the leading edge of the”tongue” (it really isn’t a tongue in the traditional sense, as it is an integral part of one half of the upper) had a nice soft material at the edge which would be right at the point where your instep transitions to your ankle. That’s a nice touch as that can be an irritating point on some shoes. The BOA knob works as you would expect, and can be operated in both directions- both loosening and tightening- which is handy for on-the-bike adjustments. There are inserts for foot support, one installed and one extra in the box, so you can somewhat tailor the fit of the shoe. These are not heat moldable for a custom fit, so it is nice to have the foot bed inserts.

Detail of the BOA adjustment knob and wire.
BOA adjustments were dead simple and infinitely changeable for the perfect fit.

First Ride Impressions: The fit of the RX8 is perfect for my narrow foot. If you’ve tried Shimano shoes in the past five years or so, the RX8 will be no surprise to you. It is a more “Euro” fit than anything. That said, I noted that while the fit was slimmer from mid-foot to heel, the toe box area wasn’t as trim, and there was ample room above my toes which allowed for freedom of movement for my toes. The BOA can be cranked down or left loose and adjusted infinitely by turning the dial back and forth. I set the Velcro toe strap once and forgot about it.

Clipping into a set of Shimano pedals I was immediately reminded of how well the system Shimano has developed and cultivated all these years works. The sole is stiff, and you get immediate feedback when pushing down. I noted how the shoe worked with my heel and mid-foot area, much the same as when I tried the Bont shoes tested last year, and this translated into a more efficient pedaling motion. I could really feel a difference between the RX8’s and my other Shimano shoes. These feel and react like a higher end racing shoe.

Walking was not an issue either. I actually wore these around a bit before riding in them just to check out the stability of the minimalist sole and to see how the compound used for the sole reacted with various surfaces. First off, the RX8 isn’t too bad, for a stiffer soled shoe, to walk around in. This was completely unlike the Bont, mentioned above, which was a chore to walk in and actually caused some pain to walk in. Contrasted to the RX8, which, while not street shoe nice, was miles better to walk in, and is actually pretty good even for any sort of cycling shoe.

Detail of the toe "kickstand" for balancing off your toe while seated on a bike.
That knob on the end of the toe? I laughed at first, but it actually works.

As I started riding I noted that the many perforations in the upper pass a good amount of air over the top of the foot. This is great from a hot weather standpoint, but we will see what happens as we get on into Fall weather here.

So Far….. I have managed a few shorter rides and one good two hour affair on gravel. My initial impressions are that the RX8 is a really good shoe. Light, efficient, and not at the expense of comfort or walk-ability either. In fact, I was forced to dismount and hike-a-bike a short section of deep river sand. The RX8’s were not a bother at all. With no discomfort I felt as though walking a mile of minimum maintenance road wouldn’t be any trouble with the RX8’s on my feet. Air flow while riding is very good, the fit was spot on for me, and pedaling efficiency, while not quite at the benchmark level I experienced with the Bonts, was very near to that. These are far more efficient to pedal in than most shoes I’ve tried.

Finally, remember that “kickstand” knob at the end of the toe? Well, I laughed out loud when I read the marketing copy about this “feature”, but while commuting to work in the RX8’s the other day I found myself at a stop sign waiting on a traffic light, and you know what? I noticed that little knob was actually kinda nice to have. Then I was reminded how I’ve worn through the material on the toe tip area of one of my old pairs of cycling shoes from stopping and dragging a toe to a stop on gravel and pavement. Hmm…maybe this isn’t as silly an idea as I thought?

Stay tuned for a “Checkpoint” post in a few weeks or so.

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.

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7 Responses to Shimano RX8 Gravel Shoes: Getting Rolling

  1. EB August 31, 2019 at 9:38 pm #

    They do indeed look like a really good shoe and the price seems fair too. The single Boa it has is the good one; the velcro strap seems kind of vestigial. I ordered a 46 and a 47. The former was too small, the latter too big. No half sizes, either!? But, as luck would have it, Backcountry has the Shimano xc9 S-phyre on sale for 300, which seems like a fair price, too. And, the xc9 does come in 1/2 sizes, and it’s got two Boas, but otherwise, it’s very similar to the new Rx8, just slightly beefier. I kept the S-phyres.

    • Guitar Ted August 31, 2019 at 10:56 pm #

      @EB- Since the RX8 represents a new area for Shimano- neither MTB or Road- perhaps they are being a bit too conservative and hedging their bets until they believe this category is not going away. Although- the fact that GRX exists would suggest that they are well on their way to believing gravel/all-road is here to stay.

      Perhaps this first effort is merely a portent of things to come where we will see more choices and a wider sizing range than we see now with the RX8. I’m betting that is probably closer to the mark here.

      • Ljsmith September 3, 2019 at 6:52 pm #

        Shimano only makes half sizes in their highest model shoes. So no half sixes here is normal.

    • jf September 5, 2019 at 4:50 pm #

      One consideration is that the RX8 should take toe/shoe covers better than the XC9. I have the xc9 and I’ll note that they run narrow in the toe area.

  2. EB September 1, 2019 at 9:33 pm #

    GT – I’m sure that you’re correct here. One other interesting point about Shimano shoes, is that the 2-bolt slots in the soles of the shoes are lined up perfectly fore / aft, meaning that if you position the SPD cleat all the way back (or forwards, too, I would guess) the shoe is parallel to the crank, i.e. not toed in nor out. Brilliant idea. Or, is that standard practice these days….? I know my Lakes aren’t like that.

    BTW – off topic, sorry – I really enjoy your blog. Read it daily

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    • Guitar Ted September 2, 2019 at 9:06 am #

      @EB- There are hash marks on the cleat mounting area which help you to perfectly align the cleats in any way that you want, (they can be canted in either direction, by the way), so that is a great feature which many shoe makers are adding to the cleat mounting area.

      Also- Ergon, (and perhaps others) makes a cleat alignment tool which you can use to transfer pedal position from an old shoe to a new shoe, or replicate a position of a cleat when swapping out cleats. If cleat positioning is critical for the health of your knees, or for any other reason, that tool is very useful.

      And thank you for being a reader of the blog. I appreciate that.

  3. JF September 5, 2019 at 4:48 pm #

    I don’t get the infinitely stiff carbon shoes. Why can’t they put some flex north of the cleat on a MTB/CX/XC/Gravel shoe? I had a pair of Shimano XC61 that were super stiff on the bike but flexed north of the cleat. It was great. I could pedal without getting my foot strained and walk/run. I get wanting foot protection on a trail MTB shoe, but this isn’t that. I get not needing it on a road shoe because of the cleat layout, but this isn’t that.

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by Riding Gravel 2014