Shimano XC-5 Shoes: Quick Review

Shimano XC-5 Shoes: Quick Review- by Guitar Ted

Recently I “blew out” my favorite shoes for riding gravel. They were an old pair of Shimano mountain biking shoes which were really never meant to be ridden on gravel roads. That said, they excelled, in my opinion, at doing just that. They had a simple, three Velcro strap closure system and a nylon fiber based sole. Nuthin’ fancy. Now we have shoes meant for gravel travel, such as the recently tested Bont Vapor G shoes. Shimano has an entry now in this category as well dubbed the XC-5. (Somewhat confusing is Shimano’s listing the same shoe as an “XC-500”)

I decided a laced set of cycling shoes was something I wanted to check out. Going way back to the 1990’s, I recall owners of Specialized mtb shoes raving about those old laced kicks. That was a rare choice back then, and was for years, until recently when many laced cycling shoe choices began to crop up. I decided to spring for Shimano’s latest lace up shoe, the XC-5. I’ve had a chance to ride in the new Shimano XC-5 shoes enough now that I can offer this “Quick Review” of them. Let’s check them out here………

The Limited Edition version of the XC-5 is “Camo”. Can you see them?
The XC-5 is available in Black and Grey/ Orange

What It Is: The new Shimano XC-5 shoes are an entry that Shimano has designed for “mixed surface” riding. They feature a lace closure and synthetic leather uppers. These are mated to a carbon fiber reinforced mid-sole and are sealed to the uppers with a rubber sole by Michelin. Here are the features as listed on Shimano’s webpage for the XC-5 .

  • Mini power strap shoe lacing securely holds foot
  • Lightweight and rigid carbon fiber reinforced midsole
  • Supple synthetic leather with perforated venting for superior fit
  • Exclusive MICHELIN┬« high-traction, mud-shedding tread
  • Rubber anti-slip arch outsole pattern
  • Reinforced spike mount for extreme conditions, 18 mm spike option
  • Includes additional laces

The XC-5 is available in Black or Grey/Orange. You may have seen a wild looking “Camo” color which was an extremely limited edition color for the XC-5. These were available only through bike shops. I was fortunate enough, (well, that’s debatable if you think they are ugly) to snag a pair of the limited edition version for myself. They are identical in every other way to the standard black and orange/grey versions.

The sole is listed as a stiffness level 7 on a scale which goes to 12 as stiffest.

The shoes are not necessarily super light or stiff. They are in Shimano’s “Lifestyle” collection, after all. That said, many an adventure or ultra-endurance gravel event requires an occasional “hike-a-bike”. A shoe that is comfortable and walk-able sure is nice in those types of situations. The Shimano site lists this shoe as a “7” on a scale which “12” is listed as being stiffest. Weight is listed at 301 grams for a size 42. These examples weighed in at 719 grams for a size 46 with multi-release cleats installed. They came with the Hi-Viz yellow laces installed but a spare set of black laces also were included in the box. Spikes are an option but not included with the shoes.

First Impressions: The XC-5 shoes feel different than most shoes I’ve checked out. While the site said that these were a “synthetic leather”, they feel and look like anything but leather. That said, they feel supple, like leather that is broken in can feel like, but slick on the surface and stretchy, if that makes any sense. The sole by Michelin feels like a softer compound over a stiffer base. It is pliable and easily deformed with your finger tips. The tread pattern is said to release mud easily, but with all those lines molded into the soles, it seems that mud will have a lot of surface area to grab on to. (I didn’t see any mud previous to this post, so I do not know for sure how that will play out.)

ShimanoIt isn’t mentioned in the feature set, but the entire heel counter is a reflective material, which is a nice touch for those who will be out riding in these in low light or at night.  The laces have a “garage” to hold them in place so they do not get entangled in your drive train, which is important for obvious reasons. The “mini-power strap” also can be used to help further retain the laces in place.

Shimano shoes were, in the early years of the 90’s, known for shoes that were pretty roomy and wide. I could never use them then since my feet are very narrow. However; within the last decade Shimano has used a different last that makes it so I can use their shoes. The XC-5’s fit fine without much cinching up of the laces at all, leading me to believe that folks with wide feet may need to look elsewhere. Although I’ve also heard that some folks wished that they hadn’t sized up with this shoe. As always, it is best to try before you buy.

Ride Performance: Walking in these is straight forward. The material is stretchy, actually, and gives with your motion and does not feel too stiff. The rubber is soft, and this gives the shoe an easier walking feel than you’d expect from a carbon reinforced mid-sole. Pedaling was met with no odd sensations. Of course, there wasn’t that immediate feel of efficiency and power which I had with the Bont Vapor G, but it isn’t terrible. About average, which matches up pretty well with what Shimano tells you to expect here. I can sum up my experience so far with the following- A riding partner on a recent 40 mile gravel ride asked me how I liked the shoes. I responded to him and said that I hadn’t even thought about them until he asked, so that must mean they work pretty well.

The reinforced area to mount the optional toe spikes. Note also the “scuff bumper” on the toe which protects a high wear area for gravel riders.

At The Finish: Of course, this is just a “Quick Review”, and a lot can happen over the miles and years. However; I am confident that these shoes will be comfortable enough without sacrificing efficiency to a great degree. The laces do a great job of distributing forces so that my feet do not feel overly fatigued or sore in certain spots. I will say that the eyelets for the laces don’t really allow for the laces to slide through easily, which is good and bad. Bad for initial fitting, good for when you get the fit dialed in. Taking these off isn’t a big deal and since the material stretches, you don’t have to loosen up the laces excessively to remove them. The “mini-power strap” is kind of an odd thing which I didn’t use other than for lace retention purposes. But then again, I don’t like a really tight fit.

Overall they are a good choice for gravel explorations, touring, commuting, and for anyone that doesn’t need or want a super-racy, high efficiency shoe. The price Shimano asks for these is pretty reasonable at $150.00 MSRP, although I have seen them advertised on-line for a lot less already.

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NOTE: These shoes were purchased by Guitar Ted and he was not bribed, nor paid, for this review. We strive to always give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.


Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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