Shimano SD5A Cycling Sandals: Quick Review

Shimano’s original SPD logo (circa 1990) graces both straps on the SD5A sandals.

Shimano SD5A Cycling Sandals: Quick Review – by MG

In late June, Shimano announced a 25th Anniversary special edition of its SD5 cycling sandals. Long revered among touring cyclists and RAGBRAI riders, Shimano’s sandals are also a popular summer option for gravel cyclists.

I’ve been riding in a set of the new 25th Anniversary edition SD5A sandals for the past month, and today I’ll share my experience with them.

Sandals on a hot 100+ mile gravel ride? Oh heck yeah!!
Image: Jason Strohbehn, JLS Photo

In Shimano’s words, the SD5A sandals are “a warm weather casual riding option that wears like a sandal and pedals like a cycling shoe.” The soles use a glass fiber reinforced nylon shank plate, which provides a good combination of pedaling stiffness and easy walkability. Shimano rates the sole at a 4 on their 12 point stiffness scale. A molded EVA foam footbed and rubber outsole provide stability and traction on a variety of surfaces.

Other SD5A features:

  • Smooth mesh and synthetic leather liner for barefoot riding comfort
  • Classic dual strap open toe design for an efficient, comfortable fit
  • Compatible with any two-bolt SPD-style cleats/pedals
  • Sizes available: 38-48 (European sizing)
  • Weight: 396g/shoe
  • SD5A Anniversary model color: Blue with throwback SPD badging
  • Standard (non anniversary) SD5 sandals are also available in black
  • MSRP: $130 (US)
On the Road

Out of the box, cleat setup was easy and the soles have a deep enough recess to keep the cleats from touching the ground in most situations. The SD5A sandals are sized similarly to Shimano’s other cycling shoe models. I typically wear a 45 in Shimano shoes and my size 45 SD5As were a perfect fit.

Simple pleasures: Kicking back with gummy peach rings on the curb of a small town convenience store. This is what gravel riding is all about…

The feel of the SD5A sandals is different – distinctly more airflow and foot freedom than any other cycling footwear I’ve worn. The two Velcro straps do a good job of holding my skinny feet in the correct position without slipping or pinching. The open toes fare well in typical midwest gravel conditions, however they wouldn’t be my first choice for more rocky terrain.

Out of the saddle, a little sole flex can be felt in the cleat zone under hard efforts. It’s just fine for more moderate efforts though, especially in the saddle. For racing or fast tempo riding, a stiffer shoe is most likely a better option, but I was surprised at the rides I could comfortably do in the SD5As.

In fact, my first ride in the sandals was a 101 mile gravel group ride on a steamy 90+ degree July day. Though the hills were steep and the gravel deep in many places, the SD5A sandals performed well. My feet were dirty and a little pink from sunburn at the end (don’t forget your sunscreen), but they weren’t sore or blistered.

From out of the box to 100+ mile gravel ride… That’s impressive for any shoe, let alone a sandal designed for casual riding. That said, I’d look to a traditional cycling shoe for longer, rougher or more competitive rides. In these situations, the stiffer sole and more supportive upper of an actual shoe is a better choice for most folks.

The Final Word

If you’ve read this far into the review, you probably already know if you want to try the Shimano SD5A sandals. I was a fan from the moment I saw them and I know a lot of other gravel riders who love them too. Your mileage may vary.

I have multiple pairs of cycling shoes, so on any given day I’m able to choose the pair that best suits the conditions. With this in mind, the SD5A sandals are a great compliment to my other shoes. They’re casual and airy enough to commute with, but are substantial enough to be used on relatively long rides on hot days. I may choose another shoe for a race, but if I’m riding for fun and the sun’s out, it’s tough to beat the SD5A sandals.

Learn more about the SD5A sandals on the Shimano website.

NOTE – Shimano sent over the SD5A cycling sandals to Riding Gravel at no charge for testing and review. We are not being paid nor bribed for this review and we will give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

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Author: MG

Matt Gersib is the 2014 Gravel World Champion in the Fatbike category. He's also finished some of the most challenging gravel events in the country, including the Dirty Kanza XL, TransIowa and the Dirty Kanza 200, among others. In 2015, Gersib was an inaugural inductee into the DK200 "1,000 mile club" of five-time finishers. In addition to his gravel cycling, Gersib is an accomplished mountain bike racer, with numerous race wins and championships, including the 2012 Nebraska State Marathon MTB Championship.

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