Words and photos: Colin Levitch
 
Shimano's top-end trail shoe the ME7 has received a makeover for this year with improvements to the protection and durability while still providing an efficient pedalling platform.
 
Since we last reviewed the ME7, the upper has swapped from mesh to a perforated synthetic leather and a Volume+ last to give your little piggies a bit of extra breathing room at the front. Shimano has also downsized the ankle buckle to keep crash damage to a minimum and revised the toe and heel armour too.

 While the upper is decidedly more closed off than the previous version with the move away from mesh, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the ME7 breathed, and the perforations throughout work overtime moving air into the shoe. It is currently winter, so I haven't had the chance to ride them in the blistering Queensland heat, however, despite the amount of airflow, I would venture a guess that they will be a tad warm in the summer months.

 

With the perforations the shoes aren't waterproof; still, the lace cover does a pretty good job at repelling water in the rain and through puddles and river crossings.
 
Speaking of laces, Shimano has kept the quick lace system, which as the name implies allows for you to cinch the laces with a slider in a single motion. The system is tried and true and didn't cause me any hotspots; however, adjustments in motion are tricky as it's a two-handed affair.
 
My feet are very much middle of the road, save for a few un-strategically placed bone spurs, when it comes to shape and size, and the Volume+ last provides ample space for my trotters, though, I did have to use up quite a bit of the available adjustment to achieve my desired fit. Those with petite feet might run out of lace and ratchet strap.

 

In my experience, most of the stock insoles found in trail shoes are basically throwaways, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the footbed inside the ME7 actually had a bit of built-in arch support and even a metatarsal bubble―bonus points for Shimano.
 
The heel box is reasonably deep, and padding around rear puts your foot under lock and key so you can really pull through the back of the shoe when pedalling. Throughout my testing period, I didn't experience any heel lift or rubbing while spinning or hiking.
 
The shoe comes up pretty high offering tangible ankle support and protection, and the neoprene sock around the back half of the opening does well to keep the trail on the out―in fact, I'm yet to find any trail debris in the shoes at the end of a ride. Where the sock joins onto the upper at the front, there is quite a drastic transition in fabric stiffness, and this did cause me a sore spot for the first week or so of riding in the ME7's, however over time, it has softened up.

 

Also carried through from the previous version is the Torbal sole. This keeps the nylon plate stiff front to back but allows for some lateral twist in the rear third of the shoe allowing for a stable pedalling platform (8/12 of Shimano's stiffness scale), but the lateral movement offers tangible proprioception as to what the bike is doing underneath you.
 
Shimano has continued its partnership with Michelin, and the lugs are made using an exclusive dual density rubber. It's definitely the tackiest compound in of any of the shoes I've got on hand, even more so than the Vibram rubber compound Giro uses. The lugs are pretty aggressive, erring more on the side of a football boot than a skate shoe and in loose dirt, they manage to dig in, but still offer plenty of purchase on slick rocks and logs. The sole features a good bit of toe spring, so walking or massive hike-a-bikes aren't an issue.
 
Shimano has designed the shoe around a pretty long cleat bed, and it allows for an aggressive position should that be your style.
 
At $239, the ME7 are most definitely a premium trail shoe, but when you compare to similar options like the Giro Terraduro the Northwave Enduro the features and performance are bang on for the money. Overall the ME7 offer a solid pedalling platform when you need it, but are plenty comfortable for extended hike-a-bikes, and I've found myself reaching for these more than any other shoes currently in my closet.
 
RRP: $239
From: Shimano Australia
 
Hits:
–     Protection and all-day comfort
–     Great outersole

Misses:
–     Might be too warm for some in summer