Shoes for the adventurous. Trail days and bikepacking gurus these may be the shoe with sole for you.
At the end of winter Shimano sent me a pair of their latest footwear. Not the flash new gravity shoes, or an updated trail boot – but the XC5. A couple of steps below the XC9 (or S-Phyre) tested a couple of issues back, the XC5 fills a different role. Shimano claim the XC5 is a multi-surface shoe, meaning they suit some mountain biking, maybe touring (called bikepacking these days), gravel riding or road if you use an SPD pedal.
Lacking a full-carbon reinforced mid-sole, they're not about to be an XC World Cup race shoe. And without the support that gives, and built in protection, they don't suit all-mountain and enduro use. The surprise was, I tend to reach for the XC5 for most of my riding. Here's why.
BUILT FOR COMFORT
Because there isn't a race-stiffness sole turned up to 11 (and beyond) for pure rigidity, the XC5 is a very comfortable shoe to ride in, and spend time in off the bike. So for a social ride or casual event, or an all day out on and off bikes, you forget they are even there. The lace up closure has a little to do with this, as it does give a little, so the shoes don't have the same secure fit like a race shoe does after a few hours. But you can cinch up the laces if that's a problem. The synthetic leather is soft, and malleable enough that pressure points, even on a boat-width foot like my own, were rarely a problem.
BUILT FOR SPEED
Ok so they're not really built for speed. Laces are slow. But they have this mini power strap part which actually makes taking them off, and tightening them up faster than you think. And the built in loops keep the laces at bay. And that midsole is still carbon reinforced, just not in the same way the XC7 or XC9 are. I have happily used these in cyclocross events, and club XC races. I also used them for a day of riding at Blue Derby and even Maydena.
The Michelin rubber outser sole is fast when you're on your feet though – and compared to a shoe with a more race-specific outer sole you have more lugs and deeper tread. So if you're off the bike for a hike-a-bike section of trail, or navigating rarely-ridden trails and yet another sketchy creek crossing – well these shoes are faster, and more reliable.
STYLE FOR MILES
This is debatable, as it depends on your take on laces. But the shoe's appearance certainly suits many, and while they also come in grey, the black pair I tested also come with grey laces in the box for a more subtle approach. There's a women's model with magenta highlights as well.
So these are a magic, jack-of-all-trades shoe then? No. I didn't get along with these shoes on long and hot rides. At that point the less-stiff sole makes itself known, primarily with a hotspot where your cleat is. On days that weren't 40 degrees with over 6hrs, or with a trail style pedal – this wasn't an issue. The supple upper doesn't have the same support as a trail shoe either, so if you're an aggressive rider, you need to look elsewhere.
But all in all, I found the XC5 to be a very versatile shoe, that matches with a lot, but not all, of the riding I do. If you're not racing for big wins, banking huge days on the bike or charging down mountains – it could be the shoe for you. Drop into your local Shimano footwear dealer and try on a pair to find out.
|- Comfort on and off the bike||- May not have the stiffness or protection you need|
|- Plenty of traction when walking|
|- Style for miles|
Words: Mike Blewitt Images: Dave Acree