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The Shimano RC5W (RC502W) SPD-SL Women's Shoes are mid-range performance road models, with some premium features and trickle-down technology. I found them comfortable, though I'd say they're best suited to narrow to normal width feet, and at times the sole isn't as stiff as you might like.
They sit slap bang in the middle of the women's road shoe range, above the RC501W but below the RC902 flagship model. They come in a choice of three colours: white, black and a black and turquoise combination.
The upper is constructed from a combination of mesh/TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) and synthetic leather material, which I found to be quite supportive throughout my rides. The mesh over the toes certainly helps with ventilation, and as the test period took in a mixture of high and lower temperatures, I'd say the shoes are more than suitable for most temperatures the UK will experience in late spring and summer.
I found them comfortable over various ride lengths, even in high temperatures, but I would suggest they are not designed for people with particularly wide feet. I usually wear a wide in Lake shoes, for example, and though the RC5Ws were just wide enough for most rides, I did suffer a little after longer rides; I didn't experience hotspots, just a bit of rubbing on the outer toes.
Each shoe has one Boa L6 dial and one Velcro strap for the closure system. These offer sufficient adjustment, but the dial can't be loosened incrementally, so if you overtighten it you need to undo it completely before re-tightening.
As someone who is quite picky with shoes and often has to adjust them multiple times during a ride, it was a little bit frustrating. Otherwise, the closure system worked well.
Shimano boasts a 'carbon fibre reinforced nylon midsole for power transfer', and I could definitely tell that the entire sole wasn't reinforced. Instead, under extreme load such as steep climbs, I felt that the shoe flexed a little bit too much – particularly given its stiffness rating (interestingly, it's listed as 7 on the website but 8 is written on the shoe).
The sole is compatible with three-bolt cleats, and I tested them with Look Keos. I found them easy enough to set up, with plenty of adjustment.
The RC502Ws weigh 450g, which is very respectable compared with others in the same price range. For example, the Scott Road Team Boa Shoes that Emma tested last year are also £139.99 and weigh 558g (size 42), while the Bontrager Circuit Road Cycling Shoes weigh 576g (size 43) – and they've gone up to £144.99 since Alex tested them last year.
George tested the men's version of these Shimanos a few months ago and also found they represent good value for the price, with the trickle-down technology (the Boa L6 dial and the design and fit of the uppers) from the top-of-the-range S-Phyre shoes giving them a leg up compared with the competition. (The men's are also available in a wide fit.)
Overall, I like the simplicity of these shoes. They're not particularly flashy, but they represent a good value pair of road shoes. The sole could be stiffer, but I would imagine it will be enough for most riders. The fit and comfort is snug but in a supportive way, and my usually picky feet responded well to longer rides in the sun without overheating or too many issues.
Good performance with premium features, and impressively light for the price
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano RC5W (RC502W) SPD-SL Women's Shoes
Size tested: 40
Tell us what the product is for
'Lightweight, high-performance road shoes with unparalleled power transfer, benefitting from S-PHYRE trickle-down technology'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Upgraded upper pattern and material improves fit and breathability, while reducing weight
Surround wrapping upper structure reduces overlap, providing a glove-like fit and eliminating hot-spots
Super low stack height helps stabilize foot, maximizes power transfer and efficiency
Integrated sole and upper construction sets a new level of fit, stability, rigidity and lightweight performance
Mesh/TPU/Synthetic leather composite upper provides comfortable fit and better breathability
Light carbon fibre reinforced nylon sole for power transfer
BOA® L6 skeleton dials ensure precise fit and comfort
Stiffness rating: 7 [NB: 8 written on the sole itself]
The soles flex more than I would have expected with a stiffness rating of 8, but otherwise they performed well.
I have noticed some scuffing already during the test period, even with me being very careful to walk as little as possible in them. The heel and toe bumpers are also not replaceable so it's worth being extra careful not to wear them out.
The uppers fit nice and snugly and the ankle is supportive without digging in.
They are not suitable for very wide feet, but I'm not sure people with particularly narrow feet would be comfortable either, unless wearing thick socks.
Very impressive for the price – over 100g lighter than similarly priced competitors in some cases.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Dirt was easy to wipe away, even on the white uppers.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Over the month as the shoes have moulded to my feet, they've become more and more comfortable. The only performance issue I have with them is the flex in the sole, which was noticeable during hard efforts, though otherwise not a problem.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The overall fit, materials used and the light weight.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not entirely comfortable for wider feet, and not being able to loosen the Boa dial incrementally.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It compares well, especially if you take weight into account. For example, the Scott Road Team Boa Shoes are also £139.99 but weigh over 100g more, the Bontrager Circuit Road Cycling Shoes have gone up to £144.99 since we tested them last year (and weigh 576g for a size 43). The Udog Tensione Pure Black Shoes are a fiver less at £130, but weigh 606g (size 45), though they are a different kind of shoe.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
They're very good: a classy pair of shoes with sleek styling. I've scored them 7 for performance, but I think the premium touches and their light weight lift them to an 8 overall; they're definitely worth considering for the price – as long as you don't have very wide feet.
About the tester
I usually ride: Bianchi Oltre XR1 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Gravel