With decent levels of waterproofing and insulation, Shimano's MW7 shoes are a good choice for winter riding, and you can walk easily in them too.
Much of what I said about the Northwave Extreme Winter Boots applies to the MW7s. They're very warm and as waterproof as winter shoes can be, subject to the usual caveat of water getting in at the ankles. You can beat that by using tights like the Pearl Izumi Amfibs, which have extended ankles that cover the cuffs of winter shoes.
I finished long rides on cold days in the MW7s with comfortable feet, including my first 100km ride of the year on a day the temperature never got above 1°C. I had chilly toes at the lunch stop, but once they'd thawed they were fine for all of the second half.
They didn't do as good a job of fending off the wet as of keeping my feet warm, but I'm willing to live with that in winter shoes; I'm fortunate enough to live in one of the least rainy parts of the country. My socks were wetter after a two-hour ride in the rain than after a dry ride in similar temperature, but the chill was tolerable. I escaped that feeling of cold needles in the toes and subsequent agonising warm-up. Happy with that.
That the MW7s perform similarly to the Northwave Extreme Winters is not surprising, as they use a similar insulated Gore lining. Gore calls this one Insulated Comfort but it seems very similar to the Sierra lining in the Northwaves.
The liner sits under a synthetic leather and plastic outer that repels water well. It closes with a combination of Velcro and speed laces, so you just pull the laces snug and cover them with the flap.
Another Velcro flap pulls the neoprene cuff closed around the ankle. It's high enough to keep out road spray and flexible enough that it doesn't impede pedalling.
There's reflective trim front and back for visibility after dark.
I went for a 44, a size up on my usual 43. That leaves plenty of room for thick socks, and the overall fit is reasonably roomy for my medium-width feet. The MW7s are not built on a narrow Italian-style last, owners of non-skinny feet will be pleased to hear.
The toe box is relatively low-volume, which is a bit of an issue in a winter shoe. You want plenty of room to wiggle your toes to keep the circulation going. Since you'll probably be wearing a thicker sock, you want a bit more space around the toes than cycling shoes usually have. The toe space isn't cramped, but it's not as generous as some.
The MW7s are nominally mountain bike shoes, in that they have a recessed, two-bolt cleat mounting. But the tread is quite light, which makes them more suitable for pavement and grass than deep trail mud. That makes them perfect commuting shoes for anyone who keeps going right through the winter.
They're definitely much easier to walk in than winter shoes with external cleats. Having used both MW7s and Northwave Extremes I'm leaning to the conclusion that SPD shoes are a better idea for winter riding. There were a couple of spots on my 100km ride where I had to get off and walk to get past short sections of ice. Even when it's just a few steps I'd much rather do that in SPD shoes.
Switching to SPD pedals for the winter isn't an expensive option, either. A pair of Shimano PD-M520 or PD-M530 pedals will set you back just £20. If you're buying winter shoes, that's not much for safer walking.
And don't think mountain bike shoes like the MW7s are flexible and inefficient. Pedalling in the MW7s is plenty comfortable thanks to the stiff sole and well-shaped insole. Fleece insulation on the insole helps keep your feet warm too.
Sure, they're not carbon-road-race-shoe stiff, but you're not going to be racing in them anyway. What you are going to be doing is riding in all weathers and conditions, and the MW7s are spot-on for that.
Warm and waterproof winter shoes that you can walk in too
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano MW7 Gore-Tex SPD shoes
Size tested: 44
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Shimano says they're "Tough, insulated, waterproof and comfortable built for riders without an off-season". And Shimano says it in ALL CAPS so it must be true.
Kidding aside, this claim is pretty much on the money.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Waterproof GORE-TEX® Insulated Comfort liner for maximum comfort
Lace shield design and high cut cover construction
Insole with fleece liner for added insulation and heat retention
360-degree reflectivity for high visibility
Torsional midsole 'TORBAL' allows natural rider 'flow' motion during downhill descents
Rubber outsole improves grip in wet and slippery conditions
Single density extra-cushion insole with fleece liner
Speed lacing system allow fast, easy adjustments and a secure fit
Protection against the cold and wet is as good as winter cycling shoes get.
Plenty of rubber at impact/abrasion points and tough fabrics bode well for durability.
Generally good, but a bit more room in the toe box would be nice.
Winter shoes are never cheap, because the quality of materials and construction has to be on a par with, say, a good pair of lightweight, waterproof walking boots. The RRP of the last pair of those I bought was about the same as the MW7s, and I was happy to pay it.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well. There's enough insulation to keep your feet warm in temperatures around zero, and in combination with that the waterproofing stops you getting uncomfortable in the wet, even though your toes still get damp.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Having warm and comfortable feet when the temperature is around freezing.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
My only gripe is with the slightly small toe box.
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 score
The MW7s do the job very well. They get credit for a reasonable price given the quality of materials and construction, but lose a point for the size of the toe box.
About the tester
I usually ride: Scapin Style My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.