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We've consistently rated Shimano SPD and SPD-SL shoes highly in our reviews, and it's no different with the latest incarnation of Shimano's XC7s – codename XC702 in full. For me, they are the perfect balance between stiffness and all-day comfort, and sleek enough to not look out of place on a road bike – exactly what I look for in an SPD shoe.
I gave up on road shoes years ago as I don't race my road bike any more; I ride gravel, mountain bike, BMX and road, so an SPD-style shoe is the obvious choice if I want to avoid doubling up on shoes.
When Dave reviewed a previous incarnation of the XC7s he said they were so good that there's an argument for using them on all bikes. So what's changed from the version that Dave liked enough to give 9/10?
Well, they're lighter – 710g rather than just under 800g – though I'm reviewing a pair of size 44s and Dave's a size 48. While we're on that subject... as we've found with other Shimano shoes, they come up slightly small. I normally take a 43 in shoes; the 44 I'm reviewing here fits perfectly.
The closure system has changed to using a wraparound design and two Boa L6 dials. Shimano says it's a 'glove-like fit' and I agree, the fit is snug without any pressure points. The Boa dials are brilliant and allow micro-adjustments for tightening, though it's worth noting you can't micro-release the tension. I didn't find this to be an issue – adjusting mid-ride is almost always tightening for me.
The uppers are made from a supple synthetic leather which is easy to clean with a damp cloth.
The outer sole has changed, too. It now uses Shimano's own Ultread XC rubber, which is seriously grippy, with lugs deep enough for running grip in the sloppiest of cyclocross races. You can mount spikes, too, if you want even more grip.
The midsole is a carbon-reinforced nylon affair, which Shimano gives 9 on its stiffness index. That's one below the RX8 gravel shoes we reviewed recently and two below the top of the range XC9 S-Phyre mountain bike shoes. For top stiffness from Shimano, you'd have to go for its top-of-the-range S-Phyre SPD-SL road shoes, where the stiffness is turned up to 12.
In practice this means these shoes are stiff enough for efficient power transfer, but still have that little bit of flex so you can walk in them reasonably normally. You know, for when you need to run in a CX race, get All The Food in on an audax, or are waiting between motos in a BMX race.
As they are not full carbon, they'll stand up a little better to scratches and scuffs, something that Stu reported as a niggle for the RX8s.
The midsole is quite thin, which Shimano says helps to stabilise the foot and maximise power transfer and efficiency.
This brings me to my main issue with these shoes. When they arrived, I used a fresh pair of Shimano SH-51 cleats, with the standard length bolts in the package – as I have done with every other SPD shoe I've used. You'd have thought that Shimano cleats on Shimano shoes with Shimano (M540) pedals should work perfectly.
Turns out the bruised feeling on the sole of my foot after a long and hard Uber Pretzel session on Zwift was caused by the cleat bolts sticking out of the metal cleat bolt receiving plate by a couple of millimetres.
After filing that couple of millimetres off the cleat bolts, the issue went away completely and the shoes have turned out to be superbly comfortable for anything from short, sharp efforts off a BMX gate to a 15-hour audax.
While the issue was easy to fix, Shimano really should have made sure it wasn't an issue in the first place. I contacted its UK distributor about this who sent me another pair of shoes with another pair of cleats. The issue was exactly the same.
While £189.99 is not cheap, it's around what I'd expect to pay for a shoe with this level of stiffness.
Perhaps the best comparison is within Shimano's own range: if you want to go slightly stiffer and lighter then the RX8s are an option at £219.99. Conversely, if you want to save yourself some money, Vecchiojo really liked the (previous version) of the XC5s (read his review here), the current version of which retails for £139.99.
Shimano's XC7s are a perfect do-it-all shoe. Stiff enough for efficient power transfer, just enough flex to not be too awkward to walk in. They don't look out of place on a road bike either, so you could question why you'd need to buy road shoes as well.
It's a real shame the cleat bolts protrude and make themselves felt through the sole, as these are otherwise a most excellent cycling shoe.
Good all-round performance shoes that would be near perfect but for the too-long cleat bolts
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano XC7 (XC702) SPD Shoes
Size tested: 44
Tell us what the product is for
Shimano says: "XC COMPETITION-LEVEL SHOES INFUSED WITH S-PHYRE DNA."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Lightweight SHIMANO ULTREAD XC rubber outsole delivers competition-grade grip that lasts.
Surround wrapping upper structure reduces overlap and provides a glove-like fit.
Rider-tunable spikes allow riders to select and swap spikes to match riding styles and conditions.
Ultra-rigid, lightweight carbon fiber reinforced midsole.
Supple high-density synthetic leather with perforation and lightweight mesh/TPU combination bring superior fit and comfort.
Dual independent BOA® L6 dials allow quick, micro tension adjustments.
Adjustable powerzone lace guide securely holds forefoot.
Low stack height midsole helps stabilize foot, maximizes power transfer and efficiency.
I needed a size bigger than I normally take.
Standard Shimano cleat bolts stick up through the sole and bruised my foot. I needed to file these down; after I did so, these were superbly comfortable.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The uppers are easy to clean with a damp cloth.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Perfect balance of stiffness versus comfort for road, gravel, audax, [insert your niche]...
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfort and performance, adjustability of the Boa dials.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The bolt length issue is disappointing.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
We've reviewed cheaper shoes from Giro and within Shimano's own range; conversely, you can always pay more.
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
If it wasn't for the cleat bolts being too long, these would have been contenders for getting five stars. They're stiff enough for efficient power transfer, with just enough flex to not be too awkward to walk in, and they don't look out of place on a road bike. They're excellent, but only once you sort the cleat bolts... and you shouldn't really be having to do that on £190 shoes.
About the tester
I usually ride: All of them! My best bike is: Ribble Endurance SL disc
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: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, mtb, Zwift