shimano shoe cut

A Tale of Two Shoes: Long Term Follow-Up- by Guitar Ted & Grannygear

Late last year we ran a review on two disparate models of Shimano shoes and we tried to see if a mid-level shoe gave you a modicum of higher end performance, or if you really were getting what you paid for. (See our last report on these shoes HERE) Now we thought we would come back with a Long Term Update to see how we feel about these shoes and how they are holding up. First up, Guitar Ted gives his thoughts followed by Grannygear for each shoe……..


Shimano SH-XC90 shoes


Guitar Ted- These “high-zoot” kicks seemed to me to be the kind of a shoe that probably wouldn’t get a lot of use by me. I mean, they are fine for “Joe Racer”, but as a “Regular Joe”, I maybe didn’t need that level of shoe for cycling. I found out later that maybe I did actually have a place for these things in my daily cycling routine.

The fit is- as I said back in the previous review on these- surprisingly good. However; I must say that every time I use them, it is a fit that makes me think of these shoes as almost a “second skin”, if you will. Of course, these are heat moldable, but I never pursued that, and even without this, I find the fit so refined that it is almost sock-like. There are no loose spots, with the exception of the roomy toe box, which allows for plenty of “wiggle room” for my tootsies. I usually reserve these for gravel road riding, where they serve as my “dirty road” shoes, and in that role, with the exceptional cooling over the foot, they work fantastically well. You can definitely feel the technology which allows for a better upstroke feel, and yes- that stiff carbon sole isn’t the greatest for walking, but otherwise these have found a home in my wardrobe for cycling.

Are they worth the asking price? I probably wouldn’t say the value for the buck is there, unless you are “Joe Racer”, then these start to make a lot more sense.

Grannygear:  For me, the SH-XC90s have been relegated to the shoes I grab when I need all day comfort and performance and when I do not expect to be off the bike, hiking and such.   They will be in my gear bag as I head out for the Crusher in the Tushar this weekend.  I have not used them for every day riding as it seems a shame to burn them out on local 90 minute rides, especially for what they cost.  But for long training rides and long efforts on the bike, the way the shoe cradles and supports my foot is tip-top.  Lots of toe room too.  No complaints at all there.  I was wearing them when a friend crashed on a training ride and I had to walk a few miles out with him, pushing both bikes as he walked along wearing an inner tube sling (separated shoulder).  It was not so bad at the time, but boy were my calves crippled for a few days after!  Not a back-country shoe where off the bike efforts are in the mix, at least for any real length of time.  I also noticed the shoe soles looked like they were being impacted by off-the-bike efforts more than, or faster than I expected them to, where the cheaper XC30s look relatively unscathed.


Shimano SH-XC30 shoes


Guitar Ted- The “Everyman’s Shoe”, the SH-XC30, was the shoe I initially took a shine to and I used this shoe extensively for commuting, mountain biking, and I even got too busy a time or two at work to switch out of them! They have proven to be durable, and still look reasonably nice despite all the wear and tear.

The big question is: Do these work as well as the top dog SH-XC90’s? In a word- no. They are heavier shoes, they do not fit with such a refined, close to the foot feel, and in my view, the last for these are bigger, wider, and therefore don’t fit quite as well as the 90’s do. But that said, they work really well for what they are. I have found a shoe that you can use across multiple disciplines and can take the rain, the dirt, and the bumping and grinding of mountain biking and come out on the other side without any damage or even wear, seemingly. Only walking my son to school before I commute by bike has really worn the soles down somewhat on these.

My only nit on these is that they don’t breathe at all, and are hot to wear when the mercury rises. Fall, Spring, and early Winter are great though, and from a dollar spent versus value standpoint, the SH-XC30 wins easily.

Grannygear:  I have used them much like Guitar Ted has.  They have been the only shoes in my gear bag all season, so they have been used for 90% of the trail riding duties.  I miss the more refined adjustment of a buckle or Boa closure, but other than that, they have been fine workhorses.  Yes, they are more like slipping into the ‘box the shoes came in’ compared to the slipper like cradle of their bigger brothers, but all in all, for the cash, they have been durable and steady.  Walking in them is decent, hike-a-bike quite tolerable, although nothing like some of the Vibram soled shoes we have had in the house lately.  I have not noticed the heat issues of the shoes, but I agree that they do not vent as well as the XC-90s do.  But after a full season’s use, the SH-XC30 is still looking good as a daily driver MTB shoe.

Conclusion: If you like to stretch your buck and get the most value squeezed out of your cabbage that you can, we highly recommend the SH-XC30. It can take what you dish out and it seems to be durable and stays good looking longer. Don’t expect a fit that is custom-like or fancy features. It is a shoe that basically just gets the job done without getting in the way. If you require the best, there is no doubt that Shimano’s top of the range SH-XC90 is fit to fill that role for you. The fact that it is heat moldable is a bonus and if you are like us- you may not ever require that level of fit. The XC90’s are just that good. That said, these are the thoroughbred racer’s shoe and aren’t really fit for back country,  hike-a-bike type outings. Get these only if you are really, really serious about your XC racing results.

Note: Shimano provided the shoes for this test/review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches. We are not being bribed nor paid for this review. We will strive to be honest with our thoughts and opinions throughout.