In a rare break from inscrutable product naming, the Shimano XC7 shoes have a self-explanatory name. This cross-country (XC) mountain bike shoe sits just below the top of the brand’s line (9 is the top) with a raft of features that provide a comfortable fit and great performance on the trail.
You can usually tell how premium a mountain bike shoe is by the number of Boa dials it sports, and in this case the Shimano XC7s come with two of them per foot. As usual the ratcheting lace system works great and allows for a tight and secure fit.
The uppers are constructed using a combination of synthetic leather and a rubbery, TPU material that stretches and molds around the foot as the Boa dials are tightened. Perforations allow for a bit of airflow and the heel features a large reflective stripe for nighttime visibility. Unlike many XC shoes I’ve tested, the XC7s don’t have a cat-tongue-like material to prevent heel slip; instead there’s a rubber-like material inside that seems to do the job.
Shimano rates the carbon-reinforced sole stiffness a 9 out of 12 which is to say it’s pretty stiff, though not quite the stiffest XC shoe the brand offers. The outsole is covered in Shimano Ultread XC rubber that measures about 66a on my durometer. Surprisingly that’s just a skosh firmer than the FiveTen Stealth rubber (64a) on my broken-in Hellcats. The XC7s are spike-compatible and feature tall, widely spaced knobs front and rear. The cleat channel is reinforced and offers a standard amount of room for fore and aft cleat position adjustments.
Shimano XC7 fit and sizing
The Shimano XC7 shoes are offered in standard and wide sizes ranging from 38 to 50. I tested wide-size 46E, and with cleats mine weigh 398g per shoe. I would say my feet are wide-ish, though I’m usually fine with standard-width shoes once they’re broken in. The XC7s were comfortable out of the box and the toe box feels like it has plenty of extra room for even wider feet.
Of course your mileage will vary; overall I would say the shoes fit true to size, or maybe slightly larger than size. The supple uppers and dialed lacing system should allow the shoe to conform comfortably to most foot shapes and alleviate any issues for those who find themselves in between sizes.
On the trail
I tested the Shimano XC7 shoes on all kinds of rides from road to gravel to trail, and found they are well suited to all three. The stiff sole feels powerful mashing the pedals, yet I didn’t find it to be overly rigid or uncomfortable even on longer rides. On one Wandrer ride I got a flat tire about a mile from home and didn’t have my repair kit with me so I hoofed it back just in time to beat the rain. Aside from the click-clack of the cleats, jogging in the XC7s felt more akin to casual sneakers than a pair of dress shoes. Would I be willing to run a 5K in them? Possibly, for a worthy cause.
Most of us won’t be running in these or any other mountain bike shoe (unless you ride ‘cross) but if you ride enough, hike-a-bike is all but unavoidable. The tall tread feels a little awkward to walk in at first, and I found it works best for digging into the trail, especially when things get steep. Unlike many of the XC shoes of yore, these provide decent grip on slippery surfaces like rocks thanks to the rubberized sole. That being said, the Shimano XC7s don’t provide nearly the same level of hike-a-bike confidence as a set of flat trail or all-mountain shoes.
The XC7 shoes don’t look particularly comfortable from the outside, but inside they make my feet very happy. There’s no bunching or pokey seams on the underside of the tongue, and it does a great job keeping the shoe secure when pulling up on the pedals. Mashing down on the pedals doesn’t reveal any hot spots, at least for my feet.
One of my few complaints about the Shimano XC7 shoes is that they are noisy. At first I thought I had a creaky bottom bracket, or a pedal that needed a rebuild. I suspect the rubbery upper material tends to, err rub, and/or the sole gets creaky when it’s twisted in a particular way.
Aside from a few small mesh zones on the tongue and tiny perforations around the toe box the XC7s don’t appear to provide a lot of ventilation, yet I haven’t found them to feel overly stuffy, even on hot, early season rides. On a related note, water is slow to infiltrate the shoe through creek crossings, which I appreciate.
The cleat channel, in combination with the surrounding tread, makes for a cleat that can be tricky to find when it’s time to clip in, adding a second or two over other shoes I’ve tested.
For cross-country and gravel riding I can definitely recommend the Shimano XC7 shoes. They’re probably a good choice for many trail riders as well, offering a surprising level of comfort and durability even on long rides.
- Very comfortable
- Secure fit and wide range of sizing
- Nice styling
Pros and cons of the Shimano XC7 mountain bike shoes.
- Creaky and squeaky
- Awkward walking on hard surfaces
- Cleat zone requires added precision
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