Have a look at the start grid of a World Cup 'cross or cross-country race. You'll notice a sea of high-viz yellow and electric blue Shimano SH-XC9 Bicycle Shoes eagerly waiting to clip in and make the mad dash to the front of the field. We're pretty sure there are some black ones in their too on the feet of some racers who tend to not be so flashy with their footwear choices, but those are harder to notice. Why so many competitive off-road cyclists use these shoes are obvious as soon as you get a set in your hands or on your feet. These shoes are designed for maximum performance. Recently Shimano launched its S-Phyre concept as part of its top-of-the-line road and mountain shoes sharing similar construction features. The XC9's are designed for off-road racing at the highest level and as such, features and technologies are included in the design with the focus on maximum power transmission, superb fit, and excellent comfort.
Shimano constructs the XC9 with a one-piece upper using Teijin synthetic material that handles water resistance, while the large and numerous vent holes allow the feet to breathe. Dialing in the fit comes courtesy from the dual Boa IP1 dials offering independent and micro-adjustable tension across the top of the foot. Shimano believes that the fit is so refined that it didn't bestow the XC9 with the Custom Fit heat and vacuum system we have come to expect on its high-end shoes in the past decade. We'd have to agree that indeed the Boa and the soft upper simple melds the shoe around our foot and we're not sure if a better or more comfortable fit is achievable.
On the rear of the shoe, Shimano uses an external cup that covers the carbon sole and up the back of the heel. This design supports the heel preventing twisting and rolling, stabilizing it for more efficiency. Inside the shoe at the heel, a cat tongue like gripping fabric further bolsters the foothold, providing a solid foundation for dishing out the big watts at the race start and on the pedaling upstroke while trying to maintain traction on a slippery surface. Shimano reached out to the French rubber wizards at Michelin to create a rubber compound on the lugs and the surrounding cleat mounting area. The rubber provides excellent grip on terra firma when off the bike and if you botch the clip in on the remount, the middle of the sole offers a bit of grippy traction so your foot doesn't fly off the pedal. The ability to run toe spikes come in handy when scrambling up steep and slippery terrain.
The XC9 might not be the lightest shoe on the mountain bike market but Shimano is never known to skimp on performance to meet a certain weight and let's be honest, at 330g per shoe in a size 42, these shoes are still plenty light. Focusing again on fit, power transfer, comfort, and durability, the pros that count on these shoes aren't getting slowed down by a few grams here or there. The stiff Dynalast carbon fiber sole harnesses pedal power while putting less stress on the metatarsal zone. It is also super thin and it helps lower the overall stack height of the sole and hits an impressive 11 out of 12 on the brand's sole stiffness scale. Paired with an XTR pedal, you'll get a setup that is damn close to being as efficient and light as a road setup with the versatility to use it on any surface.
- Shimano's premiere cyclocross and XC race shoe
- Stiff, efficient carbon-reinforced sole for power transfer
- Dynalast construction increases pedaling efficiency
- Dual-density Michelin rubber outsole blends grip and durability
- Dual BOA IP1 dial buckle provides a customizable fit
- Finished with reinforced toe spike mounts