Trail Tested: Shimano XC90 Shoes


Shimano’s new XC90 shoe is designed for cross-country racers looking to get every ounce of their effort to the pedals, but there is much more to a successful race shoe than a stiff sole. With years of experience building great mountain bike shoes, we were eager to see what Shimano could create when they left nothing on the table.

Tech features: The XC90 shoe uses a carbon outsole and midsole shank. The outsole uses polyurethane lugs and low-profile spikes—similar to the cleats found on soccer shoes—as well as optional metal toe spikes for traction off the bike.

The heat-moldable upper is constructed primarily of Rovenica synthetic leather and a moisture-control mesh. The “XC” heel cup is designed to reduce heel slip with an ergonomic shape and anti-slip lining. The XC90 enclosure system uses two hook-and-loop straps that close in opposite directions, along with a micro-adjust strap and buckle. The “Cross X Strap” layout is designed to relieve tension on the top of the foot. The insole is also heat moldable and includes an adjustable arch wedge system.

The XC90 uses Shimano’s Dynalast XC Last (a last is a mechanical form that has a shape similar to that of a human foot), which they claim reduces tension on the rider’s hamstrings, calves and plantar and increases pedaling efficiency by just over .5-percent.

The XC90 shoes are available in black and blue and sell for $370. Our size 44 shoes weighed 11.3 ounces.

Field test results: We’ve always liked the fit of Shimano shoes, and the XC90s are no exception; however, the fit of the XC90 is definitely tailored for the performance rider who needs a secure connection to his bike. This means that there probably won’t be much wiggle room for most riders. If you do require more space, Shimano offers the XC90s in wide sizes as well.

The shoes are very light on and off the bike, and they are quite stiff to walk in —as is usually the case with a dedicated cross-country shoe. On the bike, that stiffness translates to world-class efficiency. Although stiff, the XC90 never made us feel as though our feet were stuck in a fixed position. The comfort of the insole and upper kept our feet from feeling like pieces of lifeless meat inside a carbon box.

Although offering pedaling performance on par with any cross-country shoe out there, the durability of the XC90s was disappointing. After only a few rides, the outsole and plastic toe cap looked far more worse for the wear than we would expect from a nearly $400 shoe. As trail and cross-country riders, we may be a bit tougher on shoes than a dedicated cross-country racer, but these signs of wear would certainly show soon enough. While some of the toe spikes are replaceable, many parts of the outsole are not—and that left us with some reservations.

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