Shimano's SH-R300 road shoes are the company’s best-fitting to date with their 360-degree heat-moldable Custom Fit upper, but the US$349.99 (£180) price tag puts them out of reach for many consumers.
Fortunately, the technology has now trickled down to the cheaper SH-R220, This has a similar buckle, offset two-strap layout and ‘cat’s tongue’ heel cup lining, but to lower costs, heat moldable material is only used around the heel, where it arguably matters most.
As with their more expensive brother, the shoes have to be ﬁtted at a shop with a dedicated oven and vacuum pump where they are literally wrapped around your foot like shrink wrap. Unlike full-custom models, there is no lengthy waiting period.
The full-length carbon sole plate shares the R300’s basic hollow construction and toe vent but does without the fancy Nanotec composite content, the additional vent in the midfoot and the extra-tall wrap around the bottom of the heel.
Total weight for our test pair (EU size 43.5, UK 9, US 10) is 688g, complete with insoles, putting them roughly on par with the R300s we reviewed in Cyclingnews in June.
The R220s fit quite well straight out of the box with the refined shape and substantial feel we’ve come to expect from Shimano. Though the mesh-and-synthetic upper isn’t nearly as supple as ones from Sidi – or even Specialized – the single buckle and offset Velcro straps provide an excellent overall hold with no pressure points. The main strap isn’t adjustable in length but Shimano compensates with a two-position buckle mount.
The custom molding process then takes the heel-hold one step further from ‘excellent' to ‘superb’ and combines with the surprisingly effective heel lining to ensure the back of your foot stays put. Add in the stiff carbon sole plate (and the trendy white color) and it should come as no surprise that many sponsored pros choose the R220 over the R300.
As there is no heat moldable material ahead of the ankle, the R220 is better ventilated – even without the extra midsole vent – thanks to a more generous helping of mesh.
The molding process only affects the back of the shoe, though, so the forefoot fit remains as it comes out of the box. This should create no issues for most - although people with bunions or other minor shape abnormalities will find the non-stretch areas around the edges of the toe box create too much pressure to be comfortable - and Shimano offers the R220 in a roomier ‘E’ width for those who need a little more breathing room.
The custom-molded insole provides a marked improvement in comfort over the stock – and rather flat – fit and Shimano includes extra bits in case you want a little more arch support or a little metatarsal ‘button’ to spread out your toes. Even so, we sometimes found ourselves wishing for a little more arch support built into the outsole on longer rides.
The R220s are notably heavier than their ultralight competition (by as much as 100g per shoe or more) but as long as the factory forefoot fit works for you, the payback is more support and a better fit for a broader range of wearers.
At US$249 (£139.99) per pair, they represent solid value for a custom-fit product and provide the usual fit, finish and quality typical of Shimano footwear.