The Shimano XC7 is a performance shoe midway up Shimano’s off-road footwear range.
The XC7 is much more affordable than the Shimano S-Phyre XC9, the brand’s premium cyclocross shoe, and costs less than the Shimano RX8, a leaner, more gravel-oriented shoe.
Several of the XC7’s new features originate from these more expensive models, the standout being the wraparound closure system.
The XC7’s carbon-fibre reinforced midsole is flexier than on the S-Phyre XC9.
The dual Boa dials are unidirectional, while its pricier sibling’s can be turned both ways.
However, for a much lower price, the Shimano XC7 is a fine choice for pushing the pace on challenging surfaces.
Shimano XC7 shoes spec and options
The fit and performance are near identical too. As you’ll know if you read that review, that’s a good thing.
The XC7’s sole is less rigid than the RC7’s, registering at 9/12 as opposed to 10/12 on Shimano’s stiffness scale.
That supposed difference was imperceptible to me, but I did notice a modicum of flex when riding and pushing up inclines.
By contrast, the Shimano S-Phyre XC9 sole is said to be almost rock solid at 11/12.
I’m not Mathieu van der Poel, so the XC7’s more compliant sole probably better suits the majority of my riding. And shoe stiffness isn’t the be-all and end-all here anyway.
The Shimano XC7 is available in sizes EU38-50 and half sizes from 40-46. Sizes EU40-48 have a wide-fit option, but only in the black colourway. Otherwise, you can opt for white as well.
Unlike with the S-Phyre XC9, you don’t get adaptable arch pads for the insole.
I went up one size in the XC7 because the shoe comes up small, so bear that in mind if you can’t try them on before buying.
Weighing 760g a pair in size EU46, on paper the XC7 looks heavy set against the best gravel and cyclocross shoes.
A fairer comparison would be the Fizik Terra X5, which also has XC potential, and weighs 766g in the same size.
The Shimano XC7 costs £189.99 / €219.99 / $225. The price in Australian dollars was not available at time of writing.
The XC7 tightens and closes the same way as its roadie relative, the RC7, producing a fantastic fit.
The bottom Boa dial adjusts the tension of laces criss-crossing through eyelets over the instep.
The upper dial draws a strap across the tongue, mimicking the wraparound upper from the S-Phyre XC9.
The latest XC7 loses the previous model’s Velcro strap, making them easier to put on and take off and better in sloppy conditions, where a Velcro strap can get caked in mud.
No pinch points developed for me in the synthetic leather upper and I suffered no foot fatigue even on four-hour rides. However, I did need to loosen the lace guide to create more height in the toe box.
The fit is so secure my foot didn’t rise out of the shoe when walking or jogging, nor when bouncing over rocky trails.
I haven’t had the chance to practise cyclocross skills in the XC7s because we’re out of season in the UK.
From what I can tell though, the XC7 sole wouldn’t make getting off to hurdle barriers too awkward.
My slight gripe with the RC7’s dense upper, which the XC7 shares, is its lack of ventilation.
Since the XC7 isn’t cut out for protracted spells in a fixed position where heat can build up, I think this is less problematic here.
Indeed, the upper’s padding could afford some protection against trail obstacles, such as rocks and tree roots.
Treading a new line
The new XC7 switches tread from Michelin’s pattern to Shimano’s own. The rubber Ultread outsole has spike fittings at the front then large front and rear lugs.
These are covered in a tacky rubber pattern consisting of tiny triangles.
A patch below the cleat bolts between the top and bottom lugs is covered with larger, more dispersed triangles.
Therefore, none of the sole is slick.
I maintained grip on stony slopes, for example dry river beds where a smoother-soled shoe might struggle.
So far, there’s no sign of wear on the rubber despite walking over hard surfaces in the shoe.
Due to dry, testing conditions, I can’t comment on how well the lugs shed mud.
Shimano XC7 shoes performance
For an off-road shoe, the XC7 rides well for short periods on the road.
However, the shoe’s minimal ventilation doesn’t suit longer spells on tarmac in warm temperatures.
The upper has vents, but the sole is not aerated because the XC7 has a sealed footbed.
This prevents mud and water ingress, so is better for typical UK winter conditions.
Instead of racing, I’ve tried intense efforts on typical UK gravel surfaces, from bridleways to byways.
When chasing Strava PRs, the XC7 provides a stable pedalling platform, which allows you to focus on the effort and bike handling.
The shoe’s sole feels comfortable when trying to pedal hard, even when uneven terrain throws you around. This bodes well for races that require repeated big efforts.
Shimano XC7 shoes bottom line
The Shimano XC7 has neither the prestige nor looks of the S-Phyre XC9, but you won’t need a world champion’s salary to afford a pair.
The well-designed and constructed XC7 has many of the premium shoe’s features for two-thirds of the price.
I wouldn’t want to ride the Unbound 200 in a pair, but the XC7 isn’t a gravel-racing shoe. Lighter, stiffer and better-ventilated shoes exist for that branch of the sport.
When the surface and conditions deteriorate, the XC7 won’t let you down.
Plus, its multi-discipline capabilities mean you’ll get more value out of it than a specialist shoe.
So if you’re looking for a rugged shoe for off-road racing and more, it’s hard to look past the XC7.