Shimano’s RP (road performance) shoes are a different take on what we’ve come to know as high-performance road shoes.
Until recently, if you were after high-end shoes your were pigeon-holed into racing shoes, but as Shimano came to realise, the majority of us don’t often pin on a number. Shimano is not alone in this, with a few other endurance focused road models hitting the market, such as the Specialized Audax, for example.
The RP shoes put a premium on long-haul comfort, and without sacrificing too much performance. The first iteration of the RP9s saw a relaxed head and plush synthetic leather upper with heavily padded interior.
Shimano has ditched a ratchet and velcro strap for a BOA dial Colin Levitch / Immediate Media
For 2018, the RP9 has been completely redesigned — ditching Velcro and ratchet straps for a single BOA, and the surround upper for a more traditional tongue.
The fit is also a bit more aggressive than the previous version of the RP9, especially with the new heel cup. There’s no fancy one-way sliver thread, or silicone anything, instead, the heel cup features a sizeable lip which makes for a suction cup-like fit.
And it’s this new heel cup that allows the rest of the shoe to offer the level of comfort it does. Because your heel is so well locked in, the BOA requires minimal tension. In fact, the ‘suction’ is so good I rode with the BOA dials popped completely open quite a few times throughout my test period and had no issues with my foot coming out of the shoe.
The downside to this is they are a little harder to get in and out of, but that’s hardly a complaint.
There is also a lip and aggressive shaping on the inside of the heel cup to keep your foot planted Colin Levitch / Immediate Media
When I did crank down the BOA I found the top cable loop dug into the top of my foot a bit, but you can achieve the same amount of hold with the dial a quarter of the tightness.
While the heel is aggressive, the forefoot and toe box are quite roomy. It’s actually a bit odd the first time you slip the shoes on because while the heel has the locked in feeling of a high-performance race shoe, the other 60 percent of the shoe is a lot more relaxed.
When compared to the top-end S-Phyre, the biggest difference in the fit comes as a result of the upper. When worn side by side, the toe box on the RP9 feels a bit roomier and the forefoot is a bit less sculpted, both in the upper and the arch support provided by the sole. The upper feels a bit thinner and lighter than its more substantial cousin as well.
The heel is supported by a hard plastic cap Colin Levitch / Immediate Media
The relaxed fit is great for spinning along on a group ride or a solo epic. The shoes provide some support but not locked in and rigid like a race shoe, allowing the shoe to move more freely with your joints rather than your joints moving around the shoe.
With a full carbon sole rated 10/12 on Shimano’s stiffness scale, I wasn’t able to make the sole flex, however the amount of high-frequency vibration transferred through the shoe was muted.
Shimano has dumped its heat mould panels in the uppers of its shoes and arch supports, mainly because very few people were utilising the customisation and it added weight to the shoes, and made the uppers less pliable. However, the insoles get interchangeable foam arch supports.
Being more used to an ultra-stiff race shoe the power transfer is good, however I did find the lateral support to be lacking. The combination of less built-in arch support from the sole, the foam arch supports and the additional room through the middle of the shoe did allow my arch to collapse during out of the saddle springs.
The sole on the new RP9s is rated 10/12 on Shimano’s scale Colin Levitch / Immediate Media
I was mostly able to remedy this with the ‘high’ wedge, however the real fix was a pair of Surefoot insoles with a rigid plastic arch support borrowed from another set of shoes.
Tipping our scales at 265g per shoe, the new RP9s are a bit lighter than the top of the line S-Phyre (272.5g per shoe) in the same size and lighter still than the previous RP9s (287.5g per shoe in size 43).
With a fully perforated upper, the RP9s vent surprisingly well. Even though they lack the large mesh panels, found on many other shoes, there is a quite a lot of air that moves through the shoe, so you’re feet aren’t going to overheat in these kicks.
The upper is fully perforated which provides for a surprising amount of airflow Colin Levitch / Immediate Media
When Shimano launched the original RP9 its aim was to make a high-performance shoe that didn’t sacrifice any comfort, and it made a shoe that was supremely comfortable and a solid performer, but was a bit too relaxed for my personal taste.
With the update, Shimano has made the heel a bit more aggressive and dumped a bit of weight from the shoes, and the heel hold is genuinely top of the range — it’s a shame the S-Phyres missed out on oh this treatment.
The only real complaint I can muster is the lack of inbuilt arch support. The isn’t going to be an issue for everyone, given everybody’s feet are different, but I do feel the shoes would benefit from a bit more substantial arch support built into the sole. A second BOA midway down the shoe may also help to fix the issue.
In my closet the RP9s and S-Phyres sit right next to each other, and since the RP9s arrived I have found myself reaching for them quite a bit more often than the S-Phyres.