The resurgence of lace-up cycling shoes continues with Shimano’s XC5, a shoe with a grippy sole, aimed at off-road riding, but with obvious appeal to commuters too.
My pair of size 45s weighed 664g, including the laces, and considering their generously chunky rubber sole, that’s very good.
Textured synthetic leather with heaps of perforations and a huge reflective heel panel ensure the uppers are comfortable and practical, and a welded toe protector prevents scuffing the shoe’s leading edge. The heel cup is only partly reinforced, but is well padded for great retention, and the tongue has minimal bulk but enough integrity to resist pressure from the laces.
Shimano’s Dynalast sole is carbon-reinforced in its mid-section, and coated in Michelin rubber, providing useful midsole grip if you miss your pedal, with raised toe, heel and forefoot tread blocks for superbly secure walking or hiking. It accepts two-bolt cleats, and allows two studs or spikes to be fitted at the front for traction in slippery conditions.
Getting in to lace-up shoes takes longer than with Velcro or Boa closures, and once you’re riding they can’t be adjusted on the move. But to help you find and retain the correct lace tension, the XC5s have what Shimano calls a Mini Power Strap, which is pulled taut as you tighten the laces, and tensions them firmly in position, preventing the creep that can alter lace tension on different parts of your foot as you ride.
Once tied, the excess length tucks under a broad elasticated loop, and an alternately-coloured pair of laces is supplied.
Sizing up by half a size is recommended, as the XC5s are a little more snug than equivalent Shimano shoes, with less toe box volume, but with no closure attachments to stiffen them, the uppers conform very well to your foot, with a glove-like supple feel.
The sole is stiff enough for stomping on the pedals without feeling them through it, but the intentional forefoot flex ahead of the cleats makes walking more natural.
It might take a couple of tries to find the ideal lace tension, but when it’s right, the XC5s are supremely comfortable throughout multi-hour rides, and their low mass helps with ventilation.
Their looks, construction and efficiency make them just as suited to the urban sprawl as forest trails or wide open gravelly spaces, and they’ve proved very durable so far.