Comfort and stiffness are what you want in a road shoe. It's not the easiest combination of qualities to make work but the Shimano R132 SPD-SL delivers both.
As I said when we first looked at them at the back end of last year, I've always rated Shimano's cycling shoes for their combination of performance and value although I've never found their road shoes particularly comfortable, but that applies to all the road shoes I've worn and is probably as much down to the state of my bunion encrusted feet as the shoes themselves.
The R132s are the first road shoe in a long while that I've been able to wear on big rides and not been forced to pay a price in pain at some point. The surprise is that I found them much more comfortable than the significantly more expensive custom fit Shimano R300s that I've been using for the last couple of years.
I'm not entirely sure why that should be, both shoes look to be the same width and both soles seem equally as rigid yet I suffered with terrible hot spots wearing the R300s on long rides which (apart from the first time out) I haven't with the R132s. My guess is that it's down to the uppers on the R132s. While the carbon composite sole doesn't have any give the synthetic uppers are softer and more yielding than on the vacuum-fitted R300s for someone with wide feet like mine, even though ironically the R300s look to have a wider upper.
These are comfortable shoes to ride over a long period. Don't get me wrong, they're not like wearing a pair of slippers – they're a hell of a lot stiffer for a start – but they won't torture your feet in the way that a lot of road shoes will. Just as importantly that stiff composite sole gives excellent power transfer – even when pushing down on a big gear in a low speed flex was barely detectable. That carbon sole is light too: claimed weight for a pair of size 40s is 643g, our 43s weighed in at 720g withouth cleats and 760g with SPD-SL cleats.
Comfort and power are further enhanced by the simple but effective ratchet buckle plus two offset hook and loop straps (the slight offset angle of the straps is designed to help avoid creating pressure points on your foot). The good thing about this system is that you can get a good snug fit so that your foot isn't moving around too much in the shoe, which aids efficient power transfer and also allows for small adjustments of the straps if your feet swell up slightly further into the ride and the shoes start to feel too tight. I suffer from hotspots in my feet on longer rides and the first thing to do when you feel them coming on is to loosen the straps – which you can pretty much do on the fly.
Luckily the extra give in the uppers has meant that hasn't really been necessary with the R132s.
Our test pair are size 43 (UK 8 ½) and I'd put them at the 'snug' end of the 43 spectrum so unless you already have a pair of Shimano road shoes, as ever, try before you buy.
So far they've proved to be a durable shoe – they still look like new after a couple of months of Winter wear. Mind you, they spent the last few weeks encased inside the thickes overshoes I could find. Similarly I can't really report on the effectiveness of the vent holes in the carbon sole as there hasn't been much danger of my feet over-heating lately. Walking in them? Well they weren't made for walking, were they? Like all good road shoes you can walk in them, just not very far.
Cleat compatibility? Well… Shimano SPD-SLs for a start, and Look too.