Shimano have designed the MW81s with a nod to those road warriors who like running SPDs (and being able to walk around) especially through the wetter and colder months. Commuter-friendly touches include a fully reflective upper strap and other well-positioned details on the sides and back providing 360 degree visibility.
I've found the boots exceptionally comfortable from day one. The roomy toe box allows for my slightly wider-than-average feet plus a variety of sock combinations, and the chunky offset straps allow for loads of non-restrictive adjustment. Note that the sizing is small – I'm usually a 40, but the 41 fitted well with standard cycling socks, and snugly with thicker winter socks. The boots are quoted at 815g for a pair of size 40s, but in use I've found them surprisingly light and not overly bulky. For reference, the tread-less road version (SH-RW80, which are Look, SPD-SL and SPD compatible) are 65g lighter.
Although I've ventured on some pseudo-cyclocross rides and muddy tracks, they've been used primarily on the road, including a fair bit of walking around. The tread has a decent amount of grip (including in the wet) if your cycling excursions do involve a bit of time off the pedals. By design, the MW 81s are extremely rugged, and I've been impressed by how well they've held up to some heavy use. The solid construction includes reinforced toe and heel area, and a durable Polyurethane coated leather upper which is both scuff resistant and easy to clean.
I always suffer with persistently numb toes in the colder months, but the windproof construction, insulated liner, and fleece insole have all really helped to keep the heat in. That overly sweaty feeling hasn't been an issue either thanks to the breathable Gore-Tex lining. My feet have been very happy for several hours with mid weight socks down to 3 or 4 degrees; normally completely numb toe territory. Any lower and I needed to be riding at a higher intensity to keep the blood warm. Where these boots have really come into their own though is long days out in that typically British forecast of '6 to 10 degrees – overcast with a chance of drizzle'. Probably not the 'foul weather' that Shimano quote, but they've done a good job of keeping me nice and comfortable through weeks of pretty variable conditions.
As for being waterproof...anything with a hole in the top will eventually let in rain, and these boots are no exception. The Gore-Tex membrane works well, but the one area of concern is the 'water-resistant' neoprene cuff with Velcro closure. I found it pretty comfortable, but water can migrate in if the cuff isn't secured tightly. For the record, I've been the victim of soaking feet after about an hour and a half in a few memorable downpours. Heavy rain aside, they perform brilliantly when out in patchy rain, drizzle, or puddle-filled lanes, and there's no fear of water seeping in from the cleat area or around the edges of overshoes. In fact, the main appeal of these boots is the truly 'low faff factor'; once they're on, you pretty much don't need to think below the ankle.
That being said, £150 is a lot of money. It's about weighing up how much you're willing to pay for the gains in warmth, waterproofing, and reduced hassle, versus just chucking on some thick socks and overshoes. They'll last ages though, and if you're out frequently in all weathers and want a comfortable, all-in-one solution, the MW 81s could be just the ticket.
Good solution for all-weather types looking for low faff factor winter boot
road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano MW81 winter boots
Size tested: 41
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Shimano say these boots prepare you for foul weather riding.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Waterproof Gore-Tex® liner helps keep water out, yet still allows the foot to breath improving comfort (not used in neoprene ankle closure)
Polyurethane coated leather upper provide protection from the worst elements and is highly durable
Tall neoprene ankle cover with water resistant splash guard fits snugly using a Velcro-style closure to help reduce mud and water ingress
Insulated liner and polar fleece insole provides much needed added warmth in cold winter conditions
Durable reinforced armour around the toe and heel can take the harshest of winter conditions in its stride
Aggressive mud-shedding tread pattern can be used with optional replaceable spikes
Cup-moulded EVA backed inner sole makes for a comfortable foot-bed
Glass fibre reinforced outer sole give a lightweight and supportive platform to aid pedal power
Three wide cuttable Velcro-style straps are easy to adjust even with gloves on, and they help provide a snug fit
Reflective detailing on the heel and side of the shoe help keep you more visible in low light conditions
Very well built
They've kept me warm and mostly dry in typical (but not extreme) British autumnal/winter weather.
I can't honestly imagine anything damaging these.
I was actually expecting them to feel noticeably heavier, but weight isn't exactly high on the agenda when trying to keep my extremities warm anyway.
The ankle cuff might not be everyone's thing, but the footbed and lining is blissfully comfortable if you get the right size.
These are built to last - could very well be a worthwhile investment if you're out frequently in the colder months.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Not having to think about my feet after putting them on.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The neoprene ankle cuff could offer a bit more protection, and a little more velcro to allow for a tighter fitting for those with very slim ankles.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized Tricross My best bike is: Van Nicholas Mistral
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, Local postal delivery