Shimano R320 shoes  £299.99

9/10

Light, incredibly stiff and oh so comfortable

Weight 589g   Contact  www.madison.co.uk

by David Arthur   March 5, 2013  

Shimano's new R320 shoe had their first public outing in the Olympic road race last summer and I've been testing this pair since September, when I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pre-production sample so I could get the miles in. And getting the miles in I have. In the nearly five months I've been using them, they've proved to be incredibly stiff while still being comfortable for mile after mile. No surprise that they're my new favourite shoes.

The R320 replaced the R315 shoes, which we found to be 'comfortable custom-fit shoes with a supple upper and a rigid carbon sole.' The changes to this latest model are incremental, they've retained most of the key features that made the R315 a top shoe, but focused on making them lighter and stiffer.

A key change is the Dynalast, Shimano's whizzy name for a number of changes including a redesigned stiffer last, with particular emphasis on the toe section, and a redesigned heel cup. They wanted to increase the shoe's efficiency, translating more of your energy into propelling you forward and not allowing it to be lost flexing the shoe. As well as flex, a lot of power can also be lost through your heel slipping in the shoe, here the heel cup wraps around the heel with such a good grasp that there's no slippage. None at all. They're by far the stiffest shoes I've used, far stiffer than the Specialized S-Works I was riding before and stiffer also than the R-315s. Objective completed then.

The sole is brand new as well, with a lower profile than the R315 to decrease the stack height - the measurement from the pedal axle to the ball of the foot. Lower is generally considered better when it comes to stack height. Like their predecessors, the R320s have a full unidirectional carbon fibre sole the difference is that the R320 has a new Hollow Channel design - twin foam-filled channels run along its length - which contribute to the low weight and increased stiffness.

Carried over from the R315 is the Rovenica ultra-fine synthetic leather upper, but it's very different in style to the previous shoe. It is, to my eyes, the best looking shoe Shimano have yet developed. Shimano shoes have always shunned superfluous style, preferring pure function leading aesthetics. While that's still the approach these manage to look good too.

Twin asymmetric Velcro straps with an offset design spread load across the top of the foot comfortably, and a micro-adjust ratcheting buckle is easy to use with a fine range of adjustment to get the fit just right.

There's also more mesh panels on the new shoe, which may be fine in warmer climes, but at the time of writing, they've not seen the rays of sunshine, spending the entire test wrapped up in overshoes.

When it comes to fitting cleats to the sole, Shimano has vastly increased the range of available fore-and-aft adjustment. It's an increase of 11mm which maybe doesn't sounds all that much but if you prefer to fit your cleats at the range of adjustment, the these shoes give you much more scope for getting the cleats in the exact position you require. As bike fit becomes an ever more important part of buying a road bike and performance demands, it's fantastic to see Shimano placing great emphasis on the cleat adjustment. This is perhaps the R320s most appealing feature.

A couple of years ago Shimano bought clothing and shoe brand Pearl Izumi. The first step in the two brands collaborating is in the adjustable soles Shimano has borrowed from Pearl. They allow different height arch support wedges to be place inside the sole. This is an extra level of customisation not previously available with Shimano shoes. Three levels of arch support are available.

Custom-Fit

A key feature of Shimano's top-end shoes is the Custom-Fit. A thermoplastic material in the upper, heel and insole, which through a short process involving an oven and vacuum pack, are moulded to your foot. Custom-Fit is a free service and any decent bike shop with the right equipment will be only too happy to oblige. It takes about 20-30 minutes all in, which isn't a long time at all to spend on ensuring your new shoes are properly fitted.

The process starts by placing the shoe inside a warm oven and heating it for a few minutes. The shoe is then placed on your foot – and this is where the really clever stuff happens. A plastic bumper is fitted to the toe box, a hose from a small vacuum pump affixed underneath one of the Velcro straps and then a large plastic bag placed over the lot and sealed with a Velcro strap. The vacuum sucks all the air out and the pressure, along with some massaging by the fitter, moulds the shoe to your foot. As the shoe cools, the thermoplastic material hardens to retain its new shape.

Riding

And the result of this custom fitting process? An extremely comfortable shoe that literally moulds around the shape of your foot. And because they fit so well, I found I didn't need to apply much tension with the Velcro straps and ratchet to ensure they fit securely to my feet, even during hard bouts of pedalling.

I've been riding them for nearly five months, getting plenty of hard miles on them, and I've not had one single issue throughout the test period. They've continued to be astoundedly comfortable throughout. And they're proper stiff but without giving you sore feet or hot spots. And they look fantastic too.

The R320s will be available in both a normal fit and with an extra wide last, and cost £299.99. Weight for the size 45s in the photo is 589g on our scales. £300 is clearly a load of money, but you can easily spend a lot more. They're also very light for the money too. As an example, the Bont Zero shoes are 87g lighter but £90 pricier. Fizik's classy R3s are £80 cheaper, but 87g heavier.

Verdict

Light, incredibly stiff and oh so comfortable

road.cc test report

Make and model: Shimano R320 shoes

Size tested: 45

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?

Developed in conjunction with pro riders including Edvald Boasson-Hagen, it was first used at the Olympics. The new shoe has a wider cleat adjustment range than before and a new pedalling platform called Dynalast that Shimano reckon saves energy.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

UPPER - Heat moldable Custom-fit Technology

Rovenica® ultra-fine fiber synthetic leather

Supple, lightweight and comfortable

Excellent Elasticity with high memory

Superior durability and high-abrasion resistance

Open mesh for optimal breathability

Anti-slip heel lining, silicon-bonded

Carbon fiber reinforced ergonomic heel cap increases stability Carbon fiber reinforced ergonomic heel cap increases stability and heel holding ability for efficient riding

Custom-fit insole with adjustable arch wedge provides support of rider foot arch to optimize the heel born stabilization

LAST - Shimano Dynalast secures the foot into the ideal ergonomic position for a more efficient up stroke

SOLE - Shimano Dynalast technology sole

Light weight hollow channel, ultra-rigid, weaved carbon fiber composite sole with adjustable cleat mount

Available in half sizes and wide type

Best matched with Dura-Ace PD-9000

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
9/10
Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
9/10
Rate the product for value:
 
7/10

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

They're fantastically comfortable and stiff, a perfect combination that makes them the ideal shoe for the performance cyclist

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The fit and the comfort

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

There's nothing I really dislike about them. They even look good, which is a surprise

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?

A brilliant top-end race shoe

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180  Weight: 67

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,

 

9 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Shimano S-Works?

mr-andrew's picture

posted by mr-andrew [299 posts]
5th March 2013 - 20:44

50 Likes

pricey...but can I find a way to justify???

Fasterthanhisownshadow

posted by v_hobbs [4 posts]
5th March 2013 - 22:14

51 Likes

v_hobbs wrote:
pricey...but can I find a way to justify???

I can't resist offering my mini-review of their cheaper alternative - just started using the R170 (in a wide fit) shoes which are £135 and feature the new dynalast carbon sole shape etc. without the custom fit features.
They are working great for me so far, really stiff but grip the foot fantastically well even without the fastenings all done up really tight which seems to make quite a noticeable difference in terms of power transfer to me (really noticed that in TT's recently).

I'll be interested to see how they go come spring/summer as I tend to get cold feet, and was quite impressed with the different 'mesh' material that they've used in these shoes - they seem not to let anywhere near as much wind through but should still be perfectly breathable in warmer weather.

Whilst I've tried shimano shoes in the past, they've always been a bit too pointy shaped and never quite felt right on my feet. These new ones are more naturally shaped, akin to Bont's in a way with the toe box shaped like the foot. Plus they look FAR better than any previous models as stated in the review - personally I think the cheaper R170's look nicer than these top of the range jobs... decide for yourself:
http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/Models.aspx?ModelID=91465

G-bitch's picture

posted by G-bitch [311 posts]
6th March 2013 - 11:04

47 Likes

That's the good thing about Shimano, they're quick to trickle down features from the top to the more affordable mid-range products, making them really the pic of the range

David Arthur's picture

posted by David Arthur [1630 posts]
6th March 2013 - 12:09

50 Likes

So much comes down to individual fit. Personally I can't understand how these could possibly be more comfy than Speccy's brilliant BG shoes. And I prefer the Boa cable lacing system too. But each to their own, I suppose...

posted by Yennings [224 posts]
6th March 2013 - 14:03

47 Likes

Yennings wrote:
So much comes down to individual fit. Personally I can't understand how these could possibly be more comfy than Speccy's brilliant BG shoes. And I prefer the Boa cable lacing system too. But each to their own, I suppose...

I was wearing the Specialized S-Works shoes before these R320s, and had been wearing them for nearly a year. I too thought the same thing, but the Spesh shoes have been languishing at the bottom of the wardrobe since I got these Shimano shoes - they are much more comfortable.

I too prefer the Boa system usually, it's particularly useful for making adjustments when wearing oversocks. However, because of the Shimano's great fit, I never need to adjust the straps, I only have them lightly done up. And they'll never fail like Boa has for me in the past

David Arthur's picture

posted by David Arthur [1630 posts]
6th March 2013 - 17:21

52 Likes

Considering a "last" what a shoe is made around, giving its shape before removing it from the finished shoe - what's a "stiffer" last going to achieve exactly?

posted by Nick T [820 posts]
8th March 2013 - 18:47

49 Likes

I wear a 48 wide and the Specialized shoes had too wide a heel.

posted by snooks [19 posts]
18th April 2013 - 15:59

51 Likes

Just bought a pair of the R170s as recommended by G-bitch.

A dumb question; how do you remove the red plugs in the soles to move the cleat screw holes to the forward or rear positions? Do they simply pull out from the bottom surface of the sole (they seem to be stuck in with glue) or do you remove the inner sole, pull open the rectangular access cover and remove them from inside the shoe? Don't want to damage them trying to remove them the wrong way and the blurb doesn't cover it.

Many thanks.

posted by chrismday [49 posts]
14th May 2013 - 13:07

43 Likes

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