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Shimano RT81 shoes



Fantastic shoes that are just about perfect for non-racers

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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Comfy as slippers, safe to walk in and sharp looks too. Shimano's new RT81 shoes are a brilliant mix of proper road shoe and real world practicality. If you want a road shoe without the hassle of using road pedals, this is it: a road shoe for SPD pedals or indeed any other clipless pedal that with cleats designed along the lines of Shimano's mountain biking and commuter offerings.

To the casual observer these look like regular road shoes and damned handsome ones at that. In metallic bronze leather, highlighted with white flashes and with subtle, deepset reflective dots on the rear they look both sharp and purposeful. Flip them over and you get the true picture. Instead of a regular smooth carbon or plastic underside these have a thick layer of rubber, with massive bumpers either side of the cleat plate. This adds a little extra weight but makes them incredibly easy to walk in. My colleagues usually comment, with wearying regularity, about the clip-clop that heralds my arrival at work. Not so with these, I can sneak up in total silence and tickle them with a tyre lever if I want to. Polished floors no longer hold terror and stairs can be tackled without fear of finishing up head down and two floors lower than intended.

The rubber outer layer covers a fairly basic plastic sole which means that they are less rigid than a regular race shoe while offering more support than a soft leisure shoe. However, that translates into greater comfort both on and off the bike and if you're spending hours in the saddle either touring or on a long audax that extra comfort is easily going to pay back the small energy cost of not having a sole of iron and they really are amazingly comfortable. Shimano shoes usually come up thin and long but these accommodated my wide hobbit feet with no trouble. The velcro straps and ratchet buckle (which can be moved further down the shoe if you wish) offer easy adjustment and black micro-mesh panels on top take care of ventilation duties.

The sole plate is only drilled for two bolt cleats (the rubber bumpers preclude anything else) so you're limited to either SPDs or one of the other MTB style cleats which of course means you aren't limited to single-sided road pedals, but can also get the extrea benefits of ease of entry that double sided pedals offer, useful for commutes. I used these with Crank Bros cleats quite happily and there are plenty of pedal systems out there that these will work with. So if you've already got a set of MTB or commuting pedals you can have some road shoes without having to go to the expense of buying road pedals too. Shimano have taken things one stage further by producing a road pedal, the PDA600 SPD, aimed primarily at touers that uses their two bolt SPD cleat - so you can have the full road look and still have a shoe you can walk about in.

They might not appeal to hardcore roadies but tourists, audaxers, commuters and occasional sportive riders will absolutely love these shoes.


Fantastic shoes. For us non-racers these shoes are just about perfect.

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Make and model: Shimano RT81 shoes

Size tested: 43

Rate the product for quality of construction:
Rate the product for performance:
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Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
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Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 40  Height: 5\' 8  Weight: er....86kg

I usually ride: GT Rave - singlespeed conversion  My best bike is: Guess SC1 scandium

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed,

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Shades | 10 years ago

I moved into road riding recently and the LBS 'steered' me down the SPD route as they said I didn't need road cleats and they'd wear down too quickly. So glad they did as I borrowed a bike recently with road cleats. Off the bike the shoes were a nightmare. People at work using road cleats have flip-flops to get them from the bike park to the office.

handlebarcam | 13 years ago

Sadly, it seems this isn't one of the models that Shimano have decided to make in sizes above Euro 48. The Bontrager Street is a reasonable alternative if you need a 49.

John_the_Monkey | 14 years ago

cheers both.

My MT41s have lasted about 3 years, but are beginning to show wear now - and the laces drive me mad. These look to be just the job.

And we'll all be doing a lot more walking if UKIP get in, innit  3

jezzzer | 14 years ago

they look very nice indeed.

checked out the PDA600s tho ... and ... HOW MUCH??? £80?

Chuffy | 14 years ago

@John - The rubber sole is very thick and I don't reckon you'll wear it down in a hurry unless you're walking long distances on rough surfaces.

Incidentally, if you're rocking single sided pedals the bonus upside of the rubber sole is that the shoe won't go skating off as you try to clip in at traffic lights, roundabouts and other urban annoyances.

bazzargh | 14 years ago

John - I've had the previous models for a couple of years - actually the MTB version, which is identical except for more lumps on the sole (@gear_ratio has the road ones, did a comparison). They've lasted well, and are really comfy - good enough that on the last couple of 'travelling light' tours they're the only shoes I've needed, on and off the bike.

My only gripe with using them that way is that the padding and insole do hold a fair bit of water. Take out the insoles and stuff in towels once you're off the bike and they're dry in about an hour though.

Walking's fine (apart from the grinding noise) but it loosens the screws on the cleats, you need to check that what I didn't on the Ronde, with the result that a cleat detached near the end of the ride. Not the first time that's happened, but it's my own lookout, not really a problem with the shoes.

John_the_Monkey | 14 years ago

Any feel for the durability of them? I wear SPD shoes for commuting, and they do have to put up with a fair bit of walking due to the nature of my commute...

Shiny Flu | 14 years ago

I have the older RT80 model and besides the colour change, they're basically the same shoe. I absolutely love them. I tried SPD-SL for a good 2 years but having started out on SPD I just never got used to road cleats. I never had the 'hot spot' issues some people get with using SPD's, so I figured why not stick to what works best for me.

I use them for everything, from short scenic rides to long road rides. Totally agree, unless you're racing professionally and every mili-second counts, being comfy will mean better performance.

nick_rearden | 14 years ago

Can't agree more - I've had mine for about 3 weeks now, done about 6 rides. However, you say "occasional" sportive use? I can't imagine why a sportive rider and even a 4th and 3rd cat racer wouldn't be able or want to use these full time - mine have been much admired by "proper" racers and feel every bit as rigid and stable as my previous Carnac/Speedplay combo. Being able to walk around without slipping is so much better for the dignity in tea shops

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