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We brought you news of Shimano's new range of road cycling shoes last summer, and we've been testing a couple of models from it, we've already reviewed the impressive RP900 race shoe and now it's the turn of these, the RP5 SPD-SL road shoes, which are – in Shimano's words – "built for endurance events". They're an excellent pair of cycling kicks, offering both 2-bolt and 3-bolt cleat compatibility, and I found them so comfortable that I tended to forget about them while riding.
The RP5 (or RP500 – they seem to be called both) is available in either black or white – no garish Euro colours here – and the uppers are made of a synthetic leather with a rather unusual dimpled finish. It reminds me rather of a certain brand of posh wheels and maybe because of this, I think it looks rather good – in the flesh these look like more expensive shoes than they actually are.
Shimano makes no claims about the dimples giving any aerodynamic advantage, but it certainly makes for a different aesthetic to the competition, and even the rest of the range. The material is very easy to clean too, at least in our tested black colour – just a quick wipe was enough to get it looking like new again.
The sole is made primarily of glass-fibre reinforced nylon, with a carbon fibre plate beneath where the cleat mounts to provide additional stiffness here. You can get full-carbon soles at this price point, but mostly you're looking at non-carbon composite material as used here.
Carbon gives more stiffness in a thinner and lighter sole, but is also more expensive to produce. Here, the use of a glass-fibre sole makes for a shoe that's a bit heavier and less stiff than full-on racewear, but this doesn't claim to be a race shoe. Using a smaller piece of bona fide carbon under the cleat is a smart move – this is where the most concentrated forces are experienced and the shoe feels plenty stiff here.
Grab the RP5/500 from both ends and apply some force and you can make it bend to an extent that you wouldn't be able to with most carbon-soled shoes. The theory is that a stiff sole means all of your pedalling forces go straight into the cranks, and if you've ever tried pedalling hard in some really soft-soled shoes (such as a pair of Vans slip-ons) then you'll know it doesn't feel as efficient. However, in stiffness terms, the RP5s are much closer to a race shoe than they are to a pair of Vans, and the reduced stiffness wasn't something I really noticed when riding.
Comfort is an area where I found the RP5s really excel. I haven't always got on with Shimano shoes in the past (even the posh ones that you can heat-mould), but these shoes fitted my feet brilliantly. They are slightly unusual in that despite being a relatively slim fit, there's acres of room in the toe-box – more than in any other road shoes I can remember using. Shoes can be quite a personal thing, like saddles, so it's worth trying on a few brands to see whose geometry suits your feet, but these certainly worked for me; I've used them on all-day rides without any issues.
The RP5 uses a couple of Velcro straps and a ratchet – a pretty common arrangement. Unusually, the ratchet itself is on the end of the top strap, rather than fixed to the outside of the shoe. The main benefit of this arrangement is that one-handed removal is easier than with the ratchet the other way around. The strap has a couple of mounting points, allowing some minor customisation of its position.
You can use these shoes with either 3-bolt (road-style) or 2-bolt (mountain bike-style) cleats. They work a bit better with road cleats as the mounting surface is flat, not recessed into the tread like a mountain bike shoe. This means that if you fit 2-bolt cleats they're a bit unstable to walk in. Fitting some Shimano cleat stabiliser plates improve matters, but for use with SPD pedals I'd generally opt for an SPD shoe. That said, it's nice to have the flexibility to fit either – something that only a minority of shoes offer.
There's a decent chunky rubber grip under the heel – not replaceable but substantial enough that it should last – and a rubber bumper at the front too.
The RP5 is a well-ventilated shoe, with various vents in the sole and on the top. I've been mostly testing them in the winter, but I reckon they'd be just fine in the warmer months. Finally, there's a small but well-positioned reflective detail on the heel.
The weight is acceptable rather than outstanding – bear in mind these were tested in a size 48. The pricing is pretty decent too – a lot of features in these shoes have trickled down from more expensive Shimano models from previous years, with the absence of a full-carbon sole (and attendant weight penalty) the only real indicator that they are not a top-end shoe.
Very comfortable and smart-looking road shoes for a decent price – recommended
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano RP5 SPD-SL road shoe
Size tested: 48, black
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?
NIMBLE AND ROBUST CYCLING SHOE BUILT WITH THE ASPIRING RECREATIONAL RIDER IN MIND.
SECURE AND MORE COMFORTABLE
Surround upper pattern provides the perfect balance of holding power and absolute all-day comfort
Adaptable closure system adjusts to various instep heights and shapes
LUXURY FEELING IN DESIGN
Minimalistic aesthetic avoids the clutter of over-design with a clear focus on functional performance
OPTIMUM PEDALING EFFICIENCY AND COMPATIBILITY
Light weight glass fiber reinforced nylon sole with a carbon fiber composite plate for optimal power transfer
Indoor cycling friendly SPD and SPD-SL cleat compatible
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
2 and 3 bolt compatible
Synthetic leather uppers
Glass-fibre-reinforced nylon sole with carbon pedal interface plate
Typically well put together - this looks like a more expensive shoe than it is.
It's not as stiff as a top-level race shoe but is perhaps more comfortable because of it. You might opt for something stiffer for racing, but for all other riding this performed brilliantly.
It's held together well over the testing period and there aren't any obvious areas that will give problems.
They fitted my relatively narrow feet very well indeed. They are quite roomy in the toe box, more so than most shoes I'd say, so if that's an area where you sometimes find other shoes restrictive, these are well worth a look.
They sized in accordance with how Shimano shoes normally do. I'm a 12 in non-cycling shoes and a 47 in most cycling shoes, but always seem to fit a 48 (as tested) best in Shimano.
A reasonable weight for the money.
These are really comfortable shoes. I haven't always got on with Shimano road shoes in the past but these worked very well indeed for me.
These look and perform like more expensive shoes.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy, especially in the black tested. The dimpled synthetic material wipes clean of dirt really easily.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well – they are comfortable and smart-looking, and the price is very reasonable.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Looks are much classier than previous Shimano shoes – I also found them more comfortable than other Shimano shoes I'd used previously. I liked the reverse ratchet, fitted to the strap rather than the outside of the shoe, which made removal one-handed really easy.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not a lot really. They're not as stiff as a full carbon sole, but I think that's not really an issue for most cyclists (and probably makes them more comfortable for a wider range of riders).
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
I got on really well with these shoes and would certainly consider buying them. They wouldn't necessarily be my first choice for racing, but for all other use there's not really much wrong with them – they're very good.
About the tester
I usually ride: Commuter - something with disc brakes, drop bars and a rack My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.