One of the worst things about riding through the winter is getting cold, wet feet. A good set of waterproof overshoes can help, but if you can stretch to a set of winter cycling shoes then they're a bit less faff to get on and off and should last a lot longer. The RW5 Dryshield SPD-SLs from Shimano certainly kept my feet warm through some fairly grim days, but the waterproofing is only effective if you can keep the opening covered, which I found difficult with bib tights.
The RW5s are made using a DryShield membrane, which is pretty effective at keeping water at bay. Road spray and showers didn't trouble it, and it was only when riding in persistent heavy rain that I got wet feet. The problem, as ever, is in stopping ingress around the leg. Shimano has used a neoprene cuff intended to provide a basic seal around the leg, but your leg and ankle are moving continuously when cycling, and it's just not a very good seal.
With some overshoes, I can get a good overlap with the bottom of my bib tights, which serves to prevent the water running down my legs and straight into my shoes. Here, I found the neoprene cuff was about an inch too short to achieve a reliable overlap with a range of tights. That meant heavier rain would get in via the top of the shoes fairly easily.
What these really want is some good waterproof trousers, cut long enough to comfortably overlap the top of the shoes. It's fairly hilly around these parts, and waterproof trousers just don't work for me – leaving me as wet from sweat as I would have been from the rain. If you wear waterproof trousers then these shoes would do an excellent job of keeping your feet dry.
The RW5 is the road shoe in Shimano's 2016/17 winter range, and there's the similar MW5 shoe which is aimed at mountain biking. These RW5 shoes have holes for 2 and 3-bolt cleats, with minimalist markings to help with alignment – I'd have liked these to be more visible. They work best with road cleats, as without a cutout to accommodate the 2-bolt cleat they're not very stable to walk in. If you're intending to use mountain bike pedals, I suggest you'd be better looking at the MW5s.
Closure here is via a "speed lace" and a series of Velcro flaps. The speed lace is similar to that used on snowboard boots where you yank on a long loop of thin lace and slide down a friction lock to keep it tight. It's a low-cost solution, but it's certainly quicker than tying laces and I found it pretty easy to get a comfortable fit. There are three different flaps that you close up after tightening the lace, which is a little bit more fiddly than seems strictly necessary.
Fit is good. I've got on well with recent Shimano shoes, and it's the same here. As with the RP5 from last year, there's loads of wiggle room up front, so if you find that some shoes pinch your toes, these are definitely worth a look. The inner surface of the shoe is lined with a fleecy material which I found really helped keep my feet warm and cosy.
The absence of carbon fibre in the sole makes for a bit more flex than some higher-end shoes, but I doubt this will be an issue for most people – these don't pretend to be race shoes. Winter shoes tend to be quite a bit heavier than regular cycling shoes, and at just under 900g for a pair of size 48s, these are lighter than some I've used, such as the MT90s.
Shimano has thought about visibility, which is welcome, and used a novel fluorescent material around these shoes that also glows in the dark for a while after being exposed to light. These yellow sections aren't as eye-catching in car headlights as true reflective material, but they're better than nothing.
So what of the holy grail of warm, dry feet on a filthy day? Well, you'd either need to have overlapping waterproof trousers, or to use some sort of gaiter around the top of the boots (I've heard of people fashioning a gaiter from the wrist part of a rubber workshop glove). Worn with tights and no seal, they'll keep spray and drizzle off, but won't keep your feet dry for long if it's really teeming down.
Warm and comfortable winter shoes, but they won't keep heavy rain out for long without assistance
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano RW5 Dryshield SPD-SL shoes
Size tested: 48
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 says: "BUILT FOR RIDERS WITHOUT AN OFF-SEASON
"Entry level waterproof road winter shoe"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
From Madison's website:
DRYSHIELD® membrane with fleece liner keeps feet warm and comfortable in rain, wind and cold.
Insole with fleece liner for added insulation and heat retention
Lace flap and neoprene ankle collar keep out water and dirt
Adaptable cup insole with fleece liner
Speed lacing system allow fast, easy adjustments and a secure fit
360-degree Fluorescent reflective printing
Neat and tidy. The speedlace closure and fairly basic non-carbon sole are nothing fancy but it all holds together well.
They're definitely less stiff than a top-end race shoe, as you'd expect, but for general winter riding that's really not a problem. If you can keep the top of the shoe covered (for example with a waterproof trouser overlapping) then they do a good job of keeping rain out. It's hard to get an overlap with bib tights, though, and in my experience this meant wet feet.
Velcro can lose its sticky after time, which would be a problem here as it's how the flaps are held down. That aside, no obvious causes for concern.
Roomy up front with plenty of wiggle room for toes. Generally fitted pretty well.
Shimano tends to size small, so I wore a 48 whereas in most brands I'd be a 47.
A reasonable weight for a pair of winter shoes.
Shimano describing £130 shoes as 'entry level' left me a little uncomfortable. They're broadly in line with lower-end winter shoes from other brands, though, so it's about the going rate.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No issues – dirt wipes off easily.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Generally well. They kept my feet warm on cold days and dealt with road-spray or drizzle very well. Heavier rain would get in fairly quickly as it ran down my legs. You'd have better results if you had waterproof trousers overlapping the top of the boots.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good comfortable fit. Warmth on cold, windy days and effective protection from spray and showers.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I'd like the neoprene cuff to extend further up, making it easier to overlap with water-resistant tights.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe, but I'd probably opt for the MW5 version which works better with 2-bolt cleats.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
These are comfortable, warm shoes, but I think most people wanting a 3-bolt cleat compatible shoe won't be wearing waterproof trousers. And if you're not, you'll get wet feet. If the cuff extended an inch higher, getting an overlap with DWR-treated or softshell tights would be easier, and that would help keep the rain out.
About the tester
I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh 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.