Not long ago we tested the Shimano RC7 road shoe and found it to be excellent. Now we've got hold of the XC7 mountain bike shoe at the same level, and you'll never guess what: this one is excellent too. It's roadie-looking enough for the tarmac with enough versatility for the dirt too; cyclo-cross, gravel riding and mountain biking are all within its remit. As such, it's almost one shoe to rule them all. You can pretty much do anything with these.
At first glance you might be forgiven for thinking the XC7s are a road shoe: with a Boa closure and an unfussy, shiny upper they have a pretty racy look. Unlike the RC7s, which have a very stiff full-carbon sole, the XC7s have a carbon-reinforced midsole that's a bit more forgiving. That means if you're off the bike jumping the hurdles in a cyclo-cross race or pushing up an off-road climb that's defeated you, there's enough flex to make walking feel pretty normal.
There's a full Michelin rubber outsole, too, to aid off-bike grip, and you can fit two studs at the front for extra grip. The SPD cleat is recessed enough into the sole that you get plenty of purchase from the rubber on cafe floors, although the XC7s are still a bit click-clacky.
These shoes are really, really comfortable. Shimano has recently changed the last it uses to make its shoes, and whatever it's done has worked: the XC7s have proved to be fantastic from the off. Shimano used to offer custom fit at this level, but I haven't missed it: the synthetic leather outer is just right out of the box.
I completed the 200km Dirty Reiver gravel ride in these (10 hours' riding time) and a 300km ride to the coast and back (over 12 hours in the saddle) and foot comfort was never an issue. With the more flexible sole and the smaller contact area of the SPD system over road cleats there was always the possibility of pressure hotspots, but I never had any problems with these shoes and for the time off the bike they're much more practical than full-fat road shoes.
In hot weather the large mesh vent at the front does a good job of keeping your feet ventilated; when it's wet or cold you'll want to fit a neoprene toe cover as cold air and water get in very easily there. Foot retention is good, with the Boa SP1 wire system easy to adjust, and Shimano uses a cat's tongue fabric on the heel cup to prevent ankle lift.
Most of the time these XC7s are indistinguishable from a mid-range road shoe. At 796g the pair (size 48) they weigh about 200g more than the RC7s we had in the same size, but they're hardly heavy, and functionally you only notice the extra flex when you're really going after it. At the same time they're easier to walk in, look good, and can be worn for your off-road pursuits too.
When SPD shoes are this good, there's a decent argument for just wearing them all the time. Get yourself some single-sided road SPDs like Shimano's A520 for your road bike, and double-sided ones for your 'crosser, or commute bike, or mountain bike, or gravel bike, or whatever. Okay, if you're racing you'll probably want something a bit stiffer (and lighter), but for most types of riding these are just the ticket: well made, comfortable and versatile.
Shimano shoes have always sized up a bit small, and these are no exception. I have size 47 feet and a 48 in these is just right. If you can't try them on before you buy, it's best to size up.
Fantastic do-anything SPD shoes that'll handle sportives to mountain bike races and everything in between
road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano XC7 SPD 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: "The XC series is designed from the ground up for cross-country and cyclocross performance. Designed with an ultra-rigid, lightweight carbon fiber reinforced midsole and a supple high-density synthetic leather upper, the new XC7 delivers race-ready pedaling efficiency and all-day comfort.
"The Boa IP1 dials allow a highlytunable fit and the Boa Powerzone wire guide is adjustable to help maintain consistent tension along the top of the foot. Boosting performance on and off the bike, the XC7 features an exclusive outsole designed in collaboration with Michelin. The full-length dual-density rubber construction increases grip and durability and the tread pattern is specifically designed for mudshedding, helping to maintain lightweight performance even in adverse conditions."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Shimano distributor Madison lists these features:
Off-road racing shoes built for maximum comfort and performance
Ultra-rigid, lightweight carbon fibre reinforced midsole
Supple high-density synthetic leather with perforated venting for superior fit
Boa IP1 dials with Power zone wire guide and front strap hold foot securely
Adaptable cup insole
Exclusive Michelin high-traction, mud-shedding tread pattern outsole
Dual density rubber compounds provide the right balance of grip, durability and flexibility
Rubber anti slip arch outsole pattern
They size up small, so buy a euro size bigger than normal.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Upper is easy to clean.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really good all-purpose shoes.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
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
Great all-purpose shoes. Don't think they're just for mountain biking, you can do almost anything in these.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.