The cheapest of Shimano's line-up of Boa-dial road shoes, the RP4s are snug, comfortable and easy to live with. There's a tiny amount of flex in the fibreglass-reinforced soles, but it's barely noticeable in use, and they're bang-on in the value-for-money stakes.
- Pros: Boa closure for on-the-fly adjustment, snug fit from moulded upper
- Cons: Non-replaceable heel pad
With a fibreglass-reinforced sole, a moulded synthetic leather upper, single-dial Boa closure and overall snug, foot-cradling fit, the RP4s might be the third-from-bottom in Shimano's road shoe line-up, but they're still a decent pair of performance shoes for all-day rides.
Your foot is held firmly but comfortably in place by a pair of Velcro straps at the front and a wide, slightly offset strap over the top that's adjusted with a Boa dial. In effect the Boa dial replaces the ratchet closure that used to be common on shoes in this price bracket, but provides finer adjustment of the tension, and is easier to release to either take the shoes off or tweak the tension as you ride.
There are as many ways of deploying Boa dials as there are cycling shoe makers. Some use a single dial and have the Boa wire do the job of laces, pulling together the entire upper. Others combine one or two dials with a Velcro strap or two, so different parts of the shoe can be adjusted independently, while still others achieve that with a pair of dials. We're not aware of any three-dial shoes, but what are the odds a shoe designer isn't beavering away on such a beast right now? And while most put the dial on the upper outboard side of the shoe, we've seen them right on top and even out the back.
What Shimano has done here is arguably the simplest way of using a Boa closure, because the shoe ends up very similar to a ratchet-buckle design, but with the lighter and more convenient dial in place of the buckle.
And it works well. Slip them on, cinch the Velcro, turn the dial till it's snug and away you go. I didn't feel the need to faff with the adjustment at all after that and in fact at the end of one ride found I hadn't tightened up one dial very much at all, but it hadn't mattered because the overall fit was so good the shoe had just stayed in place without any fuss.
And that's how the RP4s are: fuss-free. They just get on with the job of transmitting muscle power to pedal, without drawing attention to themselves all the time.
We make, in my opinion, too much fuss about sole stiffness. Shape matters far more because you want the force you apply through your feet to be spread evenly to avoid uncomfortable pressure points. When Fizik first got into cycling shoes its – very stiff – soles had a high arch that meant they only fitted a small percentage of riders well. Riding in them quickly became painful, for some.
Fortunately, the sole of the RP4s is really well-shaped and complemented by a firm insole that helps support your whole foot. Very sporty riders might want a stiffer sole, but the small amount of flex didn't bother me at all, and I suspect that for longer rides it actually helps a bit with foot comfort.
Shimano has done a good job with the detailing of the RP4s. There's a soft backing to the microfibre upper that's comfortable even with very thin socks or, indeed, no socks at all. Perforations cover the upper to help keep your feet cool, and the sole has a substantial vent under the toes.
Rubber pads under the toes and heel help with walking, though the toe pad is quite small. I'm tempted to coat them both with a sacrificial layer of Shoe Goo, especially the left toe. That's my touch-down-at-stops foot and shoes always wear there fastest for me.
The upper is perfectly shaped round the heel for me. There's enough padding that it's comfortable, but your heel is securely held in place with no lift or movement.
The sole is only compatible with three-bolt cleats, so you'll have to look elsewhere if you want to run road-style shoes with two-bolt SPD cleats.
For £115 you can grab a pair of DMT D5s, with a very similar combination of fibreglass-reinforced sole, moulded upper and Boa closure, though the D5s use the Boa wire to cinch the entire upper.
The Bontrager Circuit shoes that we tested a while back are still available for a hundred quid, and perform well for the money, though they're a little heavier than the RP4s.
If you're a bit strapped for cash, you can get dhb's Aeron Carbon shoes for just £70, while if you want to spend a bit more you've so many options it's silly, but I'd suggest you take a good look at the Fizik R4B shoes.
It's hard to get too excited about mid-level shoes like these. They don't have the featherweight wow factor of shoes like the Specialized S-Works EXOS, but on the other hand they're not 450 quid. Nor do they get the 'amazing value for money' kudos of some cheaper shoes. Rather, the RP4s are good, workmanlike cycling shoes that'll do you very nicely for long rides, sportives and maybe even your first race if you don't want to spend silly money on shoes. They're not thrilling, but they're perfectly good at doing what they're supposed to.
Decent-value endurance-riding shoes with a sound combination of Boa dial, synthetic upper, and fibreglass-reinforced sole
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano RP4 SPD-SL Shoes
Size tested: 43
Tell us what the product is for
They're shoes. You put them on your feet and push the pedals round with 'em.
To be precise, Shimano describes them as "affordable high-performance road endurance shoes", so they're intended for long rides, but not aimed at racers who tend to want the stiffest possible soles.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
High-density synthetic leather with perforation improves fit and breathability.
Boa® L6 dial for quick and precise micro-adjustment.
Off-set Strap relieves tension at highest point of the foot.
Lightweight glass-fiber reinforced nylon sole for power transfer.
Durable, wide heel pads provide walking stability.
Four colour schemes are available: red-and-black, yellow, white and black.
The available size range is vast, from 36 to 52 in full sizes in regular width, and the same in wide fit. Unlike some more expensive Shimano shoes, they're not available in half sizes.
There's also a women's model, RP4 Women, in sizes 35-44.
In general, moulded synthetic microfibre uppers like the RP4's seem to be a very good way to make sensibly priced, good quality shoes because they save a load of time-consuming sewing steps.
Shimano rates the sole stiffness of the RP4 shoes as '6' on a scale that appears to start at 2 for the CT500 round-town shoes and goes to 12 (two stiffer... Spinal Tap fans) for the RC901 S-Phyre road racing shoes. Nevertheless, the RP4s didn't seem unduly flexible to me; I couldn't feel the cleat through them when accelerating.
Too early to tell, but the feature that gives a little bit of concern is the non-replaceable heel and toe pads. I'll be avoiding walking in the RP4s.
Size 43 samples are a bit snug, to the point where I need the thinnest socks I own to be comfortable in them. But overall shape is spot-on, hugging the foot closely everywhere it matters.
I'm a 43 in just about everyone's shoes, but I could have done with a 43.5 in these.
541g/pair is pretty good for £100 shoes. I have much more expensive carbon-fibre-soled shoes that weigh about the same as the RP4s.
Despite the snug fit, my feet were comfortable on long rides.
For the features, fit and quality on offer here, £110 is decent but not amazing value for money.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Crud wipes off the microfibre outer easily.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well. The RP4s fit precisely, hold your feet firmly but comfortably and don't flex unduly. The ease of on-the-fly adjustment that the Boa dial provides is the icing on the cake.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Boa dials on shoes without a stratospheric price tag.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
A tiny bit more room would be nice.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
At their £110 RRP these are among the cheaper Boa-closure shoes around. The FLR F-11 Pros are a tenner cheaper but their soles lack the fibreglass reinforcement of the RP4s, while for a tenner more you can go totally retro with the lace-up Pearl Izumi Tour Road shoes.
If you want to spend around £100 on a pair of cycling shoes, you have a huge range of choices; the Shimano RP4s are very competitive in this category.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, if size 44 turned out to be a close enough fit.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The RP4s are well-executed, solid mid-level shoes with a good set of features. There's nothing outstanding about them, but they're fuss-free and comfortable. They're good shoes and therefore earn a bang-on 3.5/5.
About the tester
I usually ride: Scapin Style My best bike is:
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: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.