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The Shimano MT-701 Gore-Tex shoe is a waterproof, Boa-dialled treat for your feet. With enough flexibility to make long periods of walking comfortable, yet stiff enough to feel fine when mashing the pedals, these are destined to become a gravel-bikepacking classic.
Shimano has a well-earned reputation for waiting a long time to get products right, then releasing kit that becomes the new benchmark for other brands to aspire to. In the new 701 shoe, I'd say it's nailed gravel touring footwear out of the box, as it were.
I am at a loss to find fault with the overall experience: they tick all the boxes of waterproofness, grip and adjustability, with just the right balance of rideable-walkable stiffness.
Shimano markets the 701 as 'All-weather mountain touring, bikepacking or commuting'. The standout omission here is 'gravel', which will no doubt either amuse, enrage or placate depending on whether you see the fastest-growing cycle category as distraction, fad or natural evolution of the two-wheeled species. But make no mistake – 'gravel' is what the 701 was born to do, all day long, in any weather, over any terrain.
Taking a standard SPD cleat (not supplied), the 701 is perfectly walkable, with no hint of clack-clack-clack unless over rough surfaces. You could easily wear these around all evening, having reached your campsite or B&B. Aside from the Boa dial, they don't really scream 'Bike'.
The heelcup isn't as aggressive as some cycling shoes are – enough to hold the foot in place while riding but not so tight as to make walking uncomfortable.
Shimano rates the 701 a 4 on the 'stiffness index', but as there's no accepted industry-wide scale, you're left to assume that yes they are stiff enough for long gravelly rides, with enough give to feel OK walking. The tread is plenty aggro enough underneath to hold your feet in mud or on wet grass, the sole wrapping around the toe and heel and providing a decent amount of protection from scuffs and bumps without looking outlandish.
In order to facilitate Scottish Highlands-winter-compatible socks, I had to upsize to a Euro 47 from my usual 45. The shoe length was fine, it was just width that felt too restrictive. As ever, shoe fit is utterly personal, so buy with care and a good returns policy. Wearing a thick waterproof merino sock (Dexshell, as you asked) inside the 47, there was enough room to allow toes to move, keeping circulation flowing and things nice and warm.
Setup was as easy as you'd expect, the rubber cleat recess covers secured with Phillips head screws, exposing the standard Shimano SPD interface. The covers are easily replaced if you want to tour or commute without cleats at some stage.
The shoes' first outing was up a near-continuous 623m vertical ascent gravel climb with long pitches over 20%, and some bursts over 25-30%. Through all this lactic horror I never felt any heel lift or pressure over the top of the foot while pulling up with all my might to keep forward momentum through frost-heaved gravel and mud. If there was any effort lost to an overly flexible sole, I couldn't tell.
On the following 450m-altitude-loss 20% 4x4-track descent, the 701s helped keep things under control, steering by foot as much as the bar when the rear let go through the clag and bog – which was every other lever grab.
The finale riverside trails were littered with green, slick granite and tree roots, whereupon the brief cyclo-cross-style dismounts to clear unrideable pitches didn't feel dodgy, the forefoot and heel sections gripping through the leafmatter and mud alike.
The Gore-Tex lining did the job of keeping water at bay, be it from the front wheel or splashing along boggier walking sections. Obviously an open, low-cut shoe isn't going to work miracles in deep stuff, but if like me you pair it with a good waterproof sock, the combined barriers do the business, keeping moisture away from your feet and, critically, preventing thermal loss.
A few months back I reviewed the Fizik Terra Powerstrap shoes, and I liked what I wore. For £20 less you're getting Velcro and a less-walkable sole, and no waterproofness. Also, you're losing close to 200g in weight – not to be sneezed at if you're keeping things trim. But this is the great thing – even within 'gravel' you can now choose focused products suited to what you want to do, and how you want to do it.
One size will literally never fit everyone, and what 'gravel' means to you is different to me, or to pretty much everyone else. It's a spectrum. And before there are Letters, yes, the line between 'XC Mountain Bike shoe' and 'Gravel shoe' is a movable feast of nuance, point of view and lacing technology.
So, all this taken into account, for long gravelly rides requiring hiking through pastures new, wet and dry, followed by loafing about town or campfire, the Shimano MT-701 Gore-Tex shoes should do you a treat. They aren't the lightest or the stiffest – but they do represent crackingly good overall functionality and comfort, backed by the biggest name in the bike business.
Really good choice for long gravel or touring days or trips, in bad weather, where one shoe needs to rule them all
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano MT7 (MT701) Gore-Tex SPD shoes
Size tested: 45
Tell us what the product is for
They're for people wanting a comfortable, functional shoe suited to getting wet and muddy, mile after mile.
Shimano says: "A versatile shoe built for all-weather riding whether it's touring, bikepacking, commuting or a spin to the pub."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Breathable, waterproof GORE-TEX® Performance Comfort footwear liner keeps your feet dry
Robust toe cap for additional toe protection
BOA® L6 dial allows quick and precise micro-adjustment
EVA midsole and rubber sole for pedalling efficiency, walking comfort
Flexible half-length shank, shock absorbing EVA perform on and off bike
Weight: 398g (size 42)
Still scrub up like new, and everything's solid.
Pedalling-wise, can't fault them.
They still look and feel like new. The rubber outsole protects well.
Had to go up two sizes to get a good fit with thicker socks, because of the narrow width.
Had to size up twice for winter riding sock clearance.
Not the lightest, if that matters in gravel.
Pretty comfy for me, for long days.
You can pay a lot more for a Boa-dial shoe. For the performance, I think the price reflects decent value – they're not cheap, but with Shimano's reputation, they should last many years.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Yep, they scrub up well.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I really like them. So much so these are now my go-to gravel kicks.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The sole and tread. Rideable and walkable. And being waterproof – important in winter, not picking up lots of water.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Only the fit, really.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They're £20 more than the Fizik Terra Powerstrap. You can pay a lot more for a Boa-dial shoe, and at £169.99 I feel Shimano has the 701 about right, factoring in the Gore-Tex waterproofing.
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 overall score
I'm rating the 701s as very good, which they are, all things considered. At £170 and close to a kilo they clearly aren't The Messiah, but they will keep your feet happy for many long hours.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is: Velocite Selene
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb, Dutch bike pootling.