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Shimano's MW7 Gore-Tex SPD Shoes are comfortable, waterproof and pleasingly easy to use. They have a grippy sole for gravel and mud, use a single Boa dial and a lace-shielding flap and take two-bolt cleats. They prove easy to get on and off, quick to clean and kept my feet warm in temperatures down to just below freezing. They can take a while to dry out once soaked, though.
I've previously worn out a pair of Shimano winter boots – the MW81s – as they were such faithful companions on six winters of cold rides. In terms of warmth and waterproofing, these MW701s aren't much different, as you get a Gore-Tex insulated, waterproof liner with a Velcro ankle cuff up top.
The main difference is the closure system. Where the MW81s used three Velcro straps, the MW701 uses a single Boa L6 dial. This is a massive improvement; the Boa dial makes micro-adjusting tension a cinch. It only works only one way with the L6 dial though, and releasing tension is all or nothing.
The dial sits just outside a Velcro-down flap that provides a bit of extra weather and mud protection, and makes cleaning a lot easier too. All this makes getting these on and off about as easy as regular summer shoes. For me, this is Reason Number One to own a pair of winter boots (Shimano calls them shoes, but you know what I mean) like these. I'm all about efficiency, and whereas overshoes are a source of minor irritation to get on and off, these are easy to live with.
Early signs are that these are as durable and well made as my old MW81s, so they'll outlast quite a few sets of overshoes too, which certainly helps add value.
Reason Number Two is that, at least in my experience, these are more waterproof than all the overshoes I've tried. They are not completely waterproof though, and for two reasons: one is that there is a hole in the top for your leg. Unless you cover the hole with waterproof trousers to below the neoprene ankle cuff, rain and spray is going to find its way in.
The other is that because the liner is waterproof, when you're riding in proper weather and the outside is soaked, the breathable membrane doesn't work as well – eventually your feet get soaked from sweat.
With overshoes, you get the same problems, but worse. Overshoes tend to be less breathable, and they can't cover the sole of the shoe on account of your cleats; the waterproof liner in the MW7s, meanwhile, envelops your whole foot.
The flipside is that when the MW7s do get soaked, they can take a long time to dry out, as is the case with any winter boot worth its name where the liner is not removable.
In dry weather, these winter shoes work well for me from when the mercury hits single digits down to just below freezing. I've found that warming them up on the radiator for ten minutes before setting off makes all the difference when it's below zero, just to eke out a little more comfort. In proper wet weather I found them good down to about five degrees.
The MW701s get a stiffness rating of 5 from Shimano, on a scale that goes up to 12. For winter riding, this is fine, but they are not what you would call performance shoes; they sit more towards the comfort end of the scale. That is exactly what I want from a winter boot: warmth and comfort are my main requirements, though yours might be different.
The outsole is a grippy Michelin dual-density rubber, and as these are SPD shoes, the cleat is recessed, which makes comedy situations in slippery conditions less likely.
My usual shoe size is 43. I know from experience that Shimano shoes size up small, and the accepted wisdom is to size up for winter boots to fit thicker socks. As my old MW81s were a size 45 and fitted fine, that's the size I initially requested for review.
They turned out to be boat-like on my feet, and the size 44s I have now are on the generous side. To confuse matters further, I am also reviewing a pair of Shimano XC7 shoes at the moment, they're also a size 44, and they fit just right. In other words, the MW701s size up big, unlike other shoes in Shimano's range.
While £199.99 is a fair chunk of cash, it is pretty much the going rate for a pair of decent winter cycling shoes. Fizik's Artica X5 offroad shoes and Artica R5 winter road shoes are £10 less at £189.99, while the Mavic Ksyrium Pro Thermo road shoes were £199 when we reviewed them a couple of years ago, though they seem to no longer be available.
Northwave's Magma XC Cores are cheaper at £169.99 and Shimano's own MW5s are less at £140, but the latter use speed lacing instead of Boa dials, and the sole is not this super grippy Michelin one.
As ever, you can pay more. Steve really liked Northwave's Celsius R Arctic GTX road shoes, which are now £214.99, while Fizik's Terra Clima X2s are £250. Rachael didn't rate them very highly, however, whereas Mike found the £275 45NRTH Wolvhammer Boa Winter Cycling Boots to be 'pretty much the last word in extreme cold-weather cycling footwear.'
Shimano's MW7 SPD winter shoes are easy to get on and off, comfortable, warm, and as waterproof as any boot with a hole for your foot can be. The Boa dial is well positioned and the flap makes cleaning them afterwards easy too – just remember the sizing is more true to street sizes than many.
Warm, comfy, easy to use and easy to clean – just be careful with the sizing
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano MW7 Gore-Tex SPD Shoes (MW701)
Size tested: 44
Tell us what the product is for
Shimano says: "Tough, insulated, waterproof, and comfortable shoe built for riders without an off-season."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Waterproof GORE-TEX Insulated Comfort liner for maximum comfort.
Integrated lace-shield design with high cuff cover construction.
BOA® L6 dial for quick and precise micro-adjustment.
Fleece-lined insole for added insulation and heat retention.
360-degree reflectivity for high visibility.
MICHELIN high-performance, dual-density rubber outsole offers superior traction with unmatched durability, stability, and slip resistance.
Torsional midsole 'TORBAL' allows natural rider 'flow' motion during downhill descents.
It's accurate to normal shoe sizes plus a little bit of room for chunky socks – but as the rest of Shimano's shoes aren't, it may catch some riders out!
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Easy to wipe clean.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For me, these are the perfect balance of weather protection versus ease of getting on and off.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
They are very comfortable, and easy to get in and out of.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The long drying time.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
While £199.99 is a lot to pay, it is not at all outrageous compared to other decent winter cycling shoes. I could only find Northwave's Magma XC Core significantly cheaper, whereas there are plenty at a similar price point (from Fizik and Mavic for example), and more expensive options from the likes of Sidi, Northwave and 45NRTH.
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
These work extremely well and prove warm, comfortable, grippy and well made. They're as waterproof in real-world conditions as you can seriously expect, promise to last well thanks to Shimano's proven build quality and are priced well against the competition. There's little to dislike.
About the tester
I usually ride: All of them! My best bike is: Ribble Endurance SL disc
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: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, mtb, Zwift