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Shimano RC5W SPD-SL Women’s Shoes



Good performance with premium features, and impressively light for the price
Well constructed
Closure system works well
Decent ventilation
Sole is quite flexible

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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The Shimano RC5W (RC502W) SPD-SL Women's Shoes are mid-range performance road models, with some premium features and trickle-down technology. I found them comfortable, though I'd say they're best suited to narrow to normal width feet, and at times the sole isn't as stiff as you might like.

They sit slap bang in the middle of the women's road shoe range, above the RC501W but below the RC902 flagship model. They come in a choice of three colours: white, black and a black and turquoise combination.


The upper is constructed from a combination of mesh/TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) and synthetic leather material, which I found to be quite supportive throughout my rides. The mesh over the toes certainly helps with ventilation, and as the test period took in a mixture of high and lower temperatures, I'd say the shoes are more than suitable for most temperatures the UK will experience in late spring and summer.

I found them comfortable over various ride lengths, even in high temperatures, but I would suggest they are not designed for people with particularly wide feet. I usually wear a wide in Lake shoes, for example, and though the RC5Ws were just wide enough for most rides, I did suffer a little after longer rides; I didn't experience hotspots, just a bit of rubbing on the outer toes.

2022 Shimano RC5W SPD-SL Women's Shoes - heels.jpg


Each shoe has one Boa L6 dial and one Velcro strap for the closure system. These offer sufficient adjustment, but the dial can't be loosened incrementally, so if you overtighten it you need to undo it completely before re-tightening.

2022 Shimano RC5W SPD-SL Women's Shoes - detail.jpg

As someone who is quite picky with shoes and often has to adjust them multiple times during a ride, it was a little bit frustrating. Otherwise, the closure system worked well.

Sole stiffness

Shimano boasts a 'carbon fibre reinforced nylon midsole for power transfer', and I could definitely tell that the entire sole wasn't reinforced. Instead, under extreme load such as steep climbs, I felt that the shoe flexed a little bit too much – particularly given its stiffness rating (interestingly, it's listed as 7 on the website but 8 is written on the shoe).

2022 Shimano RC5W SPD-SL Women's Shoes - sole heel.jpg

The sole is compatible with three-bolt cleats, and I tested them with Look Keos. I found them easy enough to set up, with plenty of adjustment.

2022 Shimano RC5W SPD-SL Women's Shoes - sole toe.jpg

Weight and value

The RC502Ws weigh 450g, which is very respectable compared with others in the same price range. For example, the Scott Road Team Boa Shoes that Emma tested last year are also £139.99 and weigh 558g (size 42), while the Bontrager Circuit Road Cycling Shoes weigh 576g (size 43) – and they've gone up to £144.99 since Alex tested them last year.

> Buyer’s Guide: 10 of the best high-performance road cycling shoes

George tested the men's version of these Shimanos a few months ago and also found they represent good value for the price, with the trickle-down technology (the Boa L6 dial and the design and fit of the uppers) from the top-of-the-range S-Phyre shoes giving them a leg up compared with the competition. (The men's are also available in a wide fit.)


Overall, I like the simplicity of these shoes. They're not particularly flashy, but they represent a good value pair of road shoes. The sole could be stiffer, but I would imagine it will be enough for most riders. The fit and comfort is snug but in a supportive way, and my usually picky feet responded well to longer rides in the sun without overheating or too many issues.


Good performance with premium features, and impressively light for the price

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Make and model: Shimano RC5W (RC502W) SPD-SL Women's Shoes

Size tested: 40

Tell us what the product is for

Shimano/Freewheel says:

'Lightweight, high-performance road shoes with unparalleled power transfer, benefitting from S-PHYRE trickle-down technology'

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Shimano/Freewheel lists:

Upgraded upper pattern and material improves fit and breathability, while reducing weight

Surround wrapping upper structure reduces overlap, providing a glove-like fit and eliminating hot-spots

Super low stack height helps stabilize foot, maximizes power transfer and efficiency

Integrated sole and upper construction sets a new level of fit, stability, rigidity and lightweight performance

Mesh/TPU/Synthetic leather composite upper provides comfortable fit and better breathability

Light carbon fibre reinforced nylon sole for power transfer

BOA® L6 skeleton dials ensure precise fit and comfort

Stiffness rating: 7 [NB: 8 written on the sole itself]

Rate the product for quality of construction:
Rate the product for performance:

The soles flex more than I would have expected with a stiffness rating of 8, but otherwise they performed well.

Rate the product for durability:

I have noticed some scuffing already during the test period, even with me being very careful to walk as little as possible in them. The heel and toe bumpers are also not replaceable so it's worth being extra careful not to wear them out.

Rate the product for fit:

The uppers fit nice and snugly and the ankle is supportive without digging in.

Rate the product for sizing:

They are not suitable for very wide feet, but I'm not sure people with particularly narrow feet would be comfortable either, unless wearing thick socks.

Rate the product for weight:

Very impressive for the price – over 100g lighter than similarly priced competitors in some cases.

Rate the product for comfort:
Rate the product for value:

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

Dirt was easy to wipe away, even on the white uppers.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Over the month as the shoes have moulded to my feet, they've become more and more comfortable. The only performance issue I have with them is the flex in the sole, which was noticeable during hard efforts, though otherwise not a problem.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The overall fit, materials used and the light weight.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Not entirely comfortable for wider feet, and not being able to loosen the Boa dial incrementally.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on

It compares well, especially if you take weight into account. For example, the Scott Road Team Boa Shoes are also £139.99 but weigh over 100g more, the Bontrager Circuit Road Cycling Shoes have gone up to £144.99 since we tested them last year (and weigh 576g for a size 43). The Udog Tensione Pure Black Shoes are a fiver less at £130, but weigh 606g (size 45), though they are a different kind of shoe.

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

They're very good: a classy pair of shoes with sleek styling. I've scored them 7 for performance, but I think the premium touches and their light weight lift them to an 8 overall; they're definitely worth considering for the price – as long as you don't have very wide feet.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 28  Height: 5'5"  Weight: 55kg

I usually ride: Bianchi Oltre XR1  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 5-10 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Gravel

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