Following on from the release of its GRX groupset, Shimano has continued down the gravel route with these new RX8 SPD shoes. A stiff, lightweight yet rugged shoe perfect for performance riding away from the road, or on it for that matter – especially for those who like to be able to walk off the bike. They are a fair old chunk of cash though.
Now I know plenty of you will be thinking that this is a marketing department's dream, but what Shimano has created with the RX8 is a shoe that really benefits your riding on the gravel, especially if your aims are at the racier end of the scale.
Unlike heavier mountain bike/trail shoes that many of us use, the RX8 is based on Shimano's top end road race shoes, and that is exactly what they feel like when you put them on.
They are light, too, at just 618g for this pair of size 45s.
The synthetic leather used for the upper feels supple and the wraparound design, instead of a traditional opening in the centre filled by a tongue, does away with any pressure points when fastened using the Boa dial and Velcro strap.
The heel cup is a snug fit, which stops the rear of your foot lifting when pedalling hard on the upstroke, giving a feeling of efficiency while maintaining comfort.
Continuing the theme is a full carbon fibre sole, which is rated at 10 on Shimano's 12-level stiffness score. It's irrelevant as a comparison across brands as they all have their own criteria, but comparing these to the Shimano S-Phyre RC9 road shoes that score 12, the RX8s have just a little bit more give which is a benefit when it comes to the beating your feet take from a rough surface.
They are still stiff, though, and if you are really out on a mission racing around the trails and hammering up steep climbs, you aren't going to be disappointed.
I found the shape of the sole to be very supportive with just the right amount of height under the arch of my foot, although that can be controlled by swapping the 'mid' insert for the included 'high' option should you need it.
Bonded to the carbon sole are two treaded sections to help you walk on rough terrain. It's not as deep as that found on Shimano's XC shoes, so it's not fantastic in the mud, but for hardpacked surfaces it works absolutely fine.
The cleat is well recessed as well, keeping it out of harm's way, and to prevent the toe and heel upper scuffing they are covered by rubber bumpers.
The only downside to having a carbon sole on a gravel shoe is that as soon as you start walking on the stones it gets scratched quickly, which is annoying if you want to keep your 200-quid shoes looking spick and span.
The upper is tough and resistant to rubbing and scratches. I'm a big fan of the silver camo colour too, although if they are a little bling for you there is also a black camo option. There's a women's version too, in navy blue camo only.
A lot of road riders also like to use shoes with a recessed cleat so it's easier to walk around when not on the bike. If that's you and you're after a performance race shoe, the RX8s could be ideal.
Priced at £219.99, the RX8s aren't exactly cheap, but gravel shoes from other top brands are a similar price or higher.
They're cheaper than the Giro Empire VR90 MTB shoes at £249.99. I've owned a pair of these for the last couple of years and they're very good, but the RX8s are lighter and I find they give a more secure and closer fit thanks to the wraparound upper and the Boa system over laces.
Rapha's Explore shoes cost the same but for a penny, £220. The Raphas have a rubber sole with a carbon plate rather than the full carbon fibre of the Shimano, and are a fair bit heavier at around 780g.
Bont has a performance gravel shoe in its line-up, the Vaypor G, which Dave was impressed with when he tested them last year. They have a mouldable carbon sole, which adds to the comfort, but are a massive £359.99.
If £220's too steep, the Fizik X5 Terra SPDs, though not technically a gravel shoe, are a less extreme mountain bike shoe with similar looks to Fizik's road range and a lightly treaded composite carbon fibre sole, all for £150. Liam said the sole was very stiff without being harsh.
Overall, I'm a big fan of the RX8s. I love the fit, and the shape throughout the sole and upper is spot on. Their lack of weight is also really noticeable over many mountain bike shoes. If you take your gravel riding seriously, these are an excellent option.
Comfortable, light and stiff like a road race shoe but with the ruggedness and durability for dealing with gravel trails
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano RX8 SPD Shoes
Size tested: 45
Tell us what the product is for
Shimano says, "If you're the type of person who loves to head out the door with no goal other than to enjoy the ride, then the Shimano RX8 Gravel shoe is for you. We merged the best of both road and XC shoes to create the perfect balance between pedalling performance and capability, both on and off the bike. It's basically our most versatile shoe that has you prepared for any adventure on any terrain.
"While RX stands for 'Road Crossover', Shimano's new line of Gravel components, we like to think of the RX in its name as a prescription for those who crave excitement, the great outdoors and living life to its fullest. The RX8's light weight and high performance also make it the ideal shoe for gravel competitions."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Super stiff and lightweight carbon composite sole.
System engineered with SPD pedals for maximum pedaling efficiency and stability.
Lightweight, abrasion-resistant TPU lugs for the best balance of pedaling performance and off the bike capability.
Surround upper pattern provides the perfect balance of holding power and absolute all day comfort.
Boa® IP1 with dual micro adjustment function.
38 - 50
Wide type size: 38 - 48
Depending on the brand, I wear 44 or 45 and it was the latter for the RX8s, so you might need to size up one compared to other manufacturers.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The upper cleans off easily with just the wipe of a cloth.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Exactly what you need for riding fast on the gravel.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great performance and comfort.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
A minor point but the carbon sole scratches quickly.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The RX8s aren't exactly cheap but gravel shoes from other top brands are a similar price or higher, like those mentioned in the review from Bont, Rapha and Giro.
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
The RX8s are impressive gravel shoes, mixing the performance of a top end road racing shoe with the qualities of a quality mountain bike shoe. They are also light weight and very well made.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!