The Shimano S-Phyre RC9 (RC903) Shoes are an evolution of the outgoing RC902s, and as a result they're a tiny bit lighter but just as impressively stiff, secure and comfortable as before. Good venting also makes them ideal for hot rides.
If you're looking for new performance footwear, check out our guide to the best road cycling shoes.
Shimano says this version is more rigid at the back than before, and more flexy at the front. That's in the upper, of course – the carbon sole is still rated 12 out of 12 for stiffness, and it's still extremely good at transferring all the power you can muster.
Despite the sole's stiffness, these are very comfortable even over bad surfaces – there's little of the high-frequency buzzing that some can transmit, and I never suffered any sudden, unyielding spanks from them when accidentally hitting potholes. The insole cushions and supports your feet (and arches) very well, without feeling thick or deadening.
The arch support can be adjusted, as the insoles hold inserts in recesses underneath with Velcro-like hook and loop. You can swap the inserts to different thicknesses (sold separately), or remove them completely.
The heel cup is excellent at holding you firm without any discomfort, despite losing the rubberised grippers of the 902 version – which were themselves replacements for the 'cat's tongue' fabric of the ones before. The shaping is good enough it doesn't want for either, and I had no issues with heel lift.
You still get a considerable vent through the heel and sole (you can see straight through the shoe), plus a wide vent just ahead of the cleat.
The perforations in the upper spread further along your foot than previously too, and the result is a shoe that cools very well. A little too well for springtime in Wales, if I'm honest, especially as my feet are already living experiments in what happens at absolute zero.
Metatarsal glaciers notwithstanding, my feet have pretty average dimensions, but there's a decent amount of room in the broad forefoot, if the amount I cinch in the front Boa dial is anything to go by. Shimano does a specific 'wide' version if it's still not enough for you, though only in sizes 40-46. There's also a women's version with its own specific shaping.
This new version is lighter, but only by 10g overall, or 5g per shoe – realistically that's so small as to be meaningless. The older pair we tested were actually 19g lighter than this new pair, purely because those were size 42 and these are 45. Basically, there's more variation between a few sizes than there is between model years.
I found the sizing just right, as the length is spot on with my heel snugged in tight – that's 'just right' in the cycling sense, where my usual size (45) is one up from my 'street' size (44). There's plenty of room and adjustment for thick or thin socks, too.
The Boa dials are Li2 so micro-adjust both ways (instead of just popping completely loose), which is always a boon.
If you're not keen on black, these also come in white and two spectacularly shiny, metallic-looking colours – blue or blood red. If you want people to know your shoes are properly spendy, go for one of those.
These are £349.99, which is about par for race shoes of this type. That's roughly 10 per cent more than the old version was two years ago, but there's little that hasn't gone up significantly in that time. Except, perhaps, the competence of our glorious leaders...
We recently reviewed the Suplest Edge 2.0 Road Pro shoes, which are more at £369.99, while the Specialized S-Works Ares, which Anna reviewed in 2021, are more again at £375.
Stu really rated the refreshed Giant Surge Pro shoes in his review, and those are a useful chunk cheaper at £299.99 while offering much the same stiffness and weight.
If you want to stick with Shimano, the RC702s that Nick reviewed last year are only a small step down for performance – they're 68g heavier in size 45 than the RC9s, and the Boa L6 dials don't loosen incrementally – but considerably cheaper at £189.99.
Alternatively, the very similar outgoing version of the RC9s – the RC902s – are still around and frequently discounted. At the time of writing, Freewheel (retailer for Shimano importer Madison) was listing them for £239.99.
These are lovely – stiff, efficient and secure, yet very comfortable, even on less-than-perfect road surfaces – and priced fairly for a top of the range race shoe.
Stiff, secure and light yet impressively comfortable race shoes
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Make and model: Shimano S-Phyre RC9 (RC903) Shoes
Tell us what the product is for
Shimano says: "OUR FLAGSHIP RACING SHOE EVOLVED WITH EVEN GREATER COMFORT, LESS WEIGHT, AND SLEEKER LINES."
Alright Shimano, calm down.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
-Lightweight and breathable microfiber leather upper provides optimal fit and superior comfort throughout your ride.
-Premium-finish heel cup with anti-twist stabilization secures optimal foot positioning for intense acceleration.
-Sleek, low-profile crossover lacing pattern elegantly secures forefoot.
-360 surround wrapping upper creates a supremely engineered fit for all riders.
-Dual low-profile BOA Li2 dials allow quick and precise micro-adjustments.
-Integrated seamless midsole and upper construction set a new level of fit, stability and lightweight performance.
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Rate the product for sizing:
Just right in my usual cycling size.
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How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Wipe off the same as most, and this black version hides scuffs and dirt well.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
They're light, stiff and very comfortable.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
That they're not the red version...
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They're right where you'd expect for a top-end race shoe.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, if you're offering to pay.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
These are stiff and efficient yet very comfortable, and they're light, too. There's really nothing meaningful to complain about. They're excellent.
Age: 48 Height: 183cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Vitus Zenium SL VR Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mtb,
Tomorrow night in the village hall. Bring cake.
Also drivers drive at a speed that feels right. Signs do bubbler all, it's all in road layout, width, furniture etc. signs are cheap however...
yeah, because what kind of a mother would risk a driving licence infraction whilst her child's life is at stake? Truly terrifying....
That would certainly be a good idea. It seems pretty crazy that we're saying we are committed to change yet still baking in motor vehicle...
Also, if you look on Michelin's website, they do not recommend using their 25s or 28s on 21mm internal rims (pretty common nowadays). I assume for...
pay up, whingers ...
Speedrockers for me and my pals on 42's
This is another of those "difference between Britain and America" things, isn't it?
I reckon they swerved to avoid the hi-viz cones