Shimano XC90’s very smooth overall design catches the light nicely
Shimano XC90’s very smooth overall design catches the light nicely

Shimano XC90 Shoes


Shimano XC90 Shoes


By Peter Cole


Preview of the Shimano XC90 Shoes prior to a full review


Nearly quarter of a century has passed since the SPD (Shimano Pedalling Dynamics) clip-less pedal system was introduced to the MTB and XC cycling community. It’s a testament to how right the design of the original PD-M737 system was that these 1990’s pedals are still instantly recognisable, and you could probably click straight in on shoes equipped with Shimano’s latest cleat offerings.


Shimano XC90’s very smooth overall design catches the light nicely

Shimano XC90’s very smooth overall design catches the light nicely


These shoes, however, which form the second – and undoubtedly more biomechanically significant – part of the SPD system, have undergone a far more radical evolution. It’s hard to believe how primitive off-road cycling footwear was in the late 80’s, consisting of little more than a choice of football trainers or for the really serious a set of Adidas cyclo-cross shoes.


Shimano’s new flagship model XC shoe, the SH-XC90 in typical Shimano nomenclature, is a design study in state-of-the-art pedalling dynamics technology. Let’s examine some of these features from the ground up…


Designed to match the PD-M980 and PD-M985 SPD pedals, the XC race tuned carbon outsole is narrower, lighter, and stiffer and puts the ball of your foot closer to the pedal axle than the outgoing M315 model. In what is perhaps a nod to Spinal Tap, the carbon soles proudly proclaim that the stiffness has gone to 11, making this the second most rigid Shimano sole after the R320 road shoe, and that is despite a 1.7 mm reduction in stack height of the soles’ complex, three piece composite-carbon construction.


XC90's sole offers increased stiffness and yet is thinner than the previous model

XC90’s sole offers increased stiffness and yet is thinner than the previous model


The cleat area of the sole is beautiful naked carbon-composite weave. This is protected by the typical cleat pontoon-blocks found on the previous off-road models, as well as three low-profile replaceable running studs. In addition, the toe-box has twin resin running studs which can be swapped out for metal tipped spikes in more extreme conditions. The toe box wraps up at the front of the shoe and incorporates two small mesh ventilation windows. The carbon on the mid-sole is covered with a transparent, non-slip, bumpy-surfaced polyurethane moulding to prevent ‘foot slips’ when you flat foot the pedal during fast re-mounts.


The rear of the sole has a semi-bath tub design and a moulded, polyurethane heel designed for mud shedding. The heel cup is integrated with the sole, and features an anti-slip lining of one-way-grip fabric for optimal heel stabilization.


The attention to detail carries on with the shoe’s very smooth overall design; in this case this is not governed by aerodynamic considerations, rather the intention has been to improve the mud shedding capability and ease of cleaning. Whilst on the subject of cleaning, and as would perhaps be expected from a heat mouldable shoe, Shimano specifically advise against using washing machines and dryers to clean the shoes or exposing them to temperatures of 50c or higher.


Shimano XC90's heat mouldable insole and arch supports

Shimano XC90’s heat mouldable insole and arch supports


For those unfamiliar with Shimano’s heat mouldable custom-fit technology, it is a two stage shoe fitting process offered by Shimano Technical Center dealerships. First of all there is a heat mouldable insole with tuneable high, mid or low arch and toe supports that is tailored to the rider’s foot and shoe. The second stage is vacuum moulding the heated shoe around the rider’s foot and cooled insole.


Braking loss is the unwanted loss of power that occurs on the upstroke part of a pedal cycle (between the crank angles of 200 and 360 degrees). The Shimano Dynamics labs have developed a new range of shoe lasts for the SH-XC90 shoes. Shimano Dynalast technology reduces braking loss by promoting a smoother, more efficient pedalling action, cutting braking loss by 5.23% and increasing pedalling efficiency by 0.56%. That might sound like very little, but these marginal gains can make all the difference in competition. Shimano makes its own lasts, upgrades them every year, and offers the widest range of lasts of any cycling shoe manufacturer.


The SH-XC90 comes in two widths in half sizes from 37.5 to 46.5 and full sizes 36 to 48. The synthetic leather upper is made of Rovenica®. This ultra-fine lightweight fiber has a fit like natural leather, superior ease of care, durability, high abrasion resistance and a remarkable memory and strength that always brings the shoe back to its original shape. The shoes are fastened by the well tested twin-velco plus ratchet method. The innovation here is Shimano have relocated the middle (X-Cross) fastening attachment point to be in the reverse direction to the toe velco and the low-profile micro-adjust blue-anodised aluminium ratchet fastener. Shimano’s reasoning behind this X-Cross Strap change is that it places the velcro ring away from the foot tendons, relieving pressure on top of foot during push off motion and ensures in more even tension in the uppers during closure of the shoe uppers. The Rovenica uppers have additional panels made from Shimano 3D mesh; three layers that control temperature, wick away moisture, and provide ventilation.


A pair of the XC90 shoes weigh 627g (size 40) and is available in blue or black. Look out for a full review soon.


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Shimano UK (Madison)


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Written by

Simon Whiten (London and Northumberland, UK) has been riding for over 20 years and raced the road and the track extensively in the UK and Europe. He is obsessed with the turbo trainer and the ‘shortcut to race fitness’.

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