After years of riding with cold and numb toes we finally invested in weather resistant shoes. I should have done it years ago; there’s nothing worse than being on a ride with cold and wet feet. It’s hard enough finding the motivation to get out and ride when the temperatures drop and the forecast is rain.
Being back in northwest, we’re reminded daily that having the right gear makes all the difference. When it comes to winter footwear, the options available fall under three basic categories:
- Shoe covers
- Warm and/or waterproof socks
- Warm and waterproof shoes
For years we’ve gone with less expensive options, experimenting with various models and brands of shoe covers and socks. Some of them work acceptably, but after moving back to the northwest for our first real winter in years, we quickly remembered: being cold sucks.
This year at Interbike, I wandered the halls to seek out and discover the best of this year’s the winter options, and not willing to wait for a test model or loaners of any kind, chose to go with the Shimano MW7 all weather shoes.
SH-MW700 is the latest winter shoe model from Shimano. Replacing the SH-MW81, Shimano has finally moved away from hard plastic lugs, replacing them with rubber. I have no idea why shoe manufacturers took so long to make XC and trail shoes with a sole that provides actual grip, but I’m guessing we have sticky rubber specialists like FiveTen to thank for this long overdue trend. Unlike the previous generation, the rubber outsole is actually walkable, and you’re far less likely to fall on your ass on rocks or pavement.
Additional upgrades from the previous model include a speed lacing system that is similar to the ones used in snowboard boots. As you’d expect from a cold and wet weather shoe, it’s weather resistant and insulated, using a water proof Gore-Tex insulated liner to keep it all out. There are also reflective elements all over the shoe to provide additional visibility for riding at night.
On the Trail
The best part of the Shimano winter shoes is no longer dealing with wet feet. Stream crossings in the winter are always fun, but after a few, wet toes quickly turn into cold and numb toes. Splash from water was a total non-issue with the MW700 shoes. The top cuff on the shoe is made from neoprene, so it probably does a decent job slowing water down. That said, although they’re well sealed from the elements, I haven’t tried submerging my foot all the way underwater.
When stomping around in the woods the shoes were very walkable, while still being stiff enough to convey power. I tend to prefer all mountain type shoes, and these are inline with the other models in Shimano’s trail category. Most importantly, on hike-a-bikes over slick wood and rocks, the additional grip of the rubber sole was much appreciated. At this point I only have one pair of shoes left in rotation that feature slippery plastic lugs, and they’re just used for long distance riding where I won’t unclip at all. The slight increase in weight is worth it.
Sizing is the trickiest part of buying a winter shoe. More on that in a minute, but I’m pleased with the size I selected, as the MW7 makes a lot of sense for riders that reside in the northwest. The wet season lasts a long time and until we’re solidly into the dry season, these are likely to remain my go-to shoes. Shimano places this model as a trail riding shoe and it’s well suited for anything you can throw at it. We rode everything from snow rides to raw XC type trail rides, to slick, jump-filled flow trails.
I still found myself with cold toes at times, so choosing the right socks is key when heading out. This time of year, a thicker weight wool sock is ideal. When doing research into this shoe, I found a lot of riders recommended sizing up quite a bit. This makes sense if you’re riding in cold weather conditions, but sizing too big does detract from “trail feel”. On the occasion I double up on socks, I’m really just glad to be pedaling, as I don’t feel as solid of a connection to the bike.
While you can buy shoes on-line, there are some products best purchased hands on. Sizing was the biggest challenge when it came to the shoes. After combing through numerous online forums, I was convinced I needed to order several sizes larger than my usual size, so that I’d be able to run oversized or multiple socks.
I typically run a 42.5 to 43 shoe depending on the manufacturer. Based on advice to size up I read on a number of online forums I had Inga bring me home a size 45. They were waaay too big.
I finally visited the store in person to try them on and ended up settling on my usual size — 43. I wore a pair of thicker socks and had plenty of space in the toe box. It was the right call; our feet tend to swell over the course of a ride, and having a bit of room to breathe goes a long way, especially in cold weather. I’m able to wear an ankle high cycling sock and a thicker sock when its cold and still be comfortable, plus the extended length makes the shoe feel secure without heel lift.
Inga had a similar experience in regards to sizing. We both found the “sizing up” aspect to be built in, and we both ended up with the size in Shimano we’d typically wear. If you’re riding snow bikes in sub-freezing temps and get crazy with socks you might chose differently, but as we can both fit two pairs of socks comfortably we’re pleased with our selections.
Although you can find the previous model on sale for substantially less, the MW7 is worth the additional investment if you regularly find yourself with cold and wet feet and want something more than a flimsy shoe cover. Shimano has them listed in the trail category of their footwear, but I’d use these for cyclocross or on the road in a heartbeat. If it’s wet or cold out, these shoes are more than worth the investment.