Tuesday, August 14, 2007

8/14/07 - New Shoes - Shimano R-300!

It's been said many times over that the best piece of equipment is one you don't notice. Well, after taking my new Shimano R-300 heat-moldable shoes out for a ride this morning, I never realized how much I was "noticing" my old shoes!
That is not to say that I didn't notice the new shoes, it's just that the things I was noticing were so good, so positive, and so much better than anything I had experienced before, I was shocked at what I had been missing. It is easy to say that the stiffness, stability, and comfort (and you know how much I love comfort) are best-in-class from this shoe. I don't know why we aren't hearing more about these from the big cycling websites like cyclingnews.com or pezcyclingnews.com - who are famous for their product reviews. So, I'll review them for you here instead.

First, what makes this shoe distinctive: The R-300 has thermoplastic panels strategically placed in it that allow it to be custom fitted - through a heating and vacuum-forming process - to a rider's foot for maximum comfort and efficiency. The panels are placed across the top of the forefoot, in the heel cup, and within the top buckle-closure strap. These are key areas for efficiency and eliminating hot spots or pressure-points where traditional shoes can sometimes become quite uncomfortable. The shoe is heated in a proprietary oven to an undisclosed temperature which activates the thermoplastic.

 The rider slips on the shoe and straps it down while a Shimano-trained fitter places a vacuum bag over the shoe and rider's lower leg. The vacuum process creates a lot of pressure around the rider's foot and can be somewhat uncomfortable. (I was seriously expecting something quite different when Shimano fitted me to a pair during my training - I was quite sure the vacuum was sucking the very blood out of my feet and through my skin; which may be physiologically impossible, but that's what I was picturing.) But, the few moments of discomfort during the fitting process are worth it as all that pressure is what is custom-forming these shoes to the very contours of your feet, creating the amazing level of efficiency and comfort - and I believe a different level of stability - that these shoes provide.

The insoles are also heat-moldable; reducing the break-in time of the shoes and better conforming the foot bed to your unique contours. The heat-molding of the insole also helps to better place the additional arch supports and "metatarsal bump" that Shimano includes with the shoes. (A metatarsal bump sits below and behind the bones in your forefoot and is used to spread the bones apart in order to improve circulation to eliminate hot spots and numbness in the toes.)
So, how's the ride? The big things that became apparent to me (because, according to my opening line, I didn't notice them...:) ) were that 1) I could strap my shoes down tighter than I was used to due to the better fit - therefore reducing the amount of power I was losing due simply to my foot moving around in the shoe; 2) even though my previous shoes (Nike Hautacam - their former top-of-the-line shoe) used Trek OCLV carbon in the soles, their stiffness paled compared to the R-300, making the Shimano more comfortable and more efficient; and 3) every one's legs look better in silver and white shoes!
Some of the efficiency is also due to a fabric that Shimano has placed strategically in the heel cup that they appropriately call "cat's tongue". It feels smooth if you run your finger down it toward the insole, but as you then run your finger out of the shoe, it feels rough. This rough texture grips your sock, holding your foot securely in the shoe. Never before have I actually felt the "glued-to-the-pedals" feeling that some people seek, but these shoes sure gave me a glimpse into what that feels like. And, while I use Speedplay's Zero Stainless pedal system, I can actually see how using the Shimano pedal system could only increase the feeling of stability and integration I felt. I'd certainly recommend using the whole SPD "system" together as Shimano has designed it to work. (Hmmm, maybe I'll have to get some new pedals...)
So after an afternoon's reflection, I actually have nothing bad to say about these shoes. I love them! And, the even better news is that; while at $350 the R-300 is Shimano's top road shoe (and the M-300 is it's MTB equivalent), Shimano has promised more models with Thermo-Form technology for 2008 at lower price points. There is a distinct advantage to this technology, and soon they'll have it available for most riders. But, if you're looking for the best, don't wait and get the R-300; it will see no changes for 2008 and possibly 2009.
Thanks for reading.


  1. How are the shoes holding up?

  2. Good question. Thanks for asking.

    The shoes are great. I took a good ride just last Saturday and did a great deal of climbing (West on Skyline Rd. past Cornelius Pass for those who know...) and still hold to every comment I made in my original review. Stiff, stable, comfortable.

    The only unexpected thing that I've noticed is that - due to the near-perfect fit - the shoes are somewhat unforgiving when it comes to cleat positioning. I've had to pay closer attention to putting my cleats in the right place. But - if your original fitting with these shoes is done by a professional and you also pay for a cleat fitting (great use of your time and money) you shouldn't have any trouble.

    My cleat issues stem from two conditions: 1) I do all my cleat adjustments myself and 2) My Speedplay Zero cleats are set for no float - also a very unforgiving setting; but rewarding and comfortable when set properly.

    The construction of the shoes is top-notch. After several months of riding, a very limited amount of walking, putting on and removing shoe covers and toe covers, and abuse by a two-year old (he loves daddy's shiny shoes) they're holding up great. The clear-coat has cracked and peeled off the toe and heel bumpers on the soles; but that's to be expected, really and hasn't spread to the rest of the carbon composite sole. I'm still quite satisfied.

  3. nice share...keep it up...

    Big Ocean Fish



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