A Useful Review – The Shimano S-Phyre Wide Shoe Range

I’ve been wearing Shimano’s S-Phyre XC9 off-road shoe for several seasons now. I’ve coated them in mud, run through creeks in them, walked across logs and cattle grates and—no surprise—ridden more than 1000 miles in them.

I’m returning to this shoe because in the years since I first reviewed this shoe, I’ve gone on to wear three other off-road shoes from Shimano. While all of those shoes have performed well for their price point, when I recently returned to the S-Phyre shoes, its superior quality stood out in a noticeable way, kinda like hearing Led Zeppelin after nothing but Sonny and Cher for a week.

I’m going to start with the upper, because I just recently praised the upper in the Shimano XC7 shoe for how flexible the artificial (vegan, haha) leather upper was. Well, the S-Phyre upper is thinner and more flexible and has even fewer seams than the Shimano XC7. Point S-Phyre.

The BOA closure—which is not my favorite closure on the planet because due to the ease with which its micro-adjustability can result in over-tightening the shoe—is the top-of-the-line version, which counts for more than I previously respected. Every other shoe I have with a BOA closure or something BOA-like has seen the closures get fouled with dirt so that I have to physically pull on shoe’s upper to get the closure to release and open. The S-Phyre BOAs turn in both directions, allowing the rider to loosen the shoe as well as tighten it; that’s a feature not found in the BOAs in Shimano’s other shoes. This BOA allows the rider to pop the dial outward and it will release the BOA line with no tugging. Again, every other BOA-equipped offroad shoe I have has seen the dials foul with dirt. That alone may be the best feature of this BOA.

I can go chapter and verse about all the little details on this shoe like the powerzone lace guides which help to adjust toebox volume, the stabilizing heel cup and all the other features, but here’s why I like this shoe: The upper is very supple, unusually supple for an artificial leather. The lack of different panels sewn together reduces bulk and while that reduces weight, the real payoff is in keeping the upper flexible. 

I’ll point out that the Michelin rubber used for the lugs on the mountain shoe wear out quicker than most lugs I’ve encountered. However, the midfoot patch that I so routinely tear off shoes is still going strong on these. For gravel riding and mountain biking that can involve a bit of hike-a-bike, I like this shoe a lot, even despite the fact that the sole rates a 12 on Shimano’s 12-point stiffness scale. Take that, Spinal Tap!

Even at a rating of 12, I can say that this isn’t the stiffest shoe I’ve ever worn, and that’s a good thing. I’ve worn a couple of shoes so stiff that walking in them was uncomfortable and I have to give the S-Phyres credit for not making me regret the trip down the stairs to begin my ride.

As I’ve discussed in many other reviews, I have potatoes for feet; I wear the 42E in Shimano shoes, which runs accurate with everything else I wear—no need to add or subtract a half size relative to other brands folks have worn. For people with very low-volume or narrow feet, the aforementioned powerzone lace guides allow a rider to shrink the toe box in a way that most shoes can’t match. This feature is what causes me to say that for anyone who feels like their foot is even the tiniest bit too snug in the regular-width shoe, I’d go with the wide shoe because taking up the extra volume is so easy. Also, it’s worth considering for anyone who has a history of their feet swelling on long days; having your feet go numb because the shoe can’t be loosened enough to restore proper blood flow is as much fun as paying taxes.

In addition to the wide edition of this shoe, Shimano also makes a women’s version. When a cycling shoe company says they make a women’s last, usually they mean that this shoe is a bit narrower than the corresponding men’s shoe. Generally, that shoe will also feature a bit less volume.

This was once a $460 shoe, but it’s on sale in many outlets, for as little as $279. This makes me wonder if the next generation is coming, but faced with wondering if there’s a better shoe in the pipeline and going for this shoe for less than $300, I’d buy these.

Final thought: I’m pleased to report that there is no phyre for the wearer of this shoe.

Join the conversation
  1. Jeff vdD says

    Padraig, you write:

    “I’ll point out that the Michelin rubber used for the lugs on the mountain shoe wear out quicker than most lugs I’ve encountered.”

    When you say “mountain shoe,” are you referring to the S-Phyre XC9 reviewed here or a different shoe? If different, how is the durability of the lugs on the XC9?

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