The Shimano XC-7 is a sharp mountain and gravel that got a redesign last winter. I’m riding it because it is —you guessed it—available in a wide version. Compared to Shimano’s higher-end shoes, this has a more flexible sole, which is most noticeable in how the toe flexes, which is to say, the toe actually flexes.
The thing I’ve noticed over and over again with shoes is that a flexible toe won’t cause me foot fatigue or soreness, but flexibility in the midfoot, that is, too much flexibility in the midfoot, will absolutely wear my feet out. A brief aside: years ago when I first started skate skiing the only boots I could find that fit me were for classic skiing and the midfoot flexed too much for good skating technique. After four hours of skating my feet killed me. The point being, flex in the toe won’t wear your foot out and will make the shoe much easier to walk in.
These are double-Boa shoes and allow for very fine adjustment of the shoe’s fit. However—and this is literally the only detail of the shoe I can criticize—the Boas are a less expensive version that can’t be micro-adjusted looser. The dial has to be popped and then pressed down again and wound up again, so it’s pretty critical to start with these a hair loose and only tighten them as much as seems absolutely necessary. My wide foot seems particularly susceptible to a cessation of bloodflow if I overtighten my shoes.
One reason I’m such a fan of Shimano shoes is that their uppers are unusually flexible, which keeps my piggies happy. Also contributing to that flexibility in the uppers is the way they join the various pieces of artificial leather. The process results in very little overlap, which helps to keep the upper supple.
The lugs on the bottom have proven to be more durable than those on the S-Phyre shoe made from Michelin rubber, and seem no less grippy on rock and dirt.
The XC-7 has a stiffness of 9, which sounds very stiff, until we remember that Shimano uses a 12-point scale. For me, I think their 9 is pretty Goldilocks. They come in red, black and white versions and 38-50 in whole sizes, plus half sizes from 39-47 in half sizes, and all those same sizes in a wide last. I’m wearing the 42 because their PR agency sent these to me before I learned about the half sizes in the wide last.
Final thought: Shimano is the Starbucks of cycling shoes: You can find them almost anywhere and they come in incredible variety. Thank Buddha.