We know. We get it. Another “gravel specific” product being touted as unique and special. But, like Shimano’s GRX parts group, the brand’s RX8 gravel shoe showcases a strong understanding of the discipline as well as a full commitment to bringing the best quality and usability to the competitive sector of gravel as well as to the serious mixed terrain explorer who rides more and walks less.
Shimano’s RX8’s look and feel like a high-end road shoe. At just under 600 grams a pair (size 44) they’re light with a weight that’s comparable (sometimes even lower) to many mid-level pure road shoes. A one-piece synthetic leather and mesh upper called Surround Wrap snugs and wraps across the main meat of the foot and locks in with a single premium level Boa IP1 dial with cross-over lacing. There’s also a single Velcro strap for additional tightening at the forefoot. Shimano has one of the most consistent sizing runs in the business and my test RX8 pair is no exception; they fit and feel just like every other Shimano shoe I’ve ever worn and are true to size. I’ve always worn size 44 with Shimano and these are no different, fitting like a familiar, favorite pair of night slippers right out of the box. They come in half sizes from 38-47, and 48-50 in whole sizes, as well as a wide version in whole sizes from 38-48; Shimano offers this in a women’s last as well.
Other niceties of the upper include a stellar heel cup design reminiscent of Shimano’s mountain bike shoes which prevents slippage in virtually all conditions. The well-vented upper allows for adequate, but not groundbreaking airflow. This will likely only be noticeable on the longest and steamiest summer swamp rides.
The sole is full carbon with a top-of-the-grid 10 stiffness rating and features minimal lugging. The non-rubber TPU lugs are a harder compound than most dedicated mountain bike shoes so they won’t grip rocks and logs as securely when off the bike like most mountain bike shoes, but they won’t wear out as quickly, either. The lugs are tall enough to prevent the cleat from hitting pavement and due to the compound and depth they provide pedaling platform stability and power transfer on Shimano SPD mountain bike pedals that rivals the best road bike shoe and pedal platforms. The toe area has a small front bumper to offer a bit of protection from rock strikes and a flat, integrated gripper area in front of and behind the cleat mount adds a bit of extra security, especially if you briefly miss clipping in.
As a gravel and mixed surface shoe, Shimano’s RX8s are one of the best available for racers and gravel purists. They are stiff, comfortable and deliver power right to the pedals like a great road shoe and pedal combo. The soles are just compliant enough that walking can be done when needed, be it up a tough climb, through a mud wash or for a nutrition break at a random deli. They feel great on the road as well if you want to avoid the exposed cleat situation and resulting duck walk at every stop. What these aren’t are pure mountain bike shoes (unless you seldom to never hike-a-bike), a cyclocross choice (the lugs are far too minimalist and there’s no option for toe spikes) and especially not bikepacking (way too stiff a sole, and good luck hiking around while wearing these).
Ultimately what Shimano’s RX8s are is a benchmark performer in competitive gravel riding and the mixed terrain market for the connoisseur of speed in performance drop-bar dirt riding. Plus, they come in a selection of really cool colorways at a great price point of $250.
What’s not to get about that?