Shimano GR9 Review
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|Pros||Supportive, robust build, good foot protection||Excellent pedal grip, comfortable, true all-mountain performance||Grippy, comfortable, lightweight||Great pedal grip, sturdy construction, protective features, comfortable||Impressive grip, protective, reasonable price|
|Cons||Sole is not as grippy as others||On the expensive side of the spectrum, Stealth rubber wears more quickly||More expensive than some, slim fitting||Heavier weight, sizing runs a little small||Heavier weight, limited breathability|
|Bottom Line||A durable and supportive shoe best suited for gravity-focused riding||The benchmark for flat pedal shoes, a true all-arounder that looks as good as it performs||A light and comfortable shoe with excellent grip that can pedal for long days on the roughest trails||A comfortable, beefy shoe with loads of protection well suited to gravity riding||A reasonably priced, versatile flat pedal shoe that offers strong performance and even stronger value|
|Rating Categories||Shimano GR9||Five Ten Freerider Pro||Giro Latch||Ride Concepts Power...||Ride Concepts Livewire|
|Fit and Comfort (25%)|
|Rigidity and Power Transfer (20%)|
|Specs||Shimano GR9||Five Ten Freerider Pro||Giro Latch||Ride Concepts Power...||Ride Concepts Livewire|
|Rubber Type||Ultread GR||Stealth S1||Tack Rubber||DST 4.0 MAX GRIP||Kinetics DST6.0 High Grip|
|Tread Pattern||Hexagon with direction toe and heel pattern||Full Dot||Gamma tread design||Full Hexagon Dot||Full Hexagon Dot|
|Weight per Shoe (ounces)||14.8 (size 10)||14.11 (size 11)||12.5 (size 10)||16.97 (size 11)||16.15 (size 11)|
|Weight per Shoe (grams)||420 (size 10)||399 (size 11)||358 (size 10)||467 (size 11)||458 (size 11)|
|Upper Materials||Synthetic leather, mesh||Synthetic Leather||Microfiber with Rockprint reinforced toe||Welded microfiber||Synthetic/mesh|
|Midsole||Lasting board, EVA, shank plate||EVA||Mute Foam 3D and HD polyethylene power plate|
|Insole||Volume Tour insole||AM/MT insole||3D molded|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The previous generation of the Shimano GR9 was our pick for a good all-around shoe for aggressive riders and this update carries this award in a new look that is (arguably) easier on the eyes than its predecessor. While some distinct changes have been made, like switching rubber compounds and removing the lace protector, we found this shoe to maintain its essence as a good choice for gravity-oriented riding. Over several weeks of ride testing, the GR9's protective nature and reliable embrace continued to challenge our insistence on a tacky grip being the sole worth of a flat pedal shoe. While we found ourselves wanting more from this shoe's traction on the pedals, it's entirely possible that many of the aggressive riders this shoe is built for have a better heels-dropped flat pedal riding technique than our testers, creating a more natural pedal traction with their body position. Regardless, Shimano's reputation for building comfortable and durable cycling shoes with technical naming lexicons extends to this solid shoe.
This shoe has decent pedal grip but was not a frontrunner in our tests. The new GR9 uses Shimano's proprietary Ultread rubber compound for the sole, a departure from the Michelin branded rubber on previous versions. The tread has also been redesigned and is now comprised of tightly packed hexagons with relatively medium-depth grooves between them. We had hoped that the new rubber and redesigned tread would be a big step up in terms of grip, but they proved to have similar grip to the previous version. Rather than relying on the tackiness of the rubber, these shoes have a different slightly different approach.
The Ultread rubber is not the tackiest feeling compound compared to shoes that set the benchmark for grip like Five Ten. It doesn't feel like it allows the pins to sink in all that much. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as not all riders have the same preferences, but if you're looking for a soft, tacky sole, there are better options. The new tread is quite different from the previous version and is now a tightly spaced grid of raised hexagons. The grooves between the hexagons allow the pedal pins to nestle between them, effectively creating more of a mechanical connection as opposed to the pins settling into the rubber itself. This does provide a fairly good connection to the pedals, but it is not as locked in and feels a bit different from other models. We'd suggest pairing this shoe with a burlier pedal with longer, sharper, or more pins to maximize grip.
When walking or hiking up a trail for another run, traction wasn't an issue. The tread pattern on sole breaks up into larger horizontal lines in the heel and toe areas, providing grip on dirt and rock. While testing in damp soil conditions we found the tread pattern tended to pack with mud, though a couple of scrapes across the pedal did help excavate some grip. Because the tread pattern is tighter than others tested, this shoe might not be our first choice for a trip to wet climes.
Fit and Comfort
The Shimano GR9 has ample padding and felt more voluminous than other shoes in our test, but the upper easily conformed to a lower-volume foot. Despite feeling like this shoe had a larger volume midsole and toe box, the length felt true to size. Shimano thoroughly maps out the differences in their shoe lasts, and the GR9 is designated with their "Volume Tour" last which has more volume in the ball of the foot compared to their other shoes. This generous fit could leave room for gravity-focused riders who wear additional foot or ankle support, though we didn't test for that.
While riding, the supportive nature of the ankle collar and robust heel cup was one of our first impressions. When rotating through shoes during a test day, others started to feel exposed and naked compared to the burly feel of the GR9. This support was particularly confidence-inspiring when rolling into features with harsh landings or in technical sections of trail. The heel also features ample reinforcement, as does the toe which has a beefy toe cap to protect from rock strikes. The ankle collar is also slightly asymmetrical, providing a touch more coverage for the medial ankle, and a neoprene gasket helps to keep dirt and rocks out of the shoe.
The previous generation GR9 used a speed lace system along with a lace cover flap, whereas the new GR9 uses traditional laces to cinch down the upper, which are wildly functional albeit a few seconds slower than the speed lace system. The laces do a great job of tightening the shoe, pulling even tension over the foot.
Rigidity and Power Transfer
The GR9 felt adequately rigid for transferring weight into the pedals when cornering and pedaling, but the shoes were still comfortable to hike in. Similarly, these shoes were not so stiff that feet were sore or uncomfortable after a day of downhill laps. Like its predecessor, this GR9 carries a "stiffness index" rating from Shimano of 3 on a scale from 2-12 (for reference, Shimano's carbon soled XC shoe, the XC9, carries a rating of 11).
While far from the stiffest shoes out there, they didn't feel like wet noodles on the feet when pedaling. They might not be the most efficient for big pedaling missions, but we also didn't find that our feet or calves felt overly fatigued while climbing or pedaling for extended periods. It is important to remember that this a gravity shoe, and pedaling efficiency probably wasn't the top priority in the design process, but it still performs admirably.
The GR9 offers sufficient levels of ventilation for a shoe this robust. A heavily perforated upper toe box in combination with mesh windows on both side of the midfoot allow heat to escape quite effectively. The neoprene ankle gasket does trap a little from escaping out of the top of the shoe, a tradeoff for keeping debris out. This is an improvement from the previous version of this shoe which tended to trap heat more than others tested and had no mesh windows.
After weeks of riding, this shoe has proven to be exceptionally durable, and the firmer rubber compound of the sole shows little signs of wear from pedal pins. The reinforced toe cap and heel help the shoe maintain form and protect it from abrasion, and on damp days the synthetic leather resisted water and cleaned easily. An asymmetric outsole helps resist some of the inner midsole wear from crank arms seen on other shoes. Like the previous generation GR9, this shoe looks to stand through several seasons of aggressive riding.
This shoe is not particularly heavy considering its burly construction and larger volume and is average among the shoes we've tested. Our size 10 weighed in at 420 grams (14.8 oz) which didn't feel cumbersome or noticeably heavy while pedaling. Compared to other shoes with similar levels of support and protection, they are a bit lighter weight.
The GR9 lands on the high end of the price scale, but our opinion is that it's worth the price based on this shoe's durability and support. These will be the best value to rider who wants a supportive and protective shoe for shuttle days or riding the bike park on big bikes, and who prefers a more moderate level of grip.
If you're looking for a supportive shoe to tally bike park laps or are on the search for a shoe to accommodate a larger volume foot, this could be your ticket. This robust shoe is well-designed and is ready to take on the roughest tracks and hard landings. The grip is more moderate and different than other brands, which may be a plus or minus depending on your preferences.
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