Shimano GR9 Review
Cons: Expensive, not as breathable as other shoes
Our Analysis and Test Results
After racking up the miles through dusty desert trails, long gravel rides, and high alpine cold weather rides, these shoes stood out as a favorite with our testers. Even though the GR-9 are oriented to enduro and downhill riders, we found they rode as well or better than many of the other shoes we tested. We were impressed by their versatility and all-around performance.
When it comes to pedal grip, Shimano got it right with the GR-9. Rather than coming up with their own in-house proprietary rubber compounds, Shimano has chosen to outfit their riding shoes with rubber from the proven tire manufacturer Michelin.
Where many shoe manufacturers go with the familiar sticky dot sole patterns, the soles of the GR-9 have a finer yet more aggressive tread. The spacing of the lugs is pretty tight through the majority of the sole, including the key pedal contact zone. We found the narrow openings between lugs allow pedal pins to really mesh with the sole of the shoes, which creates a positive pedal grip. The spacing also seemed to enable easier fine-tuning of foot position while riding.
For those riders who are fortunate enough to ride in areas with trickier technical terrain that requires occasional hike a bike fun, the soles of the GR-9 won't let you down. The majority of the sole's lugs seemed like more than enough for grabbing steep trails, rocks, and roots while off the bike. The tread pattern immediately under the toe and heel of the shoe features larger and even more aggressive lugs that provide plenty of bite for hiking. We also found the nature of the sole pattern and lug shape made the soles of these shoes self clean pretty effectively rather than staying plugged up with mud.
Comfort and Arch Support
Right out of the box, you can see the substantial padding that's built into the GR-9, particularly around the asymmetric ankle, the molded toe reinforcement, and the well-padded tongue. This shoe is also equipped with a removable insole with built-in arch support and a speed lace system that appears solidly put together. The speed lace system makes putting the shoes on quick and easy, plus it delivers a comfortable and uniform snugness over the top of the foot.
When we initially put this pair on, we noticed that they are made for riders with lower volume feet. Our lead tester, who has an average foot found that the lace cover barely closed securely after pulling the speed lace snug. This may not be a factor for a lot of riders, but is something to keep in mind, especially for riders with higher volume or wider feet.
Where some flat pedal shoes feel like a well-worn street shoe out of the box, the GR-9's have a noticeably stiffer feel. We didn't notice any pinching at the arch as we've found with other shoes, but just that these have a stiffer feel overall. As the miles and altitude passed by, we noticed the extra support kept our foot comfort high and made the shoes feel like actual protective equipment versus just simple footwear.
With a weight of 13 ounces for a men's size 9, these shoes are surprisingly light for just how substantial they feel when you put them on. That's not to say they feel heavy, just that you'd expect more mass for such a protective shoe.
Rigidity and Power Transfer
After reading about the solid and burly construction of these shoes, you might be inclined to think they're going to be super stiff. In comparison to some of the more casual flat shoes we've ridden, the GR-9's definitely possess more rigidity, but when compared to the entire field, they're actually about average.
Shimano rates the sole stiffness of their cycling shoes on a scale of 1-10 and they rate the GR-9 at a 3 out of 10, putting them on the more flexible/walkable side of the spectrum. After riding and hiking in these shoes, we'd agree with their rating. The GR-9, like the other high-performance shoes in our lineup, is made with an EVA midsole that increases stiffness and protects the foot from impacts. These shoes are more than capable of cranking hard on the uphill and flats as well as the downhill, and we found they transferred power to the pedals relatively well no matter where we rode.
When evaluating the breathability of these shoes, it was a mixed bag. Initially, after pulling the speed laces snug and starting to pedal, we didn't notice any significant change in the perceived temperature of the shoe. But after riding just a short time, we noticed these shoes made our feet feel warmer than others, especially the models that are built with mesh ventilation panels. This was especially apparent when riding in open terrain on completely sunny days, likely due to the black color. Even though we thought we may experience some serious swamp foot, the temperature did equalize, and dozens of ventilation holes seemed to do the trick in keeping foot temperature and humidity levels at a pretty average level in comparison. So with all of that in mind, if you tend to ride in hotter and sunnier places, you may want to consider checking out the navy blue option.
We expected the durability level to be pretty high with the GR-9's, and after testing wrapped up, we weren't disappointed. The lugged Michelin soles showed limited tread wear, especially compared to softer rubber compounds. The upper's synthetic materials showed just a couple tiny superficial scuffs, and the speed lace system came through completely unscathed too. We can't see into the future, but it sure looks like this pair of shoes is in for several seasons of heavy use.
The GR-9 is on the high side of the price spectrum, but for hard-charging riders who take on everything, these shoes should provide a good value with their modern design and durability.
The Shimano GR-9 is an advanced level shoe that is oriented to gravity riders but is more than capable of holding its own on the climb as well as the super chunky downhill.If you're looking for a reasonably lightweight shoe that does it all well, we feel these are a good option to consider.
— Jason Cronk
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