Shimano SH-M152 retro shoe find

Digging around at the back of my bike shed recently I found a long-forgotten pair of Shimano mtb shoes at the bottom of a large box. Finding them in perfect condition after a decade of storage, I decided to give them a go. Just for old time’s sake, of course; no way should they be as good as modern footwear, surely?

The model in question is the SH-M152, which in 2001 retailed for a  thumping £85. The shoes weighed a meaty 914g and, according to BikeMagic, were “proper competition shoes which anywhere else will cost you £100 plus” . Clearly, sitting in a box for a few years is a good way to gain weight, this pair tipping the scales at 1051g with steel cleats. That’s a good couple of hundred grammes heavier than the weightiest of Shimano’s current mtb racing shoes, so progress has been made.

Few onlookers would deny that newer footwear from the Japanese firm looks better. The styling of the M152s is perhaps best described as dated, with drab greyish-blue polyurethane-coated leather panels stitched to a mesh upper with an integrally-moulded reinforcing grid. Three Velcro-type straps secure the shoe, so no real technological movement there, and there’s a generously padded heel cup that, according to BM, “makes the shoe feel very luxurious when you put it on and prevents chaffing [sic] on the move”.

Luxury indeed. The shoe’s fit is absolutely spot-on for my supposedly “perfect” feet; so good, indeed, that I wonder why I didn’t wear them out when new. Maybe something even better came along. Anyway, there’s plenty of room for toes, the fit over the middle of the foot is snug without a pressure point and the heel cup is – well – very agreeable. Interestingly, the shoes fit well despite being constructed of remarkably unyielding materials; for the first few rides, I wasn’t sure the straps would ever sit neatly and the tongue feels almost like carboard.

The sensation extends to the sole, which is stiff to the point of excess. Odd, really, since inspection under the standard insole reveals the usual Nylon-reinforced moulded mid-sole with added rubber outsole. BM’s description is accurate: “these are not shoes you’d want to suffer a long walk in. While the sole is plenty stiff enough for competition use, you may find it a little uncompromising on a six hour plus epic”.

They are, however, bang-on for serious road cycling. The first ride was something of a revelation; accustomed to mid-range mtb shoes these days, I was astonished by the clog-like absence of sensation through the sole and by what felt like a significant improvement in power transfer…

Maybe, like fine tubular tyres, the shoes have matured with age, the rubber soles and synthetic materials hardening up to reduce “give” and improve that all-important power transfer. And without, from the feel of it, any fall-off in wearer comfort. There is another possibility, which is that the particular design of the rubber outsole, with its studded football boot style heel and long bars either side of the cleat trough, is somehow stiffer than more recent designs. I do recall “back in the day” noting the stiffness of another pair of Shimano shoes with the same outsole, although they had an all-carbon midsole. Best cycling shoes I ever had…

These are not far short, only weight subtracting from their appeal. And looks, but then they are usually hidden under oversocks, so I don’t care. But supposing some sort of ageing process has been at work , in a good way. Time to buy a pair of your current faves and stash them away for 2021?

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