Look back at the final sprint at Paris-Roubaix and you’ll notice two of the top three riders were wearing Shimano’s distinctive R321 shoes. They have a divisive design (in every sense of the word), being half black and half white, and a high price – £249.99. However, for us mere mortals Shimano have their second tier shoes, the R171s, at £129.99.
The R171 shoes themselves look very similar to the top-end model, with the same distinctive black and white design. The front is slightly different, with additional vents included around the toes for the top-end R321s, but aside from that they look more or less the same.
The real differences are more subtle; as well as having extra vents, the R321s having a heat-mouldable upper to offer a custom fit (this accounts for a fair amount of the price difference and a stiffer sole, ranked 12 (on Shimano’s scale), compared to ten for the R171s which we’ll focus on here.