Shimano R171 road cycling shoes - review

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Shimano R171 shoes – review

Distinctive design, excellent performance from Shimano's mid-range shoes

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.

On the face of it, the Shimano R171 shoes look almost identical to the top-end R321s
  • Specification

  • Price: £129.99
  • Sizes: 38-47 in half sizes & 48, 49, 50
    (Plus wide fit 38-47 in half sizes & 48, 49, 50)
  • Website: Shimano
  • UK distributor: Madison

One of the defining features of these shoes is the use of a ratchet and velcro straps, whereas a lot of mid to high-end shoes now tend to use BOA-style dials or even laces. However, these ratchets aren’t necessarily like those that we have become used to, as the ratchet sits on the upper of the shoe and fits onto the strap on the bottom, rather than the other way around, which is far more common.

It gives a solid hold over the shoe, which always feels secure when riding, although the lack of quick-fire adjustability is a bit of throwback. Aside from this, the R171s are very comfortable to wear and with closure across the length of the shoe, it means there aren’t any particular hotspots to cause discomfort.

The shoe has a carbon composite sole and it’s plenty stiff enough, offering barely any flex when sprinting or climbing, allowing you to really put the power through the pedals.

Staying on the sole, it also has an additional area of ventilation at the front, and toe and heel buffers to offer some protection when off the bike, but these elements aren’t replaceable like some shoes in the same price range

The carbon composite sole is plenty stiff enough when putting the power down

The shoes are also ventilated through perforations in the uppers of the shoes, offering a reasonable amount of air flow. I have certainly used more ventilated shoes in the past but it didn’t strike me as a particular problem here. The R171s weigh 592g for a pair of size 45s, which is about right for the money.

Conclusion

There’s a lot to like about Shimano’s R171 shoes, which offer plenty in the performance stakes for the £130 price tag, and share many of the features and the styling of the top-end R321 footwear. The sole is stiff when putting the power down but Shimano haven’t neglected comfort, either. Perhaps the ratchet and strap system is a bit of a throwback and lacks a little adjustability but it still works well. It’d also be nice to have replaceable sole buffers but that shouldn’t take away from a pair of strong performing shoes.

Pros

  • Comfortable full closure system
  • Stiff sole
  • Good value for a strong performance mid-range shoe

Cons

  • Ratchet and strap system lacks adjustability
  • No replaceable toe or heel buffers

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