Like reviews of all expensive kit, this one comes with the caveat that yes, £280 is a lot of money to spend on a set of cycling shoes. But, just like £60,000 cars or £10,000 watches, they do exist which means there must be a market out there for them somewhere: hence this review.
With that out the way, what catches your attention about these shoes (after you’ve removed that cold flannel from your forehead after seeing the price tag, of course) is the looks. Rapha’s Climber’s Shoes are a really good-looking set of bike kicks. The three colour schemes mean there’s something for everyone, and the different colour on the lower strap is typically Rapha. There’s a very obvious reason the British-born brand has become so popular and that’s partly because they make great looking kit. The legendary footballer Johan Cruyff once claimed that “there is no better medal than being acclaimed for your style” and Rapha have taken that idea and built huge success upon it.
As you’ve probably guessed for something with the ‘climber’s shoes’ moniker, the two central concerns with these is that they’re light and breathable. Light they certainly are, weighing in at 488g (244g each) for our test set in size 45, and breathability is managed by the perforated synthetic leather uppers.
And perforated is certainly putting it mildly. There are scores of holes all over the uppers, all of which are backed by mesh, and this combination works together to ensure a constant airflow through the shoes, keeping you cool even in the hottest environments. I’ve been riding in a huge variance of temperatures in these shoes, and when the thermometer gets to the mid 20s or higher, that’s where they really shine. Conversely, they’re so well ventilated that overshoes or Belgian booties can be required even when it’s reasonably mild outside. They’re genuine summer shoes, that’s for sure.
Closure is a three-strap hook and loop system (aka Velcro, but not the branded sort) on each shoe. It’s very easy to dial in fit just right using the three straps, and you can have them as tight or as loose as your heart, or feet, desire. It’s also another weight-saving feature, as straps are lighter than ratchets or BOA dials, even though by that point you’re probably talking tens of grams rather than something that’ll make a significant difference.
Personally I found the shoe extremely comfortable too. The uppers are soft and malleable, which means that they feel great even when your feet expand due to heat. The other side of that is that if you like shoes with a stiff upper locked down tight for racing, you might feel that they lack a little support in that department. The heel cup isn’t overly padded, but provides plenty of comfort and I had no issues with rubbing either. Plus the fit is good enough that even though there’s no special anti-slip lining I had no problems with my feet moving about, even when out of the saddle.
Like all bike shoes, there is a slight wearing in period. I found that putting them on and going out straight away for a three hour ride inevitably meant that for the first little while there was a bit of discomfort from the top of the tongue and the sides underneath the medial malleolus and fibula on either side of the foot (those are the two bits that stick out to the side on your ankles). But after a couple of hours that feeling had diminished, and as early as my second ride all that had disappeared as the shoes had adapted to the particular peculiarities of my feet/ankles.
The soles use Easton’s EC90 SLX carbon – the same as the soles in Giro’s top-line Prolight SLXII shoes – and they’re about as stiff as you could wish a shoe sole to be. They’re also reasonably comfortable too, which might sound like an odd thing to say but I’ve struggled in certain shoes in the past when the soles have been so stiff enough that they’ve left my feet sore. Of course, part of the reason for the excellent fit is that the Climber’s Shoes come with a set of Giro’s SuperNatural Fit insoles which have three interchangeable degrees of arch support which just helps to dial in the fit a little more straight out of the box. One other little nice touch on the sole is the replaceable heel bumper. For most shoes, you’ll probably consider replacing them before you wear right through the bumper, but for a set that cost £280 it’s reassuring to know that you can eek out a few more miles before they reach the end of their life.
Rapha’s Climber’s Shoes certainly deliver substance to back up their undoubted style. They’re comfortable, are extremely well ventilated and have very stiff soles. The one possible complaint is that the uppers might be a little soft for potential racers, but seeing as some of the Sky riders have been using the shoes this season it’s likely not something to get overly worried about. As ever, the one stickler is the price. If you’re looking to drop £300 on a set of bike shoes, you should definitely consider these. But if you’re not, then don’t worry, they won’t make you £300 faster.
– Strong looks
– High comfort
– Excellent ventilation
– Some might find the uppers lacking a little stiffness
– Price is jaw dropping