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When I was 16 and could only afford a bag of licorice, buying separate equipment for every discipline of racing was far from my mind. My SPD pedals and shoes did the job for everything (because they had to), and I never thought twice about what shoes to use since I only had one pair. But unlike my youth racing career, as gravel riding emerges into the race scene, so has the possibilities for gravel-specific equipment, and Shimano has now released a new RX8 shoe designed especially for the task.
But what does a gravel-specific shoe entail, you might ask?
Rather than beef up a road shoe, Shimano came in from opposite direction, scaling down the S-Phyre XC9 cross country shoe, which we reviewed earlier this month. Shimano focused on weight, eliminating unnecessary features to shave grams, but supposedly without sacrificing on-bike power transfer and overall comfort. The abrasion-resistant TPU lugs are more pared-down relative to the XC9, there’s a smaller heel cup, and one of the Boa IP1 dials has been replaced with a simpler (and lighter) Velcro forefoot strap.
There’s still a full-length carbon composite sole plate to keep things nice and stiff, though, and to circumvent smelly feet from hours in the shoes, Shimano also borrowed its Silvadur stay-fresh technology from its more premium models, adding the material to the insoles to keep bacteria at bay.
The RX8 is available in black, with silver being available at select retailers. Men’s shoes will come in sizes 40-50, and there will also be a women-specific version in sizes 36-43. Pricing is expected to be US$249 / AU$359.
And don’t forget: if high-end, race performance isn’t what you’re after, Shimano’s mid-range XC5 is also tailored toward the gravel crowd, but with a softer sole and uppers, and a more attainable price tag.