Lace-up cycling shoes are a throwback to times gone by. Somewhere along the line velcro and ratchets took over as laces were tossed by the wayside. Recently, however, lace-up cycling shoes have seen a resurgence due to their simplicity and retro styling. The Shimano XC5 is their lone lace-up entry and are intended for multi-surface use (road, gravel, MTB and urban).

Shimano XC5 (SH-XC500) SPD Shoes Features:

  • Supple synthetic leathers with perforated venting provide comfort and breathability
  • Lace closures with miniature power straps ensure a secure fit
  • Lightweight and rigid midsoles are reinforced with carbon fiber for durability
  • Exclusive nonslip Michelin┬« rubber outsoles shed mud and provide reliable traction
  • Reinforced spike mount is designed for extreme conditions, with an 18mm spike option
  • Reflective material on heels
  • Additional laces included
  • MSRP: $150
Shimano XC5 Shoes Review

The laces, perforated uppers and a mini power strap all work together with the XC5’s.

XC5’s are slipper-like… mostly

Stiff, but not too stiff has been my mantra for cycling shoes. The stiffest, most race-oriented shoes tend to be too stiff for everyday riding, so I gravitate to shoes like the Bontrager Velocis, which are plenty stiff and remain comfortable for miles. The Shimano XC5’s are built as all-day gravel shoes, but have enough versatility for light MTB or road use.

One of the big stories here are the laces, which, after an extended hiatus in cycling shoes, are becoming more popular. Nearly every major shoe line has a lace-up model or two. But, laces are not all rainbows and unicorns, so let me break it down a little.

Open UPPER with SRAM Red eTap aXS and Shimano XC5's

The Open UPPER is a great bike for testing the XC5’s — go anywhere, comfortably.

With the XC5’s, Shimano added a “mini power strap” in place of the third eyelet. This strap helps your feet feel planted and secure with an added boost in power. The way it’s attached allows it to pivot fore/aft just slightly to maintain a comfortable position throughout the pedal stroke for both low or high arches. Because of that, it also serves as a release point between the upper and lower laces to transfer lace tension.

I have low-to-medium volume feet and found the size 45 to be just right. I typically go between a 44.5 and 45 size, depending on the brand. With these, I’m cinching them down quite a bit with summer-weight socks, but not as much with cold-weather socks.

LOOK 755 Gravel RS / Shimano XC5 Review

Getting all matchy-matchy with orange socks and the XC5’s.

Laces do require a little bit of “set it and forget it” mentality because there’s no way to adjust tension on-the-fly. I’m pretty much a BOA fanboy, so admittedly going from infinite adjustability to laces did take some convincing. In practice, I found it important to anticipate some foot swelling during the ride and didn’t lace them up extremely tight — just snug enough. A double knot is mandatory here as well as using the lace loop to keep the laces in place. Did I wish to adjust tension mid-ride? Of course I did, but not once did it prevent me from enjoying the ride, nor did things get uncomfortable enough to warrant stopping and adjusting them.

So, yeah, laces are a big story here, but the carbon-infused midsole is worth talking about. It sports a flex index of 7 (which isn’t all that stiff compared to what I’m used to riding). Under power, you can feel it flexing. After a long ride, the soles of my feet felt a little fatigued by all that flex, but the uppers were otherwise very comfortable. My toes can spread out and the uppers are flexible enough to accommodate the 6th toe area. I never got numb toes or any significant pain, just a little bit of sole fatigue from all the flexing.

Shimano XC5 Shoes Review

That Michelin outsole is awesome and walkable.

Walking in the Shimano XC5 is better than any shoe I’ve got in the house. These have engineered toe flex for walking around on the road, gravel or at the cafe. A Michelin outsole features excellent traction that can be enhanced by adding toe spikes, if needed.

On cold mornings, the uppers kept my toes warm. There’s no mesh anywhere, but there are perforations on both sides of the synthetic uppers. That said, breathability isn’t going to be these shoe’s forte. I’ve yet to ride them in wicked-hot weather, but performance so far tells me they will be toasty when the mercury rises.

As an anecdote, when I was packing for Sea Otter Classic, I had room for a single pair of shoes and these were a no-brainer. I knew I could wear them for any type of riding. So, if you’re looking for that single shoe to rule them all, these are a great option.

I wore these exclusively with LOOK’s new X-Track Race Carbon Ti SPD pedals, which have a slight platform. The treads didn’t interfere with float or pedal entry/exit. And, all testing has been done on the Niner RLT 9, LOOK 765 Gravel RS and Open UPPER.

The Good

  • Could be that single-shoe solution for many
  • Mini power strap helps fit and comfort
  • Walkability is superb
  • Outsole grip galore
  • Stylish looks
  • Just enough forefoot stretch
  • Great for cold weather
  • Heel locks right in place

The Bad

  • Flexy midsole did cause slight discomfort on long rides (The RX8 is coming)
  • A heel pull tab would make entry easier
  • Breathability in hot weather is in question

The Bottom Line: Shimano XC5 Shoes

With the Shimano XC5, you get very comfortable uppers, a grippy, walkable outsole and a midsole that’s stiff enough to handle any type of riding. If you’re used to something stiffer, you’ll notice the flex, but it shouldn’t deter you from enjoying these awesome-looking and versatile all-road shoes.

Buy Now: Available at REI

In Summary

8.5 Dancing Shoes

The Shimano XC5 all-road shoes have a lot to offer. Those laces are pretty snazzy with comfortable uppers and an extremely-walkable sole. I wish they were a little stiffer for a little better power transfer, but The XC5's are a great option for those who value comfort and style in an all-road cycling shoe. And, they could very well be your "one shoe to rule them all."

  • Stiffness 7
  • Walkability 10
  • Breathability 7
  • Value 9
  • Looks 9
  • Fit 9

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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