The Shimano S-Phyre RC9 shoes are another fine example of the dangers of trying high end cycling kit. It’s always the same – try high end kit and you’ll never want to ride in the cheap stuff again and the RC9’s continue that tradition.
For last year or so, the Shimano S-Phyre RC9 shoes have been my “go to” choice for almost every road ride, so this review is a real world one with a 4 figure distance spent out on the roads and lanes riding in these shoes. During that time, my view on these shoes changed and as it stands today I’m a big fan.
Shimano have been making cycling shoes for many years, but they’ve not always made great shoes. However, during the last 4-5 years in particular, they’ve got properly serious about delivering great shoes and the RC (&RP) range for road cycling are now something they can be justifiably proud of.
The S-Phyre range for Shimano is designed to be their pinnacle – much like Dura Ace or XTR groupsets are & I recall when these shoes were first released back around the beginning of 2017, people I knew in the bike business and bike press kept telling me how great they were and also how they managed to combine a super stiff carbon sole with excellent comfort.
The BOA closures were a big change for Shimano too as the company had previously said that they weren’t sure about the long term reliability of BOA closures – it appeared they’d changed their position. People including myself, also loved the colours and finish of the RC9’s – a pearlescent white that I have but also bright fluoro yellow and a stunning blue. There’s now also a black option.
When I received a pair myself, I was impressed with the colour, the fit and finish and surprised to get a pair of S-Phyre socks too.
The fit was perhaps a touch snugger than I was expecting but as race shoes these were designed for close fit and the purpose of the supplied socks became clear – that thinner socks give you a better fit in these shoes and allow them to cup your feet more. I have tried big thick Woolie Boolie socks so you don’t have too – don’t bother. In fact I’ve taken that long to write this review that Shimano have since released an updated version (the RC901) that has a new material for better grip around the ankle/heel amongst a few other small tweaks. I have found for the best fit, thin socks are best.
The carbon soles are rated a 12 on the stiffness scale (that I imagine used to go up to 10), so they are super stiff, which is terrific for power transfer – these are a fun shoe to wear on days when you go on the attack on the bike. However for the first 500km riding, I found that the stiffness of the sole actually made my feet a bit less comfortable. Interestingly over time, they shoes have become more comfortable to ride in. The sole has obviously remained as stiff but the rest of the shoe has “broken in” and I’ve come to agree with other reviewers who’ve said that these are a very comfortable high performance shoe.
The BOA closures have been faultless so far and I’ve no reason to consider that they won’t continue to be.
Another change in the updated RC901 is greater breatheability of the upper but I’ve not once found that an issue on the RC900 – especially with good thin socks. Sure it’s great that it’s now better but it was already very good in my view. The synthetic leather upper has performed very well on these shoes – they still look very good considering they’ve had a lot of use. However an experiment I took to see how easy they cleaned has back fired and mine have small marks all over the uppers. I had been wiping them clean with a damp cloth on rides and this had been keeping them as new, so I thought I’d leave them dirty for a week or so after a damp ride and once the muck dried on them, I’ve not been able to get it all off ever since. My fault entirely but annoying nonetheless. They’re mostly clean though (if you have any tips, please leave a comment).
Shimano make the RC901 in a good range of sizes, the BOA closures make for an adjustable fit and there is a good range of cleat movement to help most people be able to get a good fit. Shimano shoes are also a good option for people who can’t ride a shoe with a varus wedge (like Specialized shoes do). Years ago on a bike fit I was recommended to switch from Specialized to Shimano for this reason.
Overall, the Shimano RC9’s have been a joy to own. They’re a taste of pro-tour level kit that’s practical and comfortable for real world riding. They look great, are a pleasure for your feet, however high-end products have high-end prices, so they’re not the most affordable shoes you can choose. Of course, if you shop around you can often find good deals but also many of benefits of the S-Phyre range has now trickled down the range to excellent mid-range shoes like the RC7’s which are much more affordable.
If you want to treat yourself to a high-end road shoe, the RC9’s are a very fine choice.
You can read my first thoughts on these shoes here: https://girodilento.com/shimano-s-phyre-rc9-shoes-first-ride/
Thanks for reading