This article was originally published here at Singletracks.com
Shimano’s recently updated MW7 (or SH-MW701) shoe is their flagship winter clipless mountain bike shoe. Having been in the SPD pedal game for 30 years this year, you’d think the brand knows a thing or two about the shoes that connect to them, and you’d be right. Shimano shoes are generally excellent, and the MW7 is no exception. The MW7 sits at the top end of the Shimano shoe line-up, next to the XM9 which is more of an adventure/hiking shoe at the same $350CAD price point. There is also a lower specced version of the MW7 — the MW5 — priced at $250. Unfortunately there is no equivalent shoe designed for flat pedals.
Shimano’s MW7 is an excellent winter mtb shoe.
There aren’t a whole lot of winter specific mountain bike shoes out there, and the Shimano MW7 was the only one I could find made using Gore-Tex (they use an insulated Gore-Tex liner). That alone should tell you about the quality of this shoe - Gore-Tex won't work with just anyone. It’s also probably the most refined looking of the winter shoes available out there, though still a little bulky looking. I can forgive that for what the shoe actually does.
The Neoprene cuff wraps nicely around the ankle.
In addition to the Gore-Tex liner, other features include a fleece-lined insole, synthetic leather upper, Boa retention system, Michelin rubber sole, neoprene cuff, and a “Torbal” midsole. All of these features combine to make a well thought out and highly functional shoe.
Let’s start from the bottom up. The Michelin rubber sole looks identical to the sole on the Shimano ME7 shoes, the summer equivalent that I reviewed over a year ago. (For the record these shoes are still going strong, I love them). They also have the same Torbal midsole. I’ll say the same things that I said about the ME7 back then — the sole provides a solid amount of grip when using Shimano trail style pedals and makes it easy to clip in, or float on top if you have to. The knobs mean there’s also plenty of traction when you have to hike up (or down!) slippery winter trails. The heel and toe of the shoe are also reinforced, just like the ME7, and feel pretty solid, despite the shoe not being particularly heavy. The tread surrounding the cleat recess makes it easy to find the pedal and gives a nice supportive feel on the pedal. These shoes go great with something like the new XT trail pedals.
The sole, shod with Michelin rubber, is plenty grippy both on the pedals and pushing up trails.
The Torbal mid-sole is said to provide flex in the sole when you want it (moving the bike around on descents), and no flex when you don’t want it (when putting power down). Again I’ll echo what I said before; for a shoe that isn’t a typical XC shoe, they have great power transfer, and they feel excellent on the descents and not restrictive at all. The MW7 shoes very similar in feel and fit to my ME7s, which is what I was hoping for. They’re a great all mountain/enduro style shoe with little compromise in performance, plus all-day comfort.
The Boa retention system works well, and is easy to tighten and loosen, even with cold, gloved fingers. It’s also easier to cinch up than the Speedlace system that can be found on the MW5 shoes. The shoe is sealed all the way to the top of the laces, so in theory should stay pretty waterproof. The Neoprene cuff extends pretty far up the ankle, though they’re not not going to withstand hiking through rivers and the like. I did think that the cuff could have been tighter, but then I have quite large feet but skinny legs/ankles, so I am a bit of a weird shape.
The Boa closure system snugs the shoes up nicely, and is easier to use than Shimano’s Speedlace system.
Let’s get to what this shoe is about: winter riding. The fleece lining looks pretty minimal, but is actually surprisingly warm. Like, really surprisingly warm. Combined with the Gore-Tex waterproof liner, these shoes do an amazing job of keeping your feet warm and dry. So far I’ve hiked through snow, ridden in the rain and ridden down trails that are literally rivers, and my feet have stayed warm and toasty (though my ankles did get a little wet). They probably won’t survive hours in driving rain, but then you can’t reasonably expect that of pretty much any riding kit. The upper appears to be made from the same synthetic leather that the ME7s use, and so far these have lasted really well, being extremely abrasion resistant and overall a really high quality. It's also worth noting that whilst these are designed for the rigours of mountain biking, they also make an excellent commuting and more casual winter road cycling shoe!
The heel and toe are nicely reinforced.
I constantly have cold hands and feet pretty much all year apart from summer and the very edges of the shoulder season. I’ve tried all sorts of different shoes, waterproof socks etc. through winter and tend to find that my feet get uncomfortably cold no matter what. The combination of insulation and waterproofing on the MW7 has kept my feet warm on several hour rides where my feet would have been cold hours ago, allowing me to ride for longer than usual.
The Shimano MW7 is an awesome shoe for those winter trail days.
These shoes have been a game-changer for me. I’ll happily wear these through winter and into spring and keep my feet warm, whether the ride is wet or not. They may be a little pricey as mountain bike shoes go, but considering how much I spent on my bike, it’s a relatively small price to pay to enjoy riding significantly more miles during half of the year. I know plenty of people who are happy wearing the same shoes year-round, but if like me you struggle with cold and numb extremities, spending the money to keep warm is a no-brainer, particularly when it comes in such a well-rounded package.
Thank you to Shimano for providing the MW7 shoes for testing and review.