Just about any company can make a light shoe these days. The trick is making a light shoe that’s stiff for the racecourse without sacrificing comfort. Shimano’s S-Phyre RC9 shoes strike a balance between exceptional stiffness for power transfer and a wraparound, glove-fit for a wide array of foot sizes and shapes. It is Shimano’s best road shoe to date.
Shimano eliminated the lasting board from the outsole, which essentially means there’s just your insole and a thin carbon outsole between your foot and the pedal. According to Shimano, this reduces stack height and improves stability. On the road that’s not really noticeable, but we did feel as though the sole was exceptionally stiff. This shoe may not be the stiffest we’ve ever tested, but it comes close.
That sense of stability and unyielding stiffness doesn’t just come from the unidirectional carbon sole. It’s part of a system that includes the heel cup that seemed to suction our heels into place. There was no slippage, pinching, or other discomfort.
On top of that, the two Boa IP1 closures are perfectly placed to ensure an even fit over the forefoot and ankle. Previous iterations of Shimano road shoes pinched some riders’ ankles, but that has disappeared with the RC9s. The Boa cables are even adjustable to accommodate a wider range of feet: Weave the cable through the catch at the toe for low volume feet, or release it from that catch for high-volume feet. It’s quick and simple.
The upper is made from Teijin Avail microfiber synthetic leather, which doesn’t stretch and is perhaps a bit too unyielding if you favor super-supple shoes, but we didn’t have any problems with comfort here. That lack of stretch likely helps with power transfer, since it tends to limit foot movement.
It’s clear these will become a staple of our racing wardrobe, but be ready to drop some serious cash on Shimano’s top-of-the-line race shoe. If these are well beyond your budget, take a peek at the RC7 shoes for half the price.