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Heat molding is popular elsewhere in the outdoor industry, but is still rare in cycling. It shouldn’t be. The fit of of Shimano’s RP9 shoe after heat molding is second to none.
The process gives the shoes a custom fit, and is feature most competitors can’t touch. It’s an easy process, performed by most Shimano dealers. Simply heat up the shoe in a tiny oven, stick it on your foot, then vacuum-bag everything and let it cool. If you have any fit quirks — a bulge here or a low-volume forefoot there — heat molding works wonders. Both the upper and insole are heat moldable.
Of course, heat molding a bad shoe wouldn’t do any good. The RP9 is not a bad shoe. Though it sits just below the flagship 321, it might be even more comfortable. The carbon sole is stiff and has a huge vent under the toe (so big, in fact, that we struggled to keep toes warm in winter, and eventually taped it up). The upper is soft, leather-like, and conforms wonderfully to the foot even without heat molding.
Its toe box is slightly wider than average, and volume is high. Some testers ended up sizing down. The rather bulky toecap doesn’t look all that svelte, and in some cases contributed to toe overlap, but it does increase durability.
The RP9 is a second-tier shoe that is better than most companies’ premier offerings. Those with high-volume feet should give it a look.