Sleek looking XC shoe with just the right combination of stiffness and flexibility
At first glance you could be forgiven in thinking that the Shimano XC7 is a road shoe. It cuts a sleek outline that, apart from the BOA dial and single Velcro strap, is unsullied by much adornment or detailing.
Shimano has gone for a mainly gloss black finish to the XC7, with just a few ‘on brand’ bright blue accents. To an extent this finish aids the XC7 in shedding mud and water. Indeed, most rides in the XC7 ended up with cleaner feet than when riding in other shoes.
Similar to most shoes around this price bracket Shimano have used a BOA IP1 dial system for even retention. This dial and wire system enables micro-adjustment of the tension whilst on the fly. A Velcro strap takes care of any tightening of the toe box; this is rarely necessary to use.
Shimano continue to construct their shoes to a slightly smaller last and the XC7 is no exception. I would normally take a 44/44.5 shoe size but I certainly advise going up a size with this shoe. The toe box gives ample wiggle room. Plus, the heelcup tenaciously holds the foot in place, aided by the same non-slip, sock-wrecking liner as seen in shoes such as the Bontrager Cambion.
Stiff AND flexible
Performance wise the XC7 provides a very stable and stiff platform thanks to the carbon reinforced mid-sole. What is impressive is Shimano has tuned in some controlled flex around the toes and heel. This created a very comfortable shoe for hike-a-bike sections or the inevitable running in an XC race.
If I were to lay any criticism at the Shimano XC7 it would land squarely at the mesh toe panel. This is sited centrally over the toes and whilst it will provide great ventilation in the summer the trade off is an instantly wet foot when you ride through a puddle.
The XC7 is a bit more versatile than an out and out XC racer. The flex-tuned sole add forgiveness to the toe and heel. And, combined with the fit, make it a shoe comfortable enough to forget you are wearing.