Shimano have really stepped it up in terms of outright grip over previous models
Supple Shimano GR9 feels pretty invisible on your foot, with a planted sole that gives good pedal feedback, but it’s not that supportive or locked in place.
The GR9 represents the latest evolution in Shimano flat pedal shoes and comes with a specially designed Michelin rubber sole that’s softer and stickier than the previous Vibram equivalent. It’s also wider, with a new grip pattern in the pedal zone and chunkier toe and heel tread to assist with hike-a-biking.
It’s still got Shimano’s signature futuristic look that stems from the splash-resistant flap covering the laces (that now cinch tight quickly using a boa-style tensioner loop). For extra foot protection, there’s ankle padding on the crank side, plus a moulded, reinforced toecap. The relatively thin synthetic exterior is well ventilated and designed to absorb less water and dry quicker too.
On the bike, there’s excellent pedal feel and the sole’s flexible enough to wrap slightly round the platform and really feed back what the bike’s doing, but there’s less shock absorption than some chunkier shoes. The GR9 is comfy and supple, but I initially felt a little lump underfoot on the inner edge until the shoe bedded in. The interior shape and flimsy removable insole doesn’t fully lock your foot in place inside. I swapped the insole for an Ergon IP3 footbed, which increased stability, isolated the pedal more and made the GR9 feel stiffer and tighter pedalling.
Michelin’s new outer sole really boosts grip levels, but the question you’ll all have is: how does it compare to the benchmark Stealth rubber from Five Ten? Well, it’s grippy enough to stay put on tough descents in foul weather, which is a big improvement over the older Shimano compound that was hard and slippery, but it’s still not as locked on, planted or damped as my favourite Five Ten Freeride Pro. I also prefer how that shoe feels sturdier with its more protective mid sole.
The perforated GR9 is as comfy as your favourite slippers, but runs a bit cold in the UK winter and on the wettest rides feet get saturated and chilled a bit quickly. I prefer a slightly more sturdy riding shoe and could achieve a good feel adding a stiffer footbed, but the GR9 still won’t replace my favourite, ten quid cheaper, Five Ten model.