Shimano's Michelin-Clad GR9 Shoes
In the search for the ultimate rubber sole, Shimano enlisted the help of Michelin for their flagship flat pedal shoe; the GR9. They feature a custom tread pattern focused on optimal traction with pedal pins and they are nice and light, tipping the scales at a claimed 365g,*. Construction quality of the GR9, like previous Shimano shoes, is very good.
*For a size EU 42 shoe
- Michelin rubber outsole for superb grip on pedal and ground
- Armoured lace shield provides extra protection from debris
- Molded toe cap for additional toe protection
- Asymmetrically raised padded ankle collar and sidewall sole
- Speed lacing system allows fast, secure adjustments
- Materials absorb less water and dry quickly
For most flat pedal riders the elephant in the room is whether any shoes, including the Shimano GR9, can supply the grip offered by FiveTen’s Stealth Rubber. Michelin, who designed the sole following Shimano’s specifications, makes some great gripping MTB tires; the Wild Rock’R 2 in their Magi-X compound is incredible in loose, dry conditions. Needless to say, they know how to make MTB rubber that provides traction.
The GR9 soles feature a combination of smaller blocks for pedal grip and larger aggressive blocks for hiking traction. The larger blocks occupy the toe and heel of the shoe, with the heel area making its way along 25% of the sole. A series of small blocks in four different shapes covers the pedal contact interface. The space between the blocks is wide enough to fit pedal pins and hug them firmly while tread depth is on the shallower side.
A speed lacing system hides beneath the velcro lace shield and makes for very quick fitting and adjustment on the trail. The combination of the two closures held everything so securely that trail side fine tuning wasn't required once. In addition to minimizing water and debris entry, the lace shield also adds stiffness.
The fit was fantastic and the 10.5 US/45 EU GR9 slipped perfectly onto my foot. Weight and support surprised me initially but they remained comfortable on the trail providing a very positive feeling when walking or standing on pedals. When it comes to comfort, the only downside was hotspots on the back of my heels when hiking. A range of different socks failed to alleviate the issue. There are no seams at the rear of the shoe but the heel cup doesn't hug the foot as firmly as some. It appears the loose fit around my heel is responsible for the friction. While on the bike I never had an issue.
Targeted as a gravity focused shoe, the GR9 pits itself alongside the likes of FiveTen’s Impact and Freerider shoes. They’re lighter than both and offer similar protection to the Freerider. If pinning it on a DH bike is your jam, you may be best to stick with the Impact; the GR9 leaves the foot feeling a little naked in bony, gnarly conditions. For general trail riding or even local enduro racing, the GR9 is great.
Now for the elephant; how do they compare to FiveTen and others? It’s safe to say that FiveTen remains atop the traction scale, offering more grip when things get hairy. Shimano's new sole provides excellent pedal feel and the Michelin rubber supplies ample grip in a lot of conditions. Where it falls short is in the wet, whether hiking or riding, and in aggressive choppy terrain. There’s less room for error and more conscious effort is required to keep your feet planted. The upside is it’s easier to make adjustments on the fly, though I found myself needing to make more than usual.
Compared to Specialized’s latest 2FO, the GR9 sole is thinner and firmer, similar to the old 2FO while the thinner profile improves feel. Specialized's current 2FO rubber is softer, allowing the pins to bite in deeper. Shimano's GR9 shoes provide a more stable feel and positive response, when the foot stays put on the pedal. It's possible the perfect mix of grip and maneuverability would be achieved if tread depth was a bit deeper.
Shimano’s new collaboration with Michelin is off to a great start. The new shoes retain their incredible quality and months later show little sign of wear. Traction is great when dry despite not pushing them into full-on DH territory. They breathe well and don’t take on much water thanks to the synthetic leather uppers. If Stealth Rubber is too sticky for you, the class-leading durability and construction of the GR9 may make it the perfect shoe.
Head to the Shimano website for more on the GR9 shoes.