Shimano GR9 Flat Pedal Shoes
REVIEW

Shimano's Michelin-Clad GR9 Shoes

Words AJ Barlas
Photos AJ Barlas
Date Jul 27, 2018

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

Features:

  • 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

Shimano GR9 Shoes and their Assymetrical, Raised Inner Ankle

The GR9 features an assymetrically raised and padded ankle collar in the inside of the foot.


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. 

Shimano GR9 Speed Lace System

The speed lacing system hides beneath the lace shield.

Shimano GR9 Shoes w/ Michelin Rubber Sole

Shimano worked with Michelin on the sole for the GR9 (and the GR7). 

Shimano GR9 Michelin Rubber Sole

Details…


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. 

Perforated Toe Box Improves Breathability

A molded toe cap provides some protection. Perforations in the toe-box provide air-flow.

Lace Shield slits offer flex and breathability

The lace shield is slit to allow some flexibility and breathability.


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 GR9's Michelin Sole

Michelin's rubber sole. The tread is shallow and there are lots of 'slots' for pedal pins.  


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.




Comments

JVP
+2 AJ Barlas Andy Eunson
JVP  - July 27, 2018, 8:02 a.m.

"GR9 soles features a combination of smaller blocks for pedal grip"

Umm, no. Pretty little knobbles don't create grip, it's big, flat chunks of soft rubber that pins mush into thatcreate grip.  Five.ten kills it not just in rubber compound, but understanding that less is more with tread pattern.  I'm still waiting for another company to step up.  Five.tens are too loose on my forefoot - not a deal killer on flat pedals, but fit could definitely be better.

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - July 27, 2018, 8:19 a.m.

If Five Ten used rubber the same as the competition, would they grip as well? I don’t believe they would. The “big flat chunks of soft rubber” work in unison to provide the kickass traction. Vans’ mtb specific shoe didn’t have the stickiest rubber but the waffle sole, which created lots of little spaces for the pins, gripped incredibly well and imo came the closest to Five Ten for stability and traction. It’s a shame they’re no longer. They weren’t perfect by any means, but as you note with Five Ten, neither are they.

Reply

JVP
0
JVP  - July 27, 2018, 11:10 a.m.

I agree with you on soft rubber compound being critically important, I didn't mean to imply they aren't. Those totally flat five.tens have awesome pedal grip if they're Stealth S1 rubber. They SUCK for walking on slimy dirt, so I won't buy them again, but pedal grip is more locked in than my other five.tens.

I started riding flats in Vans gumsole waffles before five.tens were a bike thing. Would love to see Vans get seriously into bike.

Reply

AJ_Barlas
0
AJ Barlas  - July 27, 2018, 7:59 p.m.

You and me both, JVP!

Reply

agleck7
0
Agleck7  - July 27, 2018, 8:20 a.m.

I tried these on in the shop and the sole/outsole combo felt really thick.  Like you'd be pretty disconnected from the pedal.  So that wasn't your experience on the trail?  I love the fit/performance of the Freerider Pro, but the durability isn't cutting it, so looking for something similar but that will last me 6-8 months.

Reply

AJ_Barlas
+1 Agleck7
AJ Barlas  - July 27, 2018, 8:02 p.m.

At first they do feel kind of dead, but once broken in there was good feel!

Reply

IslandLife
0
IslandLife  - July 27, 2018, 10:34 a.m.

These look pretty great... my next shoes probably won't be a five tens... the styling, the technology, the weight and water resistance just aren't keeping up with today's standards.  They seem to be resting on their grip laurels.  I'll be looking at these... but was also wondering what you thought they were like compared with the Giro Riddance Mids - https://www.giro.com/ca_en/products/men/cycling-shoes/dirt/riddance-mid.html  I think your site reviewed them at some point??

Reply

AJ_Barlas
+1 Agleck7
AJ Barlas  - July 27, 2018, 8:01 p.m.

I’ll have a review of those up by end of August at latest! Stay tuned.

Reply

pedalhound
0
pedalhound  - July 27, 2018, 10:35 a.m.

I have been riding Shimano flat pedal shoes for many years...and just bought the GR7's...a lot like this, but without the flap. Best gripping Shimano shoes I have ever ridden. I can not comment on how they compare with 5.10 but I do really like them! So grippy and they fit my feet better than any 5.10 I have ever tried on, and that to me is the most important thing.

Reply

Kenny
+1 AJ Barlas
Kenny  - July 27, 2018, 12:39 p.m.

I have GR9s and fiveten impact vxi. It's a no contest in terms of grip, the fiveten are way stickier. I prefer the Shimano in every other way though.

Reply

lostlunchbox
0
person person  - July 29, 2018, 10:10 a.m.

I don't understand why so many companies fail to at least compete with five tens stickyness? Certainly it can't be Voodoo? I mean michelin's been making rubber compounds for almost a hundred years and they can't come up with something that still sticks in the wet? Vibram soles are at least as bad imo. Crazy.

Reply

lostlunchbox
0
person person  - July 29, 2018, 10:10 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

lostlunchbox
0
person person  - July 29, 2018, 10:10 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

bitewerks
0
Keeth B.  - July 29, 2018, 2:55 p.m.

I wear Sombrio's that I bought 4 years ago or so. Still in good shape. Still grips well but the sole is wearing down around the ball of my foot from pins & walking. I wish they still made them, I would definitely re-buy. Mine are the hi-tops with guard over the laces.

Reply

DemonMike
0
mike  - July 30, 2018, 9:49 a.m.

Nice looking shoe , not a fan of the color. Call me old school black is my favorite shoe color. I also prefer old school laces and the version they now have does not have the lace cover. Shimano shoes for me have been the most reliable and most comfortable shoes I have used. My current AM7 have been my best pair of riding shoes , roughly 1600+km on them and still going strong

Reply

mark-halpin
0
Mark Halpin  - July 30, 2018, 4:30 p.m.

I have had a pair of gr9s since mid May. They have become really flexy, the block tread is missing in parts of sole and there is a hole in the sole from one pin. I'm using one-up pedals.

Reply

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