Shimano SH-XC70 Shoes: Reviewed

Words Pete Roggeman
Photos Kaz Yamamura
Date Jul 16, 2014

Things are changing around here. Some of us at NSMB have been riding clipped in forever. Others switched to flats due to the constant terror of riding in the era of “build it high, build it skinny, build it siiiiiick” and just kept on riding with our feet out (flat out). But dabbling in clips has turned into (re)conversion, and the majority of us are riding clipped in again. I’m happily one of them and it’s good to be back.

My first ever MTB specific shoes were the grey two-strap Shimano SPD shoes of 1990/91 (I was going to include a photo but failed at Google – if anyone can find one, please send it to me). In those days, toe clips were most people’s choice. Those days were not characterized by very good choices. Or fashion. Anyway, Shimano led the charge early and have always done a good job with footwear. They have some pretty swinging’ new kicks these days and I’ve been riding the XC70s for four months.


Shimano’s shoes have a consistent level of refinement and – usually – a neutral look that will neither light you up with excitement nor offend the more conservative among us. From the side the XC70 is all business.

The Shimano SH-XC70 is their second from top of the line (the SH-XC90), the main difference being a down spec from full carbon outsole to a carbon fiber cleat plate with glass fiber composite reinforced midsole shank. This means a stiffness factor of 8 rather than the 11 of the XC 90 (three people have lost their jobs over making jokes about their stiffness going ‘to 11’). Other key attributes are shared: the custom-fit heat moldable upper (more on that below), which includes a heat moldable insole with a choice of arch support pads – finally we see a shoe with a quality insole.


The belly of the XC70 shoe: carbon cleat mount plate, glass/fiber composite sole, polyurethane tread and cleat studs that can be replaced with more aggressive metal spikes if needed.

Other features include polyurethane outsole lugs claimed to shed mud well (they do a decent job but mud still cakes in there), two spike plugs that can be replaced with metal spikes (the XC90s have four per shoe), a really good and good looking micro-adjust buckle, and a synthetic leather upper.

Wait. What? Yep, even the $370 XC90 is made from synthetic leather – albeit a fancy version called Rovenica. On the XC70, the material is supple, breathes well enough (ventilation ports on the front of the shoe help) and offers good abrasion resistance.

Synthetic leather is lighter and losing weight was a big goal with the new line of shoes – the XC90 dropped 59g from its predecessor (the SH-M315) while the XC70 is 83 grams lighter than the SH-M240. We all obsess with lightening our wheels due to rotating mass, but don’t forget that shoes and pedals make a big difference as they go around and around in circles as well. Both of these shoes come in at about 630 grams for the pair.


Betcha didn’t know they were made of synthetic leather. Despite what you see here, they clean up very easily. Also shown, the ventilation ports in the front section of the shoe. The toe bumpers are there and offer a bit of stubbed toe protection, but that’s about it.

The biggest story with the XC70 (and the XC90) is the fit although Shimano is putting a lot of stock into Dynalast which is said to optimize toe spring angle and secure the foot in the best ergonomic position, reducing loss of upstroke momentum and promoting a better pedal stroke. Their supporting propaganda is here – there’s probably something to it but I’ll leave it at this: these slippers fit like slippers, which is to say they feel great.

And a big part of the reason they feel great are the heat moldable custom fit panels, which are on top of the mid foot, in the heel cup, and along the insole. And while you do need an authorized Shimano shop to do the custom fit for you, the process is simpler and faster than it used to be, so finding a shop to do it will be easier than in the past. Heat the insoles and shoes, put ’em on, cover with a plastic bag and suck all the air out for a pressurized fit, hold like that for a few minutes, remove the bag, wear them for 5 minutes more, and you’re done. Real easy.

The shoes fit well before going through the procedure though the heel cups were a bit loose. After the custom fit process, they fit remarkably well – I don’t even need to cinch down the buckle too tightly in order to get keep my heel planted, whereas with most shoes I have to run that buckle quite tight to accommodate my low volume heel. If you’re curious about the heat-molded Custom Fit process, it’s laid out in more detail here.


Also new is the Cross X Strap, which is the upper velcro strap that runs from outer foot towards the inside (ie. the opposite direction from the lower strap which is oriented like straps we’re used to seeing). This is done to reduce pressure on the sensitive nerve area on top of the foot. It works – I never felt the dreaded pinch on top of my high arches.

On the bike, the shoes’ comfort makes for happy feet. The sole is adequately stiff although I can make them flex when I’m really digging. However, I’ll trade that for a bit of comfort when hiking off the bike. They’re still very much a XC shoe and while walking in them is ‘fine’, there are always some slippery moments on rock, or root, especially when wet. And then there’s the driving test: I drive a manual transmission and while you can drive in these shoes, I’d give them a 3 out of 6 for that task, and you won’t find yourself doing any heel/toe downshifting because the stiff soles and plastic treads aren’t great with pedal feel.


Intended use is XC, but on the Shore 6″ of travel is pretty standard fare on an XC ride. Other than a lack of protection, the XC70 was great for all types of riding, including aggressive AM.

Otherwise, it’s worth mentioning that these shoes don’t provide a lot of protection. If you ride aggressively in technical terrain, you have to consider whether banging your feet off of rocks or stumps is going to be an issue. With a little finesse, or toughness, you’ll be fine, but if you find yourself scraping your feet against obstacles, you might opt for something a bit more robust. I wouldn’t wear these shoes for DH but they’ve been fine for AM riding in a variety of conditions and locations from the Shore to Squamish, Oregon, and Northern California.

Bottom line: at $270 these are not cheap shoes, but with all of Shimano’s research and knowledge of shoes behind them, the truly excellent heat moldable custom-fit technology that amplifies an already excellent fit, and nothing to complain about, this is still decent value in a full-featured high performance XC shoe (that can work for AM too) and one I can recommend.

The Shimano SH-XC70 comes in regular and wide fit, in full and half sizes from 38-48. MSRP is $270. Learn more about Shimano Custom Fit Technology here.

Edit notice: We originally listed MSRP as $200 (which was the info we were provided) but it is in fact $270. This changes the value proposition of the shoes, however a bit of digging will reveal that they are available out there at less than MSRP.

Hey Cinderella, is this the slipper for you?


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Christophe Meursault  - July 16, 2014, 12:42 p.m.

"I wouldn’t wear these shoes for DH but they’ve been fine for AM riding" yes yes yes but the only thing that matters is: are they ENDURO-worthy 😀


Paul  - July 16, 2014, 8:22 p.m.

There are new Shimano Enduro/Trail specific shoes coming to market later this year

Pete Roggeman  - July 17, 2014, 12:07 p.m.

True. I'll be posting that info to the main page shortly.

Pete Roggeman  - July 18, 2014, 9:54 a.m.

More on those here:

Pete Roggeman  - July 17, 2014, 12:07 p.m.

I know you're being tongue in cheek, but the answer is still yes 😉


Christophe Meursault  - July 18, 2014, 7:27 a.m.

Thanks mate 😉 I love Shimano shoes and these look great.


Snowkarver  - July 16, 2014, 9:56 a.m.

Vintage 1990 SH-M100 shoes - they still look pretty stylish. I missed out on that generation, but probably have a pair of eye-burning M210s in purple, green, and yellow kicking around the house.

Pete Roggeman  - July 16, 2014, 10:31 a.m.

Thanks, Snow! Those are the ones. And you're right, they were not a fashion crime, but your old M210s were (in a good way) although they would probably be approved by the Enduro Fashion Police these days.


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