Shimano XC51-N MTB SPD Shoes — Review
Shimano XC51 MTB shoes are Shimano’s entry lever SPD compatible XC shoes featuring Shimano Dynalast Technology. There are two different models in the market. The standard XC51 is a more traditional mountain biking shoe with a breathable mesh upper, whereas the XC51-N version comes with a sealed upper. The shoe comes with a low-profile micro-adjust buckle alongside with two velcro straps to securely hold your foot. Other features include a nylon-reinforced sole and synthetic leather build for added protection and durability.
Shimano XC51 -shoes at the first glance
Despite these being Shimano’s entry-level shoe the build quality is solid and apart from the shiny nylon soles they actually look pretty good. The construction is sturdy but lightweight, with a claimed weight of 350 grams. Considering you can pick these up for around 100€ online they seem to be a bargain. The looks aren’t everything though, so let’s get deeper into it. Toe spikes aren’t included with the shoes, so you have to get those separately if you like using them.
Especially if you are shopping online shoe fit can be tricky. Every shoe seems to be just slightly different in size and it’s just a hassle. Shimano’s shoes are considered narrow with a wide-fit option available. This seems to hold true for these shoes as well. Compared to Specialized Defroster, Northwave Scorpio 2 plus and Escape Evo they definitely are the narrowest of the bunch. Any better comparison I can’t give, so I recommend trying them out before purchasing. Good shoe fit is critical after all.
The micro-adjustable buckle works great and is dead simple to use. For regular sized feet the adjustment range works just fine, but anyone with skinny feet might find the adjustments a bit lacking. From my personal experience, I end up at the second last step on the ratchet with thin socks before the shoes are tight on my feet. Were my feet any skinnier I would probably need to look for different shoes. Coming from shoes with Boa-style adjustment I definitely missed the precision they offered, but for the price, this is a logical downgrade. Besides, it works just fine and keeps your feet well in place.
The velcro straps get the job done, despite lacking all that fancy micro adjustment stuff. Shimano claims the center aka Cross X Strap is optimized for relieving tension on top of foot during push off. I cannot confirm if that is true or just marketing talk, maybe a bit of both. What I can confirm is the very irritating feature of the center strap is its length. When fully tightened I had issues with the tip of the strap rubbing against the cranks on both shoes. The strap has a line near the tip, pressed into the leather, which seems to serve no purpose other than being cosmetic. I can’t help but wonder if it is also meant to be a guideline for shortening the strap? I leave that for you to figure out.
With a stiffness index of 5, they definitely aren’t the stiffest shoes out there, especially when compared to shoes with Carbon soles. You get what you pay for. That said, the sole stiffness shouldn’t be an issue in regular use unless you’re riding extremely hard. Also, keep in mind that they are still much stiffer than multisport shoes such as Northwave Escape Evo’s. Since the soles are nylon they are quite slippery on hard surfaces, but the thread provides good grip on softer terrain. The thread seems to shed mud well too.
Another feature you will notice right away is just how warm they are. The lack of mesh panel upper is definitely a good feature in cooler and moist conditions making the shoes great Spring and Fall time shoes, why not Winter shoes too depending on the climate. They are not fully waterproof though, so don’t expect to survive all the rides with dry feet. In the heat of the Summer, they might be quite warm, and your feet will definitely sweat more than in more breathable shoes. Whether that’s a deal-breaker for you is up to you to decide. The shoes come with very basic insoles and while heat moldable or otherwise customizable insoles would be a really nice touch, you can’t really expect that in this price range.
As mentioned earlier the center strap might be too long for some and might rub against the cranks, which is very distracting and annoying.
Shimano XC51-N shoes are solid all-weather shoes for a very reasonable price. You won’t be getting a stiff carbon fiber sole or customizable insole for this price, but the quality is good and the shoes don’t leave much to be desired in regular use. Due to their non-breathable upper, they are not ideal for hot summer days, but on the other hand, they will keep your feet warm and dry when the weather becomes crummy.
- Good quality
- Warm and water resistant
- Decent fasteners
- Relatively lightweight
- The nylon soles are not the stiffest
- Not ideal for hot days
- The center strap might be too long for some