Shoe Review: Shimano RX8 Gravel Shoe – The Women’s Specific Edition

From Shimano: “The RX8 features a super-stiff and efficient full-length carbon outsole with a Shimano stiffness rating of 10 (out of 11). A precise fit is gained from a heel stabilizer, while minimal TPU lugs, micro toe armor, and an anti-slip pad create walkability and protection that is race-tuned for gravel. The cleat-pedal interface features a wider contact point that is optimized to fit with new XTR PD-M9100 pedals while stiff TPU lugs increase pedaling efficiency compared to rubber lugs. All of this comes in a lightweight package at 265g (size 42)…The RX8 is available in Silver or Black and the RX8W women-specific version is available in Navy Blue. Wide options are available in the black colorway exclusively. It is best matched with the Shimano SPD M9100 or M8100 pedals. The RX8 will be available for $250 MSRP in August 2019.”

So obviously August 2019 has come and gone, the Shimano RX8 has been on the market for a handful of months, giving a decent number of people the opportunity to wear-test it. JOM and I have, however, over the years, had more than one conversation about the relative dearth of reviews about gravel things, and cycling products in general, by women. Now, Shimano happens to have made a “women’s specific” version of the RX8, but HOLD UP WAIT DUDES DON’T CLOSE THIS BROWSER WINDOW YET. Just because I happen to be writing about the women’s model on my woman feet does not mean that this won’t be applicable to your masculine feet. Just that it will be funnier and more good-looking.

Some context: I have a strange pair of feet that are pretty darn narrow at the heel but require a wide toebox. I pretty reliably wear a size 40 EU in cycling shoes. Previously I have torn to shreds a pair of Giro entry-level MTB shoes, followed by the Northwave Extreme XCs. The Northwaves fit my feet well and were solid all-around, but I had a lot of problems with getting them to snug down, especially after a year of abuse. I have previously worn Shimano road and triathlon shoes, so I may have been a little pre-biased, at least when it came to confidence-that-they-would-fit. I set them up with Crank Brothers cleats on Candy pedals. They were taken on an initial paved trail cruise, but the real test came on 70 miles of Stillwater Oklahoma red dirt.

Here are some nice pretty pictures of the shoes out-of-the-box taken by a certain somebody with more photography skills than me. They are pictured resting gently atop the rug that I frequently collapse upon after long grueling rides until someone brings me a pickle or a cup of coffee.

shimano rx8 gravel shoe review

As you can see, I have gone with the navy blue camo-like colorway. It is sleek like leopard.  If you’re a man this option does not exist for you.

shimano rx8 gravel shoe review

However, dudes can opt for silver if you like to stand out (JOM has this version, his dude RX8 shoe review is coming later). Or, if you have a narrower heel (typically the major diff in “women’s-specific last”), just wear the women’s version. After you go through our secret initiation process. We ride at dawn.

shimano rx8 gravel shoe review

The size 40 fit was spot-on for me (comparison: I’m size 40 in Giro, 40.5 Northwave, 41 Lake winter boots, 8.5 American-size most women’s running shoes.)

Impressions

[This is the important part that you actually want to read]

1. They’re the stiffest non-paved-road shoes I’ve ever worn.

Shimano gives them a stiffness rating of 10 out of 11. What’s an 11? A block of concrete?

Anyway, I appreciated that 10. There is a notable power transfer difference compared to my previous shoes. The heel stabilizer also probably helps with this, as my foot stays nice a secure throughout my entire pedal shoe. I’ve become accustomed to various degrees of foot-sliding-around within my shoe over the past few years, to the point of needing to curl my toes up to keep my feet in place. No more.

2. Walking in them was fine. I wouldn’t want to do it forever, but particularly with how stiff the full-length carbon outsole is, they were surprisingly easy to walk short distances in. They did gunk up with mud during my Stillwater hike-a-bike test, but no worse than any other pair of off-road shoes I’ve worn. When you walk through the peanut butter stuff, they end up with more mud than shoe. But it does shed easily from the lugs after a few solid whacks on your nearest hard surface.

Also, the red dirt matches the blue nicely.

shimano rx8 gravel shoe review

3. The Boa tightening system – there’s a single Boa lacing system, which successfully snugs the whole middle and upper down, aided by a separate forefoot strap. It tightens all the way down on the first try, and it’s still easy to release.

No more stopping ten minutes into a ride to re-adjust the Boa.

No more being stuck in your shoes permanently because you’ve informed your significant other that he has to take them off your feet because your brain has stopped talking to the rest of your body and you’re stuck on the floor, and this is the only way you’re ever getting up to take a shower, and what do you mean you can’t figure out how to get them off my feet. You have to pull up on the one doohickey and then push down on the Boa and turn it in the opposite direction… oh fine I’m getting up.*

*Wait, this doesn’t happen to you?

shimano rx8 gravel shoe review

4. They fit like a glove. Like you could forget they are there. They fit like my track spikes from college, except cycling in those probably wouldn’t go so well.

5. The insole is fine. It’s a standard insole. I have weird arches and use Superfeet insoles, which also fit well in these shoes, but I put some miles on the included ones for completeness’ sake. No hot spots or anything to complain about. They dry out in a normal amount of time.

shimano rx8 gravel shoe review
Some red dirt retained for dramatic effect

Cons: The only issue I’ve had is with the tongue of the shoe. You just have to be careful that the tongue inside is totally flat before you tighten them. The outside corner likes to roll up, I don’t notice it when I initially put them on, and then I realize 10 minutes in that something’s digging into my foot. It’s an easy fix called paying-attention-when-you-put-on-your-shoes which I’m now incorporating into my life.

Retail price on the Shimano RX8 gravel shoe, women’s and dude version is approximately $US 250.00.

Buy the Shimano RX8 shoe below:

Shimano

8 comments on “Shoe Review: Shimano RX8 Gravel Shoe – The Women’s Specific Edition

  1. Thanks for the review and the above comment. I will be ordering a pair of RX8’s for my wife and I from my local bike shop.

  2. I’ve had one pair of older Specialized S-Works shoes where the only difference between the men’s and women’s lasts was that the women’s last had a narrower heel. However, Shimano reports that for their shoes that use the Dynalast, the women’s version is narrower all through the forefoot (including the toe area and around the ball of the foot). Otherwise, I agree, I think the RX8 in the women’s color looks very nice.

    https://bike.shimano.com/en-EU/technologies/apparel-accessories/footwear/last-technology.html

    Giro is a lot less detailed about their last specifications, but I have seen reviewers write that Giro women’s shoes are also narrower all through the last.

  3. Great read Adrienne. As a man, I have never worn leopard print before. You have convinced me it is ok. I love the graveltude. You get it girl. Thank you for actually riding the shoe before reviewing the shoe. I am buying a pair today.

    Graveltude- can we add that to the databank of neologisms.

  4. Thanks for the write up. I really like all the features of these shoes except the sole. I recently purchased a pair of the shoes and wondering if you had the same problem that I do. Do you notice that the foot box or just behind it just above the cleat is shaped concave? I can’t get over the pressure points on the outside of my feet. Tall on the outsides and low in the middle. My Giro and Northwave shoes are flat above the cleats. Did I just get a bad pair? Thanks for looking into this before I return them.

  5. Very informative review. The reviewer’s feet are not “weird”, however. They sound absolutely normal, which is why a women-specific shoe was a good fix. Women have become used to putting up with narrow toe boxes and squished feet, or they’ve bought wide shoes that slip at the heel. I think that women need to speak up and insist on shoes that are shaped like a foot! My soapbox rant for the day.

  6. How’s the sizing on these? I’ve heard Shimano shoes run a size smaller usually. I wear a 38 in Specialized, and the Shimano size chart puts me at a 38.5, so I’m a little confused about what size to get. I also have a slightly wide foot, and I can’t find the wide version in a 38 available anywhere. Why is it so hard to find wide women’s shoes??

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