I recently replaced my favorite clipless riding shoes after discovering how much they had deformed over the years. I read an article about how worn cleats could cause knee issues and after looking into it further with some advice from a couple of friends that are bike fitters, I bought a pair of disco silver Shimano SH-XC9 S-PHYRE Cycling Shoes at the shop where I work.
They were expensive, by my way of thinking, so I didn’t just jump on them without thinking about it carefully. After a couple of days of thinking about it, I decided to see if they could handle a shift working at the shop. After six hours of standing working on bikes and countless trips to the warehouse, I was pretty convinced that the new S-Phyre shoes were a good choice to replace those old worn Sidi Dominators.
I’ve generally kept two pairs of clipless cycling shoes on active duty. One pair for mountain biking and one pair for multi-surface (gravel/pavement). I’ve been fairly reticent to take this fine-looking pair of silver shoes into the dirt even though they’re a fully lugged shoe designed for such abuse. They’re just that damn pretty!
The construction of the S-Phyre starts with a proprietary MICHELIN® outsole gracing a light and stiff Carbon Fiber midsole. The S-Phyre uses an external heel cup to minimize foot twist and roll, which stabilizes the heel and holds the foot firmly in place. The upper is a one-piece synthetic wrap with a slimmer silhouette which comes with a smaller toe box. They seemed to fit my feet like a glove. The dual extra-range Boa® micro adjusters allow for a custom fit and required zero break-in time. The ability to micro-adjust the forefoot separately from the upper is a key feature that makes these shoes work well for my particular phisiology. The other thing that really stood out about the S-Phyre shoes was the heel cup retention. For such a low-profile shoe, the S-Phyres really feel like they cradle or hug my feet. The interior of the heel has a special material that helps keep the heel of the shoe in place. The material works like mohair on skinned skis with a texture that grips in one direction and slides in the other. The lower Boa lace routing is adjustable and that made a significant improvement in the fit for me.
I’ve been using these shoes for both gravel and mixed-surface rides along with a little mountain biking, singlespeeding, etc. At one point…I even got some mud on them. But then I wiped it off because these shoes are just that beautiful. They’re also every bit as comfortable to my feet as they are handsome to the eye. Shimano wanted to bring the top of their line road bike quality and power transfer to a mountain bike shoe and I think they hit their target with the Shimano SH-XC9 S-PHYRE. I can’t get behind the long name of these bike shoes. Do I call them XC9’s or S-phyre? And how the hell do you correctly pronounce S-phyre?
It’s not all unicorns and rainbows in the real world ladies and gentlemen, so I am sad to say that the silver colorway is discontinued. The Shimano SH-XC9 S-PHYRE Cycling Shoe does still come in Lime Green, Black and an Electric Blue that looks ultra smurfy. But there is some good news. The MSRP of these shoes is $425 but there are end-of-season markdowns at a couple of the big online stores. I saw a sale price of $340 at backcountry.com. The true test of a cycling shoe is how many years that it lasts, but that’s a story that’ll have to wait for another day. ¡Felices Caminos Amigos!
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