Shimano MT701 GTX SPD Shoes
896g (size 44 as tested) £169.99
The Shimano MT701 GTX SPD Shoes are marketed as “'All-weather mountain touring, bike packing or commuting” and over the past eight hundred miles, I'm inclined to say they do these jobs remarkably well, without being “jack of all, master of none”. The Boa lacing system means dialing in precise fit, is an absolute cinch. The soles are more compliant than some racier touring models, so if you’re really looking to blast along, there may be better bets.
Pros: Highly tunable fit, comfortable walking and riding, easy to care for, good ventilation.
Cons: Heel cup less supportive than some, need pairing with waterproof socks in wet weather.
The upper is made from TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) and is sometimes described as the bridge between rubbers and plastics. In this instance reckoned superior to genuine leather uppers, it’s easier to care for and won’t alienate strict vegetarian and vegan audiences. TPU doesn’t tend to breathe so well, hence the mesh paneling.
A Gore Tex liner goes some way to keep a fresh, arid inner climate. Boggy puddles and standard Cool Max socks will prove a soggy, squelchy combination, though. Waterproof TPU models, such as these 360 Dry Blue Ankle Socks , Dexshell Pro Visibility , or indeed Gecko Calf Length Waterproof Socks are what you’ll need.
The mid sole is nylon reinforced with glass fibre, the outer another hybrid, this time of shock absorbing EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam and rubber. This has a moderately aggressive trail pattern, and the cleat covers are held in situ with Philips head screws. Hardly noteworthy these days, but a far cry from the era when you’d cut them out with a Stanley knife. Indeed, they could supply added weather resistance for commuting - say scooting to work in flats, or old school clips 'n’ straps.
Staying with the soles, the MT701 feature a “bumper” to guard against stubbed toes (and indeed, agricultural language). In terms of rigidity, the MT701 rates a 4 (out of a possible 12) on Shimano’s scale. Given a lack of industry standard measure, this isn’t overly helpful. Read rigid enough for tour typical cadences, compliant enough for extended walking and indeed, running.
Now the Boa L6. This is designed for effortless, speedy adjustment and release. I’ve lived with Boa closures for many years and love them. Slip your feet into the shoe, push the button down and turn clockwise to “ratchet” them snug. To quick release, simply pull the outer upward. In my excitement to get them on and get riding, I glossed over the release bit and found myself stuck. You Tube secured my release and spared any further blushes.
This is compressive, ranging from 36-48 (I’m typically a 43 street, 44 in cycling shoes so followed the slightly lazy “one size bigger than street” narrative and got lucky. However, it’s worth noting I have long, narrow feet. If you’re a wider fitting, I’d recommend trying for size, especially if you’re looking toward thicker/waterproof socks during the colder, wetter months.
Power Transfer/sole 3.5/5
Shimano suggest models with a wide platform are the best pairing-specifically the PD-M8120 and PD-T8000. I've paired ours to assorted Shimano, the P-ED500 their classic cross-country XT (PD-M8100) counterparts, the now discontinued A520 single sided road model to favorable effect. Then of course, there’s the homages However, the Shimano P-ED 500 hit the sweetest spot, something I attribute to the generous platforms.
Power transfer is good, and I've been able to average 16-18mph for several hours on fixed and Ursula, quicker on my traditional road bike, with the A520. To my surprise, the soles are more compliant than the FLR Rexton and the MT701 also proved a little baggier around the heel. This was most apparent, riding fixed and climbing out of the saddle. Otherwise, no issues with hot-spots, or similar discomfort and the toe box is refreshingly roomy too.
In common with the FLR Rexton Active Touring/Trail Shoe, the sole is less aggressive than those typical of cross-country race shoes. However, it still offers excellent tenure on slippery surfaces-including mossy rocks, without becoming engulfed in power sapping mud, or trapping stones. This has also ensured that I wasn’t bringing the great outdoors, indoors so easily.
The cleat region is also suitably recessed, meaning you won’t be clattering around, shortening their lives-especially the brass Time type, yet still ensuring effortless and largely instant entry/exit on the bike.
The heel cup is less supportive than sportier touring models and indeed, the Rexton but the MT701 are incredibly easy (and comfortable) to pad around in for prolonged periods and over various terrain, from forest tracks to paved streets-just what you want on a day ride, or bigger excursion.
Breathability/Water Resistance 3.25/5
Things like sock choice will play their part, but wearing traditional cool max socks, and waterproof models discussed earlier, the uppers have remained arid and temperate, when the mercury’s between 8 and 25 degrees. No hint of wallpaper stripping funk thus far.
Mesh paneling, although much less extensive than synthetic race models still suck a decent amount of cooling air inside and will resist showery rain surprisingly well. That said; waterproof socks are a must in wet, muddy conditions.
I was caught out in an hour of biblical rain and wearing the Cool Max socks, I was decidedly soggy and upon my return. Rain had entered via the cleats and ventilated panels. In this context, the MT701 needed 5 hours to dry out. So long as you add waterproof socks on your bike packing adventure, or weekend tour, you’ll have no issues, even when you’ve submerged your foot in a puddle.
The MT701 are very well made throughout, using decent quality materials. A quick, damp cloth wipe-over will dismiss most organic muck (although a quick shot of bike wash, such as Motoverde Bike Wash helps shift heavier/crustier stuff). Otherwise, not so much as a loose thread. I’ve found Boa systems phenomenally reliable too-some serving ten winters before anything failed. Spares are also readily available.
Nigh on £170 is hardly small change but it's still competitive by Genre standards. Quoc Pham Gran Tourer Gravel Shoes are £219 and employ “easy care” uppers and a more traditional, laced closure. They’re also reckoned to weight 363g (size 43). Giro Privateer are another model employing a laced closure come in a bit cheaper at £129.
The Shimano MT701 are a very refined shoe that perform well on tour and trail inspired riding. They lack the outright rigidity and efficiency of sportier models, so I’d suggest looking elsewhere, if you’re into sportives and audax. However, if you’re seeking a four seasons/rough stuff touring shoe that will deliver on and off road, yet forgiving when walking for longer periods, there’s a lot to like.
Verdict: 3.5/5 Refined and capable rough stuff touring shoes that are also comfortable for extended walking.
PUBLISHED AUGUST 2022