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Shimano MW501 Dry Shield SPD MTB Shoes 879g Size44 (as tested) £135

The Shimano MW501 Dry Shield MTB Shoes are a winter bootie that have proven themselves warm and predominantly dry through a bitterly chill and decidedly wintry period. Their lack of bulk, and relatively low weight, ensures superior freedom of movement and indeed connection with the pedals. This makes them a decent crossover if you’re hopping between road biased and mtb builds. However, they can take a while to dry, in the event of getting soaked and though the sole supplies decent traction, boggy conditions and a lack of studs can prove more challenging.

Pros: Warm and dry in most contexts, less bulky than most winter booties I’ve uses, sole offers good power transfer while still allowing easy walking.

Cons:  Boggy mud can tax the sole- no drillings for stud.

shimano cycling shoe review test winter

Materials and specification 

At the most basic, we have a synthetic leather upper, which is easy to wipe clean and doesn’t require “feeding”, like natural leather, to keep them nourished. Unusually for a trail-biased model, there’s a lot of road friendly detailing, which for me is a real boon during the depths of winter.

The main Velcro tethered storm flap boasts a retro-reflective slab, then there are the subtle Shimano logos. The uppers work to a sandwich principle, a perforated outer allows unwanted heat to escape, while the waterproof DRYSHIELD membrane and fleece layer keeps feet dry and warm. Then we have ankle hugging neoprene cuffs, which will turn soggy when waterlogged but are flexible and should lock the warmth in.

test review bicycle cycling shoes winter

Inside and typical of this price point, we have a speed lace, rather than boa type system. Yes, it lacks the latter’s outright precision and convenience but easy to whip on and off, while still achieving a precise, comfortable fit. The insole is also fleece lined to keep chill at bay. The heel cup continues this supportive, comfortable narrative...Which leads me nicely to the sole.


Now, some of you will know I err towards efficiency - Shimano RX600 being very much the sweet spot. The MW501 employs a glass fibre reinforced nylon mid sole and are lower on big S’s rigidity scale - 5, out of the possible 12. Some might suggest this being a price point thing. However, its’ more about their intended purpose. Stiffer than the Shimano MT701 GTX a bit more flex is welcomed in winter where you’re more likely to be dismounting and carrying the bike, possibly running along certain sections. The rubber outer sole is also less aggressive than some and isn’t drilled to accept studs but promises excellent traction in all contexts. 

Sizing/Fit 4/5

This is comprehensive, ranging from 36 to 48. I’ve always been able to go the default one- size- up- from- street sizing with Shimano and these were no exception. Fit is snug. Plenty of support at the heel cup, roomy enough around the toe box and plenty of leeway for thicker/waterproof socks. However, not the sort to hamper a decent cadence. Again, the speed lace system might lack the outright pull on and go simplicity, as Boas isn’t far behind.

Rigidity/Power Transfer 3.5/5

As I hinted earlier, this hits the sweet spot between efficiency and convenience. During the depths of winter, I want to be hustling along to keep the blood flowing but also able to dab a foot down, walk and indeed, trot along without hindrance. Our first outing was in minus 4 with acres of thick ice and a fair bit of black ice to boot - yes, I’d shod Ursula with the Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro . Though less efficient than the Shimano RX6, power transfer was good - no undue flex around the sole, so allowing an easy 80-85rpm.

shimano shoe cleat test review

Again, the lack of bulk means a more shoe-like profile, which undoubtedly helps in this respect. I’ve used ours with Ursula’s Shimano XT  and the fixed’s M540 with comparable results. Grinding up the climbs on the latter bike, there’s been no hint of power-robbing flex and if anything, sole rigidity has felt superior to the FLR Defender .

Some soles can creak, or squeak but the MW501’s rubber sole has been anything but vocal. The heel cup offers excellent support and even after five hours steady and 75-90 rpm (depending on the icy carpet) no hot spot or similar discomfort. The toe box is broader than profiles might suggest and particularly welcome, given I’ve spent much of the test period in middleweight waterproof socks, including these Gecko Calf Length . That said; I’ve also gone the standard merino blend when it’s been drier and to assess the MW501’s water and wind proofing qualities. Even with summer weight blends, there’s been no discomfort or irritation.

The outer sole has surpassed my expectations. I’ve gone cautiously when navigating wet tree roots, rocks and similarly slippery stuff but the softer compound inspires confidence. This has been equally welcomed when dabbing a foot down in slow moving traffic-especially coming from extremely stiff road soles.  Despite being less aggressive than some, the sole has shed mud quicker than I was expecting-at least once I’d rejoined some hard pack, or concrete. Even when syrupy gloop clung on, I’ve never had any issue clipping in, or out. They don’t tend to trap stones either, which was another, welcome surprise. 

Weatherproofing/Breathability 3.5/5

tets review cycling shoes winter shimano

Nothing is completely waterproof in my experience. While the synthetic upper does a decent job of keeping rain, spray and flooded roads outside, sustained submersion will result in wet feet. At this point, the thermal, thin pile fleece lining and neoprene cuff will keep feet warm but given the stormy season, outside of investigative Journo stuff, I’ve been reaching for waterproof socks.

Talking of which, I was slightly concerned the stormproof flap might also prove the MW501’s weak spot.

However, it relaxed quickly and more convincingly than the FLR, forming a superior seal. With traditional, bog standard blended cycling socks, wet feet have been a moot point, in light to moderate rain. Off road, less of an exact science and water will creep in through the cleat drillings but again, still very comfortable and waterproof socks will close the door to this, and similar ingress.

That said; it is an improvement over the still very cheerful FLR defender. While the MW501 are quicker, both take a good while to dry out when truly sodden-even packed with paper and at room temperature. Bargain on overnight, packet out with old paper and three feet from a radiator/similar heat source.

Otherwise, despite the wind’s best efforts, feet remained toasty at minus 4. In common with similar membranes, you can feel the wind scratching at the outside, without making inroads. Sock quality/ fabrics will obviously have an influence, but I’ve always felt completely temperate. When the mercury has climbed into double figures, I’ve found the MW501 evict moisture promptly. Sure, there’s a little dampness but my feet have never felt clammy.

test review cycling shoes

Care/Durability 4/5

The smooth leather uppers mean mucky stuff is easily dismissed with a damp cloth. If you’ve had a really boggy encounter or left it to go crusty a few shots of bike wash, a bucket of warm water and a medium stiff bristled bike brush, such as this Green Oil Bicycle Brush . Much the same MO with the sole for that matter. Thus far, save for some inevitable patina ours are in great shape. 

Value 3.75/5

£135 is hardly small change, but in line with the competition. The FLR Defender MTB Dry Boot  are now £129.99. They’re very warm and offer decent defence against chill and holding out pretty well three years on. However, they are bulkier, the closure could be improved and take longer to dry out, following a soaking.

Otherwise, expect to part with considerably more. The next most logical step is the Shimano MW07, which employ are higher end, Gore Tex lining and a Boa closure from improved fit and weather resistance. However, these will still become overwhelmed in torrential weather and you’re looking at £185rrp.  £190 buys the Fizik Artica X5, which are supposedly impervious and extremely secure on wet, slippery surfaces. Deeper pockets? How about the Scott Heater Gore Tex (£219.99).


On a wider level, booties may not be the only solution for some - it might be worth exploring other options, such as waterproof socks, or indeed, overshoes - if you’re primarily tarmac bound. That out of the way, the Shimano MW501 represent fabulous value for money and will cover several genres of riding very well; from mountain biking to gravel, touring, and winter training.  Rather akin to a softshell jacket, they will also handle most riding contexts. However, you’ll need to spend a good bit more for a nigh on impervious design as in common with the jackets, more extreme, or sustained wet will eventually creep inside. 

Verdict: 3.75/5 Capable winter booties for road and less boggy trails.


Michael Stenning – The UK’s largest cycle parts & accessories distributor





Ryton On Dunsmore

Coventry  CV8 3FH


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