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Shimano S-Phyre XC9 Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe ReviewBest Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe Review

Great XC Race Shoe at a Staggering Price

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 100% 100%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 40% 40%
  • Comfort and Fit 90% 90%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Best Application: Cross Country Racing

Closure: Dual Boa IP1

Sole: Dynalast Carbon Fiber

Outsole: Dual-density Michelin Rubber

Weight: 390g (size 45)

Upper Material: Teijin Synthetic Leather

What We Like: Dual Boa Closure, Amazing Power Transfer

What We Don’t: Expensive, Lack of Durability, Poor Off Bike Performance

Price: $400.00

One of the things that helped make the Shimano ME7 our favorite all around shoe in addition to our top enduro shoe was its versatility. The Shimano S-Phyre XC9 lies at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum. With a price tag of $400, less than top-notch durability, and an ultra-stiff sole, the S-Phyre XC9 is absolutely not for everyone. However, for hardcore cross country racers willing to pay for fractional gains that could be the difference between the top of the podium and the middle of the pack, the XC9 delivers the goods.

Compare to Similar Products

See Our Best Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe Review!

Shimano ME7

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 80% 80%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 100% 100%
  • Comfort and Fit 90% 90%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Pros

Comfortable

Versatile

Great Power Transfer

Great Off the Bike Traction

Cons

Not the Cheapest Nor the Lightest Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain

Closure: Speed Lace System and Upper Ratchet Strap, Large Velcro Panel Over Laces

Sole: Carbon Fiber Composite

Outsole: Michelin Rubber

Weight: 425g (size 44)

Upper Material: Synthetic

Giro Empire VR90

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 100% 100%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 60% 60%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 60% 60%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

Ultra-Lightweight

Amazing Power Transfer

Cons

Too Narrow for Many

Questionable Durability

Best Applicaton: XC

Closure: Laces

Sole: Easton EC90 Carbon Fiber

Outsole: Vibram Mont Molded Rubber High Traction Lugged Outsole

Weight: 338g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

Shimano S-Phyre XC9

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 100% 100%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 40% 40%
  • Comfort and Fit 90% 90%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

Dual Boa Closure

Amazing Power Transfer

Cons

Expensive

Lack of Durability

Poor Off Bike Performance

Best Application: Cross Country Racing

Closure: Dual Boa IP1

Sole: Dynalast Carbon Fiber

Outsole: Dual-density Michelin Rubber

Weight: 390g (size 45)

Upper Material: Teijin Synthetic Leather

Giro Terraduro

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 100% 100%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Well Rounded

Great On and Off the Bike

Great Value

Cons

Fairly Heavy

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain

Closure: Replaceable N1 Ratcheting Buckle Closure at Ankle, Two D-ring Velcro Straps at Midfoot

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: Vibram High-Traction Lugged Outsole

Weight: 458g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

Giro Privateer R

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 80% 80%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 70% 70%
  • Weight 90% 90%

Pros

Durable for XC Shoes

Lightweight

Good Power Transfer

Great Value

Cons

Narrow Fit

Less Durable Than Terraduros

Best Application: XC, Trail

Closure: Replaceable N1 Ratcheting Buckle Closure at Ankle, Two D-ring Velcro Straps at Midfoot

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: Co-molded Nylon and High Traction Rubber

Weight: 386g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

Giro Chamber 2

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 80% 80%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Weight 50% 50%

Pros

Well Protected

Durable

Wide Range of Cleat Adjustment

Cons

Heavy

Narrow for Riders with Wide Feet

Best Application: Enduro, Downhill, All-mountain

Closure: Laces Plus Power Strap

Sole: Tri-molded SPD Compatible

Outsole: Vibram Megagrip

Weight: 525g (size 44)

Upper Material: Water Resistant Microfiber

Shimano XC7

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 70% 70%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 70% 70%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

Top of the Line XC Performance at Half the Price

Cons

Still a Pricy Shoe for Marginal Gains Over the Giro Privateer R

Best Application: XC

Closure: Boa IP1

Sole: Carbon-Reinforced Nylon

Outsole: Dual-Density Michelin Rubber

Weight: 365g (size 45)

Upper Material: Perforated Upper

Five Ten Kestral Lace

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 90% 90%
  • Comfort and Fit 60% 60%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Patented Five Ten Grip and Durability

Cons

Heavy

Comfort Issues

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain  

Closure: Lace-Up with Hook and Loop Ankle Strap

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: C4 Stealth

Weight: 484g (size 43)

Upper Material: Polyurethane-coated synthetic

Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O.

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 90% 90%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 40% 40%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Pros

Great Pedaling Efficiency

Comfortable and Grippy off the Bike

Cons

Expensive

Least Durable Shoe in Review

Best Application: XC, All-Mountain

Closure: Two BOA IP1 dials

Sole: Carbon Composite

Outsole: Molded Carbon Rubber Tips on TPU Lugs

Weight: 419g (size 44)

Upper Material: Advanced 3-Layer Seamless Composite

Rigidity and Power Transfer

The Shimano S-Phyre XC9 has top-notch rigidity and power transfer, delivered by a stiff carbon sole. The carbon sole has virtually no flex in it whatsoever, on or off of the bike. This makes it a poor choice for hike-a-bikes, but a great one for minimizing wasted power output that can add up over the course of an hours long cross country race.

Additionally, the XC9 includes a nylon heel cup, which extends to the arch of the shoe. The heel cup works in tandem with the XC9‘s dual Boa closure system to fit your foot like a second skin, meaning that it also maximizes power transfer when pulling up during climbs.

In short, the Shimano S-Phyre XC9 delivers the uncompromising rigidity and power output that we would expect from a dedicated, high-end XC race shoe. Its power transfer is only matched by the Giro Empire VR90.

Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability”

A shoe’s performance off of the bike typically has an inverse relationship with its ability to maximize power transfer on the bike, and that is certainly the case with the Shimano S-Phyre XC9. The ultra-stiff carbon sole and no wiggle room fit of the XC9 makes for a shoe that is just as uncompromisingly stiff off of the bike as it is on the bike. If frequent hike-a-bikes, or any type of off the bike use, is important to you then you would be better served by looking toward the Shimano XC7 or ME7, both of which provide better off the bike performance.

On the plus side, Shimano’s recent partnership with Michelin has been a boon for shoes across their lineup, and the Michelin made rubber outsole of the XC9 does provide a fairly sticky grip. However, the XC9’s tread is decidedly minimalist, so there will not be too much of it contacting the ground at any one time.

Comfort and Fit

The Shimano S-Phyre XC9 is a comfortable shoe for what it is. Well ventilated, rubberized one-piece synthetic uppers wrap your foot like a glove, thanks to a nylon heel cup and the X9’s dual Boa closure system. For those who have never used Boa closures, they provide unmatched ease of adjustment and a tight fit. However, that fit is not quite as consistent nor customizable as the traditional laces found on the Giro Empire VR90.

The XC9 also comes with two different insoles, one of which is stiffer and thicker than the other. This helps riders to further dial in the fit and feel of the XC9.

As for fit, the XC9 is about average, and definitely more narrow than Shimano’s all mountain offerings. This makes sense for a shoe that prioritizes a glove like fit. However, the Shimano S-Phyre XC9 is also available in a wide variant, so XC racers with higher volume feet will not be left out in the cold.

Durability

The Durability of the XC9 is something of a mixed bag. This is not terribly surprising given that the S-Phyre XC9 prioritizes stiffness and lightweight at the expense of just about everything else.

The upper of the XC9 is softer than that of the XC7, and it will begin to show after many miles of abuse. The Michelin soles hold up quite well to abuse, but the X9’s exposed carbon areas on the sole hold up decidedly less well.

Finally, the dual Boa closure system adds a number of moving parts to the XC9 not found on other shoes. The Boa system can fail after taking a big impact or after improper use. However, unlike some ratchet systems found on clipless mountain bike shoes, the Boa closures are easily replaced.

Weight

Contrary to Shimano’s claims, we found that the S-Phyre XC9 is actually slightly heavier than the cheaper XC7, with the XC9 weighing 390g in a size 45 and the XC7 weighing only 365g in that same size. Meanwhile, neither can match the lace-up weight-savings of the Giro Empire VR90. Still, the Shimano S-Phyre XC9 is an extremely light XC oriented race shoe by any standard.

The Bottom Line

The Shimano S-Phyre XC9 is a one trick pony, but it does its one trick extremely well. It is ultra stiff and ultralightweight, and for XC racers looking for a clipless mountain bike shoe to give them every advantage possible, the premium $400 price tag might be justified.

However, durability concerns and lack of walkability off the bike make us recommend saving the XC9 for races and serious training rides unless you want to frequently replace a $400 shoe.

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