by Wil Barrett
November 16, 2016
With its grippy Michelin rubber tread and carbon TORBAL sole, the ME7 is the latest top-end trail shoe from Shimano. Does it top the outgoing M200?
First introduced back in July of this year alongside the cheaper ME5, the ME7 is a new SPD mountain bike shoe from Shimano. Replacing the outgoing M200, the ME7 is a high-end trail shoe that features a grippy rubber outsole, a carbon fibre midsole, and a reinforced upper that’s designed to provide you with protection against rock strikes and crash damage.
In terms of weight, function and form, the ME7 sits somewhere between the Shimano XC7 race shoes, and the AM9 downhill shoe. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that the name itself is an abbreviation of ‘Mountain Enduro’, which spells out exactly what the ME7 is designed for.
Over the past two months, we’ve had the Shimano ME7 shoes out in the field to see whether the Japanese brand has been able to improve on the old M200 in its quest to create the ultimate enduro mountain bike shoe.
Shimano ME7 SPD Shoe Features:
- Multi-condition Trail and Enduro shoe
- Designed specifically for use with SPD-style clipless pedals
- Protective armouring
- Michelin dual-density rubber outsole
- TORBAL Carbon midsole
- Longer cleat adjustment range
- Neoprene ankle scree guard
- Speed laces
- Low profile reverse mount buckle
- Claimed weight: 750g for a pair in size 40
- Available sizes: EU 38-48
- RRP: £159.99
Reviewing cycling shoes is a bit like reviewing a helmet. What works for one, ain’t necessarily going to work for another. Me personally? I’ve got a love/hate relationship with cycling shoes. With narrow, low-volume feet, I typically have a hard time getting the right shoes to fit, with most shoes flopping around on my feet like a pair of oversized welly’s. And I hate that. Just like a helmet though, it’s worth spending the time to try out a few different models and a couple of different brands to find the right pair of slippers for you. Because it can be quite the magical experience when you find the right pair, where your feet and shoe comes together as one. And I love when that happens.
I’ve got a good deal of experience with previous Shimano shoes, having worn various mountain and road bike shoes from the Big Blue S. One of my most favourite pair of kicks was a set of White/Black AM45’s, which held up to years of both physical and verbal abuse. Whilst drawing their fair share of snide comments for the ‘moon boot’ appearance, those AM45’s were super tough and super comfortable.
Despite my prior experience, the first problem I encountered with the ME7 shoes was sizing. Whereas I’d normally fit a EU 44 size in a Shimano shoe, I had to upsize to an EU 45. Either my feet are growing, or the Last moulds that Shimano are using have changed. A telling clue is that this has been a shared experience with other members of the Singletrack team, who have all had to upsize on previous Shimano shoes we’ve used. Whatever the reason may be, there was no chance I could squeeze my feet into a pair of 44s, so I slung those to Mark to test out while I got a size 45 in to better suit my tootsies.
Once I got the right size, first impressions of the ME7 was that it’s a really, really comfortable shoe. With a thicker footbed and generous padding over the forefoot and around the heel, the ME7 has a cuddly feel not unlike a flat-pedal shoe. The shoes have a mid-top construction, so they come up a little higher over your ankles. A stretchy neoprene scree guard works as an effective extra barrier against debris from making its way inside the shoe, and it also adds to the cuddly feel.
As for width the ME7 is on the narrower side, which suits my feet just fine. The ME7 is built with Shimano’s Volume Plus last to provide more room in the toe box, so there’s lots of wiggle room and no pinching whatsoever. Those with particularly wide feet may struggle with the ME7 however, and at this point in time Shimano isn’t offering an E-width option.
The most obvious difference with the new ME7 shoes and previous Shimano mountain bike shoes is the reversed buckle. The strap itself is fixed to the outer part of the shoe, while the ratcheting buckle is located on a separate flap. Not only does it look neater, it also saves the strap from potentially getting ripped off on the trail. That said, the buckle and strap are still available as a replacement item if you do end up in a spot of bother.
The ratchet itself is the usual Shimano affair, being a low profile micro-adjust unit. It features a quick release function, but I did find the release button to be overly stiff. When the strap is done up tight, you have to press it firmly to open up the buckle. My other beef was that I basically had the buckle tightened up as far as it would go. As mentioned earlier, my feet are on the slender side for a male human being, so it’s pretty typical for me to have all the straps reefed up as far as possible. That said, it would be nice if the ratchet had a 2-position adjustment to offer a little more flexibility.
I’m a big fan of the speed lace system for the lower part of the shoe, which allows you to tighten the shoes quickly and evenly. It’s like regular laces, but with no need to pull any rabbits out of any holes. I now want these for my regular shoes too. The speed lace system also means the ME7 offers a wide range of fit adjustability, and a small Velcro tab on the end of the speed lace allows it to secure underneath the main shoe flap. Once you’ve done up the buckle and the speed laces, a large flap covers the laces and is secured via Velcro.
Another significant change for the ME7 shoe has been the move to a new and more aggressive rubber sole. Rather than the pointy plastic lumps used on old mountain bike shoes, new generation trail shoes such as the ME7, the Giro Terraduro and the Specialized 2FO are electing to use rubber on the bottom of their soles. Not only does it mean they have significantly more traction when you need to scramble over styles or up steep non-rideable sections of trail, it also makes them a lot more comfortable to walk in too.
Compared to the previous M200, the ME7 has a much more aggressive tread pattern for its rubber sole, which has been co-designed with the help of Michelin. The rubber is a dual density construction, with the blue sections using a firmer rubber compound, and the black sections using a stickier compound for added traction. The result is a much grippier shoe with stable tread blocks that extends all the way from the toe to the heel. Mountain biking is, after all, about riding in the outdoors. And whether you like it or not, at some point you’re going to have to get off your bike and push. And it’s in these situations where the extra bite on the Michelin soles makes a big difference. Despite riding in some pretty miserable conditions over the past couple of weeks, I managed to avoid any of those banana-peel-under-the-feet slipping moments.
I also found the additional grip to be useful when I needed to rest my feet on top of the pedal in situations when I didn’t quite have the time to clip back in. Some other mountain shoes are devoid of any tread underneath the arch area, and that makes them particularly sketchy when you’re resting them on top of a metal SPD pedal body. With the tread blocks extending all the way from front to back on the ME7 though, manoeuvres like this are met with far less sweating. That said, the ME7 is an easy shoe to clip-in to begin with. Shimano has designed the outer sole with a pronounced channel in front and behind the cleat, which helps to guide the cleat into the hooks on the pedal mechanism.
As you’d expect with a Shimano pedal and shoe pairing, there is no tread interference whatsoever. While I didn’t have the chance to try it out, my assumption is that there will be more tread interference with a Crank Brothers pedal, due to the shallower cleat profile that Crank Bros use. That means Crank Bros users will likely need to use additional cleat shims with the ME7 shoes.
Like the new AM9 downhill shoe, the ME7 features a larger range of fore/aft adjustment for the cleats, so you can slam them back further behind the ball of your foot. And the reason you would do that? Stability. By pushing the pedal axle closer to the middle of your foot, you reduce the effective lever that your foot creates, reducing strain on your achilles and calf muscles when standing on the pedals. As I’ve found, this encourages you to drop your heels a little lower when in the attack position, which helps to drive more weight into the bottom bracket and the tyres. For technical-heavy riding, the difference in stability is quite noticeable.
However, running cleats further back can also reduce your overall power output, as it puts your knee further behind the pedal axle, and not directly over the top as most bike fitters prescribe. You’re not likely to notice so much on a 5-6in travel all mountain rig, and I personally think the benefits outweigh the cons.
As with the previous M200 shoe, the ME7 and ME5 shoes make use of Shimano’s TORBAL sole technology. In the case of the ME7, the midsole is made from carbon-infused composite, offering a stiff junction between your feet and the pedal body. The magic of the TORBAL system however, is the engineered flex zone through the arch of the midsole. When you’re clipped in, the TORBAL design means you have a little more lateral movement in the heel. This added flexibility becomes noticeable when you’re pumping and pushing the bike through corners, where your feet have more freedom to twist on the pedal, rather than feeling completely locked in. It also gives the ME7 shoes a touch more vertical flex through the arch of the foot, which adds comfort when you’re trudging along off the bike.
Overall power transfer is rock solid, with a feeling of rigidity that’s pretty close to a full-blown XC race shoe. Shimano claim the ME7 sits at 8/12 on the stiffness scale, though we’re not entirely sure who governs the committee on international shoe stiffness standards, so we’ll just take their word for it. What I can say is that there was never any situation where I could feel the cleat through the shoe, and so no hot spots ever emerged. Along with the stable heel cup and snug retention system, the ME7 offers a nice sweet spot between flat-pedal shoe comfort and XC racerboy stiffness.
For their intended purpose, the Shimano ME7 shoes deliver. They’re comfortable, flexible in the right places, and the retention system offers a good range of adjustability. The additional range of cleat positioning is well worth experimenting with, and combined with the TORBAL sole design, makes for a stable feel when descending. The new Michelin rubber sole is super-duper grippy, and given the quality of the construction, I expect the ME7 to offer significantly better durability than some of the early M200 and Giro Terraduro shoes that suffered from tread peelage.
One thing worth noting is that the mesh toe box and heel cup will make water ingress much easier when blasting through puddles. We’d personally like to see that mesh covered up to ward off such invasions, but those riders in warmer climates will likely approve the added ventilation this design offers.
Otherwise, I’m a big fan of the ME7 shoe. I can happily recommend it for any mountain bikers out there on SPD pedals, aside from the hardcore Lycra bandits and full-face downhill bros.