Shimano ME502 Review – An all round trail riding shoe?

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Updated for 2021, The Shimano ME502 (or ME5 for short) can be found nestled in Shimano’s Enduro/Trail category along with the ME7 Enduro shoe, and their more insulated winter counterparts. They’re a visibly less beefy shoe than the race focussed ME7, designed as they are for all round trail riding rather than competition. They still promise good pedalling performance though and I was keen to try a lighter, less aggressive shoe than I’ve been riding in recent years, so opted for these over the ME7.

Fastened with a classic velcro strap and BOA L6 combo, the ME5 is Shimano’s premier trail shoe

Shimano ME502 Shoe Specification

  • Price: £140
  • From: Freewheel
  • Sole/Midsole/upper: Rubber/Glass fibre reinforced Nylon/Synthetic Leather
  • Closure: BOA L6, 1 velco strap
  • Weight: 449g (size 44, actual)
  • Sizes: 38-50
  • Colours: Black

Shimano ME502 Design

The overall design of the shoe is pretty subdued, and if I’m honest, my biggest bugbear. There are other manufacturers that manage to make a BOA and single strap shoe look good, so it’s a shame that Shimano have come up short here. The none more black colour option doesn’t help either – a splash of colour (as per last year’s model) might help break up the design, but I digress. 

The design is understated. Those socks are not.

Shimano ME502 Fit

The other big visual difference to last year’s shoe is that the throat (opening and section the BOA laces go over), is now offset from the centre to reduce pressure on the top of your foot. And it worked – no matter how tight I wound the BOA up, the shoes remained supremely comfortable, with no hotspots even after long days in the saddle and lengthy hikes.

Everything’s been moved away from the top of the foot to reduce pressure and increase comfort

The redesign does mean the BOA closure dial is more exposed to rock strikes, but my initial concerns remain unfounded. The dial is definitely scuffed, but it’s intact and still working as good as the day I first put the shoes on. There’s no hint of heel lift either, with the shoe just nicely hugging your foot and letting you get on with riding. While we’re on the subject of fit, these do come up slightly smaller than other bikes shoes I’ve had, so size up if you’re in doubt.

The BOA dial is more exposed to rock strikes than last years model, but it’s holding up well

Protection

Being a trail shoe, protection errs on the minimal side and is limited to some subtle reinforcing around the front edge of the toe box and a bit of raised padding on the inside of the ankle. In spite of this apparent lack of protection, out on the trail I found them to be really quite brilliant – I’ve spent five months clattering through Lake District rock gardens and I can’t recall a single painful rock/foot interface. 

Subtle, yet sturdy protection on the toe box reduces impact from rock strikes

The upper is nicely soft with just the right amount of padding for comfort. On the flipside, while there’s more padding than you might find on a dedicated XC race shoe, the ME5s really don’t offer much in the way of insulation – these are definitely a three season shoe and get mightily cold in the depths of winter. The perforated upper lets in water like a sieve too, but thanks to their lightweight construction, they dry really quickly and shed mud easily too.

Gripping stuff

The sole of the ME5’s forgo the supposedly grippier Michelin rubber found on their big brother ME7’s. However, I found the proprietary Shimano rubber gave excellent grip, even when scrambling over slippery Lakes rock. In deep mud, the moderate tread pattern can sometimes get overwhelmed, but it never caused me much of a problem and if you’re looking for a shoe that grips better in deep mud, I’d be quite concerned that you’ve accidentally stumbled onto your local CX race course. 

My only gripe (other than the looks), is that the padding around the top of the ankle is showing some undue wear. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s not a great look for a £140 pair of shoes.

Annoying wear on the inside of the ankles.

Things I loved

  • The BOA L6 closure makes getting them on and off a breeze and allows you to fine tune the fit while riding.
  • They’re really comfortable to ride and hike-a-bike all day in
  • Other than a little bit of wear on the ankle, they’re holding up really well, especially the sole.

Things that could be improved

  • The looks. Last year’s model looked good. These, not so much.
  • They let water in like a sieve and are absolutely flipping freezing in winter.
  • Erm, have I mentioned the looks?

Overall

I’ve tried, but it’s impossible to fault these shoes’ function. After five months, they’re holding up better than any other I’ve ridden in the last 2 – 3 years, and that’s with me riding more than before. They’ve shrugged off everything the Lake District has thrown at them, and are only showing minimal signs of wear. They’re more than comfortable enough to pedal all day in, give good power transfer, and dry quickly when they get wet. I just wished they looked a bit more stylish.

Looks may not be their strong point, but in use they’re really rather brilliant

Review Info

Brand: Shimano
Product: SH-ME502 Shoe
From: Freewheel
Price: £140
Tested: by James Vincent for 5 months

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Having ridden bikes for as long as he can remember, James takes a certain twisted pleasure in carrying his bike to the most inaccessible locations he can find, before attempting to ride back down again, preferably with both feet on the pedals. After seeing the light on a recent road trip to Austria, James walked away from the stresses of running a design agency, picked up a camera and is several years deep into a mid life crisis that shows no sign of abating. As a photographer, he enjoys nothing more than climbing trees and asking others to follow his sketchy lines while expecting them to make it look as natural and stylish as possible. He has come to realise this is infinitely more fun than being tied to a desk, and is in no hurry to go back.

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