These Shimano MW7 winter boots are designed to remove any excuses you have about winter riding. Forget ‘it’s too cold’ or ‘it’s too wet’ as the idea of these black beasts is to protect you from the worst that winter will throw at you.
Shimano has a long history of making decent winter boots. Originally these boots’ predecessors evolved from Shimano’s original downhill clip-in boot, launched last century, but the design has been refined over the last couple of decades and what we have here is a great, if reasonably ugly/workmanlike, boot designed for the cold and the dark, the wet and the snowy.
From the top-down, there’s a tall, soft, neoprene cuff, intended to keep splashes and drizzle out. Obviously, there’s a big hole in the top where your legs go, so they will never completely keep everything out, but the wrap-around design keeps the worst at bay. It’s sewn into the lace cover, which is made of an impervious, rubberised material. Underneath this is a bellows tongue, topped by a BOA closure. The single BOA filament is relatively short in its coverage, being only about 80mm long over the mid-foot, yet this is enough to keep your foot in place, with no other straps or buckles to help.
Underneath, there is a Michelin branded, lugged sole with plenty of tyre-like tread to keep traction when off the bike. The whole sole is covered in tread, even the instep, which is handy for resting, unclipped on pedals, or for roots, stiles and rocks where you’re relying on a small part of the sole for grip. There are differently coloured treads for the extreme toe and heel tread, but my thumbnail test couldn’t feel a difference in rubber softness.
Inside the boots, there is a cosily brushed insole, as well as a fabric lining. This aids the instant feeling of comfort that you get when putting them on. Interestingly, the sizing appeared to be true to size. I normally only just comfortably fit into a Shimano size 43 trail shoe with summer socks on, yet these size 43 MW7 winter boots fit just fine with a generously fleecy sock. Try before you buy, but I don’t reckon you’ll need to size up from you regular Shimano shoe size.
Shimano MW7 boots in use
Getting in: I’ve run these boots for one and a bit winters now, and some wet springs and autumns too. So far they’ve been pretty faultless. Getting into them (something that can be hard on some boots with zips or laces) is very easy as the MW7 winter boots open up pretty wide, yet are quick to click and cinch. I’ve not had a problem with the BOA dial (though a prouder rubber grip would help winter glove grip) and the dials are guaranteed for life. I’m aware that if you snap a filament, that would be a pretty big issue, but it’s hidden under that flap and pretty safe.
Cinching the boots up is simple enough. Turn the dials tight, then probably put in a few more clicks after the first snack stop as the boot settles around your foot. The fit is comfy, with a roomy enough toe box to let you wiggle toes if they do get cold. This is pretty rare, though, as the thin insulation is great, even for breaking through icy crusts of snowdrifts on your hike up to the top of the climb. The neoprene cuff does a good job of keeping the worst of the weather out (and if you’re wearing waterproofs over the top, you can be sure of some comfy toes.
Wet weather is similar – you need to be standing in properly deep water before you get any ingress – probably deeper than 4-5in/100-120mm. Obviously, if you’re riding something like the Strata Florida or similarly submerged Welsh trails, you’re going to get wet feet, but the insulated lining and the vent-less exterior of the MW7 boots do a good job of wetsuit insulation. Obviously, at some point you’ll have to physically empty them out as they won’t drain, but that can wait until the porch of your B&B, right?
Sole grip is good. I’d prefer it a little chunkier for truly sloppy mud, but they do a great job of most terrain. They’re also confidence-inspiring on rock, which is more than some winter boots can claim. If you are going to be doing a lot of hike-a-bike, though, you might find the reasonably roomy boots to lack a bit of structure. On the flipside, the soles of the MW7 are rated 5/12 on Shimano’s stiff-o-meter, so riders used to more regular non-cycling footwear will find them instantly comfortable, with very little bedding-in needed, if at all.
Getting out: To exit the boots, you just pull on the BOA dial to click it loose and pull open the lace flap (an action that consistently sprayed gritty water into my eyes, until I learned to look away) and loosen the BOA filament. Assuming you can feel your fingers enough to grip the dial, you’ll be able to exit the boots. Something that can’t always be said of zipped or ratcheted boots. Even laces can be an issue in the cold and wet…
There is also a competitor from Shimano’s own line, the lace-up. Gore-Tex lined XM900 boots, which are more like a winter hiking boot. If you’re going to be doing more scrambling and hike-a-bike, then those are definitely worth a look.
Three things that could be improved
- The price: At £200 a pair, they’re a big investment for something that has a limited season, as they really can get too warm to ride once spring is here. However, they really can open up a whole ‘nother season of riding to you.
- No toe studs? The sole tread could be chunkier for better grip in wet grass, mud and snow, and a pair of toe studs would really help add versatility.
- Cleat slots could be longer – especially for riders coming from flat pedals. And while we’re here, why not make a flat-sole version anyway? The world is crying out for winter flat shoes.
Three things I loved
- Instant comfort. They’re easy-on, even with cold hands, and they feel warm and homely very quickly.
- They’re not overbuilt, so they don’t feel heavy, like a mountaineering boot. They dry quickly too. The MW7 winter boots are a Goldilocks fit between a useable cycling shoe and a protective, deep winter boot.
- That impervious feel when on. Whether riding into a sleety head wind, or stepping into that unavoidable puddle to open a gate, the MW7 boots are an essential bit of winter kit.
The Shimano MW7 boots are a great ally in the quest to actually enjoy the winter months. They will find (and have found) favour with winter commuters, night riders, long distance trail riders and anyone who finds the thought of cold, wet feet unbearable and a limit to how much they can (or want to) ride off road during the winter months. They’re not the prettiest, but it’s probably dark and raining, so who’s looking? And ‘performance’ riders might want a stiffer sole and more strap closures. For me, though, the ease of getting them on and the instant warmth and comfort means that the Shimano MW7 has given me one excuse fewer for not riding my bike tonight.
|Product:||MW7 Winter Boots|
|Tested:||by Chipps for 18 months|