Shimano are about a month away from their Centennial anniversary, which is a pretty legendary feat, as one of the biggest players in cycling technology and components in the world. Shimano’s contributions to cycling as we know it today have been immense, so there is no way we could do a winter boot group test without including their mighty MW7s, described on their website as a “tough, insulated, waterproof, and comfortable shoe built for riders without an off-season”. Sign me up!
If you are like me, and only want to support companies who give a heck about people and the planet, Shimano has a lot going on. Way too much to dive into here, but you can check out their many initiatives, including their latest Social Activity Report.
Shimano MW7: on test
I don’t like to let weather, or the time of year affect my riding, and good shoes can make a huge difference in getting through a cold winter. I’ve tried a few different remedies to beating the wet and cold, some calculated, some emergency measures, including overshoes (that usually last one season), waterproof socks, multiple sock layering techniques, plastic bags as shoe liners, and strategically placed pieces of tin foil. Safe to say, I was excited to try these boots made specifically to combat all of my winter woes, as far as my feet were concerned.
I got my hands on these shoes in early October 2020, so they’ve had a full fall and winter experience thus far, including urban commutes, off-road rides, thick mud, endless puddles, mountain biking, and lots of snow and ice, since I’ve found myself home in Ontario, Canada for the last couple of months.
Key features, materials & function
The Shimano MW7 shoes belong to Shimano’s off-road range, falling under the ‘Enduro/Trail’ category. They are minimal in appearance, and only available in black. Near the outer side of the toe is a small Gore-Tex logo to signify the waterproof Gore-Tex insulated comfort liner incorporated into the shoe. There is also a small Michelin logo in the rubber sole near the outside heel to highlight the Michelin dual-density rubber outsole offering ‘superior traction with unmatched durability, stability, and slip resistance’.
The shoe fastens with a BOA L6 dial. This was my first experience with a BOA dial, which I had always been skeptical of for off-road or mucky riding. That skepticism has been completely put to bed and I am now 100% convinced of the BOA dial’s functionality in adverse conditions.
The shoes are super easy to put on with the dial loosened, and the velcro undone. Once they are on you simply snap down on the dial and turn to adjust to your preferred tightness. You then pull two separate but connected velcro segments closed, one securing a panel covering the top of the foot and the laces, and one wrapping closed some neoprene on a high cuff above your ankle. I found that these shoes are a breeze going on and coming off, only a few times were my hands so frozen that popping the dial back out to release was a small challenge.
Extra cushioned fleece-lined insoles to keep you toasty, with Shimano’s ‘TORBAL’ (Torsional Balance) technology, allowing for natural rider ‘flow’ with the freedom of the back heel to twist, especially during more technical downhill descents. The synthetic leather of the upper material has small apparent breathing holes on each side and at the top of the toes. I assumed that this was so the infamous Gore-Tex liner known for its waterproof properties as well as its breathability, could do its job, and I was correct, staying dry 80% of the time (more on that to come).
Sizing and fit
My first impression was that these boots seemed pretty sturdy, and might need some breaking in. I was actually wrong about this, and managed to skip the usual period of breaking in new cycling shoes, as they were comfortable right away. I am normally about a US women’s size 7, which depending on where you do your research, is an EU size 37-38, with slightly wider feet. The smallest that the MW7s come in is an EU38 so this was my only option, but they turned out to be a perfect fit with my usual winter socks, Gore Thermos.
I wasn’t sure if these shoes were unisex at first, as some distributor websites label them as such, and was slightly confused by the way the Shimano website presented their ‘regular’ shoe models (all shoes not specifically labelled women’s) but it turned out that the non-designation just meant men’s, which I should be used to but still found confusing. Sorry to my smaller footed friends who would want to give these a try!
There is nothing similar or waterproof offered in Shimano’s women’s range, but if they have your size I would definitely recommend these shoes. I find the fit super comfortable, snug but not too snug, with a good margin of adjustment depending on socks, foot swelling, etc.
The Shimano MW7 shoes are also really easy to walk in, the sole has loads of cushioning, with plenty of grip for hiking detours and pushing through rough bits. The inset cleat also makes these pleasant to walk around in, whether on a trail or on a slick supermarket floor.
Shimano MW7 in the wild
Okay so how did they stand up in the wild? These shoes have been such a welcome change to the usual winter experience my feet endure, as I’ve been able to stay way drier and warmer than I ever have.
The Shimano MW7 shoes, however, are not miracle shoes that never get wet inside (I don’t think such a shoe can exist). As almost all waterproof cycling shoe reviews will tell you, without rain pants (which I don’t usually use) the exposed cuff can absorb water and seep into your socks. If the tights or pants you are wearing are saturated and tucked into your shoes, you’re going to get seepage. This happened on rare occasions from rain and up splash from puddles. Ensuring your pants or tights cover the cuff greatly reduces this possibility.
I wanted to find the submersion limit of these shoes when it came to water, so in a local river I slowly tiptoed in and observed. I stood in about 10 centimetres of slightly flowing water for a good while, and was really surprised to find that no water came in under the velcro top flap or through any of the outer holes. Bit by bit I exposed the shoe to higher water and it wasn’t until just above the BOA dial that water was first felt on my foot coming over the cuff. I was seriously impressed by this (you can ask my friend who I made accompany me for the exciting test).
The first half of this review period occurred in the UK, and the other in Ontario, Canada, where the snow and ice was so frozen that staying dry wasn’t a problem. I find that these shoes easily handle mud and snow, rarely getting wet from exposure. It is direct water that can get inside from time to time, and it is only ever from the exposed cuff that this happens. The rest of the shoe is, in my opinion, waterproof.
The Shimano MW7 shoes are the warmest cycling shoes I have ever had. I did not get cold toes once while testing in the UK, though it sounds like I missed some colder weather there. Here in Ontario it has dropped to -10 degrees with the windchill at times, and I did get some numb toes from riding for more than an hour in that kind of weather.
I have really given the MW7 shoes a beating, and I see next to no signs of wear, especially on the rubber sole which I find I’m usually really hard on with other shoes. If they do get wet, they are quick to dry next to a heat source or radiator. For winter cycling boots, I cannot complain about how these boots look. They are subtle and I like how the laces are covered by a flap as I usually don’t like the look of plastic dial-fastened laces or dials at all (personal preference) so that is a plus for me.
Back in the fall I was lucky enough to have a mountain biking coaching session with Katy Curd in the Forest of Dean where I ended up slamming my cleats all the way back upon her recommendation. I spent a few consecutive days riding there in the Shimano MW7s and that is where I first really felt the torsional balance technology of the shoes. Because they are so sturdy, I was worried about the rigidity of the shoe on technical terrain, especially as it is more of a boot and goes quite high up your foot and ankle. I found that I was not restricted at all and was actually the perfect balance of in-control while still feeling secure in the shoe. The outsole stiffness rating of the shoe on their scale is a 5/12, and I found this to be pretty ideal for mountain biking and learning new skills on a mountain bike.
The Shimano MW7 verdict
These Shimano MW7 shoes are on the expensive side, but for the added protection and technology needed for good cold and wet weather shoes, I think the investment in winter cycling boots is justified. I would definitely recommend these to a friend or invest in these myself. It’s a bummer that these are not offered in sizes below 38, as these shoes are the bomb and I know other women who use and love them.
The waterproof capabilities of these shoes blew me away, I feel ready for anything when I’m wearing them and am extra stoked that they serve me on a technical mountain bike trail just as well as a rainy commute.
Last modified: 26th February 2021