Shimano GR7 Review
Cons: Polarizing looks, not the tackiest rubber compound
Our Analysis and Test Results
The GR7 is the mid-range offering in Shimano's line of GR flat pedal shoes. The on-trail performance was generally solid in almost all performance metrics. The level of pedal grip was good, power transfer and rigidity were respectable, the weight was more or less competitive, and the construction quality is impressive. We felt that comfort was this shoe's standout performance attribute. The soles may not be quite as stiff or grippy as the top performers in our review, that said, they aren't far off either.
Grip is the most critical metric in this review, and the GR7 delivered a rock-solid score, although in a different way than our other top-rated competitors. While the grip levels are impressive, they still can't quite match the grippiest shoes on the market. To be clear, we found the pedal traction to be well above average, although this shoe's grip is created more from the pedal pin and tread interface than from a tacky rubber compound.
Shimano has teamed up with Michelin to create the rubber compound on the sole of the GR7. This rubber compound feels noticeably harder to the touch than the rubber used on most of the other shoes in this test. Underfoot, the tread pattern is quite unique compared to most other flat pedal shoes, and it seems pretty aggressive throughout. The toe and heel feature more widely-spaced and deeper traction lugs that vary in shape. These lugs have small sipes in the middle of them. The remainder of the sole underfoot uses a variety of siped lugs that are shallower and smaller in appearance with channels in between.
On the pedals, the interface between the pins and soles was impressive. The Michelin rubber feels a little bit firmer as opposed to soft and plush. The rubber engages the pins pretty well but it doesn't allow the pins to really dig into the sole. This shoe's excellent pedal grip really comes from the sole's tread and the way the pins can settle between all of the small tread lugs, and less from them penetrating the rubber. Since the channels between the tread lugs are deep, it provides a relatively locked-in feel and it can be difficult to reposition your foot if you are out of position. We found we needed to consciously lift the foot a little bit to disengage the pins from those channels.
It should be mentioned that this was one of the most impressive shoes for hiking around. The aggressive tread pattern at the toe and heel really hooks up with the trail and the slightly more flexible sole offers a comfortable walking motion.
If all-day comfort is a key concern, we feel the Shimano GR7 is an excellent choice. We would have no problem wearing these on 8-hour epics, and then for the drive home afterward. The fit is dialed and it offers plenty of space while retaining a precise feel. They are also reinforced at the toe and heel to protect the feet in these key areas and provide some added peace of mind.
As soon as we slid our foot into this shoe, we found the fit to be impressive. We felt that our size 11 (Euro 45) GR7 test pair fit true to size for its length and that the shape was dialed with a relatively average volume. We feel this shoe should work well for a large portion of rider's foot shapes from average to slightly narrow or slightly wide. The toe box offers a spacious feel while still holding the forefoot in place precisely. Through the mid-foot, the arch support feels supportive and slightly more spacious than the bulk of our other test models. The heel pocket is well shaped and it holds you in place without issue.
The synthetic uppers feel supple and conform nicely to the shape of the foot. It isn't a firm, boxy structure, it is significantly more flexible. The lace closure pulls tension evenly over the top of the mid-foot, with a wide padded tongue that helps keep the laces comfortable and pressure point-free. The unique neoprene ankle collar rises about an inch above the ankle cuff and effectively helps to keep dirt and debris from entering the shoe. A thick and firm rubber toe cap wraps around the front of the toe box to ward off rock strikes and protect the toes from unexpected impacts. At the back of the shoe, the heel pocket feels reinforced with a dense underlying structure to help add a little more protection in that key area.
Rigidity and Power Transfer
The GR7 offers a respectable level of rigidity and power transfer. It is rated a 4 on Shimano's sole stiffness scale of 1-12, which makes it far less stiff than their carbon-soled road and clipless mountain bike shoes. That said, it is the stiffest flat pedal model they make. This isn't some ultra-stiff shoe with a gnarly shank in it. Instead, it has a nice middle of the road stiffness that provides a good pedal feel, respectable power transfer, and great off the bike walkability.
Our in-hand flex test revealed that the GR7 is less stiff than several of the other models we tested. It allows a fair amount of flex from the midfoot forward. When riding, you can certainly feel the pedal underfoot, and this shoe flexes ever so slightly under the weight of the rider, conforming a little to the pedal. Despite being less stiff than other models we tested, we didn't find a noticeable loss of power due to the flex of the shoe while climbing, and it still retains a nice level of pedal-friendliness. On some rougher downhills, we did find a little more feedback translated to our feet, and these shoes didn't seem to dampen vibration as well as others. We feel this is likely a result of the stiffer rubber of the sole, and a little less cushioning built into the midsole. We feel this shoe is well suited for trail or all-mountain riding, although we think there are better options for charging down rough, technical descents
The GR7 is a relatively breathable shoe with decent airflow. The construction and materials work together to deliver an airy feel. The combination of perforations across the toe and the breathable mesh side panels allow heat and moisture to escape. Additionaly, when you're charging downhill, some cool air is allowed in. The hydrophobic nature of the GR7's materials and the shoe's breathability encourages speedy drying of the shoes after rainy rides, sketchy creek crossings, and hot, sweaty days.
The breathable and airy characteristics of the GR7 further exemplify why this shoe is a great all-mountain shoe. It might not be crazy stiff or covered in armor, but it is a great tool for big rides in a range of conditions.
Throughout testing, we observed no significant signs of premature wear or durability concerns. The GR7 appears to be well made, with long-lasting materials and quality craftsmanship. The uppers feature an almost completely welded construction, bonding the mesh and TPU materials together. These welded seams are very low profile, making them less prone to snagging on trailside obstacles than stitching. The synthetic TPU material also seems impressively tough and abrasion-resistant. The harder rubber compound on the sole still looks brand new despite sharp pedal pins, loads of pedaling, and gratuitous hike a bikes on sharp granite. While softer sole materials can deliver better grip, the harder rubber will likely have a much longer lifespan.
Our Euro size 45 test shoes translate to a U.S. size 11. Our test pair hit the scales at an average of 414-grams, or 14.6-ounces per shoe. This puts the weight of the GR7 around the average of the models we tested. Though they are a touch heavier than some of the lighter models we tested, they don't feel particularly heavy on the feet. If we didn't weigh these shoes, we would have assumed they were among the lightest in our review.
At their retail price, we feel the GR7 are a relatively average value. Sure, there are less expensive options, and you can find some shoes that might be a little grippier or stiffer. That said, we think the GR7 does a wonderful job adventuring all over the mountain. Pair that well-rounded performance with a durable construction and soles that should last several seasons, and the price of the GR7 becomes a little easier to justify.
The Shimano GR7 are a killer trail and all-mountain flat pedal shoe. They aren't the stiffest, burliest, or absolute grippiest shoes on the market. Instead, they deliver a relatively well-rounded performance across the board. These shoes are supremely comfortable with good breathability, power transfer, and pedal grip. If your idea of fun is an all-day adventure ride rather than bike park laps, this could be the shoe for you. Sure, the looks are a little polarizing, but they also come in a more subtle black colorway, as well as a women's version.
— Pat Donahue
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