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Shimano RC1 cycling shoe review

The Shimano RC1 cycling shoe is the best shoe for all-round use and any budget buyer

Shimano RC1 cycling shoe being used on Peloton bike
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Shimano RC1 cycling shoe is sleek and understated with a very respectable price tag of under $100. This doesn’t mean you need to question quality though, as we found this shoe could more than hold its own under rigorous testing.

For

  • Durable and stiff
  • Adjustable velcro straps
  • Sleek and understated design

Against

  • Cleats not included
  • Limited color range

The Shimano RC1 cycling shoes are a stylish offering from the well-known, respected Japanese Shimano brand – one of the biggest cycling manufacturing brands in the world. These shoes fit like a glove during testing, minus some stiffness around the toe box, and that’s why they sit proudly in our roundup of best shoes for Peloton (opens in new tab)

Specs

Size range: Women’s 5.5-9.5, Men’s 6.6-12.3

Available colors: Black, Blue

Clip compatibility: Look Delta, SPD-SL 

These shoes are verging on basic. Shimano offers a very limited color palette of two options, and the quick-fit triple velcro strap system is one of a few talking points. But, there’s no denying that these shoes perform. They’re made from synthetic leather with a mesh texture, providing a supremely lightweight and breathable ride, and pair with a Look Delta 3-bolt cleat so you can hop aboard the Peloton bike (opens in new tab) for a quick spin at your whim. 

These feel like entry-level road shoes, but we reckon they’ll stand the test of time when paired with one of the best exercise bikes (opens in new tab) on the market. Shimano has opted for sleekness with the RC1, with no bells or whistles to speak of and just a classy subtle logo printed neatly across the strap; this oozes confidence to us, and we loved that Shimano has kept it simple rather than throwing everything at the RC1 collection. 

If you’re after a new pair of cycling kicks that won’t leave you scrimping until payday, the Shimano RC1 cycling shoe could be your match made in shoe heaven – read our full review below to find out if they’re the perfect fit. 

Price and availability

The MSRP of the Shimano RC1 cycling shoes is $90/ £90, although we found this differed quite a lot between retailers. The shoes are stocked in the UK and the US via Amazon, but cleats and SPD adapters are sold separately. Still, we think this is a very respectable price considering the brand’s reputation. Cycling shoes like the Giro and Rapha Classic cycling shoes (opens in new tab) sweep in heaps higher, so you’re certainly getting plenty of bang for your buck. 

Design and features

Shimano RC1 cycling shoes on white background

(Image credit: Future)
  •  Design and features score: 3.5/5

The Shimano RC1 cycling shoe came close to the top spot for style, coming second only to the Nike SuperReps cycling shoe (opens in new tab). The goal of these shoes is to balance comfort with lightness and breathability, but they’ve been made to look a touch basic in the process. 

The three thick velcro straps are one of only a few talking points in terms of features. Although we still prefer the BOA dial system of brands like the Santic Jian1 cycling shoe (opens in new tab), the wrap-around straps do feel encompassing (rather than restrictive), and we liked that they generated a decent amount of tightness without pinching. The 360° reflectivity across the shoe is also a lovely added touch to improve visibility in the dark. 

The surround-wrapping synthetic leather upper structure reduces overlap to help minimize hotspots, and the highly breathable nylon mesh panels improve ventilation and moisture transportation. The reinforced glass fiber outsole isn’t quite the carbon footplate of more premium brands, but still provides a brilliant combination of stiffness (they have a stiffness rating of six), stability, and compliance that is perfect for both road cycling and Peloton. Unfortunately, the outsoles don’t have a rubber grip, so you might find yourself tiptoeing around off the bike. 

Comfort

Person wearing Shimano RC1 cycling shoes

(Image credit: Future)
  •  Comfort score: 3.5/5 

We recommend buying a size up from the RC1 collection as these shoes came up tight; this meant the toe cap felt uncomfortable anytime we pointed our toes downward – almost like we were knocking against wood during uphill climbs. This might not have mattered with a bigger shoe, though.

The shoes are easy enough to pull on and off, and we liked how soft, thick, and padded they felt around the heel, despite still retaining the feel of a lightweight shoe. They’re also low cut around the ankle with a fixed tongue, so we didn’t have to worry about the tongue digging in like with the Santic Jian1 cycling shoes (opens in new tab) we tested. 

Overall, we rate these shoes for comfort but had to rely on user reviews for sizing recommendations – information Shimano could’ve armed us with. Potential buyers should also bear in mind that this shoe favors the flat-footed wearer, so those with a high arch could suffer. We found the RC1s struck a great balance between the integrity of the shoe (which improves cycling cadence and power efficiency) and comfortable molding to your feet. It’s just a shame about the toe box.

Performance

Shimano RC1 cycling shoes being used on Peloton bike

(Image credit: Future)
  •  Performance score: 4.0/4

Our Delta cleats fit snugly to the Shimano RC1 shoes, and we appreciated the detailed instructions included in our package. We recommend checking out our handy guide if you’re unsure how cycling shoes work (opens in new tab)

During the push-pull phases of your cycling revolutions, shoes designed to slip on and off easily can expose cyclists to slippage, especially with only velcro straps for support. That wasn’t the case with these cycling shoes, and we were surprised the velcro straps held our feet so firmly in place. As we mentioned before, the toe box felt too firm, but a larger size could be the resolution.

Although we can’t speak for outdoor use, the vented forefoot on the sole could be a potential issue for road users in wetter weather conditions. However, the durable synthetic leather on the upper certainly feels like it can take on even the muddiest outdoor adventures, and the lack of aggressively bright aesthetics means you could probably get away without anyone noticing if they took a beating, either. 

Value for money

  •  Value for money score: 4.0/5

The Shimano RC1 cycling shoe undercuts the cost of models like the Nike Super Reps and the Rapha Classic cycling shoes (opens in new tab), but that doesn’t mean you’ll need to reinvest in a month. Any manufacturing company worth their salt knows how to produce a durable shoe, and, in our opinion, these shoes are hardy for the long haul. 

Although they look pretty basic aesthetically, they do the cycling basics well – an understated palette, breathable lightweight design, ample stiffness, and a brilliant quality sole. What more do you need for $90?

Verdict

If you’re less fussed with heaps of high-tech features and more concerned about finding a solid investment in a durable shoe, we recommend the Shimano RC1 cycling shoe. While this is an entry-level option, the simplicity of this shoe appealed to our no-frills approach to fitness. However, the shoe doesn't cater well to those with wide or high-arched feet, and we strongly recommend buying a size up to avoid repeating our toe-crushing toe box fiasco.  

Alternatives

Rapha classic cycling shoes

(Image credit: Future)

If you’ve come with cash to play with, the Rapha Classic cycling shoe (opens in new tab) (above) is considered the couture of cycling shoes, and also offers an understated color collection for the fashion-conscious buyer. They’re only Delta compatible though, and they’ll set you back a small fortune without including the cleats. 

We highly rate the Santic Jian1 cycling shoe (opens in new tab) if you’d prefer to stick to a budget. They’re one of our top mid-range offerings, and we found them super comfy during testing. However, they’ve got a more outdoorsy aesthetic which might not be for everyone.  

How we tested

We tested the Shimano RC1 Peloton cycling shoe in our purpose-built testing center and scored them from 1-5 across the following criteria: 

  • Design and features
  • Comfort
  • Performance
  • Value for money

For all models, we tackled a fast-paced HIIT class and an active recovery session to ensure each shoe could power through and deliver – regardless of the user’s workout preferences. 

We then gave the shoes an overall rating out of five with a final verdict summarizing each model's strengths and weaknesses, and whether we reckon they’re ride-ready. 

User reviews

Amazon users gave the shoes a 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Impressively, 64% of these ratings were five stars, with customers rating the great quality of a mid-range product. Other happy customers liked how comfortable this shoe is, but negative feedback warns users to buy a size-up.  

Sam Hopes
Sam Hopes

Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and resident fitness writer at Future PLC. Having trained to work with both the mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and aims to bring mental wellbeing to the forefront of fitness. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and how we can build more sustainable training methods. You’ll find her writing about the importance of habit-building, nutrition, sleep, recovery, and workouts.