Finding the perfect footwear fit for women's gravel shoe. RX8 VS XC5

Finding the perfect footwear fit for women's gravel shoe. RX8 VS XC5


It’s a bit of a Cinderella story: finding the perfect fit for a shoe is a dream come true, a match made in heaven. But it’s no fairytale, with the women’s RX8 and XC5 there really is a perfect pair of shoes to fit the rider and the ride.

Shoes may not spring to mind when you think of investing in a more comfortable and/or high-performance ride, but your shoes are the point at which you power through the pedals, turn the cranks, and drive the chain. They are the point where woman meets machine. It is a critical juncture and it’s worth getting it right.  

 Beyond that interface, there are criteria to consider such as the terrain or time off the bike. Are they lightweight versus can you walk in them? Will they keep my foot cool versus will they keep my foot safe?  

 So, cross-country or gravel? XC5 or RX8? Cycling shoes must fit the foot and fit the purpose, and SHIMANO’s RX8 and XC5 women’s shoes do just that. Here’s a look at how and why: 


‘X' denotes crossover, and that’s exactly what this shoe is. Like gravel riding itself, the RX8 sits between mountain bike and road. It has to deal with the rigours of off-road riding but is designed more with tracks than trails in mind. It needs to look sleek and feel light, but it must handle more than tame tarmac. The RX8 draws on all the research and development from each discipline and takes what is needed to make a hybrid that is specific and without compromise. That’s no easy task, but the RX8 has nailed it!

The upper wraps around the foot in a single, seamless piece of synthetic leather. Together with a Boa mechanism to tighten the shoe, this design means that there is no pinch-point and no uneven pressure. It really gives a glove-like fit for all day comfort on those long adventures, but also provides a confidence-inducing hold if you need to crank over some tough terrain, hop off and walk, or steal a sneaky sprint to the pub when the last to arrive buys the first round!  

The material is robust enough to withstand dirty tracks and days of dust, but there’s a nice amount of ventilation to ensure that summer adventures don’t get uncomfortably hot and sweaty. The RX8 will still be looking and feeling fresh when you are far from it.  

The sole is a super stiff and lightweight carbon composite, keeping the overall weight of the shoe to a minimum and also providing really efficient power transfer. These really are a featherweight wonder! Whilst all that might sound alarmingly road-centric, the tread quickly reassures that these shoes are not afraid of a quick foray on foot. This all means that you feel like you’re wearing a high-performance race shoe whilst you’re on the bike without having to be overly careful when you’re off the bike.  

So that’s a whistle stop tour of the gravel-specific RX8, ticking the boxes from mega adventures with varying terrain and conditions to a summer spin to the pub.  Let’s see how the XC5 compares. 


The XC5 is a high-performance cross-country mountain bike shoe. Like an XC rider, the XC5 has to deal with a wide range of challenges: technical terrain, power transfer, remaining lightweight for the climbs but strong enough to deal with the downhills, the complete spectrum of weather conditions, full-gas efforts, marathon comfort and maybe some hike-a-bike. It is racy but robust.

Just like the RX8, the XC5 features the single piece upper which surrounds the foot and wraps it up in a soft but solid hold. The upper is made from a strong, cleanable but breathable synthetic leather composite that is wonderfully comfortable even as the foot moves and adjusts for balance when you rail corners or rattle through rock gardens. The Boa system micro adjusts the fit, pulling the shoe around your foot like a loving hug!  

Also providing a firm but friendly hold is the heel cup which, as in the RX8, ensures pedalling stability. There’s no need to overly tighten the upper in order to secure your foot, even when off the bike, and the shoe can be cut low around the ankle to maximise movement and avoid any rubbing. 

 The XC5 and RX8 uppers look fairly similar and sport many of the same features, but the soles really show the differences between the shoes. The XC5 has a glassfiber midsole and exclusive MICHELIN high-traction, mud-shedding tread pattern outsole. The XC5s are designed to take on tough terrain and come out the other side not looking like they’ve been bashed, crashed or thrashed (although they probably have!).  They also have a reinforced spike mount for extreme conditions, with four different spike variations on offer as service parts. Cyclocrossers, this one’s for you! 


With 3D anatomic design tailored around the exacting needs of the female foot, SHIMANO have produced shoes that genuinely tick the boxes. No frill or fuss, just functionality and form. Notably, both shoes feature women’s specific last whereby the toe-spring section helps maximise pedalling efficiency. 

Finally, like with all SHIMNAO’s shoes, the whole shoe is system engineered with SPD pedals so you get the best all-round stability, efficiency and interface.  

 So, which blue shoe is for you? 

They are both Charming, it just depends on your type! 

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