Shimano offers a full range of shoes for clip-in and platform pedals, and although we’ve been happily wearing Shimano clip-in shoes for years, I have been looking forward to trying the flat-pedal specific SH-GR501 model, AKA the GR5.
The Shimano footwear line is divided between road and off-road riding applications, and sub-divided further by riding style. The brand offers a shoe for every rider, with models for cross country, gravel, mountain touring, enduro/trail, cross mountain, gravity, and even e-bike touring.
With quite a few models to select from, you’ll need to scroll down for a while to discover the GR5, which has been categorized as part of the gravity collection. Having now worn the GR5, I’d argue the versatility of the shoe crosses the lines of the box its placed in.
There are three models in the “GR” series, with the GR5 being the base model. Moving up in the pricing tier offers additional design perks and performance features; the GR7 upgrades the rubber and grip with rubber provided by Michelin, as well as a padded ankle collar. The GR9 is positioned as the flagship model and adds a lace shield and speed lacing system in addition to the Michelin rubber outsole.
The shoe I was the most interested in was the GR5, as it looked the most like a typical skate-style shoe that could be worn off the bike as well as for riding.
- Synthetic upper with mesh
- Reinforced toe and ankle
- Proprietary Shimano rubber outsole
- Elastic “lace-keeper” for managing laces
- Great pedal feel
The Shimano GR5 shoe is well thought out and assembled, but the rubber outsole makes the shoe stand out. The heel and toe feature a tread pattern intended to help with off-the-bike traction. The sweet spot of the shoe features a smooth hexagon pattern for optimal engagement with platform pedals. In use it works quite well, allowing the ability to shift foot position while still locking in when traction is needed.
The Shimano SH-GR501 also incorporates raised ankle protection on the inside of the foot, a much-appreciated feature that with the outsole, makes it a significant upgrade from a typical skate shoe, and is the primary upgrade from the previous years model.
The thing that stood out the most about the GR5 shoe was how well it fit. It fit and rode out of the box better than any mountain bike shoes I’ve worn to date. (I’m also currently testing the FiveTen Trailcross as well as models from Leatt and Ride Concepts; while they all feel grippy out of the box, feel of the pedals has been gray during the break-in period) Admittedly, this has much to do with the sizing and is relative to my feet, but it’s worth noting, especially with many flat pedal shoes requiring a significant amount of break-in time.
There is something about the sole that really works for me — there’s a balance of stiffness and pliability that I’m really enjoying with this shoe.
In terms of walkability, with a Shimano stiffness rating of “2” the GR5 is going to offer the most in terms of pedal feel. In comparison, the Shimano GR7 model features a “4” rating and is recommended for Enduro, trail, and DH use.
On the trail
I don’t find anything basic about this shoe, other than the price, preferring its more street-friendly aesthetic to some of the “racier” options.
In terms of grip, they felt more than adequately grippy, even from the first ride. With other MTB shoes, my experience has ranged from too grippy (most FiveTen models) to not grippy until broken in; the GR501 shoe has been unique in my experience.
But what about that grip
In terms of grip, the GR5 is more than adequate but isn’t as grippy as the shoes (IE, 5.10s) with softer rubber. That said, I’m finding them to be noticeably more durable; with other models, I often find that once they’re finally broken in, they’re on their way to being worn out. Plus, with my riding style, I don’t always want the most grippy setup, which is why I often detune my pedals.
The pedals I paired with the GR5 shoes for this test included:
- Shimano Saint Pedals (detuned with short pins on the inside)
- Shimano XT Pedals (detuned with short pins on the inside, long on the outside)
- Spank Oozy Trail
- OneUp Components resin
Most of the rides I’ve used the shoes on have been between 5-15 miles in length, ranging from full length trail rides at Sandy Ridge to local secret trails to sessions at the Gateway Green Bike Park in Portland. I initially was pairing the GR5 with partially detuned Shimano Saint pedals (short pins installed in the middle positions) but the 2020 Stumpjumper EVO has a really low bottom bracket (that’s actually too low for my personal preferences).
I swapped the Saint pedals for lowest profile pedals in my gear chest, the Spank Oozy Trail pedals. The Oozy Trail has a very low height and paired with the GR5 was the best match for the ground-scraping EVO. Usually I find the Oozy pedal to be on the small side, but for some reason on the EVO they feel good underfoot paired with the GR5.
For pump track and dirt jumping, I’ve been running OneUp Components resin models and they are a good match for the dirt jumper, locking in when needed but not being so stuck that I’m unable to shift my foot placement while doing manuals.
I find the GR5 shoe to be a great option for a playful riding style on flow trails and park riding. It’s lightweight, making it suitable for all-day excursions, but still stiff enough to transfer power to the pedals and remaining walkable. It’s grippy and locks into the pedals when needed but not so grippy that I can’t re-place my foot when needed.
The ankle protection on the inside is appreciated, and in my opinion, a feature that should be included in any MTB flat pedal shoe, as I’ve bruised that part of my foot a number of times in the past.
Lift-assisted bike park: I’d wear the shoe for some park riding, but it’s not my first choice for the most aggressive DH riding, as I would defer to the option with a stiffer sole with softer rubber for maximum insurance banging through the rough stuff. (though in these conditions I often will simply ride clipped in)
I have plenty of options for DH shoes, but not as many for big pedal days, or shoes I can wear all day and also ride bikes. If you mostly shuttle, the Shimano GR7 or GR9 would be better options to look at with additional foot protection and the upgraded sole.
With a retail price of $110, the GR5 – like any MTB-specific shoe – is a bit of an investment, but inline with any other good platform-specific model. The best part is that if you’re looking, the previous year’s model can be found at a steal – I may be picking up a second pair.