You don’t come across many hidden gravel gems these days, most have been uncovered at this point. But this is one of those rare finds. Ostensibly an entry level Gravity mountain bike shoe, these are great for both gravel and urban riding thanks to their robust build and excellent walkability. They’re also much cheaper than flat shoes which shout about their versatility.
Excellent for walking in
Not super grippy on hike-a-bike sections of trail
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The Shimano GR5 flat shoes are something of a hidden gem for urban and gravel riding - and with those being the most fashionable of riding styles right now, these finds are becoming rarer all the time. Once a brand clocks a product’s gravel potential, it’s not long until a renamed model is launched - with the accompanying price hike.
Like the majority of best commuter cycling shoes on the market, the Shimano GR5s were designed with gravity-oriented mountain biking in mind. But whilst other brands, such as Crankbrothers with its Stamp Lace model, shout about their dual application for both gravel and urban riding, the GR5 shoes are quite content being Shimano’s entry level Gravity MTB shoes and nothing more.
So much the better for us - as that puts the price at $114.95 / £79.99 compared to the more gregarious Crankbrothers Stamp Lace. Let’s run through the construction and then get on to how they stacked up in the wild.
Shimano GR5: construction
There’s quite a few points when it comes to the construction that are viewed as a limitation or counted as a criticism by others - and in the context of gravity mountain biking, I would tend to agree. But looked at from the position of urban and gravel riding - most of these points actually turn out to be positives.
As far as I’m aware, these are Shimano’s least stiff shoes, with a rating of just two. For context, the All-Mountain flat shoes (designed for more pedally mountain biking) come in at a five on the brand’s stiffness scale; the top end GR9 Gravity shoes are a three. Even Shimano’s SPD sandals and touring shoes are each a four on the scale.
But what this means is that GR5 shoes are simply excellent for walking in, whilst still being sufficiently stiff for all-day (non-competitive) riding - but I’ll get into that with more detail in the ride section just below.
Equally, the GR5 shoes have been criticised for not having as such tacky a sole as other MTB shoes and the weather proofing not being tightly sealed as other more winter oriented shoes. On the other hand, you don’t get that sticking to the floor sensation when walking on wooden floorboards and other flat surfaces, and the breathability is really quite good for such a chunky looking shoe.
Shimano GR5: the ride
I found the Shimano GR5 to have the best balance of pedalling stability and walkability of any flat shoes I’ve ridden in. Naturally, they’re not a super stiff racing platform, but even modestly sized flat pedals provide sufficient support when riding. I used these shoes together with a pair of RaceFace Aeffect flat pedals on a two-week bikepacking trip from Budapest to the mountains of Slovakia and was perfectly happy with the performance.
Of course, it’s not a set up for hard sprinting efforts, but for that you’d really want to be clipped in, anyway - not just swapping to a stiffer set of flat shoes.
On that trip, I rode through the 30 degree heat in the hills and plains around Budapest and torrential downpours and single digit temps of the Carpahtian mountains. Chunky black shoes were never going to be the coolest option in the heat, but for their size, I was impressed by the amount of airflow they still offered - which was noticeable when riding along.
Naturally in the downpours they did get wet through. But when it was just road spray to contend with, the Shimano GR5 were perfectly able to shrug off the water. Between those two extremes, there are other shoes which provide better weather proofing, but most will sacrifice breathability as part of that.
Regarding the walkability, these were some of the best cycling shoes I’ve ever used. Naturally, they’re not cushioned like a trainer or as flexible, but I had no problems walking around the cities of Budapest, Bratislava and Košice with them - nor going on a 16km hike and gorge walk.
Shimano GR5: value and conclusion
At $114.95 / £79.99, Shimano’s GR5 flat shoes are very well priced. The Crankbrothers Stamp Lace flat shoes are more expensive at $129.99 / £114.99, although they are the more stylish option with the choice of a tan coloured sole
Taking a look at other styles of urban cycling shoes, Chrome Industries’ Dima 3.0 Slip Ons are priced at $95 / £95, which makes the GR5s really very great value in the UK, and a little less so in the US.
In all, the Shimano GR5 flat shoes are excellent for both gravel and urban riding, boasting a robust build and an easy to walk in sole. It really is a hidden gem - which are becoming ever harder to find as more and more brands jump onto the gravel and urban cycling band wagons. As a result, the price is just that of an entry level mountain bike shoe - much cheaper than specific gravel and urban options.
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