If flats are on your mind, hopefully it isn't because your tire has suddenly evacuated itself of air. If that has happened, you've come to the wrong post. Go here. If it hasn't happened and indeed you have seen the benefits of riding unattached to pedals, welcome to the club, you are in good company. Here in flat land, we do fewer scorpions and more steezy one-footers (At least some of us do. Not me.) and we don't tap-dance our way through the bar post ride. It's really the only way to live.
Right now is the best time to be alive for us flats riders. There is a seemingly endless selection of both good shoes and good pedals. Recently added to the line-up of choices is the Shimano GR7 flat shoe, and after spending the last few months riding, walking and occasionally falling in them, I am here to report on their performance.
The standard for flat-pedal shoes is 5.10, they are grippy, comfortable and stiff, but not too stiff. The GR7 checks all of those boxes as well. The sole of the shoe, courtesy of Michelin—yes, the marshmallow man Michelin—is made up of two different tread patterns. The heel and toe have larger lugs while the middle is a more intricate and detailed pattern. The double tread offers extra grip in the toe and heel sections when hiking, while the pins lock into the portion in between.
Compared to the 5.10 standard? Better and worse. I like the mid-foot tread pattern better than 5.10's circles, or contact patch. The tread is just deep enough and intricate enough that I can get a truly locked-in feeling when the pins sit between the tread. This means micro-adjustments require a bit more effort. It’s still possible, but not free and easy as 5.10’s sparse pattern or the new breed of racing-slick contact patches. And when you get into a comfortable position, you are less likely to be bumped out of that position when the going gets rough. Shimano also deserves a nod for making the pedal section of the shoe much bigger than what can be found on other flat-pedal offerings. The bigger pedal patch interfaces with bigger pedals better. Say that five times fast.
So where is it worse than the 5.10 sole? Well, 5.10 has some of the fanciest rubber in the business. I might even go so far to say it is the best rubber in the business. Maybe it is because 5.10 also makes climbing shoes. But whatever the secret, I noticed a difference in grip when hiking sketchy sections of trail. In dirt, the Shimanos performed well, with the larger lugs fore and aft of the sole digging into the ground, but here in Southern California we also have a lot of rock. And on sheer rock, 5.10s beat out the Shimano on grip.
As for stiffness, the GR7s started a little stiffer than I like, but eventually broke into a more comfortable rigidity. And there they have stayed, avoiding further loss of stiffness despite my best efforts. They are comfortable to walk in, but they are also comfortable on all-day rides, even if those rides are rowdy and rocky shuttles that find you out of the saddle almost the entire time. I took these down the Palm Canyon Epic, a 30-mile shuttle, twice, and despite almost 5 hours in attack position, my feet were not the worse for wear.
So, the sole is great but what about the upper? It is thin, perforated and breathable. The shoe uses laces, which sit flat across the top for a comfortable and even pressure when tightening down on the system. And laces also don’t require special knobs or dials to make them work. The likelihood of a lace breaking mid-ride is slim. And if it does happen, they are easy to replace. The GR7s even ship with an extra set. The tongue has no odd seams that developed into pressure points and the reinforced toe saved my little piggies from multiple hard encounters that otherwise would have resulted in multiple missed market trips.
And then there is the stretch-mesh ankle collar that hugs the ankle. The structural heel-cup of the shoe doesn't seem appreciably lower in the back because of the installed gator, and the mesh's claimed resilience to debris only panned out partially for me. I still got rocks in my shoes. As far as I could tell the collar doesn't do much, but it also doesn't detract from the shoe at all. It wasn't noticeable from a comfort perspective, and it certainly didn't affect the performance of the shoe. The only thing it does affect is the style.
I won’t be wearing the GR7 to any formal evens, but the shoe isn't ugly either. And it does get extra points for lack of branding. There is no big 'Shimano' printed on the side, or massive 'GR7' announcing my shoe preference to the world. The only branding is on a small tab at the top of the tongue and a stamp in the side of the sole. A refreshing change from the norm.
Put together a functional sole, a breathable upper and a simplistic look and what do you have? A flat-pedal shoe that rivals 5.10's functionality in an extremely comfortable package.