Exercise and fitness your way

Shimano XC90 Mountain Bike Shoes Review

Are you looking for a new pair of cross country bike shoes? Something that’s great both on and off the pedals…maybe also in a half or wide size?
The Shimano XC90 are top of the range for off road. They’re ideal for cyclocross or any time you need run.
The XC90 are available in both normal and wide foot lasts and half sizes. If that’s not enough you can even get them heat molded to your specific foot shape.
Shimano high-end products are in every professional cycling event on the planet. So how does the XC90 stack up?
This review looks into every detail of the Shimano XC90 from top to bottom.
Here’s what’s covered below :


Shimano have been been building precision bike components for almost a century.
The Shimano XC90 is Shimano’s top range answer to the cross country / mountain bike shoe. The XC standing for cross country.

XC90 Shoe Upper

The XC90 is available in either bright blue or black with blue accents.
shimano xc90 blue edge shimano xc90 black edge
The top comprises of Rovenica synthetic leather. Rovenica is more akin to genuine leather than other synthetic material. At a microscopic level the material doesn’t have pockets which absorb water. Meaning it doesn’t get waterlogged and stays the same weight in the wet.
This resistance to absorb water makes them very easy to clean. A quick sponge and water and the dirt’s gone.
The XC90 clean up like a pair of rubber boots.
Rovenica is supple and lightweight, with great elasticity. You can stretch it, yet it will always return to the same size and shape.
This means it will conform to the shape of your foot, without permanent stretching. Giving you the same fit for the life of the shoes.

XC90 Closure System

The closure system uses one aluminium ratcheting buckle and 2 hook and loop straps.
shimano xc90 blue side
shimano xc90 black side
The buckle and straps cross in alternate directions. This alternating design pulls the upper around the foot instead of across it. It also removes tension from the top of the foot when you’re pushing off.

XC90 Inner Shoe

You can customize the fit of the inner soles. The XC90 come with two inner sole wedges for a custom sole height fit.
shimano xc90 insole wedges
The heel cup contains a non-slip one-way grip lining material, which has a similar feel to velcro. Yet it’s comfortable and easy on your socks.
The heel is deep. The depth combined with the inner grip, makes sure your heel stays snug inside. Even when sprinting.

XC90 Dynalast Soles

The XC90 use Shimano’s Dynalast sole shape, which gives an efficient pedaling action. The carbon fibre sole is stiff in the midsole with a bit more flexibility at the heel. This heel flex makes it easier to run.
shimano xc90 blue sole
They have a stiff midsole. This prevents midsole compression or flex, sending more power to the pedal. The power transfer feels more akin to a pair of top of the range road shoes rather than mountain bike shoe.
shimano xc90 sole
The sole has polyurethane lugs, which are soft enough to give good grip. They clear mud well. But these soft lugs do wear fast. They also come with optional metal toe studs which are brilliant uphill runs.
shimano xc90 studs
They use a 2 bolt cleat which is standard MTB compatible. The cleats do not come with them, but are available separately.
2 bar cleat
The Shimano SH51 SPD Cleat set is the best pairing for off road use.
This all results in a sole design that reduces your foot fatigue and is ideal for cyclocross.

Sizing and Heat Molding for Custom Fit

The XC90 comes in both normal and wide foot lasts and half sizes.
The two included insole arch pads allow you to customize the height of the arch support.
  • Average to low arches
  • Average to high arches
 shimano xc90 insoles
Choose the support pad that’s right for your and ensure optimal pressure distribution.
If you’ve got a halfway normal shaped foot you’ll be able to get a pair to fit great.
Shimano use european sizing, use this chart as a reference to choosing the right size.
shimano shoe sizing chart for men and women
For more details see Shimano shoe sizing and as women have different shaped feet, if you’re after ladies shoes also check our guide on women’s spinning shoes.
If you’ve got abnormally shaped feet in anyway, then Shimano have still got your back…or your foot. Heat molding is ideal for:
  • Bunions
  • Wonky toes
  • Extra toes
Heat molding ensures a precise fit, whatever the shape of your foot.
Do not try putting your shoes in the oven at home – you will melt them!

Heat Molding Process

If you have unusually shaped feet and want heat molding goto a Shimano dealer to use the correct equipment.

This is what they will do:

1. The relevant insole arch support is inserted. Either high-mid or mid-low.
shimano heat molding 7
2. A protective toe cap is placed over the shoe to prevent warping. All straps are opened.
shimano heat molding 8
3. The shoes and insoles are placed in the Shimano over for 1 minute at about 100 degrees Celsius.
shimano heat molding 9
4. The insoles are placed back in the shoes.
shimano heat molding 10
5. The shoes (with insoles in) are placed back in the over for a further 2 minutes.
shimano heat molding 11
6. The shoes are work, and the heel pushed down firmly. All straps are done up as per normal wear.
shimano heat molding 12
7. Each foot is placed in a vacuum sealed bag.
shimano heat molding 13
8. While standing wearing the shoes the vacuum is turned on for 2 minutes.
shimano heat molding 14
9. The feet are taken out of the bags and the shoes kept on for a further 5 minutes until it cools fully.
shimano heat molding 15

How The XC90 Compares to The XC70

The XC90 are Shimano’s top range cross country shoes, above the little brother XC70. So how do the two compare?

Shimano XC90

shimano xc90 blue side
The XC90 are lighter than the XC70. XC70 weighs 632g for a size 40, vs 627g for the XC90 in the same size.
The XC90 does not have as much tread as the XC70s. But the tread it does have is softer. Also the tread design on the XC90 means it doesn’t hold mud, unlike the XC70.

Shimano XC70

 shimano xc70 mountain bike shoes
The XC70 usually come in about $40 cheaper.
The XC70 have heat moldable insoles, but unlike the XC90, the uppers on the XC70 are not moldable.
  • You don’t want to spend as much money
  • Are not worried about heat molding the uppers
  • Won’t be doing any running
  • You’re prepared to pay the most for the best
  • You want to custom mold fit the uppers
  • You will be doing some running


Shimano SH-XC90 are one of the best mountain bike shoes. Ideal for cyclocross or any time you also need to run off road with your bike.

Key features

  • Available in either:
    • Bright blue
    • Black
    • Normal sizes
    • Wide sizes
    • Half sizes
  • Rovenica synthetic leather for the upper
    • Doesn’t absorb water
    • Doesn’t absorb water
    • Easy to clean
    • Supple and lightweight
    • Great elasticity
    • Same fit for the life of the shoes
  • Aluminium ratcheting buckle and 2 hook and loop straps
    • Cross in alternate directions
    • Removes tension from the top of the foot
  • Customizable inner soles with two different height arch supports
  • Heat molding insoles and uppers for custom fit
  • Deep heel cup with non-slip one-way grip lining material
  • Dynalast carbon fibre soles
    • Stiff in the midsole
    • Flexibility at the heel
    • Excellent power transfer
    • With soft polyurethane lugs
    • Good grip that doesn’t hold mud
    • Optional metal toe studs for up hill runs
    • 2 bolt MTB cleat – Best matched with Shimano SH51 SPD Cleat set
    • Ideal for cyclocross
  • Weighs 627g for a size 40 without the cleats