Simplicity is a thing of beauty, and Shimano’s R078 road shoes serve as surefire evidence.
For the past two years or so I’ve been sporting a pair of middle to upper tier Northwaves, complete with carbon fiber soles, ratcheting buckles and the Italian made promise. At the time of purchase, I was taking my cycling somewhat serious and had no problem forking up some hard-earned gig money for a pair of carbon-swathed road shoes. I was at a place where becoming faster and looking faster was of the higher regard. Flash forward to today and I’ve since cooled the jets a bit, and though my pair of Northwaves fell nothing short of my initial expectations (which were high), they are finally starting to show signs of time. Since I’m currently not doing any form of serious training, I figured I’d reach for something on a humbler shelf.
Taking notice of their good reviews and welcoming price point, I opted for a pair of basic Shimano R078 Road Shoes. After laying down some decent rides in these, I’ve found that going from a carbon fiber, ratcheted shoe to a fiberglass, Velcro shoe has not been a mistake. Here are some of my initial takeaways after passing some pavement under these.
Fit & Sizing
It wasn’t until recently that I realized just how uncomfortable my Northwaves had become. Maybe they’ve always been uncomfortable and I was just so gratified with their lightweight and aesthetic that I subconsciously denied it. Anyhow, my point is that I’ve spent a lot of recent miles in what I thought were uncomfortable shoes, so the familiarity with foot discomfort is still fresh in my brain. When I put on the Shimano R078 shoes I immediately felt a difference. Simply put, these things are comfortable. Since Shimano designs their normal “non-wide” shoes a touch narrower than many other shoes, some may find these on the slimmer side. For me, I have a “normal” narrowish foot if you will, and these fit rather perfectly and do not feel too narrow at all. Unfortunately, if you have a wider than average foot, these are only available in the standard, non-wide option, therefore you may need to look at one of Shimano’s “wide-fit” shoe offerings.
Some additional notes on the fit; the toe box is roomy enough to feel unrestricted, but not too large to where your foot wants to shift during harder efforts. The arch support is comfortably apparent, not too high, not too low, but a safe height so that they can be comfortably worn by most riders. As far as sizing goes, these shoes seem to fit pretty true to size. I wear a size 9 in just about every pair of shoes I own, so that’s what I went with here (Euro size 43), and was glad I did so.
Construction & Design
Like the majority of shoes in this price realm, the R078s are constructed of synthetic leather which means they flaunt resilience without requiring much maintenance, allowing you to simply put them on and ride with little worry. So put away your leather conditioning kit. The uppers design is simple and employs a 3 Velcro strap closure system that uses offset straps to eliminate irritating pressure points on the top of the foot, which they do surprisingly well, and in actuality felt more comfortable than the ratchet system I’ve grown accustomed to.
When it comes to the outsole, it would be easy to assume the R078’s non-carbon, fiberglass sole would tack-on the weight. That is certainly NOT the case. In fact, and to my amazement, the R078 has the lowest published weight in Shimano’s 2015 road shoe lineup. To put it in perspective, the published weight for these is 461 grams (size 40), while the pro level, carbon soled R321 shoes have a published weight of 489 grams (size 40.) Numbers don’t lie.
On The Bike
Besides weight, another area where fiberglass soles commonly fall inferior to carbon soles is in their rigidity. With that said, the R078s still provide quite a stiff, responsive platform that did flex a little during hard efforts. If you’re staying under 50 miles on your ride or commute, this small amount of flex should not be a problem. If you generally ride distances greater the 50 miles or frequently ride at high efforts, flex is probably not desirable and could result in quicker foot fatigue. Currently, I generally ride anywhere from 20 to 50 miles on an average ride, so these fit the bill quite well.
Back to the three Velcro closure. On the bike it felt just as good. I will admit, at first I was skeptical about the security and foothold of the so called “lower-end” strap system. However, after a few good rides with some variable terrain, I actually forgot I was wearing shoes with three Velcro straps (this is a good thing.) They’re secure, easy to adjust, comfy, and kept the tongue from shifting to the right or left (which was a problem with my last pair of road shoes.)
Now the down side. Three Velcro straps doesn’t necessarily look pro. If you’re a pro, this is no dice. If you’re an everyday rider who would gladly trade glamour looks for comfort, then you’re riding in the right gear here. Besides, the R078 features a minimalist approach in a simple color which is easy to match with just about anything.
Sorry to throw out a cliché, but as with anything, keen attention to detail can make big difference. Knowing that for the most part road riding is done in milder to warmer weather, Shimano was generous in terms of ventilation in the R078 shoes. The uppers are dotted with thinner, mesh sections that efficiently pull in and exhaust air. Underneath you’ll find 6 ventilation ports, including a trapezoid-shaped one under the toe box and 5 oblong shaped ones that form a narrow V shape under the arch region. Overall, these shoes know how to breathe. If you find yourself riding in colder conditions, these ventilation ports aren’t something that booties, wool socks, a plastic bag or a little duct tape can’t fix.
There are “strategically placed” silver reflective details on the back and sides of the shoes. While the back reflector is decent, the side details might as well not be there, so don’t count on these for your safety in low light conditions. On the back of the bottom of the shoe is a hard rubber outcropping that makes them comfortable and stable to walk in. However they’re still road shoes so don’t plan on hiking a mountain or strolling the town in them. As far as compatibility goes, the R078 is compatible with both the standard road three hole (LOOK, SPD-SL) and two hole (SPD) pedals, which is nice for preferences.
The Final Word
Simplicity is a thing of beauty, and Shimano’s R078 road shoes serve as surefire evidence. No doubt their price and durability make them a great entry shoe, but that’s not all they have to their name. You don’t have to be a beginner to appreciate simplicity and comfort. In its essence, the R078 may not be a first choice for seasoned racers, but for just about everyone else, including, those trying clipless pedals for the first time, dedicated club riders, and commuters, the Shimano R078 shoes are an excellent option and a great case for expelling the term “entry-level” from the cycling dictionary.
- – Simple design achieves comfort
- – Durable synthetic leather construction
- – Well ventilated
- – Compatible with both three hole (LOOK, SPD-SL) and two hole (SPD)
- – Svelte weight rivals high-end carbon soled shoes
- – Slight flex in the fiberglass sole during harder efforts
- – Three Velcro strap aesthetic
- – Pointless reflective detailing