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Shimano R300 Custom-Fit Road Shoe (2009)

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Price: $350.00

Manufacturer: Shimano

Website: http://www.shimano.com

"Great fit, great performance"

by Steve Jones
I must admit, when I saw the Shimano R300 at the Interbike show last year I was immediately tempted to give them a try. For me, a person with nerve problems in my feet and IT Band issues to boot, finding a shoe that fits properly is a number one priority. The thought of changing shoes is never appealing for those reasons.

As luck would have it, my wife surprised me with a mandatory trip to the bike shop for new shoes as a birthday present. She knew I was considering a change since the brand I was using at the time changed their shoe sole significantly from the model I owned. No time like the present to try something new.

And new they were, featuring Shimano’s thermo-form technology to mold the insole perfectly to your foot. For me, it seemed worth a try since I was looking into custom soles anyway, and they were well over half of what the R300s cost alone. The thermo-form technology is very interesting in the way it works. Obviously, Shimano had to be creative in their engineering so the process could be easily replicated by dealers. I was Revolution Bike's first purchase of the shoe, so we had a slight adventure and a close read of the directions to make sure we got it right.

They were trained on how to do it, but since it was the first one, they wanted to be extra diligent in the process. The staff did a great job of getting me setup. To be safe, you should probably budget an hour for the whole fitting process and shoe purchase.

Here's the fitting process in a nutshell:
- remove insoles and bake in the Shimano oven
- replace insoles, put shoes on, and stand allowing them to form to your feet
- heat the shoe (one at a time), put the shoe on and vacuum seal it to your foot

Shimano has incorporated their thermo form material into the main strap, instep, and heel cup of the shoes, so not only is the insole form fitted, but the complete shoe is customized to your foot. I think it's possible to repeat the fitting process up to 3 times as you wear in the shoe.

Now it was time to see what kind of a difference the custom insole and shoe would make when riding.

My first impressions were good, but since it was the winter and I had shoe covers on it took me a couple of tries to the grippy velcro straps just right. Don't get me wrong, I love strong velcro straps when I'm sprinting it out, but not so much in the dead of winter when circulation helps keep your tootsies warm! After messing with the covers and adjusting the straps a couple of time, I found the sweet spot for my feet and began to really enjoy the ride and feel of the shoe.

Having had prescription insoles in the past, you do get a similar comfort level from Shimano's shoe. In my world, every bit of extra comfort improves your overall riding experience, so performance aside, it was worth it to me for the comfort benefits alone.

On the performance side, however, the shoe is certainly no slouch! While I'm no longer banging elbows racing these days, on occasion I do need to discover where my "get up and go got up and went" to make a red light or jump onto the back of a group ride. I'm heavier than a typical racing cyclist at the moment, and even when having to support a little extra "Steve", the shoe is stiff and responsive when going all out. It's strange, but you almost feel like you can dig your toes in when sprinting because of the mold to your feet. Really good stuff, I can't wait to try them out in a crit next season!

The price point for the shoe is a bit on the steep side, but when you consider the cost of a custom insole it's actually a good deal. I was lucky enough to happen across the shoe when it was on sale, so that was an added bonus for me (well, my wife).

Shimano did a great job with the product, and I'd highly recommend giving their custom R300 shoe a try. I've been using it for several months and it has held up great - even through a couple of downpours it has maintained it's fitted form.

One thing to note is that you will need to purchase the shoe from an authorized Shimano dealer who has the proper equipment for fitting the shoe. You might have to pay to get it fitted at a bike shop if you buy it second-hand or from a store that isn't brick and mortar.

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