The timing could not have been better for Shimano to send me their new M200 trail shoe. I’ve had a great run with a decade old pair of original Shimano DX shoes, which I love so much I’ve glued bits of the sole back on several times. The cleats are ground to smooth nubs and permanently fused in place by rust. Basically, they’re perfect. Sure I could have replaced them long ago but they weren’t that broken and my feet were happy in them. I’m always reluctant to replace gear that hasn’t failed me. Though my beloved DX shoes owe me nothing, they do feel like waterlogged noodles at this point and a new pair of shoes was definitely on the radar for this season.
The SH-M200 is Shimano’s top of the line trail/enduro shoe. It’s packed with performance added features and designed to pair seamlessly with their XTR trail pedal, the PD-M9020.
The first thing I noticed handling the shoes was the weight. At 762g the M200 was noticeably lighter than my DX boots, yet only slightly heavier than Shimano’s featherweight slippers, the XC90. You need not be a cross country racer or a weight-weenie to appreciate the airiness of the M200. Why ride with ankle weights if you don’t have to?
Locking into the M200 is a breeze and the efficient closure system makes it possible to get the shoes on comfortably and securely without feeling as though you’re riding in ski boots. There is a speed lacing system to fasten the toe box section of the shoe. The quick-draw lace works like a webbing to avoid any one area being overly tight like you might find in a three-buckle shoe. Once tautened to taste, the tab at the end can then be neatly secured to the underside of the flap, which covers the opening and protects your foot from water and mud. A low profile micro-adjust buckle to ensure a secure fit and firmness under power handles fastening the arch and front of the ankle. It’s easily adjustable on the fly and can be quickly tightened or loosened while on the move.
I found the overall fit to be very good but did find it on the narrow side for my liking. Fit is subjective however and I am certain plenty of riders found it to be on-point. The shoe has broken in nicely after roughly 30hrs of riding but if a wide version is made available in 2016, I would likely jump on a set of those. It appears a wide model is available in army green but currently only to the Australian market. Despite finding the fit to be snug for my Fred Flintstone feet, I will say that it wasn’t until I tried on a few of the competitor’s shoes that I appreciated just how form-fitting the Shimano shoe feels. My first ride on the contender’s shoes felt sloppy, as though all the finesse I had gained from such a tailored shoe was lost in the slack. All my micro movements and English at that contact point were delayed. It was clear that there was no going back.
The shoe is kept cool with mesh toe vents and I haven’t felt hot in these whatsoever. The M200 has proven to be durable with just enough reinforcement and armor to protect your foot. The rubber pedal contact blocks and dual density extra-cushion insole take some of the thud out of the hits and add to the overall ride experience. These M200s have also quickly become my preferred downhill shoe.
Adding to the largely perfect feel of the shoe was the expanded cleat placement. I ride flats half dozen times a year but prefer being clipped in for most of my riding. The greatest appeal to riding flats for me has always been the ability to place my foot further forward on the pedal when things get hairy. With most clipless shoes, I have the cleat as far back as it will go and and still don’t feel in my happy place on the pedal. The rails on the M200 afford me this position with room to spare. The asymmetrical cleat plate also allows for greater clearance of the crank arms.
I would describe the feeling of riding in the M200 to be instant: XC performance in a trail shoe – particularly when matched with the XT and XTR trail pedals. The stiff TORBAL carbon reinforced midsole provides XC power transfer and immediate entry and release from the pedals. Getting in and out of my pedals was intuitive and effortless. Before I even needed to signal my feet to unclip, I was out. Getting clipped back in was equally natural. The interface between the two has been perfectly refined.
This shoe has been one of my most appreciated pieces of kit in some time and I have really grown to love the responsive and accurate feel provided. At $180 the SH-M200 is a no brainer. You’ll love them!