I tested Shimano's XC3 shoes and at last discovered an MTB option that properly fitted my large feet

Low profile, comfortable, budget-conscious XC shoes that will cope when the going gets tougher and are the only MTB shoes available in size 51 or 52 (EU) wide fit

Shimano XC3 shoes
(Image: © Jon Slade)

BikePerfect Verdict

The XC3s are a comfortable, well-featured, decent-value BOA shoe for MTB or gravel, with a great size range. Add in good stability on XC and more technical terrain, low weight, stiffness that balances pedalling vs hike-a-bike, plus good grip, and they should definitely be on your list if you’re looking for a value option.

Pros

  • +

    Good price for a BOA shoe

  • +

    Decent compromise of power transfer to flex

  • +

    Lightweight

  • +

    Grippy tread

  • +

    Great size range (36-52) and a womens' model

Cons

  • -

    Fewer sizes and no wide-fit option in US

  • -

    No toe spikes option

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In 1990, Shimano introduced the SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) cleat system and the M100 off-road shoe. Several factory race teams from XC to enduro to downhill wear Shimano shoes. Following Bike Perfect’s piece on Shimano's new XC1 and XC3 shoes, how do the XC3s stack up against the best budget MTB shoes out there?

Side view of shoe

BOA-equipped shoes at this price point are unusual (Image credit: Jon Slade)

Design and specification

The XC3s have a sleek, minimal design. Rather than a conventional tongue, one side of the synthetic leather upper wraps over the other on the bridge of the foot. For breathability, there is a small mesh section at the base of the bridge, and the uppers are perforated around the front of the foot. There’s a toe kicker, and a stiffened and padded heel, which feels nicely squishy. The inside is microfibre, apart from synthetic leather lining the heel. Wrapping things up (literally), the shoes fasten via the ‘BOA Fit System‘: twisting the dial ratchets plastic wires laced across the foot bridge. As with Bike Perfect’s current best bargain clipless shoe, the Carnac Grit, this is unusual for shoes at this price point.

Shimano's XC3s sport a shallow glass fiber-reinforced nylon outsole – like the Carnac Grit, there is no shock absorption between the hard lattice top of the outsole and the removable insole, giving a low ‘stack height’ and profile.

The underside of the outsole is rubberized, with tread knobs around the heel, ball of the foot and toe box. Unlike the Carnac Grit or the next Shimano shoe up in the range (the XC5), there is no option for screwing in cyclocross-style toe spikes.

While the XC3s come in a fantastic size range in Europe (EU 36-52, in both standard and wide fit), they only come in US size 6½-16 (EU 40-52) and only in standard width in the US. There’s also a women’s specific XC3. Bont, Lake and Sidi go up to size 50 in a standard and wide fit, but the XC3s are the only off-the-shelf clipless MTB shoe, from any brand, in a size 51 or 52 wide fit … and I needed a clown-sized 52 wide!

Top of shoe

Breathability is helped by perforations and a mesh insert (Image credit: Jon Slade)

Performance

I’ve pushed the XC3s beyond their XC envelope, having ridden and hike-a-biked big, technical British mountain epics in snow and slop, challenged my deathgrip nerve on bike park raids, done some cheeky gravel blasts and even a bit of road commuting.

So, how do they fit? Pretty well. Length was good, however, my feet are super-wide and my toes felt too squashed at the sides, meaning they got cold on sub-zero days (where my discontinued 51-wide Sidi Dominator 5s allowed toe wiggling and kept my feet toasty in the same conditions, even though their uppers are thinner). Having internal shoe width measurements on the Shimano size chart would help here when buying online (as Bont and Lake do).

Compromised toes aside, my feet felt comfortable, and on warmer days, never felt too hot (although I’ve not yet ridden them in very hot weather). My heel stayed securely in place, the BOA system and the outsole’s low-profile kept my foot stable on long, rowdy descents, giving great confidence. Power transfer felt decent, with some helpful outsole flex during some hour-plus steep hike-a-bike (Shimano rate the stiffness of the XC3s as 5 out of 12).

Tread grip was good on most wet rock and the tread is showing minimal wear so far. And despite much abuse, they still smell fresh! Once wet, the XC3s do take a couple of days to dry, though this is the case for most shoes. They feel pretty light, and the stated 664g for both shoes in a size 42 (with no cleats) is comparable to similarly priced shoes.

Outsole

Rubberised outsole with decent grip, and nice compromise between stiffness and flex (Image credit: Jon Slade)

Verdict

The XC3s have stood up to a good thrashing on pure XC, plus plenty of chunkier rides, and also work for gravel or commuting. Fit, comfort, grip and weight are good, and the BOA system and low profile give a stable and confidence-inspiring platform. While not the stiffest shoes, they’re a decent compromise for a range of riding, and handle hike-a-bike stints well.

If you’re looking for a relatively budget choice then the XC3s should definitely be on your list, especially if you have unusually big or small feet.

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The lowdown: Shimano XC3 (SH-XC300) shoes
AttributesNotesRating
ComfortReally good apart from cold toes due to my super wide feet★★★★
GripImpressive in all conditions★★★★★
Power transferA good comfort vs stiffness ratio★★★
Value for moneyFeature packed and an excellent price★★★★★

Tech specs – Shimano XC3 (SH-XC300) shoes

  • Price: $125.00 / £109.99
  • Sizes: US: US size 6.5-16/EU 40-52 standard width only. Europe: EU 36-52 standard and wide-fit
  • Colors: US: Olive, Black. Europe: Olive, White, Black
  • Weight: 941g (pair of size 52 wide with cleats). 664g (42 standard-width no cleats) claimed
Jon Slade
Freelancer tester

Jon has been riding mountain bikes since the 1980s, is a self-confessed mud aficionado, loves big, high-mountain rides and eating cake. He’s ridden solo from Arctic Alaska to Mexico following the Rockies, wild camped in bear and mountain lion country, and bikepacked the length of the Moroccan High Atlas, Colorado, in the remote, tussocky mountains of Wales more times than he can count, and across Scotland. He’s a fan of big skies, gear, tricksy, trialsy riding, seeking out unknown routes and general bike-related hoonery with his mates.


Current rides: Santa Cruz Tallboy, Trek Fuel EX, Orange P7

Height: 198cm

Weight: 85kg