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XC70 vs XC90
The Shimano XC70 sits at the upper range of Shimano's XC MTB shoes. It sits just above the XC61 which isn't a Custom Fit shoe and just below the top model, the XC90. Looking at the heat mouldable MTB shoes from Shimano you currently have two options, the XC70 or the XC90. Here is a comparison between the two.
As you can see, most of the important features are quite similar of the same. The biggest differences are in the upper material and the sole. Where the XC90 has a full carbon sole, the XC70 has a carbon cleat area and a composite sole. I tried them on both but I could barely tell the difference in stiffness.
What in my opinion does make a difference is the design of the outer sole, the XC90’s has more studs which increases grip. The price difference is about €100 retail which is pretty big for these minor differences. I got the XC70’s for €189 at my local store which seems an okay price for the features of these shoes.
FeaturesNow that the major differences are clear let’s take a closer look at the XC70’s and it's features.
- Synthetic leather uppers with impact protection on the front and side of the shoes.
- Large ventilation holes are placed in the front of the shoes.
- Alternated straps for relieving tension in the foot. (It doesn’t stretch the outers from one side to the other like traditional orientated straps do.)
- An easy removable and replaceable ratchet system if needed. The system feels really solid and it doesn’t look like it will need replacement anytime soon.
- Replaceable toe spikes. These wear out but Shimano offers additional types of spikes.
- Different insert options for the heat moldabe insole if you have a low or a high arc.
- Low weight. According to Shimano a pair size 40 weighs 632 grams. My size 45 came in at 775 grams.
If you are considering the XC70’s chances are that you want a heat moldable shoe. Heat molding shoes has been done for some time for cyclists but it's now more accessible for the general public. So how does it work?
The shoes are made of a special material that becomes moldable when heated to a certain temperature and when cooled down it hold the new shape for a long time. Depending on how much you ride you might want to have it remolded after about 2 years. Custom-Fit shoes can be remolded for a total of 3 times.
The custom fitting process isn't something that you do at home but at a Shimano dealer where they have a special oven for heating shoes. They heat the oven to about 100 degrees Celsius before placing the shoes and insole inside the oven. A protective toe cap is also added to prevent the nose of the shoe from collapsing in a later step. The shoes are now placed in the oven for about 3 minutes to get up to temperature.
I was expecting the shoes to be really hot and somewhat uncomfortable because of the heat. But when they came out of the oven and had to put them on, they weren't that hot at all. You have to act quickly when the shoes come out of the oven since the material is still soft and rapidly cooling down. After putting on the shoes like you regularly do, a bag is wrapped around your shoes and you have to stand up. A vacuum pump is turned on, pulling all the air out of the bag and putting pressure the outside of the shoe, so that the shoes form to your feet. This step takes about 2-5 minutes before the shoes are shaped to your feet and cooled down enough to complete the Custom-Fit process. I was pleasantly surprised how quick and how comfortable the whole process went.
I've been riding with the Shimano XC70's for about 4 months now and the performance of the XC70's is solid. I tried these shoes before letting them Custom-Fit, the fit was descent and pretty comfortable. There's a decent amount of padding in the shoes but heel area wasn’t providing much grip, causing my heel to lift a bit while sprinting. This was the main reason for getting the custom fit, as well as evening out the pressure on my feet with the heat moldable insoles.
The result was of the Custom-Fitting was impressive, the small changes to the insole and uppers made the XC70's go up from a good to a great fitting shoe. The insole is now formed to my feet with any hotspots being evened out. The uppers came a in a bit and eliminated any play, creating a solid and constant feel. During the custom fit process some creases in the shoe can appear depending how much the uppers shape to your feet. In my case it’s not that much and the creases are barely visible.
The stiffness of XC70 is great for competitive mountaibikers but you don’t want to be walking on them for too long. For just running up an incline for a few meters the XC70’s performed well but I’d prefer something grippier. The toe spikes didn't really dig in and the threads fill up with mud easily. This is a point where the XC90 has the upperhand with additional spikes and slightly different treads.
The overall performance of the Shimano XC70 is great. Comparing it to the XC90 it hard to justify about a €100 price difference while these shoes have so much in common. Looking at the price of €189 for what I paid for these shoes, it still on the high side but the features and the solid build quality make that these shoes will last for some time.