Shimano has been at the forefront (forefoot?) of shoe and pedal technology since the early 90s. Their latest road range boasts ten models, and we got to try the RC3, which sits second from the bottom of the heap.
The RC3 may be a 'budget' shoe, but it looks like a top-end piece of gear. It's a good looking shoe, with a BOA closure, reflective panels and a sleek profile that belies its crazy good $110 price tag. Ok, so there's no carbon sole, but this shoe isn't aimed at those for whom stiffest and lightest are the prime motivators. For those who want all-day comfort, durability and some shekels left over, they’re a great choice.
The uppers are a synthetic leather material which has a finish that looks like it will resist scrapes and scuffs well, while offering good water repellence due to the more plasticky texture, as opposed to mesh. There is a mesh vent section just behind the toe area, mostly covered by the large instep flap which folds over the top of the shoe. Ample perforations around the front of the reinforced toe box and the instep, help keep the air flowing. Underneath, there's a largish vent to direct air under the toes - and it certainly works, perhaps a little too well on the chilly rides I did in them. This can be easily taped over, on the inside of the sole, for wet or cold winter rides.
The sole itself is glass fibre reinforced nylon, which offers more comfort than it does out and out stiffness. For me, this isn't a problem, as I prefer to have a little bit of give, seeing as most of my riding is slow and long rather than fast and frenetic. Having been riding a similar type of shoe recently, going back to my stiff carbon-soled shoes always gives my old feet a hard time. Shimano only brings their wide option into NZ, and while I don't have a particularly narrow foot, the little bit of extra room is welcome - though I know of some narrow-foot riders who have sought out Shimano's standard fit models from offshore.
The first couple of rides revealed a bit of discomfort coming from the upper, where the inside upper flap folds onto the inside of the upper ankle. The thick material on the corner of the flap revealed itself when stopped after about an hour of riding, and was quite noticeably digging into the skin. It was unnoticed when pedalling, but once it was in my conscience it was hard not to notice it. Subsequent riding and dialling-in of the fit - or possibly just getting used to it - seemed to alleviate the problem, but there could be a better way to finish this area and make it more seamless. The BOA L6 closure works as you know them to work, easy and precise, and while I'm not a huge fan of how they look, I love how they work.
The RC3 is an impressive shoe, especially for the money. It looks great, is comfortable and offers very decent performance for 99% of riders, 99% of the time.
Distributed by Shimano NZ | RRP: $169
Reviewed by Liam Friary