Shimano SH-MW81 Gore-Tex Winter Cycling Shoe

SH-MW81 Winter Shoe

With a newly-designed winter shoe, Shimano has done their homework. With thoughtful updates to multiple elements of construction, the MW81 works harder than ever to meet the needs of the cold-weather rider.


Compared to the previous MW80, this model has a noticeably different look. Where the old shoe looked very much like a modified cycling shoe, the structure of the MW81 suggests that Shimano was looking to high-end hiking boots for inspiration. The upper gator ankle section was also updated to permit more fluid pedaling movement. 

Construction & Features

A boot like construction in the toe and heel

The shoe is based around the SPD cleat system, featuring a tread similar to that of Shimano’s mountain shoe offerings. The sole is a hard plastic with rubberized treads, which are widely spaced to improve traction and reduce snow and mud build-up. One thoughtful feature is a wide section in the mid-sole, marked by a large, yellow hexagon made from a softer rubber compound. This is a feature designed to improve walking stability, which proves its usefulness when you need to get off and hike the bike over inclined and low-traction surfaces. The sole also includes a standard cleat mount for optional soccer-style spikes at the toe.

Wide tread keep mud and snow from packing up

Shimano took just as much care with the shoe’s uppers, considering winter’s low visibility, harsh winds, and weather debris. Unique to the shoe is an ankle gator, constructed from a highly-flexible neoprene material that closes with a large, solid Velcro strap; the gator is designed to reach over your ankle to seal out the elements and winds, but not to cramp your ankle movements. The three main closure straps across the body of the shoe are slightly offset; they’re oriented to reduce pressure and avoid hotspots. At the toe and heel, the uppers are encased by a hard, stiff material, reinforcing the structure of an already-rigid shoe. At the rear, a finger loop is included for easy pull-on, and reflective elements wrap 180-degress around the heel.

Internally, the shoe is lined with a soft fleece and Goretex. The fleece will add a little warmth to the shoe, while the Goretex will help regulate that internal temperature, evaporating moisture through small vent holes to keep your foot dry. The insole is removeable and has a light fleece feel where it meets the sole of your foot.


Neoprene gator keeps the weather out and heat in

The fit of the shoes is a little tricky, but the general consensus is that they run a size small. I traditionally wear a 44 in UK sizing, and found the 45 to be a proper fit with a mid-weight wool sock. The ankle articulation is adequate — my movement wasn’t impaired, but I was initially thrown by the snugness at the ankle. It’s just a different feel, and I’m sure it would only take a few rides to adjust. I would recommend wearing a longer tight so that you can bring them down into the upper section of the shoe and close off the gap. The heel cup held well and didn’t slip, but it was a little on the narrow side compared to some of the standard shoes I’ve ridden.


Side view of the MW81

Overall, the shoe is a great improvement over the previous model and rugged enough for everyday trail use. It has plenty of features for the MSRP of $240, and is a great addition for cyclists who ride through the winter. Using a shoe like this, most riders should be able to comfortably take on a multi-hour ride in 25-35 degree conditions. While the shoe is built rugged and designed for trail use, commuters are going to walk away with a great shoe as well. The only notable drawback lies in the task of opening up the shoe for airing: with multiple, overlapping tongues and enclosures, it takes a bit of effort to open and vent this after a ride. Still, this is a minimal issue. Keeping feet warm is the priority for winter rides, and the MW81 does the job.

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