SHIMANO GF6 FLAT PEDAL SHOES REVIEW
Words by Robert Johnston | Photos by Roo Fowler for Bike Connection Agency
Shimano has been developing their footwear range for many years, with each new generation representing another leap forward in performance and style. With the overhaul of their mountain bike range last year and the introduction of their ULTREAD rubber series, Shimano thought they had it nailed, but upon their release they identified a number of areas of further improvement, so developed their latest range of footwear with both clipless and flat pedal offerings. We tested their top-of-the-line flat pedal shoe (aside from the winterized GF8GTX) – the GF6 – and are pleased to report they’ve stepped up their performance once again. But how do they stack up to the best of the other brands? Keep on reading to find out.
Shimano’s GF6 flat pedal shoes are the top of their standard mountain bike flat pedal shoe range, using their updated ULTREAD GF rubber compound and tread pattern to offer a gravity-friendly interface with the pedal. This rubber compound uses a slower rebound to offer improved traction on the pedal with increased damping, and further aiding this is the EVA Foam midsole which helps to absorb impact energy to improve grip and comfort. Helping to control the flex of the GF6 shoe is the TORBAL 2.0 torsional plate, which is installed to give some fore-aft stability while allowing for some torsional flex to offer improved control without letting any discomfort creep in. The sole is given Shimano’s stiffness index of 3 out of 5, sitting in the middle of the spectrum to provide balanced characteristics.
The upper is made from Synthetic Leather, with a fairly wide skate-inspired style and some padding offering protection from obstacles on the trail. Securing the shoe is a standard lace system, with plastic eyelets to offer strength and reduce friction. On the tongue is an elastic lace tidy to keep the tied laces out of harm’s way. The GF6 utilizes an asymmetric cut with raised and padded inner ankle to offer protection against the cranks. On the toe there’s a protective cap to keep your toes safe, and there’s an abrasion-resistant coating on top of the synthetic leather to fend off premature wear. On the inside of the Shimano GF6 shoes is their VOLUME TOUR cup insole to offer some low profile support for the foot. They’re offered in sizes EU38-48 (US5-13) in a choice of black or brown colorways, with a retail price of $160.
Shimano was presenting their new mountain bike shoe range at Bike Connection Agency’s Mountain Bike Connection Summer 2023 in Andalo, Italy. This allowed me to get the full rundown of the details in their new range, and put them to the test on the trails of Bikepark Dolomiti Paganella. Shimano’s sizing continues to be consistent, with my typical EU45 size offering a comfortable fit that avoids being overly roomy. They sit on the slightly wider side of the spectrum, giving a true gravity-style fit that should keep most aggressive flat pedal users happy. The classic lace-up design is well executed here with loops that limit the friction on the laces and let you get them cinched down nice and tight. The elastic lace keep is simple but effective, if not the nicest looking solution. Similarly, I’m not a particular fan of the looks of the rest of the shoes, with an aesthetic in the black color that would make them fit in well at school. But hey, if they perform well then I’ll happily accept some slightly clunky looks.
I commenced testing on an also new-to-me set of flat pedals – the Crankbrothers Stamp 1 – which offered adequate if not exceptional grip out the box. Thankfully upon returning to the UK and getting more trail time to break them in and experiment with alternative pedals, my opinions started to improve. The new ULTREAD GR rubber is certainly a softer and tackier offering than their previous generation, but in terms of durometer it doesn’t feel to be the softest out there. On the pedal though, the slow rebound is notable, and provides a nicely damped feeling underfoot which helps to keep your feet firmly planted through rough terrain. On the ultimate grip scale they’re in the 8.5-9/10 zone in my eyes, giving no lack of confidence when paired with a suitably aggressive pedal. The hexagon pattern of the sole helps to locate pins, but it’s not as deep as the most aggressive shoes, reducing the likelihood of getting stuck. I’d say that for all but the most grip-demanding, ultra aggressive flat pedal downhill riders, Shimano has struck a nice balance.
Underfoot there’s a reasonable amount of cushion and damping with a nicely balanced sole stiffness, keeping your feet comfortable on an appropriately sized pedal. They’re not the absolute thickest and most cushioned offering for riders looking for ultimate comfort, but offer some improved pedal dexterity and connection with the trail than that camp of shoe as a result. Though the Shimano GF6 shoes have a fairly sleek overall profile, they’ve added protection to smart places, so your feet feel suitably safe to attack rough terrain without concern. The toe box is solid, and the protection offered by the raised inner ankle will be appreciated by crank-hugging riders.
With a primarily synthetic leather outer, it’ll come as no surprise that the weatherproofing is reasonable, but the vent holes at the front and the tongue will allow anything more than drizzle or a light puddle splash though eventually. This upper allows for easy wiping clean which is much appreciated, though the laces and tongue are liable to trapping the mud and making for a difficult clean up following the nastiest of days. They run slightly hot as is typical for this style of aggressive flat pedal shoe, but are far from an uncomfortable place unless it’s sweltering out. This outer material with well-chosen abrasion resistant patches has been holding up excellently to the abuse, as has the sole with limited sign of damage from pedal pins or any stitches fraying.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Shimano’s GF6 shoes represent another step up in performance for their flat pedal range, offering solid grip with a well-damped feel underfoot. They’re not a stand-out performer in the category for any particular reason, but cover all the bases well and give a solid all round flat pedal shoe.