Ben pits two flat pedal shoes against each other in a winter shoe test starring the Shimano GR5 and Ride Concepts Session Hellion.
Shimano are no newcomers to the MTB shoe market, something which can’t be said about Ride Concepts. Which one of Shimano’s GR5 and Ride Concepts’ Session Hellion will be Ben’s pick in a winter shootout?
These are two of the newest flat pedal shoes on the block and I have been ragging them round Bristol and South Wales all winter to try and find out which is best. This is a winter test, focussing on how they perform here in the UK slop, and I will be doing a follow up review in early summer to let you know how they handle hot weather and how durable they are after 6-7 months of abuse.
In the grey corner we have the latest shoe from Shimano. The GR5 is a classic looking design and the marketing is refreshingly free of jargon and nonsense. It is simply a lace up trail shoe, with a grippy rubber sole and a mesh section on the top. At £79.99 it is a mid range shoe.
In the black corner we have the newcomer. Ride Concepts are a new brand from the US who are launching with a huge range of shoes for every type of riding you can imagine. They promise innovative technology including D3O protection, (like in your knee pads and body armour) high grip rubber sole and a robust synthetic upper.
There’s currently no UK distributor for these and you’re looking at $130, which is around the £100 mark.
Construction and Styling.
They both seem to be well made and neither have any signs of wear or damage so far. The Ride Concepts do look a bit more engineered and sleek with their finish around the toe box compared to the classic stitching on the Shimano. Personally I prefer the look of the RC Hellion.
Comfort and Fit.
Both shoes fitted well in my normal size, so there is no need to size up or down for these shoes in my experience. The Hellions are noticeably stiff and harder to put on, especially in cold weather where the D3O seemed to freeze up, making the shoe very rigid. The GR5 is easy to slip on and feels a bit more like a skate shoe.
Both shoes have straight forward laces, but the Shimano GR5 does not have any way of retaining the laces, unlike the Hellion which has an elastic loop on the tongue. This does my head in and seems like the most basic of thing to include so that your laces stay tied up and out of the chainring.
If you are pushing up a slippy hill at your local trail then the Shimano takes the prize thanks to its gripper section at the front of the shoe which has horizontal grooves that dig in nicely. Neither shoe is super grippy when walking but the Shimano is a bit better and I felt it hugged my heel a bit better too, which is really important on steep push up tracks.
Mud and Water.
The Hellion has a lot more protection from mud and water getting in your shoe and soaking your feet. It only has small breather holes in the top and the tongue has a gusset to stop debris and water getting in. On the other hand, the Shimano GR5 has a massive mesh area that instantly lets the first puddle of the ride soak your feet. The water then stays in the shoe and has nowhere to go except to squelch around. They are not great on wet rides at all, even with waterproof socks.
Grip on Pedals.
There is not much to separate either shoe in this department, but they are a little different. The actual sole of the Shimano has more flex to it which lets you sit your foot into the middle of a concave set of flat pedals. The Ride Concepts were a lot stiffer, especially on cold days where you felt like you were stood on top of the pedal, rather than in it.
As far as the rubber and tread pattern goes, predictably neither are as grippy as 5.10’s Stealth Rubber, although I expect they will both outlast a pair of 5.10 soles too. It felt like Ride Concepts Hellion had slightly stickier rubber and seemed to grab onto the teeth on my pedals better than the Shimano GR5. Overall pedal feel was hard to separate the two shoes and they both performed well, offering good grip, whilst still being able to make small adjustments to foot position on the go.
What do we think?
For winter riding it has to be the Ride Concepts Session Hellion for me. They are way more weather proof, look cooler, retain my laces so they don’t come undone and have plentiful grip.
It will be interesting to see if the summer review changes my mind. The mesh on the Shimano should mean a cooler, less sweaty summer riding experience and we will also learn more about which shoes are more durable after many months of riding.