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The All-New Shimano SH-R321 Road Shoe

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THE STORY OF THE 3 BEARS:

Introducing the all-new 2015 Shimano SH-R321.

So what makes this shoe better than the SH-R320? Don’t get me wrong, the SH-R320 is a fantastic shoe and was the best shoe 4dthat Shimano had designed and (essentially all) hand- built.

IMG_6285Now, to answer the question “what makes this shoe better”, we need to go all the way back to the SH-R315. After many interviews with Pro Peloton riders, their feedback reminded me of the story of the 3 Bears … “The SH-R315 was TOO stiff, the SH-R320 was TOO flexible, the SH-R321 is JUST RIGHT.

Since Shimano has always targeted the Pro-Tour riders for their high-end 3xx shoes, continuous rider feedback is required in order to make a better and better product. My experience with the SH-R315 was that even though it was a heat moldable shoe, it was designed without any extra room built in. After going through the Custom-Fit process, the 315’s were way too tight for me. Heating them back up really didn’t relax them that much. I am guessing this is what the Pro-Tour riders were talking about.

The next shoe introduced was the SH-R320. [READ THE IN-DEPTH TESTS HERE, and HERE]. The SH-R320 was a completely4f redesigned shoe that included many new features such as a new last, better custom fit and many other features that made it the choice of the Elite and Club racer. Perfectly comfortable for a criterium race or spending 6 hours on a long training ride. The SH-R320 has more room built in and new heat moldable materials placed in strategic locations within the shoe. The issue was that since the shoe was so comfortable out of the box, very few cyclists took advantage of the custom molding process – me included. The drawback of not doing a custom fit was that the shoe feels like it’s not quite stiff enough.

Just out is the SH-R321. Completely redesigned to maximize pedaling efficiency (explained later). This is done with the help of a larger amount of and larger moldable inserts placed in strategic positions. The bottom line is that this shoe MUST be heat molded to maximize pedaling efficiency.

HOW IS IT DIFFERENT?

The major differences between the SH-R320 and SH-R321 are,

  1. the SH-R321 has a different upper material that provides additional stiffness and durability
  2. larger and more custom-fit sections (left side, right side, top cover and heel cup) to ensure the shoe forms better to the contours of your feet
  3. larger forefoot volume that, when heat molded, will shrink just enough to conform perfectly to your forefoot without being too loose or too tight.
  4. redesigned last (DYNALAST)
  5. redesigned arch support
  6. redesigned low-profile buckles that are 2-position adjustable to accommodate different height arches
  7. redesigned tongue and shoe cover that promises not to pinch nerves/blood veins at top of foot
  8. 3D breathable mesh for a better fit and better ventilation

In other words, the SH-R321 is designed to be comfortable, and, at the same time, maximize the force you can apply to the pedals.

HEAT MOLDABLE and 3D UPPER CUSTOM-FIT TECHNOLOGY

The SH-R321 uses extensive 3D technology in the last, the ‘surround’ upper, the mesh vents and heel cup. 3D technology is where each individual piece already has the appropriate curves built in prior to assembly. This ensures that after heat molding, the shoe conforms perfectly to the complex curves of your foot resulting in maximum comfort, stability and power transfer than if flat pieces were built in. Compared to the SH-R320, this show uses larger heat moldable sections, including the entire ‘surround’ over-wrap, as well as both left and right sides, and both toe and heel box.

Also, for the upper, the SH-R321 utilizes a new synthetic leather called TEIJIN AVAIL100. It is an ultra-fine-fiber synthetic 4cleather and is more stretch resistant and more rigid than Rovenica (SH-R320). With the addition of a new waffle-pattern, extra stiffness is achieved without any additional weight.

MY FIRST CUSTOM-FIT

When trying on the shoes for the first time, they felt loose, real loose. Shimano’s product manager then asked me if I would like to go through the Custom-Fit process. I initially said no, and that I liked the way the SH-R320’s feel and didn’t have to have those shoes custom fit. He asked, “Are you sure?” “The 321’s are meant to be Custom-Fitted.” I said OK, let’s do it, so off to the CUSTOM-FIT station we went.

I was really impressed with the amount of time he spent making sure that the shoes fit perfectly. He 11first looked at my feet and noted that I have high arches and a wide stance across my forefoot. I also have a narrow heel. He asked me how my 320’s feel and if I had any pain. I said some pain in the ball of my right foot so he took note. The shoes and insoles then went into the oven.

While we were waiting for the shoes to heat up, we discussed the SH-R321’s. After several minutes, the shoes and insoles were ready for me to put them on. The Custom-Ft process had begun. As I put on each one, he placed a large black plastic cap over the front of the shoe. “This,” he said, “will prevent the front part of your shoe from shrinking too much.” Quickly cinching the straps, he then placed his hands over each side of each shoe, pressing firmly in a downward direction, forcing the heat moldable material to conform to the contours of each of my feet. He then placed his attention onto the arches, making sure that the shoe and insole provided as much arch support and lift as possible. He’s a bike fitter as well and knows the importance of preventing arches from flattening out. This not only wastes energy, but places more stress on the balls of your feet. Lastly, he squeezed the heel cup ensuring that my heels stay planted. The photo above shows the post-fit shoe. You can see where the heel cup is indented and where the arches have been Custom-Fit.

Depending on the height of your arches, you might want to fine-tune your fit by moving the adjustable strap to the other hole. Also, if you have your heel cups molded, you might notice that your feet are pushed slightly forward. To keep you feet planted, adjust the buckle a little tighter. With a Custom-Fit, you can run the shoes tighter without any bother.

The last thing that he mentioned that if the shoes were too loose or too tight, the molding process can be re-done!

FIRST RIDE

Putting the shoes on, I snapped down on the adjustable rear straps, same issue as with the SH-R320’s – the straps are a little short for a WIDE foot/shoe. I’m able to snap the clicker several times, but more adjustability would be better. My recommendation to Shimano is to make 2 sets of straps, one for a Regular/Narrow shoe and a longer one for the Wide shoe.

During the first ride, I did have to stop 3 times to adjust the cleats. Initially, they were pretty close but needed to be tweaked slightly. After several stops, my feet were finally pointing in the right direction. I was also trying to concentrate on how the shoes felt. My feet felt very secure, not tight but firm, and comfortable, exactly how it should be. The heat molding process ensures that your feet will not slide or shift. Your arches will be better supported, so yes, the molding process will make a tremendous difference.

IN A NUTSHELL, WHY SHOULD I BUY THIS SHOE?

As a certified bike fitter and pedaling coach, I took one look at Shimano’s “POWER TO THE PEDAL” graphic and I must say that 5aI couldn’t have done a better job showing the “hows and whys.”

There are efficient ways to pedal and inefficient ways to pedal. Most cyclists pedal inefficiently. The most efficient way to pedal is just like an electric motor. No dead spots…only a tangential force to the crank at any point on the circle.

Referring to this graphic, it clearly shows how the shoe helps the cyclist put maximum power to the pedals. For example, at

  • 11 o’clock – the foot is primarily being lifted by the hip flexors and hamstrings getting ready to transition (i.e., dead spot) to the thighs. During this ‘lift’, most of the force is being applied to the upper of the shoe. Not only does a lightweight and stiff material (TEIJIN AVAIL100) help, but, by heat molding, the top of the shoe conforms exactly to the top of your foot spreading the forces evenly. A second benefit to heat molding is that your foot won’t move around inside the shoe when transitioning between lifting, pushing and pulling.
  • 3 o’clock – the height of the power stroke. The foot is pushing slightly forward and mostly down. The arch needs to be well supported or it will flatten out wasting power. The other important factor is to have a stiff last so that there is no energy being wasted by the shoe absorbing power during this phase. The SH-R321 is specifically designed with a triple 4garch support system (moldable insole, moldable outer arch support, carbon last that supports the arch), plus a lightweight and stiff last (Dynalast) that is 3D formed to take into account the curves of a foot. This helps the shoe come into contact with more of the foot thereby achieving more power with minimal hot spots.
  • 6 o’clock – the transition from pushing to pulling. The other ‘dead spot.’ In this position most of the force is on the heel . The SH-R321 is designed with a ‘silicon infused non slip carbon reinforced custom molded heel cup’ which can take all of the force from your hamstrings and transmit this force directly to the pedals.

As Shimano states;

Shimano’s Custom-Fit technology was designed for Pro Tour racers who demand maximum stability and power transfer, plus the comfort to endure six-hour stages. The heat-molded precision fit and pure anatomical comfort has helped pro racers mount podiums all over the world. They get a competitive edge from 3D upper patterns with glove-like ergonomics. They power up the climbs with retention-system rigidity that eliminates gaps, reduces friction, and stabilizes the foot for a single purpose: efficient power transfer. Comfort-Fit is transforming the rides of enthusiasts at every level, because everyone benefits from a perfect-fitting shoe. Optimal precision and power. Pure comfort to go the distance.

SUMMARY

  • Shimano understands the complexities of efficient pedaling and has created a shoe that is specifically built to maximize power to the pedals at each part of the pedal stroke.
  • Shimano was able to combine both rigidity and comfort with this great looking shoe!
  • Yes, I highly recommend the SH-R321!

 

 

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supported by:
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