The Shimano S-Phyre RC903 Road Shoe: If The Shoe Fits...
Shimano’s S-Phyre road shoe has received a refresh. Compared to its predecessor, the RC902, the new Shimano S-Phyre RC903 sees updates with the goal of being more comfortable and lighter. The tweaks are small but considering the existing shoes offer excellent fit, power transfer and control befitting a top-tier road shoe, we are excited to see what the latest version have to offer.
What Changes with the S-Phyre Road Shoe - And What Doesn’t
Hold the RC902 and the new RC903 side by side and you’d be hard-pressed to find any massive changes. Rather, the changes are more small refinements from listening to rider feedback. To do so, Shimano examined foot shapes and rider pedal strokes to determine how pressure is applied throughout a pedal stroke. Shimano found that riders needed a more stable - read stiffer - heel cup, as well as the ability to tighten down the forefoot more. Most of the changes to the new shoe come with that in mind.
Shimano has given the S-Phyre RC903 an updated heel cup, which seems to be just a bit more aggressive in how it holds the heel. The replaceable heel gripper found inside hasn’t changed, however. Outside, that heel cup has been redesigned to fit in with the rest of the upper - visually, at least. The previous plastic cable guides just atop the toe box are replaced with simpler, lighter cross-over lacing pattern that crosses over the forefoot twice, just as most people were doing with the previous shoe. In our experience, the small cable guides caused pressure points for some riders, particularly those with high-volume feet.
The upper might look quite similar to the previous generation shoe but there are a few changes. While still a synthetic leather upper, the material is said to be more supple than before in an effort to better conform to the rider’s foot. A mesh window returns to the top of the foot; paired with a slightly rounder toe box, the latest S-Phyre shoes should feel a bit more accommodating to riders.
What about the sole? The stiff carbon sole, which features an adjustable fore-aft cleat position and replaceable heel pad - carries over without change. Additionally, the shape of the upper stays the same too. That means the generous heel and toe vents are still there as is the ample fore-aft adjustment available for three-hole cleat inserts.
Other choices that remain the same as the last shoe includes the use of Boa’s top LI2 dials, Shimano’s wraparound upper design. LIke before, the upper construction wraps around to the bottom of the carbon plate.
Inside, you’ll find Shimano’s S-Phyre-specific insoles. These insoles have interchangeable arch inserts, and the quality of it is quite high, as one would expect from a top-tier shoe. The heel pad is still replaceable, and should a Boa dial break, replacements are easy to find due to their relative ubiquity.
Shimano makes the S-Phyre shoe in four colors: white, black, red, and Shimano Blue. There's also the S-Phyre RC903E for wider or high volume feet. There is also a women’s S-Phyre road shoe that is built around a narrower fit and lower-volume foot. The women’s specific shoe is only available in a pearlescent white, akin to the pearl white S-Phyre RC901 shoes we loved dearly.
If the Shoe Fits, Wear It?
The S-Phyre RC903 road shoes fit similarly to the previous-generation shoes. S-Phyre shoes are typically narrower than other Shimano shoes; what that means is rather than being wide to the point of feeling sprawling, the fit is about what is needed for a medium-width foot. While Shimano says the forefoot shape is changed slightly, we couldn’t tell a difference. And for the Shimano devotee with wide or high-volume feet, Shimano still offers a wide fit option.
Shimano’s top shoes feature a 360-degree wraparound construction that separates the S-Phyre shoe from the competition. Rather than a dedicated tongue in between two sides of the upper, the shoe’s upper wraps from the outside of the shoe underneath the inside side of your foot. The result is that the shoe almost feels like it's hugging the top of your feet. Of note as well are the Boa Li2 dials, which feature plenty of adjustability in both directions and have the same pull-to-release function as before.
Most Shimano road shoes feature a roomier toe box than competitors from the likes of Giro, DMT, SIDI, or SCOTT. This isn't a bad thing, as they've found more often than not that cyclists can benefit from a a slightly wider forefoot. Shimano shoes, however, tend to fit a bit bigger. If you're coming from Giro or SIDI, consider sizing down a half size to maintain a similar length and a slightly roomier toe box. If you have a wider foot, the S-Phyre RC903E is a worthwhile alternative to SIDI MEGA shoes.
The Shimano S-Phyre RC903 shoe sees some modest changes done in the name of comfort. S-Phyre shoes are a favorite for folks around Contender, and these changes make this an easy road bike shoe to recommend.