The Shimano AM9 shoe has been around for a long, long time gaining a cult following of riders who wouldn´t consider riding with anything else.
These DH/Enduro-focused shoes offer a sturdy and durable connection to your bike for an amazing price. Having owned and consistently used the AM9 models for over a decade, I decided to write a review on the most recent 2023 model (The AM903), checking out the new features and putting these all-mountain kicks to the test.
For this review, I paired the shoes with my trust Shimano DX pedals which provide a wide, stable platform, even when unclipped
The types of riding I have used these shoes for:
- DH riding
- Trail riding
- Riding from pub to pub, and eventually club, then tried to ride home but fell over and decided to walk the rest of the way.
Shimano AM9 SPD Shoes – The Stats
- Price: 100-150$
- Weight: 418g (14.6oz) (size 42) per shoe
- Intended use: All mountain fun!
- Sizing: True to size
- Stiffness: Mid 5/10
- Connection: Adjustable 2-pin SPD platform (cleats not provided)
- Size: 36-48
- Guarantee: 1 year
- Bombroof long-lasting shoes!
- Clean, understated design
- New speed lacing system
- Water and mud-resistant coating with protective laces flap.
- Toe protection from flying rocks
- Grippy and stable soles
- Super comfortable
- Heavier than trail-specific or XC shoes
- Once wet, they take a long time to dry
- No waterproofing
- Not very breathable
Who Should Buy Shimano AM903 Shoes?
All mountain by name, all-mountain by nature, these shoes can be used for almost any type of riding but stand out when it comes to more aggressive, descent-focused riding.
Here are some profiles of riders who would benefit from owning a pair of these bad boys:
- All-Mountain and Enduro Riders: If you are the type of rider who doesn’t mind a bit of pedaling for some epic descents and wants a stable but comfortable platform then these shoes are ideal for you. They may be heavier than their lighter “race-focused” competitors but they more than make up for it when it comes to durability and levels of protection. The mid-level flex in the AM9s also gives a nice flat pedal feel and doesn’t make your feet go numb on long ascents.
- Downhill riders: The Shimano AM9s are a popular choice for downhillers looking to clip in. Their bombproof design with lots of toe and ankle protection makes them perfect for the rigors of a DH run. Their grippy soles and flexibility also make them ideal for pushing back up the hill.
- Aggressive Trail Riders: If you enjoy riding on challenging and technical trails where you need a combination of pedaling efficiency and off-bike traction, the AM9 shoes are a good choice. They provide a balance between pedal power transfer and walkability when it comes to getting off your bike and pushing.
- E-Bikers: These shoes are E-bike rated and the extra control provided by the ankle straps is perfect for moving around the extra bike weight.
- Bikepackers: These shoes are reliable with a capital R, even if the laces fail, the velcro flap can be used to keep the shoes tight on your foot. You can walk around in them easily with minimal cleat contact on the ground and they are splashproof so can withstand splashes from puddles or showers. They don´t look terrible (in my opinion) so can be used for shops and restaurants. They provide a lot of comfort so are amazing for all-day wearing.
Who Should Look For Something Else?
If you are looking for lightweight, breathable, and stiff shoes then it´s time to click somewhere else, the AM9 is probably not the best choice for you.
Road, XC, CycloCross and Gravel riders should probably look for something more specific to their needs.
That said if you, like many drifts between categories, the AM9 is a good do-all shoe. The newer model looks more slimline and cleaner than previous models so wouldn’t look out of place on any of these bikes but would not quite offer the power transfer and weight savings as a genre-specific shoe.
The Technology And Features
The 2023 Shimano AM9 SPD shoes have many amazing features and continue to improve them each year, keeping what worked and improving where necessary. After 6 months of constant (often brutal use) I am confident in saying that this is the best model so far.
Here are some of the features that I feel made a difference.
The cushioning around the ankle, heel, and tongue of these shoes gives a secure and comfortable fit. The AM9s can be worn all day with no issues, whether is banging on the pedals, flying downhill, or hike-a-biking up a mountain, These shoes will give you a snug blister-free fit.
Asymmetrically Ankle Protection
The ankle of the AM9 is higher on the inside (bike side) of the shoe, this provides protection from your cranks and swingarm when things get wild. The lower outside cuff gives more ankle mobility, allowing you to move around the bike through difficult sections and tight corners.
Molded Protective Toecap
This rubberized toe cap gives an added layer of protection against flying debris from the front wheel, it also adds some protection to your toes during a crash. This recent addition to the model is a great feature and further adds durability to an already tough shoe.
The toe protection is also helpful for trail builders looking for protection from spades and heavy rocks whilst out digging.
Ultragrip Rubber and EVA outsole
Combined Rubber and EVA outsoles offer a balanced combination of durability, traction, shock absorption, and lightweight cushioning. This makes them perfect for the rigors of all-mountain riding, whilst offering grip and comfort whilst hiking sections of the trail.
The speed lace system is a recent addition to the model and as the name states offers a quick and easy lace-up. It also removes the mess of dangling laces that come undone, I much prefer this system over the Boa system as you can still adjust pressure points in the shoe, creating a customized fit.
Protective Flap and Velcro Support Strap
The defining feature of the Shimano AM9s is the protective flap that folds over the laces offering protection from flying debris, mud, and water. This classic feature works well whilst also making the shoes easy to wipe or hose down after a filthy ride.
The extra velcro strap at the ankle adds that extra bit of stability and control which is noticeable whilst riding. Especially when popping the bike around and making small, precise rear wheel adjustments on the trail.
The channel in the sole allows the SPD cleat to sit inside the shoe. This means that the shoes can be ridden as flat pedal shoes if you can’t immediately clip them back in. This feature is also really handy when you are walking around or hiking sections of the trail.
The pedal channel is fairly wide and clears mud well, the channel is long and tapered, allowing you to find the cleat and clip in easily.
Inside of the channel is the adjustable cleat positioning rails. Offering around 3cm of toe to heal adjustability.
Shimano AM9 (AM903) SPD Shoe, 6-Month Review
Now that we know more about these all-mountain SPD shoes and their features, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of if they are actually any good.
Spoiler alert… I’m a fan
Over the past 6- months I have ridden these shoes in bike parks, on steep alpine singletracks, along roads, and on bike-packing odysseys in France, Italy, Portugal, and the UK. They have yet to let me down and I would happily recommend them to any mountain biker looking to clip in.
Although they are not perfect in every way, the shoes do well to cover most of the requirements that a hard-charging trail rider or downhiller would look for in a shoe.
Read on to find out specifically what i liked and did not like about the Shimano AM9 SPD shoes
These are comfortable shoes, fitting true to size and hold my feel firmly without any pressure points. If you are standing still they look and feel like any pair of trainers but you will notice the stiffness and extra weight when you start to walk. (along with the light clip-clop noise of the SPD cleat)
The shoes’ thick tongue and ankle protection give a hiking shoe feel, and I have had no issues walking up alpine trails.
On the bike, they offer a stiff base through the peddle stroke, especially when mixed with a wide platform pedal. There is however a little bit of flex which helps to engage your foot and adds a little pop and extra feel when going fast through rough sections, or maneuvering through sections.
Shimano seems to have skrimped a bit on the protective flaps, They are a little short and you really need to pull them to ensure that they sit on the velcro attachments. Once connected they do however stay connected and look great.
The speed laces, along with the adjustment strap offer amazing comfort customization and can easily be adjusted for long climbs or at the top of descents.
You will notice that there is very little stitching on these shoes, much of the fabric is molded together and where stitching is present it is double-stitched.
My last pair of AM9s lasted for 4 years and I expect the same from the updated model. Over the past 6 months, these shoes have seen some serious action and are showing very little signs of wear and tear.
I would expect the fabric around the young and ankle to start developing holes and wear fairly soon and will update this article when they do.
The Shimano Am9 is designed for gravity-style riding so is a bit heavier and burlier than many other shoes on the market. You can definitely feel this when you clip in and start to pedal.
Unlike some of the more trail/XC-orientated shoes, you will feel a lack of stiffness, extra weight, and lack of breathability as you start to pedal. All of these factors have been improved in recent models but even with the upgrades, these shoes are not the ultralight riders choice.
Whilst riding they give the comfort and feel of a sturdy pair of trainers but still have the stiffness and power transfer of a clip-in shoe. personally, I like having the extra low-slung weight and protection that the AM9s provide. They feel trustworthy if you know what I mean.
When on the trail, clipping in is simple and easy to initiate. The wide soles along with cleat channels guide your foot to the right place but still offer stability if you don’t get in right away. I feel happy to take my foot out knowing that I will get back in quickly.
When the going gets rough these shoes really excel. They offer lots of mobility and protection due to the asymmetric ankle cuffs but still precise control is given by the power strap and mid-level stiffness of the soles.
When riding in wet conditions they offer amazing splash protection but are not waterproof, A good soaking will mean a night by the radiator but for general usage, my feet stayed dry and comfortable. Those living in the Northern Hemisphere will enjoy using these shoes in colder climates but might want a lighter, more breathable option for summer months. I personally have ridden all through the year will no real issues.
Other Little Things
- The speed lacing system is a great addition! Why can’t all shoes have this?
- Mix these shoes with a large platform pedal like the Shimano Dxs for lots of control and comfort
- The shoes are true to size, buy them in the same size as your regular trainers. They are nice and roomy so should be an issue for those with wide feet.
Are Shimano AM9 SPD Shoes Good?
After a 6-month test in a variety of conditions, I would say yes. The AM9s are a great pair of shoes for all-mountain use. They perform their best for gravity-style mountain biking such as DH and Enduro.
What´s The Difference Between The Shimano AM9, AM7, And AM5 Shoes?
The Shimano AM9 is a top-tier SPD cycling shoe designed for gravity and Enduro riding, favored by elite downhill racers. It prioritizes rider protection with features like an armored lace shield, a molded toe cap, and an asymmetrically raised and padded ankle collar. It offers convenience through a quick speed lace system for on-the-fly adjustments, and its synthetic leather upper is water-resistant. Ensuring comfort even in wet conditions or creek crossings.
The Shimano AM7 is a versatile SPD cycling shoe suitable for riders who prioritize pedaling and prefer a traditional shoe look. It offers similar protective features as the AM9 but with improved breathability due to its mesh TPU upper. Unlike the AM9, it uses exposed laces and a Velcro strap to secure the foot and minimize movement during pedaling. Additionally, it includes a neoprene ankle collar to prevent debris from entering the shoe.
The Shimano AM5 is an affordable option for budget-conscious riders, featuring a traditional cut-and-sew construction with a skate-inspired design. It offers toe protection, a quick-drying upper, and shares the same outsole as the higher-end AM7 and AM9 models. Additionally, it includes an extra set of black laces for customization.
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