I bought these in 2009 when I realised that no amount of overshoe was going to keep my tootsies warm in disco slippers. I think they cost £149.00, which is real money but no more than direct competitors' offerings and a damn site cheaper than some... step forward 45North. They have never been knowingly cleaned save for splashing a hose on them at the same time I was cleaning a bike and have, during the last 4 1/2 years, been very regularly worn pretty much all year round but that's the UK for you. Rather surprisingly they do not smell and for what it's worth you can still read most of the Shimano logo printed on the insole.
Lined with Polar Fleece and Gore-Tex they have proven time and again to be an excellent buy. They have kept my feet warm and dry during some very cold, snow and ice UK winters and have just fended off the wettest Jan/Feb on record here in the SouthWest. Sure the neoprene cuff does let in some water but conditions have to be pretty bad for this to happen, or you need to be pedalling through water that completely buries the boot during the pedal stroke. I have paired them with Sealskinz waterproof socks for extra protection and this combo deals with 99% of conditions that you might reasonably expect to encounter during your ride. They dry fairly quickly as well without having to resort to stuffing newspaper in them - I just leave them next to the Aga overnight and they are good to go in the morning. I have no real experiences of boa-lacing systems so cannot comment on these vs velcro. What I can tell you is that the velcro is as easy as... velcro and it shows no signs of losing its bonding grip despite multiple opening/closing.
They look and feel substantial but they do not feel like you are wearing huge boots when riding. The reinforced toe box and general robust nature of the boot means that they offer good protection from rock strikes and the like. The fibreglass/rubber sole is equally solid and I can confirm that it is plenty grippy enough when doing the hike-a-bike/pushing thing. I feel comfortable clambering over rough misshapen granite boulders and because the sole has a raised profile, the cleats stay well out of the way. Result.
I use weird single-sided spd pedals because 99% of the time I prefer to ride clipped in. Occasionally when the trail looks lairy I want the option not to be attached to my bike too solidly. The 'flat' side of the spd does not have pins like proper flats but has a raised profile. These shoes grip this surface well enough for me to still feel connected but allow me the freedom to bail or stick a foot out.
They are just starting to show signs of wear. The heel section is starting to break down a little on the inside but this is after four and a half years of shoving thick-socked feet into them. Once on, they are as comfy as they ever were. I will have to think about a replacement some time in 2014 but my experience means that I will just go out and spend my hard-earned cash on the latest generation MW-81's.