Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Montréal (Québec)
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As far as I know, all the "mountain" SPD shoes by Shimano and other compatibles (Cannondale, Specialized, Lake...) feature recessed cleats. The cleat is just 1-2 mm away from the surface of the sole, however, so I assume that with a reasonable amount of wear, the cleats won't be as much recessed.
I'm not sure that you could build up the centre part of the sole too much, because then the sole would interfere with the body of the pedal. However, if you use smallish pedals, you might be able to have a cobbler glue another neoprene sole under it after you wore the original sole.
I can't give you definitive figures on wear and tear. I had a pair of laced-up Shimano shoes that I wore almost full time for 3 years (including camping), albeit without cleats (using toe clips), The little rubber protectors flew away after 1-1.5 years and they now have little rubber left. I now have fairly new ones with cleats, and so far they don't scrape the floor, but they have less than 1 month of wear.