Funny you say that about the XT shifter, was a nice surprise when I shifted down by pushing the lever away from me.
On the shoe chat, those FIVE TEN TRAIL CROSS MID PRO MOUNTAIN BIKE SHOES are definitely the best looking. Beat the skate shoe look.
I saw them on sale from time to time, but then got barely used Ride Concept Powerline which are not that foamy. Or at least not as massive as the Sam Hill five tens I tried. Those are monstrous.