Best Mountain Bike Shoes Of 2023

Best Mountain Bike Shoes Of 2023

From light XC models to slam-packed models for enduro and downhill riding, we review the best mountain biking.

A good Best mountain bike shoe can play many crucial roles. The solid platform provides strength to pedals, its sturdy construction ensures your feet are safe, and a snug fit improves the comfort of long days out on the trails. The top options for 2023 are grouped into three broad categories: light cross-country (XC) models for long and non-technical hikes, Trail shoes that can manage moderately rough terrain, and downhill models that are suitable for the most difficult trails with the biggest leaps and drops. Another thing to consider is the choice of pedal. We’ve listed our top picks for those who like flats or prefer to clip in (somewhat unclearly called “clipless”). 

Our Top Picks: Best Mountain Bike Shoes

Image Product Details   Price
51qX8J794TL._AC_UY500_ Five Ten Freerider Mountain Bike Shoes Women’s Color: Core Black/Acid Mint/Core Black
.Rubber sole
.Classic do-it-all flat pedal mountain bike shoes
.High-friction versatility: Stealth S1 rubber offers versatile high-friction grip on and off the bike.
.DOTTY TREAD: Classic Dotty tread for superior pedal traction.
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71NzJdTeFsL._AC_UX500_ Shimano SH-XC501 Shoes Black Shoe Size EU Color: Black
.Synthetic sole
.Shimano XC5 (XC501) SPD Shoes, Black, Size 49
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71UAab-3iaL._AC_SL1500_ Giro Berm Men’s Mountain Cycling Shoes Color: Black/Citron Green Cover (2023)
.THE FOUNDATION OF A GREAT RIDE: A recreational off-road cycling shoe that’s comfortable and capably equipped for adventures on paths, roads or trails
.COMFORTABLE AND SUPPORTIVE FIT: Supple synthetic with breathable mesh and added reinforcement at the toe and heel for abrasion resistance and durability
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81FYc5OmjrL._AC_UX500_ PEARL IZUMI Women’s W X-alp Summit Cycling Shoe Color:Black/Black
.Rubber sole
.Shaft measures approximately low-top from arch
.Advanced 3-Layer Seamless Composite Upper delivers all-day riding comfort and durability
.1:1 Anatomic 3-Strap Closure removes pressure from your instep to eliminate hot spots
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Giro Gauge Men's Mountain Cycling Shoes Giro Gauge Men’s Mountain Cycling Shoes Color: Black/Bright Red (2021)
.THE FOUNDATION OF A GREAT RIDE: An athletic inspired off-road cycling shoe that’s comfortable and capably equipped for adventures on paths, roads or trails
.COMFORTABLE AND SUPPORTIVE FIT: Supple, breathable mesh with Thermo-Bonded Armor is durable and lightweight, with added reinforcement at the toe and heel for abrasion resistance and durability
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Giro Empire VR90 Men's Mountain Cycling Shoes Giro Empire VR90 Men’s Mountain Cycling Shoes Color: Black
.ELITE PERFORMANCE AND TIMELESS STYLE: The benchmark in high-performance laced off-road cycling shoes, with legendary fit and style
.COMFORTABLE AND DURABLE: One-piece Teijin Samo microfiber upper with reinforced toe cap and heel, and a laced closure for supple-yet-supportive fit and great breathability
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Five Ten Trail Cross Mid Pro Mountain Bike Shoes Men's Five Ten Trail Cross Mid Pro Mountain Bike Shoes Men’s Color:Core Black/Grey Two/Solar Red
.Rubber sole
.EVA midsole
.Lace closure
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Five Ten Freerider Pro Mountain Bike Shoes Men's Five Ten Freerider Pro Mountain Bike Shoes Men’s Color:Black/Black/White
.Rubber sole
.Flat pedal mountain bike shoes with an impact resistant toe box
.Pedal-gripping rubber: Stealth S1 Dotty rubber outsole is size-specific for maximum grip on and off the pedal.
.Impact-resistant toe box: Three-layer reinforced toe box adds impact resistance.
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Crankbrothers Mallet E Lace MTB Shoes Crankbrothers Mallet E Lace MTB Shoes Color:Black/Black/White
.Rubber sole
.CLIP-IN SYSTEM DESIGNED FOR OPTIMAL SHOE / PEDAL INTERFACE: Match Box offers optimized compatibilty for any MTB pedal and the stiff carbon shank provides efficient power transfer. Ramp secures easy clip-in / out and mud clearance, MC1 rubber compound provides low friction for easy exit
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Crankbrothers mens Flat Crankbrothers mens Flat Color:Black/Gold
.Rubber sole
.Upper Material: mesh, synthetic
Lining: padded
.Closure: BOA Fit System, hook-and-loop strap
.Midsole: EVA
.Sole: MC1 high-friction rubber
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Terra ARTICA X2 Terra ARTICA X2 Color:Black/Black
.Artic: waterproof, breathable and insulated winter shoe
.Rip stop fabric: woven fabric resistant to tearing and ripping
.X2 outsole: vibrant grip for traction, on and off the bike
.Boa L6 dial & zippered ankle cuff
.event waterproof/breathable membrane
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Sidi Dominator 10 MTB Shoes Sidi Dominator 10 MTB Shoes Color:Black/Grey
.Rubber sole
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Five Ten Kestrel Lace Mountain Bike Shoes Men's Five Ten Kestrel Lace Mountain Bike Shoes Men’s Color:Core Black/Solar Red/Grey Two
.Rubber sole
.All-mountain biking shoes
.Compatible with clipless pedals
.Fast-drying synthetic upper
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SHIMANO Men's MT3 SPD Cycling Shoe  SHIMANO Men’s MT3 SPD Cycling Shoe Color:Blue
.Designed for cycling and off-road experience, the MT series is designed for multiple riding styles
.Classic lacing, designed for leisure or off-road pedals, providing excellent walking comfort
.One piece of Creates construction with secure fit, enhanced durability and light weight
.Weight 330g (size 42)
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Giro Ranger Mens Mountain Cycling Shoes  Giro Ranger Mens Mountain Cycling Shoes Color:Black (2023)
.COMFORTABLE AND SUPPORTIVE FIT: One-piece Synchwire upper with soft lace guides for supple-yet-supportive fit and great breathability.
.EASY FIT ADJUSTMENT: Classic 3-strap closure offers fast, intuitive fitting with ability to adjust on-the-fly and a wide range of adjustment.
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adidas Five Ten Hellcat Pro Mountain Bike Shoes Men's, Red, Size 6 adidas Five Ten Hellcat Pro Mountain Bike Shoes Men’s, Red, Size 6 Color:Black (2023)
.Rubber sole
.Abrasion-resistant weldings
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Giro Ventana Mens Mountain Cycling Shoes Giro Ventana Mens Mountain Cycling Shoes Color:Black/Olive (2021)
.BUILT TO GO WHEREVER THE TRAIL TAKES YOU: A highly capable mountain bike shoe with fast adjustability, comfortable feel and confident footing when you’re off the bike
.COMFORTABLE AND SUPPORTIVE FIT: One-piece Synchwire upper with rubber-reinforced toe cap and heel, for supple-yet-supportive fit, great breathability and durability
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X5 Terra - Military Green / Tangy Green X5 Terra – Military Green / Tangy Green Color:Military Green/Tangy Green
.Over curve: asymmetrical construction that ergonomically conforms to the foot’s anatomy
.Microtel upper: supple yet strong and durable for a comfortable and consistent fit
.R5 nylon composite outsole: delivers balance between Comfort And pedaling efficiency
.Boa IP1-B dial
.R5 outsole – carbon reinforced nylon

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Reviews: Best Mountain Bike Shoes

Best Flat Pedal Mountain Bike Shoe

1. Five Ten Freerider

Combining legendary grip with soft interior comfort, Five Ten’s Freerider is a long-time fan. Its primary drawcard lies in the stickiness of Stealth S1 rubber and dotty tread pattern. These offer a secure and reliable connection to pedals, from long, uphill rides to jumping jumps that pop off and exploring technical aspects.

Category: Trail
Pedal compatibility: Flat
Weight: 1 lb. 11.6 oz.
What we like: Proven design with very sticky rubber.
What we don’t: Not the most durable and less efficient than a clipless shoe.

 Additionally, the midsole has a good equilibrium of stiffness and elasticity to prevent hotspots while allowing sufficient flexibility for an occasional ride (the dotty tread isn’t as grippy as well in mud, however). The reinforced toe box and the thick upper materials offer adequate protection, providing the shoe with its distinctive style.

As with all platform shoes, the downside for this Five Ten Freerider is that you cannot gain some of the power and efficiency because it is not connected to two pedals. Furthermore, Freerider’s soft rubber is known for deteriorating quickly. Those who ride for a long time will likely have a replacement of their footwear each year (we often require an upgrade after around 1,000 miles on the trail). However, the shorter life span is a fair price for the incredible grip the shoe provides, and there’s no other on the market which can compete with the Freerider’s capabilities across the board at the cost. If you’re looking for a lighter, more secure version this shoe comes in, look into the Freerider Pro below.

Best Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

2. Shimano SH-ME5

The Shimano ME5 is a clip-free, all-purpose mountain bike shoe. It has a lightweight and breathable structure and a moderately stiff platform; it can put the power to work on slam-dunk climbs, but it is also secure, softly padded, and very comfortable inside.

Category: Trail/XC
Pedal compatibility: Clipless
Weight: 1 lb. 8.8 oz.
What we like: Great combination of comfort, weight, and performance.
What we don’t: Not as protective as the upgraded ME7 model.

The fit is simple to adjust using a tried and true Boa system, and it has a single Velcro closure on the toes (after setting it for the first time, it’s possible to leave the toe adjustment as it is). Shimano refined the design through an updated version that enhances the switch-on and off procedure. The opening was once narrow and required some accuracy to make it work. The ME5 is our top one-quiver shoe for our feet, from rough trails through the Pacific Northwest to all-day epics.

Our ME5 is the top all-rounder available, and Shimano’s range includes the ME5. The shoe was made for endurance racing and downhill tracks, with its higher-end neoprene cuff and the sticky Michelin rubber (the ME5’s design is an in-house design, which is a little less grippy when it comes to rock) as well as an additional lacing guard. The ME7 comes with a modest weight penalty of around 1 ounce per shoe. The higher cuff may be difficult to get used to (it was more restrictive on days when you pedal); however, the ME7 offers a significant increase in protection and performance in all weather; for some riders, it will be worth the additional $50.

Best Budget Mountain Bike Shoe

3. Giro Berm

It isn’t easy to find a decent pair of clipless shoes for less than $100. However, Giro has done it through their Berm. For only $75, you’ll get an amazingly good set-up for trail riding every day. A tough upper material that combines breathability and protection, a swivel fit, and a rubber outsole with large lugs to provide grip on dust and mud.

Category: XC/trail
Pedal compatibility: Clipless
Weight: 1 lb. 13.2 oz.
What we like: Fantastic value for a clipless trail shoe.
What we don’t: Noticeable step down in performance compared with pricier options.

The large cleat pocket makes it much easier for people still get their feet into it. The Berm isn’t a super-high-performance design like the Shimano ME5 above, and dedicated riders should steer clear of this one. However, we believe that the Berm provides much value for money.

With less than half the cost of the most highly rated Shimano or Giro’s Ventana below, There are bound to be some flaws in the design of the Berm. The first is strength: The midsole puts comfort over rigidity, which means its comparatively flexible construction isn’t as efficient. The second issue is that the dual Velcro closures don’t have the precision and ease of adjustment you get from the Boa or ratchet style. Also, although the outer sole is a bit aggressively designed, it won’t be as stable on rocks or particularly steep and rough trails. However, it’s all normal sacrifices, but we believe that the Berm is an incredibly impressive bargain for novices or people who only go out for a few miles a day.

Versatile Design for Hike-a-Bikes and Bikepacking

4. Pearl lzumi X-Alp Summit

Another top participant in the bike shoe market is the Colorado-based Pearl Izumi. Pearl Izumi excels in the bike packing and adventure segment, and among their best offerings is the clipless X-Alp Summit. It is designed for intermediate riders, trail users, and off-bike adventures.

Category: Trail
Pedal compatibility: Clipless
Weight: 1 lb. 7 oz.
What we like: A solid all-rounder with good off-the-bike comfort.
What we don’t: A little too soft for XC riders.

It has the perfect components, including a shank made of composite in the midsole for better control and durability, a tough upper material, and a decent toe protector that wraps over the side of your foot. It also has a smooth and slippery Vibram outsole, the most popular hiking and trail running shoe option. With a price tag of $150 and up, it’s a bargain. X-Alp Summit is a solid price for a shoe that can handle everything from all-mountain running to extended hike bikers.

What’s not to love about the mid-range model? Pearl Izumi placed a high value on comfort while hiking, which means less rigidity and less strength when it comes to the brakes (XC cyclists are advised to stay clear). Those who ride in areas that don’t experience significant elevation increases (the Midwest of the United States is a prime example) will not be able to benefit from the X-Alp’s feature set for adventure. For areas like Pearl Izumi’s state, Colorado, or those who like to explore the backcountry of areas like the Pacific Northwest, there’s plenty to love about the XAlp’s versatile design.

Best Shoe for Downhill and Enduro Riders

5. Giro Chamber II

What we don’t do: Design heavy. Many top gravity athletes opt for Giro’s Chamber, and the new II is a more enduro-focused and downhill-oriented race style. It is notable for its casual, flat-pedal style; however, don’t be fooled by the appearance. It has a seamless upper, a shank that balances rigidity beneath the midfoot, enough flexibility to allow for a comfortable hike, and adjustable cleat positioning.

Category: Trail/downhill
Pedal compatibility: Clipless
Weight: 2 lbs. 3.6 oz.
What we like: Clipless compatibility combined with the look and feel of a flat-pedal shoe.
What we don’t: Heavy design.

This shoe is the most performance. The cleat setback of 10 millimeters is especially intriguing. Essentially, it’s the positioning of a flat-pedal shoe combined with the power of a clipless connection, resulting in less foot fatigue and better control on technical terrain.

Although Chamber II has indeed dropped some weight from its predecessor, there’s no doubt that this isn’t the lightest shoe. The robust design, built to withstand miles of tough trail terrain, will not help reduce the weight. Even though it is true that the Chamber II is known to be able to pedal well, it isn’t our first choice for daily long slogs and XC rides. While laces are great for optimal fit, we recommend Velcro bands and ratchets because of their micro-simple adjustments and convenience. However, with its impressive performance, durability, and sturdy sole providing exceptional power transfer, the Chamber II will be well worth the weight for serious cyclists.

Best Shoe for Cross-Country Riding

6. Giro Empire VR90

The Giro Empire VR90 shoe is borderline legendary, blending a simple road shoe design with comfort and legitimate trial skills. It’s $300, an incredibly high price; however, plenty of performance built in the form of a carbon fiber sole gives it enough stiffness to walk the line of race.

Category: XC
Pedal compatibility: Clipless
Weight: 1 lb. 6 oz.
What we like: Superlight and powerful; looks great.
What we don’t: Pricey and overkill unless you’re a serious XC rider.

The one-piece upper is stunning and keeps the weight down, and the Vibram outsole makes it adept at being ridden off. It’s also built to last, with top-quality materials and reinforcements to allow it to go into moderately difficult terrain (although serious trail runners would still prefer a stronger construction).

One drawback of the Giro’s performance-first design is the snug fit which is perfect for power-hungry riders but can feel tight during long, adventurous days and for less intense adventures. Its traditional lacing system lets you’re sacrificing the speed of adjustment of the Boa dial for more overall control of the fitting. However, the main negative for the Giro is the price. If you choose to purchase the shoe, you’re likely to cut down on the weight of your bike every chance you can and hope to squeeze out every watt you’re pumping out with each pedal stroke. If you’re not in the category of riders, then the Empire isn’t the ideal shoe for you.

Best MTB Shoe for Winter Riding

7. Five Ten Trail Cross GTX

Many cyclists switch to indoor training during the winter mo. Nths. However, it’s worth looking at Five Ten’s Trailcross GTX shoes for those who can handle damp and cold. The flat-pedal model has a Gore-Tex liner, and the cuff is raised to help keep out the moisture. 

Category: Trail
Pedal compatibility: Flat
Weight: 1 lb. 13.3 oz.
What we like: Excellent waterproofing and protection for the cold and wet.
What we don’t: Pricey for a shoe you won’t use most of the year.

The combination works as it should. The dryness was perfect during our hike through deep snow to the ankles, and the Gore-Tex bootie also had great warmth on the downhill. To complete the look, the signature tread of the brand as well as the Stealth rubber compound, offers solid grip in and out of the bike.

What are the weaknesses of Five Ten’s Trailcross GTX? The fully waterproof coating makes the shoes hot in warm temperatures, particularly when pushing for a long climb. It costs $200 for a product you’ll probably only use for a few months each year. It certainly lowers the cost of an indoor bike trainer, which is why the math works (at least for us). For some, the over-the-ankle design may be unpopular, but we think Five Ten has done it better than others by using modern, sleek, high-end hiking shoes with an upper that resembles a shoe. One final point for winter-weary riders who use clipless pedals is that Shimano’s SHMW702 ($300) is the top pick.

Best of the Rest

8. Five Ten Freerider Pro

As the name implies, Five Ten’s Freerider Pro is an upgraded version of the famous Freerider shoe. For an additional $50, you’ll get the lighter, more water-resistant synthetic upper, a stiffer midsole to provide better shock absorption, and a more modern look that departs from the standard model’s skate shoe-like design. 

Category: Trail/downhill
Pedal compatibility: Flat
Weight: 1 lb. 7.8 oz.
What we like: Lighter, stiffer, and sleeker-looking than the Freerider above.
What we don’t: Its outsole still wears out as quickly as the $50-cheaper standard model.

The toe box has been strengthened and comes with a foam cushion to offer an extra layer of protection against impact (although we’ve found the standard Freerider’s shoe quite robust). It is important to note that you will still receive Five Ten’s world-class Stealth S1 rubber, which is unbeatable regarding grip and durable grip on your pedals.

Which one should you choose, the Pro model over the less expensive Freerider? Suppose your terrain is especially rough, or you ride in rainy conditions. In that case, The synthetic upper layer greatly improves over the more abrasive and heavier mesh and leather included in the basic model. However, there aren’t any significant improvements in off- and on-bike grip or the basic lacing system. Both models be relatively short-lived because of the soft rubber compound. The Pro is a good choice for those serious about cycling and who value weight reduction. However, the majority of trail riders would prefer the basic model.

9. Specialized 2FO DH Clip

The mid-range model in Specialized’s 2FO line includes The DH Clip shoe. From the beginning, we’d like to discuss what’s behind the “DH” in the name and say that despite the sturdier design that’s durable and downhill-ready, we feel this shoe is selling somewhat too short.

Category: Trail/downhill
Pedal compatibility: Clipless
Weight: 1 lb. 11.9 oz.
What we like: Powerful, sturdy, and great traction.
What we don’t: We think it would benefit from a Boa closure.

With a nylon-composite plate underneath the foot, a decent weight of 1 pound 11.9 pounds, and a slimmer construction that dries fairly quickly, these shoes can be used on more gentle terrain and long trail rides. Also, for the extreme and downhill enthusiasts, Specialized has done a fantastic job incorporating extra protection for the toes and the heel cap. The slightly raised padding on an ankle’s inside is also great.

Although the 2FO DH compares very well with the top-of-the-line 2FO Cliplite (costing just $30 less), we’re not thrilled with the two Boa closures. These laces in the DH are just fine and can be hidden in an elastic strap to prevent them from floating around, but they cannot compete with the micro-adjustability or overall comfort offered by this Boa system. We also discovered that the shoe was a bit thin and board-like underneath, leading to painful arches when pedaling (we believe this will not be a problem for everyone). In the end, if you prefer to pedal flat, is one of the few models available to offer Five Ten an opportunity to earn money regarding pedal grip, thanks to the rubber that is tacky SlipKnot 2.0 rubber… 

10. Crankbrothers Stamp Boa

Crankbrothers is most well-known for its clipless and flat pedals. However, they decided to throw their hats into footwear this year. The naming scheme is simple to follow if you’re already familiar with the brand’s pedals, including The Mallet, a clipless shoe made to work with the clipless pedals and for the flat pedal Stamp.

Category: Trail/downhill
Pedal compatibility: Flat
Weight: 1 lb. 11 oz.
What we like: Appealing combination of a Boa closure on a tough flat-pedal shoe.
What we don’t: Not a leader in pedal grip; boring styling.

They’ve also decided to offer various closure options, including traditional laces, a quick-pull design, and Boa (price is increasing with each new setup). The top-of-the-line Stamp Boa model stood at the top of the list as the most intriguing model, offering a unique blend of a solid and semi-stiff, enduro-ready pedal shoe and the easily adjustable fit of the twist-dial technology.

The grip on the pedal is a major factor for riders who prefer flats, and Crankbrothers have optimized their outsole for use to pedals with a Stamp pedal (although it can work with other pedals fairly well). The rubber they’ve developed isn’t as sticky as the one you can get from the Five Ten Freerider Pro above (or the SlipKnot rubber used on specialized footwear). Additionally, although appearances are subjective, we think that Crankbrothers missed the chance to make their new shoes stand out by using an edgier style. If you have a pair of Stamp pedals and are searching for Boa-equipped flat shoes, we’d say they’re worth a look.

11. Ride Concepts Livewire

Ride Concepts is a relative newcomer to the world of mountain bike shoes. However, the company has established a name for itself. Their Livewire is their basic trail model. We like its durable rubber outsole, contemporary design, and affordable MSRP of $110. Additionally, the shoe comes with high-end features like an upper made of synthetic and impact protection in the heels and beneath the foot. 

Category: Trail/downhill
Pedal compatibility: Flat
Weight: 1 lbs. 14.6 oz.
What we like: Solid alternative to popular models from Five Ten and Shimano.
What we don’t: Heavy for trail riding.

Add a fairly thick midsole and newly upgraded rubber–their latest Max Grip compound is a little softer and more sticky than the previous model, and you’ll have a pair that is a great cross-over between flowing trail days and cycling park laps.

The most significant drawback to this model, Livewire, is its weight. It extends into the downhill realm with nearly 2 pounds for the two. It’s still manageable and not excessively bulky for pedal-intensive days. We prefer the lighter and more agile feeling that comes with the Freerider and the Freerider Pro above. Additionally, the slim design isn’t ideal for people with broad feet, and some users have had to upgrade their sizes. These issues push Livewire slightly lower on our list. However, we believe Ride Concepts is a brand to keep in your mind for the future.

12. Sidi Dominator 10

Sidi is famous for cycling for its high price and premium build quality. Their most well-known mountain biking model, the Dominator, is an example of the latter point. It’s priced at $350, which is one of the priciest models available, but it delivers comfort and performance levels in a significant way.

Category: XC
Pedal compatibility: Clipless
Weight: 1 lb. 10.6 oz.
What we like: Comfortable fit and excellent build quality.
What we don’t: Still not a great walking/hiking shoe.

With a stiff outsole, low-volume design (Sidi also offers its Dominator 10 , and a durable upper, the shoe achieves XC racing power levels. The high-end design and interchangeable components make the Dominator an investment that will last for years and a lot more.

What sacrifices can you make with What you lose with an XC shoe such as the Dominator? Even though they softened the rubber compound in the past few years, it’s not an outstanding hiking or walking alternative. It’s suitable for gravel rides or cyclocross races where you’re moving for short periods, and the powerful performance is worth the trade-off. However, those away from their bikes for longer durations may prefer the more flexible and grippy trail-specific model. It’s also quite thin underfoot and doesn’t shield harsh hits in the same way as shoes like the ME5 2FO DH Clip or Ventana. However, the Dominator is an excellent option for XC riders who spend a lot of time on the bike.

13. Five Ten Kestrel Lace

Five Ten’s MTB shoe collection covers all choices, and the familiar Kestrel is an all-mountain, extremely durable shoe. It comes with standard laces and a Boa closure (for an additional $50). The Kestrel that is clipless is designed for serious riders, with a strong and well-protected design. Its power transfer is great due to the carbon shank made of nylon, and we have found that the robust platform is great at reducing fatigue for feet even on prolonged descents (including Moab’s famous Whole Enchilada). It’s also typical of Moab; everything is designed with an elegant design and feel, from the lacing system and strap fitting system to the rubber-like underfoot.

Category: Trail
Pedal compatibility: Clipless
Weight: 2 lbs. 1.2 oz.
What we like: Burly and powerful for all-mountain riding.
What we don’t: Heavy and stiff build can impact comfort.

Although we liked this Kestrel overall and were impressed by its sturdy design, we found ourselves looking for a lighter and more comfortable shoe for most of our trail trips. Even in extremely technical terrain, it is possible to find a shoe like the Shimano ME5 above that is perfectly appropriate for the Kestrel’s bulky construction but negatively impacts comfort. This is because of the collar’s stiffness, leading to pressure points around our ankles in the beginning (these were able to dissipate with time), and the stiff platform being less secure when hiking uphill. Additionally, it’s difficult to return to normal laces after having the comfort of the Boa dial. Also, the $200 cost of this  isn’t too low. However, we believe the Kestrel can be used by hard-core trail runners and racers in enduro who appreciate the sturdy design.

14. Shimano GR903

Shimano is a major player in the clipless world—understandably, as they make the ubiquitous SPD clipless pedals–but they also have a sneaky-good flat pedal lineup. The $170 GR9 (GR means “gravity”) is a well-built product designed to satisfy the demands of downhill and trail riders. 

Category: Trail/downhill
Pedal compatibility: Flat
Weight: 1 lb. 11.6 oz.
What we like: Comfortable with good protection.
What we don’t: Grip falls short of the Five Ten options on this list.

It comes with similar cuffs made of neoprene to the ME7 to keep out dirt and rocks; however, this model features normal laces (a small disadvantage for us, particularly because they don’t have a protective cover). However, we’ve used several GR models over time and have always been impressed by the series’s soft, comfortable feel and durable, high-end construction.

For the GR9’s crucial outside sole, Shimano is introducing its most recent Ultread compound and a brand-innovative tread pattern. This results in a sturdy rubber design with closely spaced blocks in the middle to provide more grip on the pedal and greater space between the heel and toe for off-bike grip. The outsole is the firmness and feels you expect from a product designed to last. However, it’s not as good as five-tenths Stealth rubber for absolute adhesion. Therefore, unless its Neoprene cuff can be an attraction to you, we’re convinced that Five Ten’s less expensive Freerider Pro above is the most premium choice.

15. Bontrager Foray

Bontrager has been working on their versatile Foray shoe over the last couple of years, and we’re happy with how they’ve come up with the latest version. It’s designed for those who like to blend a variety of disciplines, ranging between their trail bike and gravel grinder or cyclocross. It strikes the perfect balance of ease of use and speed.

Category: XC/trail
Pedal compatibility: Clipless
Weight: 1 lb. 10 oz.
What we like: Good all-around performance for various cycling disciplines.
What we don’t: It also doesn’t excel in any specific category.

The moderately big fit and a simple-to-adjust Boa dial are ideal for flow trails or short laps. Yet, it can keep the power down fairly well, thanks to its composite sole made of nylon (Bontrager offers it a 6 out of 14 rating for rigidity). The dirt-trailing capability is another plus, as the nylon cleats under the toes are particularly great at gripping up steep slopes.

Despite its well-rounded design, it’s a bit clunky. Foray, however, doesn’t make a mark in any particular area. It’s a bit heavy and doesn’t launch you forward like a cross-country-oriented or gravel-specific shoe, and its shock absorption and protection fall short for rough trail riding. Additionally, the typical outsole design and tread pattern don’t work on hard surfaces and are less gripping and harder to believe in. Within the informal “do-everything” category, we believe the Shimano ME5 and Pearl Izumi X-Alp Summit are better choices; however, Foray is a good choice. Foray is the widest range of fit for those who need more space.

16. Five Ten Hellcat Pro

This is the fourth Five Ten shoe to make our list. The Hellcat Pro blends a downhill-focused design and clipless pedal support. Compared to its predecessor, the Freerider Pro above, the Hellcat delivers power more effectively with a midsole that’s strengthened by a shank made of TPU.

Category: Downhill
Pedal compatibility: Clipless
Weight: 2 lbs. 6 oz.
What we like: Burly clipless design.
What we don’t: Overkill and heavy for a lot of riders.

. It’s also built for downhill riding with thick armor on the outside and a thick cushion underneath to cushion the impact force. As we’ve come to be used to from Five Ten and the Hellcat features a grippy tread that holds well to the pedals, even when they’re not clipped into.

The main reason for the Hellcat Pro down our list is that it’s too heavy for most riders. With a weight of nearly 2 pounds, the Hellcat Pro is 10 ounces heavier compared to other models, such as those in the Specialized 2FO DH Clip above. The foot is protected with more protection, and the shoe can perform well in adverse weather conditions, but this DH Clip is much easier to use. It is upgraded for most endurance riding (plus it’s cheaper, as the Hellcat is priced at $30 more than Giro’s equally durable Chamber II). If you want your feet to be heavily protected, regardless of the price in pedaling efficiency, The Hellcat Pro is a good option. However, most users will be more satisfied with the Chamber and DH Clip mentioned.

18. Specialized S-Works Recon

Specialized’s S-Works Recon is designed for cross-country, cyclocross, and gravel racers who want an uncompromisingly strong and light shoe. The price is eye-watering and costly, yet the premium materials and construction will give you an incredible performance on bikes. The fit is comfortable for maximum efficiency thanks to an extremely robust Dyneema mesh upper and two Boa dials on your foot’s upper part and bottom.

Category: XC
Pedal compatibility: Clipless
Weight: 1 lb. 3 oz.
What we like: Powerful and ultralight.
What we don’t: Lots of compromises for non-racers.

Based on Specialized’s strongest mountain bike sole, which is strong enough to make walking uncomfortable and awkward, power is immediately and smoothly transferred into the pedals. With a weight of 1 pound 3 ounces, this S-Works Recon is the lightest shoe on the list at 3.2 grams, and it sheds rotational weight, trimming every second of a timed segment.

If you’re not an avid rider or racer, there’s plenty to be unhappy about. This S-Works Recon is a lightly protected road style with little padding and support around the ankles and toes. Furthermore, the snug fit that connects effectively to the pedals can compromise longevity and comfort, and it is hard to wear when walking. In reality, this S-Works Recon indeed has very limited appeal. However, that doesn’t mean it is less appealing. For a more tuned version that’s a little soft and heavier yet still strong for a race, look into this Giro Empire VR90 below.

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