Whether you ride flat pedals or clipless, you need a good shoe to deliver power through the pedals. Here’s our pick of the best mountain bike shoes for sale today.
You use your feet far more than you realise when riding on your bike. Whether it’s putting down the power, carving up the turns or pushing your bike up to the top, your feet will always be engaged in some way.
A shoe that isn’t fit for purpose could leave you miserable on a ride, we think it’s far better to get a mountain bike specific shoe that you know will work. They’re durable and practical so the investment will pay off in the long run.
What to look for
To get a pair of good-looking trail shoes that offer the right blend of comfort and efficiency for general off-road use, you’ll need to spend around £100.
If you’re looking for a clipless shoe, (where you clip into the pedal via a cleat and ratchet system) you won’t get a carbon sole very cheaply but it’s pretty tough to notice the difference between the shoes tested here and ones that cost twice as much.
In fact, we’ve found nylon-soled shoes are more versatile for regular trail riding, as they offer a bit more give, and they’re more comfortable when you’re off the bike.
If you’re looking for a flat pedal shoe you can also expect to pay around £80. For this you get a tacky sole and a well-built shoe with some decent toe and heel protection. FiveTen has long produced the best sole on the market, but there are some new players producing great shoes than could shake things up.
How to pick
Choosing clipless spd-style shoes or flat-pedal, there are some important ‘must-haves’. A decent amount of stiffness to make sure your energy goes into the shoe and the trail is key. You should also look for heel and toe protection to defend your feet from rocks and crashes.
Then there’s the retention system, how the shoe is fastened to your foot: it should be reliable and easy to use and crucially, not deliver any painful pressure points to your foot.
Five Ten Impact VXi
The Impact VXi is more durable than any other flat shoes. Once fully bedded in, the grip levels, protection and all-day comfort are fantastic. It’s clearly one of the best gravity shoes to date.
O’Neal Trigger II
O’Neal’s Trigger flat pedal shoe has been given a revamp. The half-cab cut with extra ankle protection and Vans-style’ waffle sole tread pattern are the same but overall weight is reduced and the shoe profile is slimmer and more refined.
Five Ten Freerider Contact shoes
Grip is everything with flat pedal shoes and, while the Freerider Contact is the best on the market at the moment, it’s also 25 per cent more expensive than most flat shoes. If you want the best, it turns out you will have to pay a bit more for it.
O’Neal Stinger II shoes
Comfortable, hardwearing and good value, and if you don’t like the locked-in feel of Five Ten, the O’Neal Stinger II is the one to go for.
DZR Sense Black LTD shoes
At 50A durometer, the DZR SAP rubber sole is surprisingly soft and offered a good balance between grip and foot position adjustability. There’s plenty of traction and the chain-link patterned sole has just the right amount of flex, so you can feel the pedal, but not so much that it causes any discomfort.
Shimano AM41 shoes
The Vibram sole is one of the hardest here, so it skates around on the pedal, and there’s very little traction when walking. It’s also not particularly durable, and after only half a dozen rides, the sole started to cut up where the pins contacted.
Specialized 2FO Flat shoes
The Specialized 2FO Flat is much thicker and stiffer than any other shoe on test, which is good for efficient pedalling, but does reduce sensitivity. It might not be what Specialized intended, but the 2FO Flat really feels like an SPD shoe with a flat sole instead of a cleat on the bottom.
Five Ten Sam Hill Impact 3
Lighter shoes are more suitable for the mellower side of trail riding, since you’ll get a better feel off the bike, and sit lower onto the pedal for more precise control, but if you’re regularly smashing through rocks or braking bumps on an Alpine holiday (or ride DH) the extra cushioning and support of the thick sole is superb.As long as pedalling isn’t your top priority, this Sam Hill Impact 3 is pretty much all you could ask for from a gravity-focused flat pedal shoe.
Shimano AM5 shoes
Shimano’s AM5 trail shoe shares it’s DNA with the top-end AM9, but instead of a big flap, it uses a single strap to secure the laces and provide stability when pulling hard on the pedals. With just a couple of perforations around the toe, the AM5 still has good water resistance, and with its chunky sole and bumpers on the toe and heel, it’s protective and easily shrugs off minor rock strikes.
Scott Shr-alp RS shoes
We like the high inside cuff, which prevented knocks to the anklebone when things got rough, and the tough heel cup and toe protection reinforced the Shr-alp’s mountain credentials. While the tread isn’t very deep, or aggressive, the compound is pretty sticky, and it’s combined with a mid-stiffness sole offering just enough flex to tackle rocky hikes without too many slips and curses. The Scott Shr-alp RS is pretty expensive, but it’s lightweight, tough and a really capable shoe for long days on the hills.
Shimano XC50 shoes
The dual-position ratcheted buckle and two offset Velcro straps provide a foot-hugging fit with no obvious pressure points. Combined with the minimal weight and impressive sole stiffness, this makes them feel instantly at home in speed-focused scenarios and also suitable for moonlighting on a road bike.
Mavic Alpine XL shoes
These shoes have weathered the abuse well and continue to be the pair to reach for in everyday riding. Only sub-zero temperatures have defeated them so far.
Scott MTB Elite Boa shoes
Scott is on the verge of making a great shoe with the new Elite BOA: comfortable, lightweight and protective. It just needs to sort that tongue.
Giro Chamber Mid shoes
Although it commands a fairly hefty premium, the slimmer, lighter, grippier and more comfortable Chamber Mid has usurped Shimano’s similar AM45 to become my favourite shoe for use with DH-style SPDs.
Pearl Izumi X-Project 3.0 shoes
If you’re after a stiff and lightweight clipless shoe that still has a little bit of trail style and is as good off the bike as on, then these come highly recommended.
Mavic Rush shoes
Marketed as a “cross country race ready shoe”, the Rushes are effectively a more affordable version of the £240 Furys. We’ve tested the Furys and we’d describe the Rushes, in comparison, as slightly more comfortable for regular riding, but without the same sort of support when rides are longer or more intense.
Shimano AM45 shoes
Living in the UK it’s hard not to love the DXs for their ability to withstand mud and gloop: the top strap/cover that encloses the laces is invaluable. They’re comfy too. The package is marred slightly by the weight though, and a sole that lacks traction.
Shimano ME7 SPD shoes
Bontrager Cambion shoes
Sharing features with the range topping XXX shoe, the Bontrager Cambion has an incredibly stiff sole for maximum power transfer. This stiffness is fortunately not at the expense of comfort.
Shimano XC7 SPD Shoes
The Shimano XC7 manages to balance cross country stiffness with all-day comfort. The styling might be a little racy for some but there’s no denying it is a great looker with its glossy finish.
Find the shoe for you
So there you have it. Tested and reviewed by mbr’s team of expert testers we’ve recommended the best shoes for your riding style: XC shoes, grippy downhill flats or something in between, hopefully there’s a shoe for you.