We've thrashed the soles out of these MTB sneaks and here is our pick of the very best mountain bike shoes. Whether you ride flat pedals or clip in, and whatever your budget, there's an option for you here.
The interface between pedal and shoe is one of the most important contact points for control and comfort in mountain biking, and if you’re looking for the ultimate comfort, grip and performance, these are best mountain bike shoes we’ve tried and tested.
The best mountain bike flat pedal shoes look like trainers/sneakers but have low-profile soles made from sticky rubber. Whereas the best mountain bike clipless pedal shoes are generally stiffer and have recessed bolt holes for attaching pedal cleats. And of course don’t forget to match them the best flat pedals or clipless pedals.
The best mountain bike shoes for flat pedals
This second generation is a huge improvement on the original
Weight: 780g | Sizes: 5.5-14.5 | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Exceptional grip even in the worst conditions. Lightweight, breathable, great for hike-a-bike. Reasonably supportive
Reasons to avoid: Definite running shoe vibe. Narrow fit, and sizing comes up small
Looking for a shoe with excellent traction off the bike as well as on the pedals? Five Ten’s Trailcross XT could well be the pick of the bunch. A definite improvement on the Gen 1.
The Trailcross XT is easily the grippiest flat pedal shoe Five Ten makes, the secret source being the latest Stealth Phantom rubber with a squidgy 55a compound and the usual dotty lug pattern. The original version wasn’t able to score a perfect ten thanks to a host of little problems dragging it down. Two years later we have version two, with some changes the Adidas-owned brand hopes will make it your go-to shoe.
This Gen 2 version is comfy to walk or hike-a-bike in, although sizing is still slightly off – I’m squarely a UK10 but my toes touch the end of the Trailcross XT so you need to upsize by a half.
So if you’re svelte of foot, tackle a bit of hike-a-bike, and you want maximum grip, the Trailcross XT is the one. Five Ten has done a decent job addressing the stability issues, and although it’s still not quite as supportive as the Freerider Pro that’s made up for that with exception grip.
Benchmark shoe for enduro and trail riding
Weight: 780g | Sizes: 5-13.5 | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: The grippiest sole available. Shock absorbing mid-sole.
Reasons to avoid: Pretty pricey. Can be too sticky for some riders.
The Freerider Pro has been our test winning flat pedal shoe for the last few years. It is stiffer than its slim profile suggests. To stop it getting bounced off pedals, there’s plenty of flex in the sole and it’s also wider than most. The Stealth rubber is a cut above anything else here and is also slow-rebound, so you just feel more stable on the pedal, even in the wet.
Much as we hate sounding like a broken record, the Freerider Pro is the best shoe on the market and only the new Specialized 2FO Roost (below) matches it for ride feel and grip.
Best budget mountain bike shoe
Weight: 938g | Sizes: EU38 – 47 | Colours: Black, Olive, Pebble, Navy | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Excellent build quality, comfort and sizing options, and a grippy sole. The price is great too
Reasons to avoid: Just outdone on grip by Stealth and SlipNot rubber. Toe box lacks protection.
There are three options in the Endura shoe range; two top-end MT500 shoes including a flat pedal and a clipless offering, and this more keenly priced Hummvee.
The Hummvee does indeed use a pleasingly tacky rubber compound called StickyFOOT, which covers the sole from toe to heel. It’s sticky but not quite as good as FiveTen’s famous Stealth S1 Dotty rubber that adheres to the Freerider Pro. On just a few occasions over the past months I’d slipped a pedal in wet conditions, something I really don’t think would have happened on Stealth.
Endura says it designed its own last (or sizing and shape of the shoe) and it’s done a brilliant job of it. There are an incredible 13 sizes to choose from, with half sizes populating the middle spread, so everyone will be able to get a great fit.
I like the Hummvee, it’s a really simple and conventional looking mountain bike shoe that’s been executed extremely well. I can’t fault it for fit, build quality or comfort, and the price is great when you compare it to the £130 or more competition. Now if Endura could just make the sole a little grippier it would easily score top marks.
Cunningly good shoe with a wipe-clean design
Weight: 779g | Sizes: 37-47 with half sizes between 41 and 46 | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Lightweight. Easy to clean. Quick drying. Great fit. Excellent grip
Reasons to avoid: Laces are cheap and too short. Not the most shock absorption on the market.
Taking knowledge and experience from many years designing motocross boots, Fox’s new Union Flat shoe goes straight in to our recommended list. Its own Ultrac rubber sole is a grippy compound with security tightened through the use of a small hexagonal lugs that let the pedal pins tightly lock into place.
The moulded upper is lightweight and wipe-clean, and the interior gets a great fit thanks to a gusseted tongue and removable arch wedge. The only aspects letting it down are the measly laces.
Excellent alternative to Five Ten
Weight: 793g | Sizes: 39-45.5 | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Finally a sole that rivals Five Ten Freeriders.
Reasons to avoid: No cheaper than a Five Ten.
Previous Ride Concepts shoes have been frustrating. Everything about them has been impressive – apart from the sole. Which, let’s face it, is the be all and end all when it comes to flat pedal shoes. So hip hop hurray for the new Hellion Elite which (finally!) sports a rubber compound on its underside that is actually a genuine rival for the ubiquitous Stealth rubber found on the Five Ten Freerider Pro.
As well as this DST 4.0 Max Grip rubber being soft, the sole on the Hellion Elite has noticeably more give to it compared to the stiff AF regular Hellion. This flex makes it grip the pedal better and doesn’t really seem to have any real impact on pedal power.
As well as more general grip, the Elite version of the Hellion has anti-bacterial lining to help ward off the dreaded ‘cat urine’ aroma that oft arises on riding shoes after a season of proper usage. The heel and toe bumpers do a good job of protecting the overall integrity of the shoe. Our test shoes still look impressively tidy even after months of riding.
It’s no doubt a tad annoying to Ride Concepts that just as they catch up with Five Ten’s Stealth rubber, Five Ten go and come out with their Phantom rubber (featured on Trailcross Five Tens) which takes adhesion and vibration absorption to a another level again. That said, the Hellion Elites are most definitely worth considering over Five Tens – especially if you find the shape of modern Adidas-era Five Tens a bit too narrow fitting.
Very close runner-up
Weight: 828g | Sizes: 36-49 | Rating: 10/10
Reasons to buy: Lightweight flat pedal shoe with super sticky rubber and decent shock absorption
Reasons to avoid: If anything they size up small. Durability unproven.
With this latest Roost version, Specialized has nailed the rubber blend, with a sole that stays fully planted in all-conditions. The new 2FO Roost shoes are also lightweight, competitively priced and more like a regular trainer to walk around in than a Five Ten. The latter is oft underappreciated aspect until you’ve experienced it.
Five Ten’s Stealth rubber had unmatched grip and control. Specialized has got the rubber to match but it’s also priced to go toe-to-toe with the Freerider Pro.
While some bolder more open-minded riders may switch brands, most will probably stick with what they know (Five Ten) but we definitely think a lot of folk should try Specialized sneaks at some point. They’re becoming the SRAM to Five Ten’s Shimano.
High quality performance mountain bike shoe
Weight: 798g | Sizes: 6 – 12 (38 – 46 EU) | Colours: Black | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: BOA adjustment, super comfortable, protective, great off-bike performance
Reasons to avoid: Lacking in grip
The Ride Concepts Tallac BOA is the flagship model, and while it’s a chunk of cash you do get the high-tech BOA fit system which is simple, lightweight and allows you to make tension adjustments to your footwear with one hand while on the bike.
The BOA dial is mounted high up out of the way of stumps and rocks, and interlocks the lace with the gusseted tongue so it stays centred. The upper is made from highly breathable and lightweight Cordura with fully welded construction. There are also TPU bumpers front and rear to protect the upper.
Internally the shoe features antibacterial mesh lining and a D30 padded insole in two high impact zones at the heel and ball, but the footbed is pretty flimsy and arch support is minimal.
The sole uses Ride Concepts’s softest MAX GRIP rubber and familiar hexagon outsole, but the company has added some reverse hex traction patterning on the toe and heel areas. Some testers have remarked that these reverse lugs catch on the pedal platform, but I never noticed that.
Wearing Five Ten’s Freerider flat shoes, I don’t have to think about keeping my feet on the pedals – they stick like glue – but with the Tallac BOA I needed to pay attention and work my feet more. This is not to say the Tallac BOA is a bad shoe, it just isn’t the best, nor in this configuration the cheapest.
Off the bike performance is excellent, it’s super comfortable, and is more protective than the Freerider, but grip is king with flat shoes and the Tallac BOA is just a little bit lacking.
Unusual looks but great performance
Weight: 870g | Sizes: 4 – 14 | Colours: Black, Red, Green | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Comfortable, great off-bike performance
Reasons to avoid: Not as grippy as competitors
These look nothing like any riding shoes I’ve seen before – but do they work? Actually yes!
You get the same great connection to the pedal we first saw on the Ride Concepts Hellion Elite. It’s a slightly different feel to a Five Ten compound, you don’t sink in quite as much but I never slipped a pedal. In fact, I had a few moments taking my foot off to dab in these dusty conditions, where I almost couldn’t get clear, so proud are the lugs. It took a few rides to adjust.
Ride Concepts uses a D3O insole in the Tallac, and combined with the chunky sole, reinforced TPU heel and toe sections, and EVA midsole, it definitely gives it the edge in terms of cushioning. I can ride all day in these without getting sore feet. I back-to-backed them with both the Hellion Elite and the Specialized 2FO Roost shoe, the latter has a stonkingly grippy sole, but less in the way of impact protection.
The adventure theme continues with a Cordura upper that proved really durable and highly breathable too, and an antibacterial mesh lining to keep things sweet smelling. There’s also a women’s version called the Flume, which is identical in all but name and sizing, which runs from sizes 5-10.
If you’re into big mountain riding, scrambling up scree slopes or leaping streams then the Tallac is an excellent option because it delivers great grip and maximum protection, both on and off the bike.
The best mountain bike shoes for clipless pedals
One of the best value clipless mtb shoes
Weight: 848g | Sizes: 36-48 | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Still an excellent trail shoe that continues the AM9 line nicely.
Reasons to avoid: We’re not huge fans of Speed lace system.
Shimano’s methodology for naming their shoes continues and this AM902 is the very latest version of a series of gravity-inspired clip-in shoes bearing the AM9 prefix.
The shoes use a string-cinch Speedlace system which looks great in theory but we have our issues with consistency and attendant fiddling. At the end of the day, there’s not a whole lot wrong with traditional laces.
Underneath the shoe, Shimano have done some great work and have really improved the cleat pocket. Not only is it bigger fore-aft – which helps prevent mud build-up blockages – but they’ve also extended the cleat slot so it’s possible to run your cleats much more rearward and mid-foot à la flat pedal vibes.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that Shimano shoes are better value than most premium brands.
As expensive as an Italian loafer, but great if you can afford it
Weight: 851g | Sizes: 36-48 | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Extremely comfortable shoes that you won’t be in a rush to remove.
Reasons to avoid: Bold styling isn’t everyone’s tastes, expensive.
If you can get past the aesthetics of this particular colourway, the Fizik Gravita Tensor Clip is a super comfortable clipless pedal shoe that sports some great little features.
Perhaps the most striking of these little features is the offset lacing bed. This offset system does a couple of things: it keeps the laces away from your greedy drivetrain, and it prevents the common hotspotting zone bang on top of your foot (especially if you like your shoes tied up really tight).
Ankle protection is not overly chunky or stiff padding, just a subtle bit of Neoprene with some anti-cuff fabric.
Despite the sole being made from Vibram’s stickiest rubber, it’s still not that sticky. But the relatively shallow cleat box and subtle tread around it do a great job of interacting with the pedal pins on caged clipless pedals. The shoes didn’t feel sketchy on rocks or roots when hike-a-biking around off the bike and the front and rear bumpers do a good job of protecting your feet.
Inside the shoe there’s a fancy fabric lining that dries out impressively quickly and the overall roominess of the toe box area is most welcome, something sorely (literally) lacking form most road-inspired clip-in shoes shapes.
Best for enduro and gravity riding
Weight: 944g (pair, with cleats) | Sizes: 37-48 | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Slipper-like comfort, rock-solid stability and cleats fitted as standard
Reasons to avoid: Not the cheapest option on the market, although Crankbrothers offers less expensive versions without the BOA
Crankbrothers has been top of the charts when it comes to downhill and enduro clip-in pedals for years now, but now it’s got its sights set on the shoe market as well.
This new range of clip-in shoes come with a variety of closure systems, with the sleek and rapid BOA sitting at the top of the tree. Superbly comfortable and stable, with plenty of cleat adjustability and a pair pre-installed, these are as good as it gets for DH and enduro riding.
There are other (cheaper) Crankbrothers clipless shoes to go for. The mid-range version has Velcro and laces combo. The entry level shoe just has plain laces. All versions get the seamless, wararound vibe and aesthetic to them. Some will like this look. Others will think it a bit dated or XC gawky. Their loss.
Perhaps the key thing with Crankbrothers clipless shoes is that they offer a choice of cleat box/slots. These E (for enduro) shoes just has traditional standard cleat slot holes. If you want to run your cleats much (and we mean much!) further towards the middle of your foot, you can get the Race Zone cleat slot option shoe.
Not only that but if you’re a Crankbrothers pedal user (and chances are if you’re contemplating these shoes) then the shoes actually come pre-installed with Crankbrothers pedal cleats.
These Mallet E Boas have some excellent innovative features, but, more importantly, they are comfortable, stable and integrate perfectly with the brand’s class-leading clip-in pedals. Sure, the price tag is steep but try to consider the level of tech involved and the fact you get a pair of £20 cleats thrown in. Or just find them in a sale!
True riding slippers
Weight: 886g | Sizes: 37-48 | Rating: 9/10
Reasons to buy: Shock absorbing qualities. Comfort is on another level.
Reasons to avoid: Needs to be paired with caged clipless pedals. Some cleats need spacers underneath to clear sole.
With its synthetic leather upper, reinforced toe box and the GnarGuard abrasion-resistant coating on the heel and toe cap, the Bontrager Rally is a burly clip-in shoe.
It comes with a Velcro strap across the top that holds the laces down and also adds extra tension. The sole features an in-house rubber, which we measured at around 65a – softer than some of the flat pedal shoes. The tackiness really helps stability when using a caged clipless pedal, but it also adds some extra security if you fail to clip in properly and end up just resting your foot on the binding.
The Rally’s shock-absorbing EVA insole isn’t quite as good as the Specialized or Ride Concepts insole, but it does boost comfort when rattling down a rough descent or overshooting a jump and landing flat. The cleat box isn’t as spacious either, so the cleat does clog with mud a little bit and it’s also pretty deep, so you will definitely need to run an extra shim if you decide to use Crankbrothers cleats.
Compared to the Specialized shoes, the heel cup is slightly shallower, but we had no issues with heel lift. However, it was a little tricky to gauge the overall fit, because our sample 42 did come up a tiny bit small.
We’d recommend going up a size to create a bit more space in the front of the shoe – especially if you’re going to be using this in the winter with a thicker/waterproof sock. And you’ll probably want to – the Rally is pretty good for cold-weather riding because of that durable upper material.
If you want a solid clip-in shoe for hard riding, this is recommended.
Not just for downhill
Weight: 810g | Sizes: EU36 – 49 | Colours: Black/Red, Slate, Rusted Red | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Comfortable, breathable, versatile
Reasons to avoid: Laces can get muddy, no additional foot support
Even though the 2FO is tagged as a DH shoe, the downhill features are pretty subtle, so it can be used for pretty much any sort of riding.
It gets a Synthetic leather upper with an in-house XPEL hydrophobic mesh backing, which reduces water absorption and also speeds up drying time.
It doesn’t feel that supple, and there’s nothing, apart from the laces, to hold your foot – no retaining strap or lace flap. Although the shoe does have some reinforcing bumpers on the toe and lower heel.
The in-house SlipNot FG rubber sole offers really good traction on a caged clipless pedal. Specialized also extends the cleat rails slightly, offsets the cleat box and also opens it up, allowing the cleat to engage smoothly. We still needed to shim our Crankbrothers cleats, but it was one of the easiest shoes to clip in with.
Like all Specialized footwear, the 2FO DH Clip has an array of Body Geometry features, such as Longitudinal Arch, Metatarsal Button, and Varus Wedge. The foot bed is comfortable and supportive without any excess bulk. It’s also super breathable and pretty durable – we often swap these foot beds to our other riding shoes – they’re that good.
There is a good amount of pedalling stiffness, but the 2FO DH Clip does feel a little bulky. It has an excellent sole, but it is a tall shoe, especially in the heel, so off the bike it’s not the most stable. It has some smart features that really boost comfort and fit, but the laces can get covered in mud quite easily and feels clumpy. Our biggest gripe with the 2FO DH Clip though, is the price, especially when you compare it to the Shimano SH-AM902.
If it’s okay for Greg Minnaar…
Weight: 853g | Sizes: 38-47 | Rating: 8/10
Reasons to buy: Still the premium pedaler for racers or any performance-minded rider.
Reasons to avoid: Arguably not worth the extra over the regular Hellcat.
Whilst a lot of Five Ten’s mountain bike offerings have undergone some big changes this season (recycled materials, new rubber, whole new models etc), the Hellcat Pro remains unchanged. Which, to be fair, will be a relief to a lot of enduro and downhill racers who are the main target audience of this shoe. ‘Don’t mess with the formula’ and all that.
So the sole is still made from their firm-ish Marathon rubber which is perfectly appropriate for a clip-in shoes really. It certainly doesn’t impede pedal engagement, which is just as well because the Hellcat Pro’s deep cleat pocket can certainly impede engagement until you slip one or (probably) two shims under the cleat.
Overall though, the shoe is designed around someone who clips-in at the start of an effort and doesn’t clip-out again until the job is done. Which can be racers but can also just be mountain bikers who like to ride everywhere feet-up, clean and efficient. Having said that, the Hellcat Pros are most definitely not road shoes with a chunky sole; there is noticeable and welcome flex at the toe end which makes them much more real-world viable for weekend warriors and cafe stops.
The overall fit is slim and the shoe in general is sleek and noticeably less clumpy than the other shoes here.
How we tested the best mountain bike shoes
To ensure all things are equal, we coupled our shoes with the two test-winning pedals from the mbr group test in the June issue. We also ran these on the same bike so that we could measure crank and chainstay clearance for each shoe and gauge overall comfort and grip without being distracted by suspension and tyre choice.
With the clip-in shoes, we measured the size of the cleat box and clearance around the cleat and focused on ease of engagement/release. With the flat shoes, the main driver is grip, so we measured the rubber compound on every shoe with a durometer. We also did a simple flex test to check feel, and some off- the-bike hikes to gauge comfort and check for heel lift.
What to look for in the best mountain bike shoes
There are two types of mountain bike pedal – clip-in and and flat – and to get the maximum performance from either, it’s necessary to use a dedicated shoe. Since both pedal systems are equally popular, this test includes each type. Increasingly we’re seeing a crossover with newly released shoes, as brands design both clip-in and flat versions of the latest models.
However, some companies still specialise in one particular type, such as Adidas Five Ten for example. Does that make them better at it? Not necessarily, but judging by past experience, it does seem to be easier to make a decent clip-in shoe than one designed for a flat pedal.
Of course, there is nothing stopping you riding flats in a pair of trainers. However, the shock-absorbing sole will sap energy, the rubber outsole will be too hard and slide on the platform, and the upper will not have enough support. So in our view it’s just as crucial to use a specific mtb flat pedal shoe as it is a clip-in design. With more grip comes more control over the bike, and your feet are less likely to slip off, which is obviously a lot safer.
With clip-in pedals, any SPD-compatible shoe is going to work well because it’s actually the pedal/cleat interface that is responsible for grip and security. That said, a clip-in shoe is under more load when pedalling and during the disengagement phase, and often is supported by a smaller surface area of pedal, so it needs to feature a more stable construction and often a reinforcing strap to reduce flex.
This recess on the bottom of the sole needs to be deep enough that you don’t feel the cleat when you walk, but shallow enough that the cleat engages easily with the mechanism. It’s a fine balance with all the different pedal designs out there, but you can raise and lower the cleat using thin shims (spacers) often provided with the pedals.
Covers and straps
A big strap across the top of the shoe adds stability, but also makes for a more positive release when twisting the shoe free of the binding. Integrated covers limit mud ingress and stop laces catching in the pedal axle.
Look for an extended section of upper on the crank side of the shoe. This stops your ankle contacting the crank arm when you’re leaning into a corner, or those times when you have to unclip inwards.
Clip-in shoes are generally stiffer than flat shoes – this is primarily for pedalling efficiency, but having a solid sole also means you won’t feel the cleat when cranking hard.
There are no hard and fast rules regarding the tread pattern on the sole. Some companies use a waffle, others just use chevrons or raised circles. It’s more important to have enough tread, especially at the toe and heel, to create purchase when scrambling up and down steep terrain.
Aka the insole. This should be supportive, stable and breathable. Any extras, like D3O impact zones or Body Geometry fit customisation features, are a bonus.
A thicker layer of anti-scuff rubber reinforcement on the toe and heel adds some long-term durability but also protects your feet against rock strikes and abrasion.
For some reason manufacturers are reluctant to use really tacky rubber on their flat shoes because they cite reduced durability, but with a flat shoe, grip generated by the rubber is everything. If it’s too hard your feet just won’t stay on the pedals, so it’s irrelevant how long the shoe lasts.