The best mountain bike shoes in 2019
Here’s our pick of the best mountain bike shoes. Whether you ride flat pedals or clipless, you need a good shoe to deliver power through the pedals.
Find the best mountain bike shoes 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.
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 in mountain bike shoes
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 mountain bike shoes
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.
The best mountain bike shoes for flat pedals
Flat pedal shoes need to be comfortable, durable and look good, but above all need to grip like stink.
Sole compounds and tread patterns are vital to keep feet planted and maintain rider control, but work in tandem with the inner shank’s flexibility and the upper’s stability as a complete package. The rougher the trails, the more shoes want to bounce and shuffle around traction studs, so a well-damped shoe improves stability and hold. A good balance of sole stiffness is also needed to offer protection, efficient power transfer and comfort. Stiffer or thicker soles transmit marginally less feel from the ground, but generally offer a more direct feel when pedalling. They also keep feet from clawing round the platforms (which can get tiring and uncomfortable) and better absorb repeated shocks on longer descents.
It’s ultimately the shoes that grip best that can be most relied on. Add to this aspect of performance, any shoe’s durability, comfort, off the bike ability, plus retail price considerations, and there’s a lot to consider.
Five Ten Impact Pro mountain bike shoes
One of the latest models from Five Ten promises better strength, increased durability, faster drying-out times and lighter overall weight. The Impact name goes back the very first MTB shoe from Five Ten but this new Impact is a very different and more sophisticated beast. Multi-panel upper that better resists soggying-up, various different materials in the midsole (for nice damping qualities) and reinforced toe box and bumper. What’s not changed much is the levels of grip. These are very, very grippy shoes indeed. Slightly thicker sole than Five Ten Freerider make them more for bombing gravity-fed riders than the subtleties of trail riders.
Bontrager Flatline mountain bike shoes
A very, very good flat pedal offering from one of the original names in mountain biking. Bontrager have done what they set out to do with this shoe; there’s plenty of feel and power on offer and will be much prized by riders who find other flat shoes too stuck-down (Five Tens basically then). The thinner sole was also well liked by our testers and helped to keep overall bike ride height low as well as increased pedal feel and bike handling nimbleness. It also looks less outlandish and gawky than other flat shoes.
Adidas Terrex Trail Cross SL mountain bike shoes
Adidas also offer a taller cuffed Protect version, if you feel the need for ankle support or protection. The latest Terrex shoes are very different from the first appearance a few years ago. There’s still the sticky Stealth rubber sole but the uppers are now more abrasion proof and the shoes in general don’t hold on to moisture quite as much as before. The greatest aspect of the Terrex is that of comfort. Comfort on the bike when smashing rock gardens and comfort off the bike when hiking or taking a break. Less rigid in the uper than Five Ten equivalent, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for all riders.
Five Ten Freerider EPS High mountain bike shoes
Flat pedal riders are often poorly served by shoes comapred to their clip-in cousins, but these EPS Freeriders are different. The EPS shoes have insulated uppers and heat-reflective insoles and even if we have our doubts as to the genuine efficacy of these features there’s no doubting that the sealed-in upper and tongue really does keep the cold and wet out remarkably well. On the bike they perform just as regular Freeriders, which is excellent, but they keep you warm and dry in wet weathers. The uppers can lose their shine and begin to flake at the edges but their weather-keeping properties seem to remain true. An excellent one-off winter flat shoe.
Five Ten Freerider Pro mountain bike shoes
These are post tech-ed up versions of the popular skate-style canvassy Freerider. What these shoes lose in skater style they more than make up for in mountain bike performance. In use they have all the better aspects of the chunkier Impact shoes and the flexier regular Freeriders; the Freerider Pro exhibit excellent damping comfort combined with real trail pedal feel. The Pros are hugely lighter than normal Freeriders and also don’t fall apart as quick as those cheaper ‘Riders can do. The wipe-clean upper finish also keeps them drier to boot.
Specialized 2FO 2.0 mountain bike shoes
This is the more expensive version of Specialized’s 2FO shoe. You can actually feel where the extra pennies have been spent. These shoes are noticeably more rugged and beefy than other Spesh flat shoes. They’re arguably OTT for trail riding but for enduro and downhill racing they are an excellent option. The deep heel cup, raised inner ankle cuff and no-slip tongue all help to keep your feet where you want them. As expected too, they offer excelletn damping properties on rough, prolonged descents. The ergonomic Body Geometry insoles are also good at helping the comfy yet natural feel of the shoe.
Five Ten Freerider Elements mountain bike shoes
Yes, yet another version of the Freerider. The Elements suffix indicates that this Freerider is more guarded against the er, elements. Water, mainly. There are no mesh panels on this Freerider and the upper has been given a DWR coating. Whilst not offering the same levels of weather proofing as the Five Ten Pro and EPS models, it doesn’t have quite the same price tag either. The added bonus of these £5-more Freeriders is that the slightly thicker and less tretchy upper results in a more secure on-pedal feel and actually improves bike handling nimbleness and response input.
The best mountain bike shoes for flat pedals: winners
Is the original sticky flat pedal brand still the best? We reckon so, and Five Ten still leads the charge for riders hunting for maximum flat pedal grip.
Best flat pedal mountain bike shoes for grip: either Five Ten Freerider Pro or the Five Ten Freerider Elements if you want some splash protection.
Best flat pedal mountain bike shoes for feel: the Bontrager Flatline and Specialized 2FO 2.0 offering excellent feedback and superb damping in a stiff package.
The best mountain bike shoes for clipless pedals
Specialized S Works 6XC
This is the zenith of Specialized’s cross country clipless shoes. It must be one of the most high tech shoes out there and the list of features that is crammed into this shoe is quite amazing really. The front of the shoe is made from softer material, and with minimal amount of seams, for ultimate comfort. The rear of the shoe is all about holding things in place under pedal power. Thge BOA strap system is excellent. The super think yet super stiff sole is an impressive piece of carbon know how. They are a bit too stiff for much off-bike use but if you clip-in and hammer until the ride/race is over, you’ll love these.
Scott MTB Team Boa
The Scott MTB Team BOA shoe has a tunable fit that should work for a wide variety of foot shapes. Pedalling stiffness is perfectly adequate for racing although the nylon reinforced sole and thicker materials make it heavier than most competitors.
Comfy and efficient, you don’t need more from a pair of clip-in shoes. The ION Rascal should be high on the wishlist for riders wanting a clip-in shoe suitable for everything from trail riding to DH. Make the velcro a little longer and it would be perfect 10.
Bont Riot MTB
The Bont Riot MTB are worthy of serious consideration for your next pair of clipless shoes, and not just for racing. The ability to custom mould the shoe to your foot shape is a godsend for riders for whom ‘off the shelf’ shoes represent painful issues whilst riding. When you combine that comfort with the level of performance the Riot is blessed with then you have a serious contender for the best clipless shoe on the market today.
Specialized 2FO Cliplite
Pedalling efficiency and foot comfort is integral to all of Specialized’s footwear and the 2FO Cliplite is no exception. At the heart is the Body Geometry footbed and midsole. This places the foot in a completely aligned position for both injury prevention and ergonomics, it also supports the arch and metatarsals in order to limit foot pain and numbness. We’ve always got on with the shape and comfort of Specialized shoes and instantly we could tell that the 2FO follows suit. You do indeed feel the support and throughout the testing period they remained incredibly comfortable.
Giro Chamber II
Despite all the improvements the Chamber II is still a chunky shoe if you’re used to XC racenake slippers, it’s dropped a few grams from the original but still weighs a shade more than it’s rivals at 508 grams per shoe. It’s also gone up in price to £129.99. However, like the original, the Chamber II is now well on its way to becoming my go to shoe.
Shimano ME7 SPD
We rated the old Shimano M200, as one of the best enduro race-style shoes available at the time, but the ME7 has taken the best bits of those and improved on them. It’s grippy, comfortable and so far it has proved tough and durable. If you’re looking for a shoe suited to enduro or fast trail riding, this is currently one of the best.
Shimano XC7 SPD
The XC7 is a bit more versatile than an out and out XC racer. The flex-tuned sole add forgiveness to the toe and heel. And, combined with the fit, make it a shoe comfortable enough to forget you are wearing.
The best mountain bike shoes for clipless pedals: winners
Best clipless pedal mountain bike shoes XC and trail riding: Shimano ME7 SPD.
Best clipless pedal mountain bike shoes for enduro and gravity riding: the Specialized 2FO Cliplite.