The best mountain bike shoes in 2018
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
mbr review: “This new Five Ten Impact Pro incorporates Five Ten’s latest improvements for weight saving, improved drying times and maximum toughness.Excellent at fending off water, drying fast and offering top protection, the Impact Pro is a bombproof performer best suited to big mountain riders or pure downhillers. The thicker sole may not appeal best to those who love a tactile, feel-every-contour, sensation through the pedals though.”
mbr review: “The Flatline is supple, roomy inside and comfortable without any hot spots or rubbing. Supple, roomy inside and comfortable without any hot spots or rubbing. This Bontrager shoe might be a top end price, but it delivers superb pedal feel, excellent grip and good wear life, making it a welcome new addition to the flat pedal shoe market.”
Adidas Terrex Trail Cross SL
mbr review: “Adidas has nailed it with the Terrex. Fifteen pounds more than previously means the price is less competitive now, but the quality, comfort levels (on and off the bike) and pedal feel are still top drawer. It’s proven durable too, so just about the only criticism is the thinner upper allows the foot to twist marginally from side-to-side independently of the sole more easily than some stiffer shoes if you like a locked-down feel.”
Five Ten Freerider EPS High
mbr review: “In an ideal world I’d like to see a slightly thicker Stealth S1-soled model sitting somewhere between the Freerider Elements and Sam Hill Impact in terms of support and stiffness, but since this doesn’t exist, the EPS gets our vote as the best winter flat pedal trail shoe you can actually buy.”
Five Ten Freerider Pro
mbr review: “Many brands have tried to step on the toes if Five Ten, but all have stumbled at the final and most important hurdle: outright grip. The secret to Five Ten’s success is its rubbery sorcery, and the dotty Stealth sole on the Freerider Pro delivers astounding grip. Much more durable than previous incarnations yet lightweight and comfortable, this brilliant shoe actually costs the same as many of its closest rivals, but walks all over them on rough terrain.”
Specialized 2FO 2.0
mbr review: “Specialized’s latest 2.0 model really clamps the foot comfortably and the sturdy sole absorbs shocks on rough trails and gets the power down while cranking. It’s hard wearing too, with excellent support and protection and stays relatively warm and dry in wet UK conditions.”
Five Ten Freerider Elements
mbr review: “We’ve tested both the normal and Element shoes over the last year and we actually prefer the Elements Freerider, even when riding in the dry. This is because the synthetic upper adds quite a bit of stiffness and stability to the shoe, and it feels much more solid on the pedals as a result.”
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
mbr review: “The S-Works XC6 fulfils the wishlist for a cross country race shoe – stiff, light and comfortable. This level of performance should also make it pop up on the radar for any rider looking for an efficient shoe for ‘normal’ longer distance trail riding. However, as with most shoes at the highest performance end, the XC6 isn’t for everyone. The stiffness makes it uncomfortable for longer periods of walking or running.”
Scott MTB Team Boa
mbr review: “Scott knows a thing or two about XC. When you have riders of the quality of Olympic champions Nino Schurter and Jenny Rissveds giving you feedback then you can’t help but develop market leading products. 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.”
mbr review: “Having only one clipless shoe model in the range has meant the pressure has been on for ION to produce a shoe that stands up to the requirements of clipless pedal users. Fortunately for ION this lone bastion of the clip-in brigade delivers on almost every front.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
mbr review: “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
mbr review: “The upper is quite stiff and combines with the double BOA retention system to hold it rock solid to your foot. That stiffness also extends to the composite plate that runs through the centre of the sole, giving it efficiency when clipped in. Specialized has tuned the level of stiffness to keep it comfortable for off bike use. The heel and toe flex more than a race shoe so walking is natural and comfortable.”
Giro Chamber II
mbr review: “Despite all these improvements the Chamber II is still a chunky shoe, 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
mbr review: “The Michelin sole proved very grippy when off the bike. The tread was good in the mud and the rubber also gave a lot more security when walking around on rocks compared to previous SPD shoes. I rated the old 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.”
Shimano XC7 SPD
mbr review: “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.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.