Best Mountain Bike Shoes Reviewed
Finding the best mountain bike shoe is quite difficult and time-consuming, but there are great options out there. There are two types of cycling shoes-clipless and flat pedal shoes. Clipless shoes are attached to the pedal using a cleat and ratchet. The flat pedal shoes have adequate grip and flat outsoles. We've conducted the in-depth research regarding the best type of shoes for mountain biking, saving you time and effort so you can get the shoes you need and get out there. Every shoe on this list has been tested for endurance, overall performance on the trail and are ranked according to thousand of wear-tester feedback.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 14 hrs of research
Effective Soft Instep Closure
- SIDI Dominator 7
- Pearl Izumi Tri Fly Elite v6
- Five-Ten Kestrel Lace
- SHIMANO SH-ME7
- Five-Ten Freerider Pro
- Shimano R065
- Giro Rumble VR
- Mavic Alpine XL
- Louis Garneau T-Flex 2LS
- Giro Cylinder
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Mountain Bike Shoes
1. SIDI Dominator 7
Effective Soft Instep Closure
Easily Gets Dirty
Slightly Higher Cost
The Dominator series stands up to its name, dominating almost any environment your bicycle can potentially encounter. In short words, the SIDI Dominator 7, in particular, is just powerful, allowing non-competition athletes to unlock their true potential. Customization is not an issue with this shoe and neither is a comfort, as it provides you the ability to adjust it to your very own riding preferences. Since having been released, the Dominator 7 has proven to be one of the most popular MTB shoes available.Read more
Bulky and heavy technology is a thing of the past; SIDI knows this, which is why the Dominator 7 focuses on micro-technology. The microfibra is a material that, aside from being eco-friendly and water-repellent, delivers unique feats of resistance, stability, lightness, and transpirability. The Water-Tech treatment given during the manufacturing process protects your feet from any liquid. The low environmental impact and less toxic emissions into the ecosystem are beneficial to both the user and the environment.
A closure that resembles the anatomic shape of the foot is exactly what you need to achieve the most support and responsiveness. This design follows the anatomic curvature of the upper foot combined with an utterly comfortable thermo-formed EVA pad. This pad helps distribute pressure much more evenly around the instep zone to prevent points of acute stress in your feet. The closure system can be adjusted from both sides to lower, raise, or center the EVA pad.
The Dominator series has never been the cheapest pair of mountain bike shoes out there, but it hasn’t been the most expensive one either. Reaching above the average value of the list, however, you should expect to pay a bit more. The SIDI Dominator 7 delivers a satisfactory level of optimal performance and has a level of functionality which is certainly worth every cent.
2. Pearl Izumi Tri Fly Elite v6
Anatomic Tri-Closure System
Highly Breathable & Comfortable Upper
Carbon Power Plate
Not Suitable For Walking
Some Users Have Had Sizing Issues
High-performance mountain bike shoes don’t get any more comfortable than the Pearl Izumi Tri Fly Elite v6. The continuation of this series has proven to be one of the most successful releases by Pearl Izumi. The Tri Fly Elite v6 covers every single aspect of performance while on the pedals, taking care of your comfort, breathability, support, and security. When wearing this shoe, all you have to worry about is pedaling and the rest will fall into place on its own.Read more
A 1:1 anatomic tri-closure system is not only highly efficient and supportive for the upper foot, but it also eliminates hot spots where heat concentrates more commonly. The intuitive closure resembles the anatomic shape of the foot, providing a much more accurate, comfortable, and supportive closure. Furthermore, the closure design was carefully made to avoid placing additional pressure on your forefoot, securing it and holding it in place with no stress.
An advanced triple-layer seamless composite upper build enhances the breathability of the top segment of the shoe. Its anatomical design contours the upper half of your foot, optimizing the flow of air and making the fit considerably more comfortable. The anatomic contouring also contributes to eliminating the concentration of heat on the upper build. Lastly, the highly resistant and durable materials are guaranteed to endure the harsh mountain bike environment.
Ranking quite high on this list when it comes to price, this model may appear costly to someone who’s getting started in MTB. However, Pearl Izumi shoes offer excellent value due to their high quality make and the fact that they are one of the leading shoe designers/manufacturers in the mountain bike industry.
3. Five-Ten Kestrel Lace
C4 Rubber Outsole
Traditional Lace Closure
Perforated for Breathability
For those who need a shoe that's not too stiff, and not too flexible, and like a traditional lace closure, the Kestrel is a great choice from a company that's known for their top of the line MTB footwear. It combines the comfort of everyday shoes with the grippy outsole you'd want for flat pedals, as well as the benefits that come from a clipless style. The perfect option for all mountain riders, as well as those who prefer longer sessions, it's going to give you a good amount of versatility, with plenty of comfort benefits.Read more
The C4 Stealth outsole is made with grippy rubber that's going to work with a variety of pedals, and will give you excellent traction in almost any conditions. It's an outsole that'll allow you to walk without feeling too awkward.
Thanks to a nylon shank located in the sole, the Kestrel Lace is going to give you great power transfer without weighing you down too much. It won't flex under pressure, which is a sign of a shoe great for long rides, and the pressure was evenly distributed under the midfoot, ensuring a good amount of comfort.
More expensive than a number of models on this list, the Kestrel Lace may not be everyone's first choice, but is a great option for those looking for a number of features. It may not be best for racing, due to packing a bit more weight, but it's a definite contender for long rides and versatile use.
4. SHIMANO SH-ME7
Dual-intensity rubber outsole
Neoprene ankle collars
Upon entering the world of mountain-biking and cross-country racing, you’ll realize the first thing you need, other than your bike, is a pair of shoes that can keep up with the intense nature of the sport. The Shimano SH-ME7 is the perfect shoe, delivering the right mix of quality, technology, comfort and stability for even the most experienced and aggressive riders.Read more
With a perfect blend of a durable, armored upper and a strong grippy outsole, the SH-ME7 delivers top XC racing performance for those that need to win. For stability and comfort, you can’t match the SH-ME7’s speed-lacing system, complemented by a Velcro closure system and a reverse mounting buckle, topped off with a cushioned insole and neoprene ankle collar.
The outsole of the SH-ME7 features dual-intensity Michelin rubber for unprecedented traction, slip-resistance and durability. The SH-ME7 can stand up to any terrain and all weather conditions, and grooves of the outsole prevent rocks and debris from getting stuck and hindering your ability to pedal. An all-around winner, the SH-ME7 provides performance and style and is worth the higher price-point of its competitors.
5. Five-Ten Freerider Pro
Traditional Lace Closure
Quick Drying Upper
Excellent Pedal Grip
Not for Casual Wear
The legendary Freerider makes it back into the market with a totally revamped version, delivering the power, stability, and speed you’re seeking. Just when you thought you couldn’t go any lighter, the Freerider Pro brings with it an even lighter build without removing its signature toe cap protector. Fast and violent downhills continue to be no obstacle to this brands top-notch mountain bike engineering.Read more
You can’t any more grip than the one delivered by a carefully designed S1 rubber sole. The fully-dotted sole makes sure your feet stay on the pedals at all times, preventing sliding and slippage no matter how forceful the landings are. Furthermore, the highly resistant rubber-like material is guaranteed to last you a considerable amount of downhills. This outsole will help you blend into one with your mountain bike.
The totally synthetic upper build counts with its traditional breathing features, ensuring your feet get the ventilation they need. Downhill can turn into a mess real quick, which is why these synthetic compounds are extremely easy to wash and clean. Furthermore, the quick-drying material makes liquids a much smaller obstacle when performing MTB. At the same time, the durable and abrasion-resistant material continues to provide upper foot protection.
The Freerider Pro has a very similar value to the Impact XVi. This individual product is exactly on the average value of the list, which means it’s a great deal considering we’re talking about the best equipment available. Although it’s not something new MTB riders may be willing to pay for, experienced riders will know you can only get this much quality for such price.
6. Shimano R065
Hook and Loop Closure
Hard To Break In
The Shimano R065 is an affordable sport shoe that is very versatile and can be used for running, mountain biking, gym training and almost anything else. This shoe provides adequate comfort, breathability, stability, power, propulsion and efficiency needed for pedaling. It provides room for a wider cleat adjustment that ensures that the user can get the right pedal fit when riding.Read more
The outer sole is made with rigid, lightweight, fiberglass-reinforced polyamide that enhances the power transmission. It is also designed with the patented Shimano Dynalast technology that secures the foot into a more ergonomic position to provide an efficient and powerful upstroke.
The upper part of the shoe is designed with synthetic leather that is mixed with an Integrated air intake and exhaust mesh fabric that is meant to provide durability and breathability simultaneously.
This shoe has both affordable and expensive options, but will generally cost you less than most other items on this list. It’s a great choice if you are looking for a breathable pair of shoes that you’ll be able to use for more than just mountain biking.
7. Giro Rumble VR
Rubber Outsole For Superior Traction
Breathable Mesh Upper
Made With Leather Fabric For Increased Durability
Hidden Lace Pockets To Eliminate Snag
Better Pedal Grip
Hard To Clean
Has Deep Heel Cups That Can Injure The Ankle
The Giro Rumble VR is designed to provide excellent and comfortable on and off bike performance. The upper part of the shoe is designed with a Flexible, yet strong microfiber fabric that is integrated with a nylon mesh to offer durability and breathability simultaneously. It is also designed with a simple yet efficient lace up technique that offers an enhanced and snug fit.Read more
The outer sole is designed with Vibram rubber that provides enhanced traction and grip. It is also designed with a Molded SPD compatible shank that offers the right amount of rigidity while complementing the flexible rubber.
The midsole is made with a Molded EVA footbed with medium arch support that offers enhanced comfort. What is also incorporated in these shoes is Giro’s patented Precision Fit technology which provides a warmer and snugger fit.
The Giro Rumble VR ranks average on this list and offers great value. It will perform well for mountain biking, but will also provide the needed grip and support you need when off your bike.
8. Mavic Alpine XL
Flexible Rubber Sole
Unique Lacing Technique To Offer Snug Fit
Breathable Upper Mesh
The Mavic Alpine XL is an all-seasoned cycling shoe that is quite versatile and can be used as a casual and sports shoe. The sole is quite flexible and enables the wearer to use it on rough terrains where they cannot cycle. The ankle area is designed with a Neoprene cuff that provides protection to the ankle from external debris.Read more
The upper mesh of the shoe is made with a combination of synthetic leather and nylon mesh that is meant to provide the right amount of breathability and durability simultaneously without compromising on foot protection from external debris.
This shoe was heavily designed to offer optimum protection and the toe box was not left out. It is made of rubber that protects the toes from external impact with rocks.
This shoe retails at an average price. It is considerably priced considering the features that it offers to the rider. It provides good value for money particularly when it comes to protection of the feet.
9. Louis Garneau T-Flex 2LS
100% Carbon Outsole
Dual Density Lugs
Flexible Toe Area
Boa L5 Closure System
SPD Cleats Compatible
Lack in Breathability
Narrow Toe Box
These top of the line MTB shoes offer exceptional quality, however, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the price turned you away immediately. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for the best of the best, then the T-Flex 2LS come pretty close. Made to provide you with traction and rigidity, but also featuring a flexible toe area to help you walk or run, these shoes are definitely a top contender when it comes to mountain bike shoes. The HRS-300 reinforced injected nylon heel cup will keep you securely in place, ensuring that the only movement happening is the one you need for more speed and tricks.Read more
The best thing about these shoes is the outsole which is made out of 100% carbon, and which provides the best power transfer possible. Extremely stiff, you can rest assured you will not be experiencing any power loss, but will still benefit from a flexible toe area that allows walking and running on more difficult parts of the trail. The dual density lugs will give you plenty of traction, even in muddy conditions.
The closure on these shoes is the best on this list with two micro adjustable gears that allow you to find the perfect level of tightness over the entire foot, without putting too much pressure on any particular section. It can even be tightened on the go, and is much safer than both laces or hook and loop straps found on most other items on this list.
These shoes are the highest costing pair of mountain bike shoes on this list, coming in at an entire $100 more than the second most expensive pair. Nonetheless, they are extremely durable, SPD compatible, offer some warmth, so can be worn even during the colder months, and do exceptionally well at traction and power transfer which means that they are suitable even for professionals and those who need every bit of advantage in competitive biking.
10. Giro Cylinder
Boa® L6 retention with lower-volume strap
Toe and heel microfiber reinforcements
If you are a serious mountain biker, you’ll appreciate the latest offering by Giro, the Cylinder MTB shoe. By ensuring comfort, security and support, the Cylinder made our 10-best list and continues to live up to the Giro brand. With a synthetic upper paired with a co-molded nylon and rubber outsole, capable of accommodating steel toe spikes, this is the ultimate shoe for the ultimate mountain-biker.Read more
The synthetic upper features toe and heel microfiber reinforcements and contains a proprietary Boa L6 dial strap, allowing you to easily adjust the compression offered by the Cylinder. The footbed has die-cut insoles, ensuring a perfect and comfortable fit every time you put them on. This shoe is also a moderate weight, coming in at 315 grams, so it won’t hold you back, while still offering enough support to pedal.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Although the most optimal choice for most mountain bikers is clipped pedals, we know that some users stick to flat pedals. Because of this, we kept in consideration that in some cases you’ll need more than just the clip to obtain a firm grip on the pedal.
There’s a lot of ways in which the grip can affect your performance. The first one and most important, as you can guess, is pretty simple: not slipping. This inconvenient can not only be bad for your performance, but it’s also crossing the thin gap between impractical and hazardous.
Because of this, a mountain bike shoe can be directly judged by the quality of its grip on the pedal. This factor will mostly rely on the outsole, as it’s the part of the shoe that deals with the pedal. Thus, every single aspect of the outsole has an impact on the quality of the traction between the shoe and the pedal.
For instance, the outsole material is one of the key points when it comes to traction. In this case, a plastic outsole will not provide you any sort of acceptable grip. Some materials, such as fiberglass, may look very similar to plastic – except they’re far better. Generally, the sole on mountain bike shoes are made of either fiberglass variants or rubber.
Though, there’s more to it than the base material. Some models include lugs that drop from the outsole; these lugs provide a much better grip and increase the pedal control. However, the lugs usually make the shoe specific for a mountain bike or other cycling variants, as the odd platform is of little use outside the sport. Additionally, this doesn’t mean that flat outsoles are not a good choice for mountain biking.
Having a solid hold of both pedals is a critical point to achieve the maximum performance. But we’re not just referring to potential slippage between the outsole and the pedal (which indeed is an affecting factor too). A good positioning and hold of the pedals also translate into a much better pedaling-intensity. By having total control over the pedals, you have total control over your balance and your speed. Additionally, a better grip allows you to pedal faster if competing.
Flat outsoles may not have long lugs, but they should still feature a smart outsole design that eases the grip on the pedal. Usually, the rubber compounds that cover the outsole are stickier than an average rubber sole. If it’s not obvious, this means greater contact with the pedal. These designs are also meant to maintain stability while standing on the pedals rather than using the seat. By standing on the pedals, you apply more pressure on these sticky compounds, making it easier to stay on the pedals.
Athletes of every kind of disciplines often underestimate the impact that comfort can have on their performance. One of the biggest mistakes an athlete can make is performing in shoes that disturb or discomfort your feet. Some people just deal with it, not knowing that they would perform much better in adequate footwear. However, there are cases in which “dealing with it” comes at a huge price.
Mountain biking is one of those cases. This sport is arguably one of the most stressful for your feet; although they’re not in direct contact with the ground, tension and impact stress still gets to them. The lack of comfort combined with the amount of strain adds up to be one huge tax on your performance.
When cycling, there are only 3 parts of your body that are in contact with the bicycle: the glutes, hands, and feet. Most of the time, like most mountain cyclers will know, glutes aren’t on the seat because you stand up. This only leaves your hands and feet in charge of the bicycle, thus you want to make these two are properly equipped.
Comfortability is determined by multiple factors. The most important ones consist of breathability, cushioning, and fit.
Mountain cycling is very pedal-intensive; unquestionably more intense than regular cycling. In this sport, the uneven mountain surface and obstacles require a considerable amount of effort to surpass. Although the effort is performed by multiple muscle groups, it’s lastly transmitted by the feet. If your shoes are completely closed, this will cause large amounts of heat to accumulate within the footwear.
If you know a thing or two about closed shoes, you know how big of an obstacle heat accumulation is. For starters, it’s simply uncomfortable and annoying – it becomes a distraction. But, it additionally speeds up the muscular fatigue process and makes you sweat notably more. This opens your feet to humidity, bad odors, and eventually slippage within the inner build.
Cushioning and padding can be the difference between a smooth performance and a painful one. It may look like the shoe’s outsole is enough to protect your feet from the pedal impact, but it’s nowhere close. The only difference the outsole makes is that it’ll be the outsole’s plastic damaging your feet rather than the pedal. Cushioning, on the other hand, prevents your heels and arch from suffering every bump. It also protects your feet from being extremely sore the day posterior to performance.
Last, but not least, it’s important to have an adequate fit. This ultimately comes down to your own preference, as well as the anatomy of your feet. If you have wide feet, it’s of paramount importance that your shoes feature the right amount of space. Mountain cycling is already stressful enough on your feet, don’t make it harder on yourself by using tight shoes.
Like we previously explained, mountain biking is a particularly rough sport. The uneven terrain and obstacles are much harder on our muscles, as well as on our equipment. Hence, not any kind of build is suitable for this activity. Think of it as regular running shoes and trail running shoes. Although you could get away with trail running in regular sneakers, it’s not the right thing to do in terms of optimal performance.
Moreover, a regular running sneaker isn’t properly designed to face the trail. This is the exact same case with mountain bike shoes. The best mountain bike shoes are carefully engineered to overcome performance on the mountains. Just like in our previous example, you can successfully get away with doing mountain bike with regular shoes. This is of course, at the cost of the performance quality (not to mention that average sneakers are very likely to break or degrade in such activities).
Like we explained previously, your feet suffer just like your equipment degrades. Therefore, it’s important for a mountain bike shoe to provide sufficient protection from external elements.
Keep in mind that protective measures don’t only target direct hazards, like a branch breaking into the shoe. Some features, such as the collar seal, prevent debris, dust, and small elements from going into the shoe and potentially under your feet. Debris may not seem like a big threat, however, a very small object can become dangerous once you stand on the pedals and all you press all of your weight against this small object.
Lightweight builds have quickly become a standard in performance shoes of all types of sports. This is due to a simple reason; a lighter shoe requires less effort to move around.
You may be thinking that the weight of a shoe may not have that much of an impact on your performance. However, we can guarantee that it does. The weight of a shoe becomes more important as your performance lasts longer. Sure, you may not feel that much of a difference when you’re first putting them on. You may not even notice the weight difference between a lightweight shoe and a normal one when trying them.
The difference becomes more and more notable as you start to actually perform in them. Think of it as the shoes reducing a tiny bit of effort every time you complete a pedaling cycle. When looking at one single spinning cycle, the difference sure is hard to notice. But, after multiple hours of cycling and performing, all those tiny bits of reduced effort add up. In the long run, a lightweight shoe can considerably extend your muscular endurance.
Furthermore, a lightweight shoe is much easier to control. As they require less effort to move, they allow you to perform faster. This translates into faster pedaling, given that you are after speed.
There’s a constant race between manufacturers as to who makes the lightest shoes, continually removing more weight every time. When it comes to elite or professional performance, cyclers will go for the most optimal piece of equipment. In the world of professional-level competition, having shoes that are a few grams lighter than other competitors is considered an advantage. Thus, athletes look after the lightest shoes available.
Although the difference may be very small, it’s still an advantage in the eyes of world-class athletes, and they want to get as much of it as they can. If you’re not a competitive athlete, however, you might not mind about a few ounces more or a few ounces less. As long as the shoes are within the lightweight standards, you’ll enjoy the benefits of replacing heavy shoes.
It’s very important to keep in mind that a lightweight build doesn’t just consist of lightweight materials. The materials used for a lightweight shoe must be adequate for the sport they’re being used for. These fabrics must not fail to provide a solid structure for the shoe. The main issue with lightweight materials is that they’re thinner and less protective than bulky materials. Because of this, lightweight shoes tend to be less durable. This often means that they’re also more susceptible to external damage.
The perfect design lies within a healthy combination of both lightweight and quality performance materials. For instance, traditional rubber is no longer a part of professional performance shoes (in most cases). Instead, a vulcanized variation of synthetic rubber provides very similar qualities and effects at a much lesser weight.
So, what is it that makes a mountain bike shoe more durable than an average sneaker for this sport? The first point is fairly simple: the materials. When thinking of a regular shoe, the first thing that comes to mind is a rubber sole and a suede or mesh upper build (or something similar). There’s no need to be an expert to know these materials aren’t adequate for mountain sports.
On the other hand, mountain bike shoes (or extreme mountain sports shoes for that matter) generally feature a strong leather, such as synthetic ones. Some shoes incorporate mesh-like fabrics to improve breathability. While these fabrics may seem very similar to mesh, they often aren’t. This is due to the simple reason that mesh is very easy to perforate, and it would ruin the build. In cases where nylon and a similar mesh is used, there’s generally an inner pad to reinforce it.
The outsole materials in a mountain bike shoe must count with special qualities for extreme mountain performance too. This involves special materials that are usually very different from the ones you find in an average sneaker (or even performance shoes related to other sports). This is what ensures that your shoes don't fall apart after just a few rides, and that you can get your money's worth out of your investment.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Cycling shoes can come with either a two or three hole cleat system, so be sure when you purchase your next pair, you have compatible pedals. SPD cleats usually have 2 holes, while Look and SPD-SL cleats are three holed.
Did you know? Mountain biking has become so popular with outdoor enthusiasts and riders alike, that there are now adventure trips you can sign up for across the globe. Usually these will take you to big name spots, like the Rocky Mountains, Alps, or Nepal and Patagonia. If you're in search of a holiday with some riding adventure, be sure to try one of these out!
Other Factors to Consider
Most of the shoes are quite expensive in comparison to normal sports shoes, but this is because of the combination of high-performance features that constantly deliver incredible results. If you want a shoe that will be a good investment for your money then any choice from this list will work. We would recommend that if you are a beginner rider you should choose a shoe that is easier to break in so that you do not end up with injuries that could dampen your experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Depending on the type of shoe, their specialty could go from locking the shoe into the pedal to maintaining a natural grip and pedal considerably faster. They also prevent slipping. Refer to the sections above for more information.
Just like any other performance shoe should fit you; they should be your size. Not half a size up, not half a size down. They should fit in a comfortable, yet tight manner. You don't want to strangle your toes, but neither to dance inside the shoe.
This is a very rare thing to see. Unless the cleat comes with a very noticeable fabric defect, they should never get stuck. Aside from that, the unlocking process is always very simple.
Usually, brushing them is just about enough. If they're too dirty or have a thick layer of dried mud, leave them sitting on warm water for 10-15 minutes before brushing.
Short laces will be just fine, tucking them in for more protection. However, strap closures will always be much more efficient when it comes to MTB, as laces are dangerously close to the chain and pedals.
Yes. That process is fairly simple and barely requires any effort; the cleats are specially designed to be easily released by doing a certain motion such as rotating the shoe.
Generally, MTB shoes have very little side outside the mountain. Yet, some shoes, like gravity shoes, tend to have a very casual look and a simply outsole that may be suitable for walking short distances.
Clipless shoes are those that replace the traditional full-length foot clip with a practical outsole cleat. This makes it easier to disengage the bicycle whenever it's needed.
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- Anatomy of a Clipless MTB Shoe, MTB Shoe Article, May 30, 2014 ,
- Anatomy of a Cycling Shoe, Cycling Shoe Article, Jul 26, 2017 ,
- Mountain Bike Pedals, Sports Article, Feb 27, 2017 ,
- Bike Pedals: Choosing and Using, Expert Advice, ,
- Types of MTB Shoes, Trail & MTB Article, ,
- Do I Need a MTB Shoe?, MTB Blog Entry, Sep 13, 2013 ,