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Best Mountain Bike Shoes Reviewed

last updated Jul 30, 2019

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 mountain biking shoes, saving you time and effort so you can get the shoes you need and get out there. Every mountain biking 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

icon
SIDI Dominator 7
93.8/100 our score
Outsole
89
Comfort
96
Protection
96
Weight
96
Durability
92
SIDI Dominator 7
Why is it better?

EVA Cushioning

Effective Soft Instep Closure

Water-Repellent

Eco-Friendly Construction

Adjustable Padding

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
SIDI Dominator 7
Test Winner: SIDI Dominator 7
Amazon Link
Researched Sources
12
Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
1890
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
14
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
18
Products Evaluated
Last Updated:
AndrewDJ
By AndrewDJ:

The latest update to this article looks at the top 10 MTB shoes currently available on the market, giving you several different options to choose from, from those specifically made for pro athletes, to those more versatile styles that can be worn for walking as well. Furthemore, the update makes visual changes to the article, giving you a more updated look that's easier to read, and gives better access to the most important info.

Sorting Options
Outsole Comfort Protection Weight Durability By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
#1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93.8
Outsole
89 %
Comfort
96 %
Protection
96 %
Weight
96 %
Durability
92 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$206.45
#2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93
Outsole
82 %
Comfort
97 %
Protection
92 %
Weight
98 %
Durability
96 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$225.00
#3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.2
Outsole
97 %
Comfort
95 %
Protection
89 %
Weight
82 %
Durability
93 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$150.00
#4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89
Outsole
82 %
Comfort
90 %
Protection
93 %
Weight
86 %
Durability
94 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$150.00
#5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.2
Outsole
86 %
Comfort
90 %
Protection
88 %
Weight
80 %
Durability
92 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$179.95
#6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86
Outsole
83 %
Comfort
90 %
Protection
88 %
Weight
79 %
Durability
90 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$94.92
#7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86
Outsole
88 %
Comfort
85 %
Protection
90 %
Weight
80 %
Durability
87 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$64.95
#8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.8
Outsole
89 %
Comfort
90 %
Protection
87 %
Weight
78 %
Durability
85 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$99.95
#9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.4
Outsole
88 %
Comfort
87 %
Protection
88 %
Weight
83 %
Durability
81 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$109.90
#10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
80
Outsole
80 %
Comfort
80 %
Protection
80 %
Weight
80 %
Durability
80 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.08.19)
Amazon Link
$139.95
In Depth Review Top 10
  • SIDI Dominator 7 SIDI Dominator 7
  • Pearl Izumi Tri Fly Elite v6 Pearl Izumi Tri Fly Elite v6
  • Five-Ten Kestrel Lace Five-Ten Kestrel Lace
  • Five-Ten Freerider Pro Five-Ten Freerider Pro
  • Scott MTB Team Boa Scott MTB Team Boa
  • Shimano R065 Shimano R065
  • Tommaso Montagna 100 Tommaso Montagna 100
  • Giro Rumble VR Giro Rumble VR
  • Mavic Alpine XL Mavic Alpine XL
  • Giro Cylinder Giro Cylinder
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Expert Interviews & Opinions
  • Other Factors to Consider
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

Top 10 Mountain Bike Shoes

1. SIDI Dominator 7

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93.8
SIDI Dominator 7
Amazon Link
Outsole
89
Comfort
96
Protection
96
Weight
96
Durability
92
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$206.45
Pros:

EVA Cushioning

Effective Soft Instep Closure

Water-Repellent

Eco-Friendly Construction

Adjustable Padding

Cons:

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 mountain biking 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 mountain biking shoes available.

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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. This mountain biking shoe's 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

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93
Pearl Izumi Tri Fly Elite v6
Amazon Link
Outsole
82
Comfort
97
Protection
92
Weight
98
Durability
96
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$225.00
Pros:

Anatomic Tri-Closure System

Highly Breathable & Comfortable Upper

Carbon Power Plate

SPD-SL Compatible

Very Lightweight

Cons:

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 mountain biking shoe, all you have to worry about is pedaling and the rest will fall into place on its own.

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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 on this mountain biking shoe 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 environment mountain bike shoes encounter.

Ranking quite high on this list when it comes to price, this mountain bike shoe 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

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.2
Five-Ten Kestrel Lace
Amazon Link
Outsole
97
Comfort
95
Protection
89
Weight
82
Durability
93
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$150.00
Pros:

C4 Rubber Outsole

Traditional Lace Closure

Perforated for Breathability

Synthetic Upper

Nylon Shank

Cons:

Expensive

For those who need a mountain bike 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.

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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 mountain bike 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 mountain bike shoes 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. Five-Ten Freerider Pro

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89
Five-Ten Freerider Pro
Amazon Link
Outsole
82
Comfort
90
Protection
93
Weight
86
Durability
94
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$150.00
Pros:

Traditional Lace Closure

Quick Drying Upper

Excellent Pedal Grip

Lightweight

Cons:

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 in a mountain bike shoe, without removing its signature toe cap protector. Fast and violent downhills continue to be no obstacle to this brands top-notch mountain bike engineering.

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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 from these mountain bike shoes. 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 mountain bike shoe 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.

5. Scott MTB Team Boa

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.2
Scott MTB Team Boa
Amazon Link
Outsole
86
Comfort
90
Protection
88
Weight
80
Durability
92
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$179.95
Pros:

Removable Toe Spikes

Durable Uppers

Boa Closure

ErgoLogic Removable Insole

3D Nylon AirMesh

Cons:

Toe Can Run Narrow

Scott brand cycling gear has been on the market for decades, providing the cycling community with performance gear and bikes that go long and ride hard. This mountain biking shoe from Scott features incredible durability, and adjustability, sure to keep you going while the sun sets in comfort. With several technological features applied to the MTB Team Boa, you’ll find yourself surprisingly impressed with their performance once you try them out.

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The outsole of this mountain biking shoe is two component PU, along with nylon fiberglass, giving it a rigidity and stiffness that promotes power transfer from the pedals, into energy to propel you forward. This also gives incredible durability to the mountain biking shoe, improving the longevity of your investment. Uppers consist of 3D Nylon Airmesh, lighter in weight, and sturdy enough to protect your feet when things heat up.

The MTB Team Boa has a removable insole inside, and an adjustable, easy Boa IP-1 closure making it a cinch to get the proper fit. The insole is ErgoLogic, which has an arch support that is adjustable, as well as metatarsal support. With the Boa closure, a simple twist, and you can tighten or loosen the mountain biking shoe. Combine this with the anatomic fit strap, and this mountain biking shoe will conform to your specific foot shape for the perfect fit.

6. Shimano R065

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86
Shimano R065
Amazon Link
Outsole
83
Comfort
90
Protection
88
Weight
79
Durability
90
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$94.92
Pros:

Lightweight Upper

Powerful Upstroke

Breathable Mesh

Hook and Loop Closure

Cons:

Hard To Break In

The Shimano R065 is an affordable mountain bike 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.

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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 mountain bike 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 of mountain bike shoes. 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. Tommaso Montagna 100

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86
Tommaso Montagna 100
Amazon Link
Outsole
88
Comfort
85
Protection
90
Weight
80
Durability
87
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$64.95
Pros:

Triple Strap Closure

Nylon

Fiberglass Reinforced Sole

Breathable

Adjustable Fit

Cons:

Can Get Hot

If you’re unfamiliar with this brand, they’ve been making quality footwear and boots for some time now, building a following as they go. This mountain biking shoe is SPD cleat compatible, and plenty of technology inside to help you perform better, longer. Durable and light, it’s a mountain biking shoe made for spinning, riding to work, or hitting the trails. And, it’s quite breathable for summer months, as well as cushioned around the collar for comfort.

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The Montagna 100 has synthetic leather uppers which help make these mountain biking shoes durable against the occasional tree branch or foot drag. Uppers also have sections of mesh to help provide ventilation, allowing heat to escape from inside the shoe and provide you with a more comfortable ride, and optimize air flow across the foot to cool you down. A triple Velcro strap closure provides an adjustable, yet secure fit inside this mountain biking shoe.

Padded collar helps ward away rubbing or irritations when you’re riding, and to help with performance, this mountain biking shoe has a reinforced sole comprised of fiberglass. This allows for a strong power transfer of energy during the pedal stroke, propelling you up hills or across gravel trails. There’s also removable toe spikes to help when you need to hop off and walk, and a reinforced nylon at the base to help against abrasions. It’s a solid mountain biking shoe from Tommaso!

8. Giro Rumble VR

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.8
Giro Rumble VR
Amazon Link
Outsole
89
Comfort
90
Protection
87
Weight
78
Durability
85
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$99.95
Pros:

Rubber Outsole For Superior Traction

Breathable Mesh Upper

Made With Leather Fabric For Increased Durability

Hidden Lace Pockets To Eliminate Snag

Better Pedal Grip

Cons:

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 mountain bike 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.

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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 mountain bike shoes is Giro’s patented Precision Fit technology which provides a warmer and snugger fit.

The Giro Rumble VR ranks average on this list of mountain bike shoes, 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.

9. Mavic Alpine XL

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.4
Mavic Alpine XL
Amazon Link
Outsole
88
Comfort
87
Protection
88
Weight
83
Durability
81
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$109.90
Pros:

Enhanced Protection

Flexible Rubber Sole

Unique Lacing Technique To Offer Snug Fit

Breathable Upper Mesh

Cons:

Reduced Stability

Reduced Durability

The Mavic Alpine XL is an all-seasoned cycling shoe that is quite versatile and can be used as a casual and mountain bike 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.

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The upper mesh of the mountain bike 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 mountain bike 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's a mountain bike shoe which provides good value for money particularly when it comes to protection of the feet.

10. Giro Cylinder

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
80
Giro Cylinder
Amazon Link
Outsole
80
Comfort
80
Protection
80
Weight
80
Durability
80
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$139.95
Pros:

Boa® L6 retention with lower-volume strap

Toe and heel microfiber reinforcements

Synthetic upper

Die-cut insoles

Cons:

No Ventilation

If you are a serious mountain biker, you’ll appreciate the latest offering by Giro, the Cylinder mountain bike 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 mountain bike shoe for the ultimate mountain-biker.

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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 mountain bike 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

Outsole

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 of your mountain bike shoe 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 from your mountain bike shoe 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.

Comfort

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 mountain bike 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 bike shoes fall into 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 mountain bike 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 mountain bike 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 mountain bike 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.

Protection

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 mountain bike shoe 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 mountain bike 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.

Weight

Lightweight builds have quickly become a standard in performance shoes of all types of sports. This is due to a simple reason; a lighter mountain bike shoe requires less effort to move around.

You may be thinking that the weight of a mountain bike 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 mountain bike 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 mountain bike 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 mountain bike 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.

Durability

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.

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Cycling Cleat Compatibility

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.

Mountain Bike Adventuring

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

Bottom Line

Most mountain bike 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 mountain bike 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

q: How do mountain bike shoes work?

a:

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.

q: How should mountain bike shoes fit?

a:

Just like any other performance shoe should fit you; they should be your size. Not half a size up, not half a size down. Mountain bike shoes should fit in a comfortable, yet tight manner. You don't want to strangle your toes, but neither to dance inside the shoe.

q: Will the cleat get stuck in clipless mountain bike shoes?

a:

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.

q: How do I clean mountain bike shoes?

a:

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.

q: Should I get laces or a strap closure?

a:

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.

q: Are clipless shoes easy to release from the lock?

a:

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.

q: What else can I use MTB shoes for?

a:

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.

q: What are clipless mountain shoes?

a:

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.

Sources

  1. Wikipedia, Mountain Bike, Wiki Article
  2. Total Womens' Cyling, Anatomy of a Clipless MTB Shoe, MTB Shoe Article
  3. MapMyRun, Anatomy of a Cycling Shoe, Cycling Shoe Article
  4. ThoughtCo., Mountain Bike Pedals, Sports Article
  5. REI, Bike Pedals: Choosing and Using, Expert Advice
  6. Trails, Types of MTB Shoes, Trail & MTB Article
  7. Jans, Do I Need a MTB Shoe?, MTB Blog Entry