While there are a whole host of accessories designed to help make riding your mountain bike more comfortable and efficient, shoes are often overlooked. We’ve never understood the thought process behind this, as the best mountain shoes can make a huge difference to ride quality.
They need to be comfortable, and they need to protect your feet. At the same time they need to be well designed to transfer power from your feet into the bike chain. Plus, if possible, they need to look good while doing it.
That is a tall order of qualities that these bike shoes have to fulfill! To help you find the right bike shoes, we have put this article together. We’re going to take a deep dive look at the best mountain bike shoes on the market right now and help you find the best ones to improve your ride.
The Best Mountain Bike Shoes
We kick off our list with this quality pair of all-around mountain bike shoes. These shoes have been designed for wear on everyday rides, so while they are packing a high level of comfort, they are missing, for example, the extra firm sole and cleat attachments of clipless shoes. That being said, while they may miss the cleats found on a clipless design, you may not actually notice it. That is because Five Ten invested a lot of time into creating a sole with extra grippy rubber. That rubber sole clings to the pedals, creating one of the tightest connections between shoe and pedal that you will find outside of actual clipless shoes.
- Grippy Rubber Soles
- Understated, Attractive Design
- Tough & Easy to Clean Exterior
- Brand Five Ten
- Model 5311105
- Weight 2.84 pounds
Gavin is the brand behind the next set of bike shoes that made our list. They are based off a classic road bike shoe design, making them ideal for downhill and touring cycling. They also have a very reasonable, entry-level price tag, but what are you getting for your money?
Well, there are quite a lot of features. Starting with the upper, where a 3-piece hook and loop and retention system has been deployed. It is a simple but effective design. The shoe body is of synthetic microfiber leather. This is a tough but strong material that is also nice and lightweight.
- Entry Level Price Tag
- Compatible with SPD Cleats
- Nylon Fiberglass Sole
- Brand Gavin
- Weight 2 pounds
One of the issues that can put people off investing in their first pair of clipless shoes is the fact that you also need to invest in a pair of compatible pedals at the same time. This can quickly add to the cost and complexity of the purchase – though that is not something you need to worry about here!
This kit from Venzo includes both a quality pair of entry-level clipless shoes, ideal for mountain biking, but also the matching pedals to attach to your bike. Lets look at the pedals first. They boast an aluminum body construction for the perfect blend of strength and lightweight build. The pedals also have full compatibility with all Shimano SPD cleated shoes – so that means these pedals represent a long-term investment too.
- Shoe & Pedal Kit
- Velcro Fasteners
- Clipless Cleat Design
- Brand Venzo
- Weight 2.9 pounds
Picking up a pair of Shimano MTB shoes is a good investment if you are looking for an easy indicator of quality design and construction. This Japanese company has been putting out quality sports shoes, including mountain bike shoes, for years.
This pair of shoes is what Shimano refer to as Touring. That basically means that they are a great all round shoe option. So the sole is relatively stiff whilst also having some give for comfort on longer rides. This is aided by a very clever, one piece injected TPU construction technique that results in a shoe that is lightweight but also tough and strong.
- Clipless Style Shoe
- Mesh Upper with Synthetic Leather Trim
- Easier to Walk in Than Some Clipless Shoes
- Brand SHIMANO
- Weight 1 pounds
Next up is an entry from another company with a fine reputation for making biking accessories. Whilst Giro may be better known for making helmets, here they are bringing a pair of high quality mountain bike shoes to the market.
It’s important to know that Vr, the name of this model of shoe, stands for Versatile. That means that this is another “touring” style of shoe that is suitable for casual and long distance rides across country roads and lanes. The shoes are also designed to be easy to walk in, making them ideal for wearing on long weekend rides that may see you off the bike and walking around frequently.
- Real Leather Construction
- Very Lightweight
- Great For Walking
- Clipless Compatible
- Brand Giro
- Model 7058515
- Weight 3 pounds
Pearl Izumi, another manufacturer with a solid reputation, is the company behind the next shoe we’ll look at today. This is a quality shoe with a number of very interesting features built in.
The key one is the fiber injected Nylon plate in the sole of the shoe. This provides a strong platform connecting your foot to the pedal, allowing for maximum power transfer during leg strokes. That makes these shoes ideal for XC riding, where you really need to be able to generate good power through the bike to tackle rough terrain.
- Fiber Injected Nylon Plate in Sole
- Low Cut, Lightweight Construction
- Very Grippy Sole
- Clipless Compatible
- Brand Pearl Izumi
- Model X-ALP SEEK VII-M
- Weight 1 pounds
These shoes are very well suited for use in road cycling. Zol, the manufacturer, even states in the product name that this shoe is ideal for use during indoor cycling, such as spin classes.
It is also absolutely fine for mountain biking of course, particularly downhill or touring riding. But because this is a design heavily inspired by road biking, there are a number of features in the design influenced by this. For example, the carbon fiber 3-piece hook and loop straps are designed to provide a comfortable but secure foot retention.
- Hook & Loop Retention System
- Two Bolt Cleat Compatibility
- No Stitch Construction
- Low Weight
- Brand Zol
- Weight 12 Ounces
If you want a stylish but highly effective pair of bike shoes, then this next offering from Giro could be the one for you. Frankly, they are exactly what you would expect from a quality manufacturer like Giro. What you wouldn’t expect is the price tag, one of the lowest on our list today.
Despite the low price though Giro are bringing a shoe that is bursting with features here. It is another road bike shoe inspired design, so that means a high quality 3 strap retention system is employed here. It is designed to deliver a comfortable but firm fit.
- High Quality Breathable Material
- Secure 3 Strap Retention System
- Molded EVA Footbed
- Brand Giro
- Weight 3 pounds
Tommaso are an Italian company that produce a huge range of cycling equipment, everything from helmets and shorts through to the bikes themselves. Of course in this article we are looking at bike shoes, and we’ve selected one of their most impressive designs to represent them in our list today.
These shoes are just packed with features! First of all there are a number of features added to the design to add to your comfort. For example, mesh insert panels have been deployed for ventilation. These are matched with a tongue made of highly breathable material. Even more impressive an inner layer is designed to wick away moisture. If you ride in hot weather, or get uncomfortably sweaty feet, this could be the shoe for you.
- Synthetic Leather Upper
- Mesh Inserts & Breathable Tongue
- Reinforced Toe Box
- Brand Tommaso
- Model Montagna
This pair of Shimano MTB shoes is a very high-quality option on our list. First of all, of course, there is the fact that the Shimano name is an excellent guarantee of quality design and construction. That translates to a bike shoe that is backed with features. The sole of the shoe is one of the outstanding ones. It is constructed of Michelin dual-density rubber. It provides incredible durability, traction and grip to provide an incredible level of grip in any weather and over any terrain.
- Unisex Design
- Michelin Dual-Density Rubber Outsole
- Speed Laces & Mounting Buckle
- Brand SHIMANO
- Model ESHME7OC460SG00
- Weight 1.06 pounds
In our buying guide, we’ll take you through the features that you should keep an eye out for when picking out the best MTB shoes for you. After that, we’ll take a look at how best to use your new shoes and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about these extremely useful products.
What to Consider When Buying Mountain Bike Shoes
- Retention System
This is just a fancy way of saying how the shoes are held on your feet! Laces are the most straight forward but can get waterlogged in poor weather. A hook and loop system will hold your feet in comfort and security, though they can add to the weight of the shoes.
- Clipless or Flat
The other big question is how the shoes will connect to the pedals. Clipless actually means that the shoe connects via a cleat that locks them in place. Flat is a regular shoe that simply sits on the pedal. Both types have advantages and disadvantages and we go into them more below.
If your feet get hot and sweaty during exercise, ventilation can really help with that. Look for mesh panels and breathable materials to let cool air into the shoe during riding.
Why You Should Use Mountain Bike Shoes
In reality, you can get away with using any shoes or sneakers for riding around on a mountain bike. There are though a pair of advantages to using dedicated MTB shoes.
- Comfort – As they are designed for riding, they are going to provide extra comfort. So that could be a molded insole with arch support, you could also see designs that provide stability to the foot during the pedaling motion. These are just a couple of examples of design choices that can make bike shoes more comfortable during riding.
- Efficiency – What you will also see in mountain bike shoes is that the sole will be stiffer than on normal shoes. That means that the sole will have less flex and will not bend around the pedal like a normal shoe. That delivers more power to the bike with every stroke your legs make. On longer rides, that can really help to preserve energy and allow you and your bike to travel that little bit further.
Different Types of Mountain Bike Shoes
When it comes to mountain bike shoes, there are actually quite a variety in terms of style and design. In addition, there is also the question of pedal compatibility. In this next section we’ll take a quick look at all the various types of mountain bike shoes out there on the market right now.
Let’s start with the different styles of shoes:
- XC (Cross Country)
These shoes will usually have a three-strap retention system or laces. They are designed as an all purpose style of shoe, often with soles that provide extra grip so they can cling to pedals across all terrains and weather conditions.
Also known as Trail or Enduro. Very similar to the XC design, however they boast extra protection for your feet, such as reinforced toe boxes. They protect your feet across trail riding. Heavier than XC designs, they are best for Off-Road riding across trails and hills.
This final style of shoe is designed along the lines of road bike shoes. It won’t have the same level of protection as traditional XC, instead it is designed for speed. It will always be a clipless design with an extra stiff sole too. This can make them harder to walk around in off the bike that some other types of shoe.
In addition to the style of the shoe, you also need to check out how the show will actually connect to your bike pedals. Here, there are two types of shoe attachment style to choose from:
- Clipless Shoes
The name clipless is actually a little confusing! These types of shoes are designed to clip into pedals, via cleats. Old style pedals used to have cages on them that the foot would clip into. Modern clipless shoes simply attach directly to the pedal. They make your cycling more efficient as they direct more power through the pedal. They can take a little time to get used to though.
- Flat-Bottomed Shoes (“Flats”)
Essentially these kinds of mountain bike shoes look like normal shoes. They will however have extra grip soles so they can cling to the pedals. They are easier and more comfortable to walk around in than most clipless shoes, though they are not as efficient at transferring power to the pedals.
Best Mountain Bike Shoes FAQ:
Q: How do I know if my shoe fits right?
A: Unlike running shoes, it is not advised that you buy shoes that are bigger than your normal shoe size. So essentially the cycling shoe should fit as like a normal shoe. You should be able to wiggle your toes, but you should also not feel that your foot is sliding around inside the shoe.
Most brands will have comparison charts that compare your foot size to normal shoe sizes so you can select the right one.
Q: Can I use them for other activities or are they strictly for biking?
A: Some shoes have been designed for walking on various surfaces. That means that you can, for example, ride to a location on your mountain bike, then hop off and hike some trails.
In general though, mountain bike shoes are primarily designed for biking. They will, for example, usually have a stiffer sole than on normal shoes. That makes them great for cycling, but not as comfortable for walking in as regular shoes.
Q: Will the cleat get stuck in clipless MTB shoes?
A: The short answer to this is no, but the longer answer is that it kind of depends a little bit! Specifically it depends on practicing. Clicking your clipless cleats into and off of the pedals is, obviously, not as easy as simply lifting your feet off of a standard pedal.
It require a sideways twisting motion that you need to get into the habit of doing to disconnect your feet from the pedals. At the same time, you also need to practice when to remove your cleats from their connection. After a while, you will begin to easily notice hazards in front of you – stop signals or red lights for example – and know to release your feet or foot in plenty of time to support you and the bike when you stop.
Q: How do I clean my cycling shoes?
A: This first thing to note is that the most important instruction is to read to paperwork and owners manuals that come with your shoes. There will be a slight variation between different materials, so check before you clean!
In general though, a bucket of warm soapy water, an old cloth or rag and old toothbrush should be sufficient to clean your MTB shoes.
Our Top Pick
As we mentioned on the review of this product, the Five Ten Men’s Freerider is missing some of the technical features that you would find on more advanced and specialized cycling shoes. But if you are looking for a pair of simple but highly effective shoes for everyday rides or weekend mountain bike jaunts, they really are top quality.
They are extremely comfortable, they look great and they are easy to clean. More important than that though, that highly impressive rubber sole is going to cling to your pedals, helping keep your feet attached to them for more comfortable and efficient riding.
They are a really good quality shoe that will serve most riders very well during a host of riding conditions. Well-done Five Ten!