How To Choose The Best Mountain Bike Shoes – Ultimate Guide

Best Mountain Bike Shoes

If you love to ride your mountain bike, then you know that the best way to enhance your experience is to get the best gear to go with your bicycle. However, while most people will immediately think of things like helmets, gloves, or apparel, we want to talk to you about one of the more crucial pieces of equipment you can have: a bike shoe.

Unlike regular shoes, these models are designed to give you extra power while also reducing your energy output so that you can focus more on moving forward and maneuvering the trail than keeping your feet in check. Also, if you want the ultimate experience, you need to clip your shoes to your pedals so that you won’t accidentally slip off or lose your balance as you ride.

Recommended Mountain Bike Shoes Review

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best mountain bike shoes in 2017, as well as go over everything you need to know about your new set of kicks.

1. Pearl Izumi Men's X-Project 1.0 Cycling Shoe

Pearl Izumi Men's X-Project 1.0 Cycling Shoe

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Kicking off our list (yes, pun intended) is the X-Project Shoe from Pearl Izumi. With these reviews, we’ll start off from the top of the shoe and work our way down so as to keep in mind the same pieces for comparison.

The closure on this particular model is a micro-adjustable BOA system which allows you to tighten and loosen by turning one of three knobs.

These knobs are located on the front of the shoe for easy access. The upper sole is made of a thin second skin like substance that is both breathable and conforms to your foot. There is seamless construction in the toe area to keep the front of your foot protected and shielded. When you tighten the BOA system, it pulls from both sides to give you a better feeling overall.

Finally, there is a carbon fiber shank in the middle of the shoe and a thick rubber outsole. The bottom has lugs running across the whole thing, making this shoe ideal for both biking and walking. This is a clipless model, as are all of the shoes we will look at today.

Pros:

  • Synthetic clipless shoe
  • Second skin upper sole
  • Thin material for better comfort and breathability
  • Shoe conforms to the shape of your foot
  • Seamless construction in toe area
  • Micro-adjustable BOA closure reel
  • Pulls from both sides for even tension
  • Ethylene vinyl foam heel absorbs impact
  • Full-length carbon fiber plate
  • Works for biking and hiking
  • Hollow TPU lugs for better traction

Cons:

  • Soles may get worn down easier than other models
  • Might be too stiff for some riders

2. Giro Terraduro Bike Shoes Men's

Giro Terraduro Bike Shoes Men's

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Next, we have another all-around bike shoe, but this time from Giro Terraduro. The closure system on this particular model is Velcro, coming with three straps to keep your foot secure and the shoe on your feet.

The upper sole is made of a microfiber lining and Vibram rubber so that you get breathability and durability all in one. The toe box is reinforced as are the sidewalls to give you a bit more stiffness and rigidity throughout.

As for the outsole, it is made with thicker Vibram rubber to both maintain its shape and reduce overall vibration as you ride. The clipless design is compatible with all two-hole mountain bike pedals, and there are lugs all throughout the bottom, making this shoe ideal for riding or walking.

Pros:

  • Synthetic clipless shoe
  • Microfiber lining for comfort and durability
  • Vibram rubber upper sole
  • Velcro style closures
  • Vibram rubber sole for durability
  • Works with two-hole mountain bike pedals
  • Reinforced toe box and sidewalls
  • Works for biking or hiking
  • Outsole is designed for optimal traction

Cons:

  • Limited breathability means it can get hot
  • Tightening straps may get caught in rivets
  • May cause numbness for some users

3. Five Ten Men's Hellcat Bike Shoe

Five Ten Men's Hellcat Bike Shoe

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As far as shoe brands go, Five Ten is one of the more well known and most comfortable, especially when it comes to regular tennis shoes.

In this case, however, we are looking at the Hellcat, which tries to combine regular shoes with mountain bike ones. The results are decent, although a bit on the stiff side.

The closure system for the Hellcat is a hybrid, meaning that it uses both laces and Velcro to keep your feet contained. The Velcro covers the top of the laces so that they don’t come undone while you ride. The upper sole is a mixture of leather and synthetic material, and it is water resistant.

A mid flex shank helps provide stiffness, and a thick rubber sole with lugs means that you can walk around or ride with these shoes and have equal comfort with both. The rubber is also designed to reduce vibrations in your feet as you ride.

Pros:

  • Leather and synthetic clipless shoe
  • Water resistant upper sole
  • Mid flex plate to add stiffness when riding
  • Less vibration when riding
  • Lace and Velcro closures
  • Thick rubber sole
  • Works for biking or hiking

Cons:

  • Does not fit all bike pedals
  • Can get hot while hiking
  • Might run a little tight for some users

4. Five Ten Men's Kestrel Cycling Shoe

Five Ten Men's Kestrel Cycling Shoe

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Next, we have another model from Five Ten, although this one is a bit of an upgrade from the Hellcat model. In this case, you get better materials and closure system, meaning that this one is meant more for riding than anything else.

If you want versatility, this one won’t be your best option, but as far as mountain bike shoes, it’s excellent.

The closure system on this shoe is a BOA tightener, meaning that you can tighten and loosen with a knob conveniently located on the side of the shoe. The upper sole has a thick synthetic mesh, adding breathability and comfort to the shoes.

As for the outsole, it uses a carbon-infused shank for stiffness and a non-slip heel cup to keep your feet steady as you ride. Like all of these shoes, it is clipless, but it is more compatible with more pedals to allow for all kinds of riding, not just mountain biking.

Pros:

  • Synthetic clipless shoe
  • Thick rubber sole
  • BOA closure system
  • Stiff carbon-infused shank
  • Non-slip heel cup
  • Mesh upper and tongue for breathability
  • Reinforced toe for strength
  • Ideal for all kinds of riding

Cons:

  • Might not be comfortable for hiking
  • Might hurt if locked too tight, BOA system takes some getting used to
  • Laces may break under pressure

5. Shimano SH-XC61 Performance Bike Shoes

Shimano SH-XC61 Performance Bike Shoes

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As far as pedals go, Shimano makes some of the best in the world. So, it makes sense that this company would try its hand at bike shoes to fit its pedals, and the results are spectacular.

In this case, the SH-XC61 is designed for both racers and casual riders alike, making it a great all-around shoe.

The closure system for this model is a combination of a ratcheting strap on the top and two Velcro straps on the bottom. The ratcheting strap is designed to lock your foot into place using a system that is actually much better than laces or a BOA unit.

The upper sole of this shoe is synthetic leather, and it comes with a carbon-reinforced shank and thick rubber outsole. Unfortunately, this model doesn’t have sufficient lugs to make it an ideal walking shoe, but it will work great on almost any bike pedal.

Pros:

  • Synthetic leather clipless shoe
  • Works with two-hole mountain bike pedals
  • Carbon reinforced outsole
  • Ratchet strap and Velcro closure
  • Polyurethane traction lugs for stability
  • Ideal for racing or leisurely riding

Cons:

  • Sole may not be attached properly and can break off
  • Might be too stiff for some users
  • Not designed for hiking or walking

6. Shimano SHMT34B Multi-Use/Touring Shoe

Shimano SHMT34B Multi-UseTouring Shoe

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If you want a bike shoe that is somewhat old school and gives you the feeling of having regular tennis shoes rather than some high-tech material, then the SHMT34B from Shimano might be a good option for you.

The closure system is standard laces, meaning that you do have to tie them yourself, but you have more versatility and comfort than with other models.

The upper sole is a mixture of leather and mesh material to give it rugged stability and breathability while you ride. It also has a heel pull loop to help you get the shoes on, which is a nice touch. Because this shoe is made from Shimano, it is compatible with all of their pedals, as well as most ones from other companies, too.

Finally, the shank on this model is fiberglass-reinforced to give it extra stiffness and durability while you ride.

Pros:

  • Synthetic clipless shoe
  • Leather and mesh upper sole
  • Classic lace closures
  • Heel pull loop for convenience
  • SPD cleat compatible
  • Fiberglass-reinforced outsole
  • Works with two-hole mountain bike pedals

Cons:

  • Ideal with cleats, may not be comfortable without
  • Not made for hiking or walking
  • Low cut sides rub against your ankle

7. Venzo Mountain Bike Shimano SPD Shoes

Venzo Mountain Bike Shimano SPD Shoes

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If you want the whole shebang with your biking shoes, meaning that you get the clips and pedals to go with them, then this set from Venzo is a great buy.

Not only do you get high-quality shoes, but you also receive Shimano pedals and clips as well.

The closure system for these shoes is Velcro, and they come with a breathable mesh upper sole for comfort and convenience. There is also a sock liner inside that can be removed and cleaned to keep your shoes from getting too ripe. The outsole is standard rubber, and it is compatible with all SPD cleats and pedals, just in case you ride on other ones besides the ones that come with the shoes.

Pros:

  • Synthetic clipless shoes
  • Come with cleats and pedals
  • Breathable mesh upper sole
  • Removable sock liner inside
  • Compatible with all SPD cleats and pedals
  • Velcro-style closure system
  • Hard rubber outsole

Cons:

  • Not ideal for walking or hiking
  • Cleats may not fasten properly each time

8. Tommaso Montagna 100 Mountain Bike Shoe

Tommaso Montagna 100 Mountain Bike Shoe

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When compared to the other shoe models that we’ve seen, the Tommaso Montagna 100 Cycling Shoe is pretty standard overall.

If you want decent quality and features, this will be a good option. It’s not top of the line, but rather middle of the road.

The closure system for this shoe is Velcro, and it has a ventilated mesh upper sole to give you extra breathability while you ride. It is a synthetic leather model that works with all SPD cleats, making it ideal for virtually any bike, not just mountain bicycles.

These shoes have a fiberglass-reinforced shank and climbing spikes on the outsole for added versatility and durability. The clipless design makes these shoes ideal for any kind of riding overall.

Pros:

  • Synthetic leather clipless shoe
  • Compatible with all SPD cleats
  • Ideal for all bikes, not just mountain
  • Ventilated mesh upper for breathability
  • Fiberglass-reinforced rubber outsole
  • Velcro-style closures
  • Climbing spikes included for versatility

Cons:

  • Finding right size can be tricky
  • Not ideal for walking or hiking

9. Shimano 2015 Men's Mountain Bike Shoe

Shimano 2015 Men's Mountain Bike Shoe

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Our last Shimano Shoe is an all-around model, meaning that it works for both riding and walking as well.

If you want the quality and comfort of a Shimano riding shoe but also want some added versatility, this is the way to go.

The closure system is standard laces, but it comes with a twist. These are speed laces, meaning that you can tighten and loosen them much faster than normal. This is like a BOA system but without the knob. The upper sole uses ventilated mesh to give you added breathability, and it comes with a wider toe box, so your toes don’t get pinched.

Finally, this model comes with a fiberglass-reinforced shank and a hard rubber sole. It also has an EVA foam insert to provide extra comfort while you ride. It is compatible with all two-hole mountain bike pedals.

Pros:

  • Synthetic leather clipless shoe
  • Ventilated mesh upper sole for breathability
  • Speed lacing system for fast closure
  • Wider toe box for comfort
  • Rubber sole with EVA foam insert
  • Fiberglass-reinforced shank for stability
  • Lace holder prevents getting caught in gears
  • Works with two-hole mountain bike pedals
  • Works for hiking or biking

Cons:

  • Lace clamp can get in the way at times
  • Might be too narrow for some riders

10. Diamondback Bicycles Mountain Bike Shoe

Diamondback Bicycles Mountain Bike Shoe

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Our final stop is a certified women’s shoe made by Diamondback. Technically speaking, most bike shoes are unisex, but this particular model is a bit slimmer and shorter to accommodate women better.

That also means that most men won’t be able to fit into this shoe unless you have somewhat dainty feet.

The closure system of this model is a hybrid of lace and Velcro, with the strap on top to keep your laces from coming undone. The upper sole is a synthetic mesh material that gives you breathability and helps keep your feet warm and dry while you ride.

This model comes with a fiberglass-reinforced shank and a hard rubber outsole to provide stiffness and durability. The clipless design is also compatible with SPD and platform pedals. Overall, this is a great riding shoe, even if you do other forms besides mountain biking.

Pros:

  • Synthetic clipless shoe
  • Soft mesh upper for comfort and breathability
  • Lace and velcro closures
  • Hard rubber outsole for stiffness
  • Ideal for all kinds of riding, not just mountain
  • Reinforced toe and heel cup for durability
  • Works with SPD and platform pedals
  • Fiberglass-reinforced shank for stability

Cons:

  • Sizes run a bit small
  • Not ideal for walking or hiking

How to Choose a Mountain Bike Shoe

Now that we’ve seen some shoes in action let’s look at the most important features that you should be paying attention to when making your final decision. Overall, however, the comfort of the shoe should be most important, so don’t worry about getting a high-tech model if it feels too tight or too stiff for you.

Flat vs. Clipless

Although we’ve only seen clipless shoes thus far, the fact is that you can find flat mountain bike shoes as well. Let’s take a look at the benefits and downsides of each.

Flat

If you are a casual bike rider and don’t worry too much about getting the best performance each time you ride, then a flat bike shoe will be perfect for you. These are a bit stiffer than normal shoes so as to give you better stability and push strength on the bike, but you can also walk around and go hiking in them. Overall, these shoes are ideal for anyone who likes to do both at the same time and doesn’t do any type of competing.

Clipless

The way that these shoes work is that they clip onto your bike pedal so you don’t accidentally slide off. The name is a bit confusing that way, but the point is to ensure you maintain contact all the time, so you use less energy keeping your foot on the pedal and have more power going forward.

This feature is especially important on mountain bike shoes because you are riding on rough and potentially muddy terrain, meaning that your feet can slip a lot more easily. Some clipless shoes have a full set of lugs (traction bumps) to allow you to walk or hike as well, but others are designed for biking only, so don’t plan on walking too long in those shoes.

Finally, many high-end models will work for other kinds of bikes as well, such as touring or road bikes, enabling you to get the most bang for your buck, assuming that you have different bikes for those purposes.

Material

When talking about the material for your mountain bike shoe, it’s broken down into three major parts. First, is the upper sole which covers your foot and holds the closure (more on that later). Second, you have the outsole or the bottom of the shoe, and finally, you have the shank, which is an insert that adds stiffness to the model to give you better durability and stability while riding.

Upper Sole

For the most part, this section of the shoe can be made of synthetic materials, leather, or a thick mesh. In some cases, you may get a combination of all three. With the upper sole, you will want to look at three different factors: how high the sides and back are, whether or not it breathes, and water resistance.

Because you are riding on rough terrain, you want to make sure that the shoe stays firmly on your foot. If the sides are too low, then you could potentially pop out as you ride or it can rub against your ankles, causing blisters or rashes.

As for breathability, after a long ride, your feet will be burning, so it’s important that your upper sole allows them to cool off well enough that you don’t have that sensation for hours afterward. Finally, if you like to ride in wet weather, it’s imperative that you get shoes that are water resistant or waterproof unless you like wearing soggy socks.

Bottom Sole

When looking at the bottom sole, the first thing you will notice is whether or not it is clipless. Then, you have to pay attention to the material, which is usually hard, thick rubber. Finally, make sure that it comes with enough lugs for your purposes, meaning that if you want a walking shoe as well, it has to have them all across the bottom, not just around the sides.

Shank

This part of the shoe you won’t really be able to inspect firsthand as it is embedded into the shoe, but you can look at the type of material it is and see how it feels for you. Conventional shank materials are fiberglass or carbon fiber, but some can be made of other, cheaper materials as well.

Since this provides extra stiffness, it’s crucial that you still maintain comfort while riding. Some riders complain that the shoe is too stiff, which means that you should either look for a model with a different shank material or one without a shank at all.

Closure

Keeping your shoes on your feet while you ride is essential to ensure that you have a smooth experience. Most mountain bike shoes will use hook and loop (Velcro) systems to ensure that they are not affected by water or dirt, as well as to prevent any accidental tripping if your laces get caught in the gears.

When it comes to laces, you can either choose a hybrid model that uses both laces and Velcro, standard models that you tie yourself, or a BOA system. The BOA system is designed to tighten the laces more sufficiently than regular tying, which can come undone as you ride. You twist the knobs to tighten and to release, and they can be exceptionally great at holding your shoes on your feet. Just be sure not to twist it too much.

Final Verdict

After comparing these shoes to each other, we have to say that our favorite models are the Shimano SH-SC61 and SHMT34B. Because they are made by Shimano, they are perfectly designed to clip into your pedals for optimum performance.

Best of all, they work well for both competitive and casual riding, making them ideal for most situations. However, if you want something that works for both walking and biking, then we highly recommend the Shimano Men’s Recreational Bike Shoe.

Kevin Fox
 

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