Don’t Go Mountain Biking Without The Right Shoes

If you’re new to mountain biking, then you probably have just been wearing your sneakers when you hit the trails.

But, a good pair of mountain bike shoes will improve your experience out there, which is why you should consider upgrading your kicks to ones made for trail riding.

It’s okay to start out with a cheaper pair until you get a bit more experience under your belt, but after a while you’ll want to upgrade to something made for more experienced riders.

Here at Active Weekender, we’re big fans of the shoes made by Five Ten.

In fact, you can see some of our favorite picks right now in the list below.

Or, keep reading to learn how to shop for a pair of mtb shoes and learn what out editors like and don’t like about some of these models.

This page contains some affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.

Our Picks: Best Mountain Bike Shoes for the Money 

PHOTO SHOES NOTES  
Editor’s Pick

Five Ten Freerider Pro Mountain Bike Shoes Men's

Editor’s Pick
Five Ten Freerider Pro Mountain Bike Shoes Men’s
  •   Overall Best Mountain Bike Shoes For The Money
  •   Most comfortable MTB flat shoes
Best Price at REI
Best Pro MTB Shoes

Sidi Dominator Fit Cycling Shoe - Men's

Best Pro MTB Shoes
Sidi Dominator Fit Cycling Shoe – Men’s
  •   Best premium MTB shoes for riders & racers
Check Price at Amazon
Budget Pick

Tommaso Montagna 100 Men's Mountain Bike Shoe

Budget Pick
Tommaso Montagna 100 Men’s Mountain Bike Shoe
  •   Best cheap MTB shoes
Check Price at Amazon
Best Women’s MTB Shoes

Louis Garneau Women’s Sapphire MTB Bike Shoe

Best Women’s MTB Shoes
Louis Garneau Women’s Sapphire MTB Bike Shoe
  •   They are affordable.
  •   They do not compromise on comfort
  •   The performance is great.
Check Price at Amazon

Types of MTB Shoes

There are many types of mountain bike shoes just like there are different types of mountain bikes.

Your choice of mountain bike shoes has a significant impact on your general biking experience.

The right mountain bike shoes can improve your performance.

Even though you can ride your mountain bike in sneakers or hikers, the right shoes improve your performance regardless of whether or not you are an experienced biker.

The following are some of the common types of MTB shoes

Road Riding

Road riding shoes are made with very stiff soles.

The soles are typically made from nylon, composite materials, or carbon.

They are lightweight yet strong and durable. The uppers are mostly lightweight and breathable.

Velcro-strap closures are popular for these shoes, but some of them have ratcheting buckles.

Off-Road

The soles of off-road shoes are not as stiff as those of road riding shoes. Just like the road riding shoes, they have sturdy uppers.

Their uppers may be more robust than other MTB shoes because the shoes may be scratched.

They have recessed cleats and strong tread patterns for situations when a rider needs to get off their bike and walk.

Some of them have the option for screw-in studs placed close to the toes.

They provide bikers with an additional grip on muddy trails.

Most of them do not use laces. In case they do, a protective tongue usually covers the laces.

Casual Riding

MTB shoes for casual riding are made to offer comfort. 

They are not as stiff as other MTB shoes, and the fit provides some room for a rider’s feet to move around.

Casual riders do not exert a lot of pressure on the shoes so their material may not be as robust as other MTB shoes. 

These shoes are mainly used for walking. Those with clipless pedals are functional for everyday wear. 

They come in a variety of styles, shapes, and colors.

The type of mountain bike shoes you choose depends on how often you ride, where you ride, and the level of comfort and flexibility you want.

Mountain Bike vs. Road Bike Shoes

You may choose a mountain bike or road bike shoes depending on the style of cycling you prefer. 

When people started cycling, they were mainly concerned with comfort and efficiency.

Cycling shoes were made to be light and breathable.

The insoles were wooden, and the uppers were leather.

Both road bikes and mountain bikes retain some of those features.

However, advancements were made on both of them. 

The principle of using wooden insoles still applies.

The wooden insoles create a hard barrier between the metal pedal and the biker’s feet to keep them comfortable.

Road Bike Shoes

Road bike shoes have a very stiff sole.  They do not bend easily.

They are, therefore, perfect for riding but not for walking.

When riding, they prevent a rider from getting cramps or getting injured.

Road shoes prioritize performance elements such as weight, cleat/pedal engagement, and stiffness. 

The pedal engagement is much stronger than with mountain bike shoes.

They have an external cleat, and the soles only have a small amount of tread since road bikers do not need to walk around a lot. 

Some of them provide aerodynamic features.

Mountain Bike Shoes

Mountain biking shoes are great for walking as much as biking.

Mountain bikers may need to get off their bikes and walk for short distances.

The soles are rugged and flexible.  They look a lot like hiking boots. 

The cleats are depressed below the treads of the sole. They do not come into contact with the ground. 

You can wear your mountain bike shoes with a road bike if you please. They are just as functional, and they allow you to walk around.

They have plenty of closing mechanisms, but they have a waterproof upper and a toe cap for extra protection.

Some of them have a pedal channel behind the cleat.  It increases stability and between the shoe and pedal. 

It also makes clipping easier.

Pedal Compatibility

Most bike shoes are compatible with clipless pedals. 

Clipless pedals are a system made up of cleats, unique pedals, and devices on the pedal that attach to the soles of shoes.

You, therefore, need to find shoes and pedals before using this system. 

All you need to do is bolt the cleats to your shoes and the pedals of your bike.

When you step on the clipless pedals with your shoes, your feet will click securely in place.

Your feet will only come out when you want.

The soles have holes that attach to cleats.

When the cleats snap into the pedals, they provide a more secure connection.

When buying your mountain bike shoes, it is important to ensure that they are compatible with your cleats.

Cleats come with the pedals of your bike.

You may find bike shoes that are compatible with both three and two-hole cleat designs.

Others may only be compatible with two-hole or three-hole designs.

The two-hole system is also referred to as the Shimano Pedaling Dynamics (SPD) system. 

It works well for all types of mountain bikes.

With the right shoes, it is easy to walk in, and it does not make as much noise as other systems.

The three-hole system is also called the Look-style system.

It is great for road cycling. It provides a rider with stability and reliable transfer of energy.

Choosing Mountain Bike Shoes

Your feet are one of the major compact points when riding your bike.

You need them when riding and when you have to walk. 

Spending some money on quality mountain bike shoes is a worthy investment.

It is important to remember that no single pair of MTB shoes can be suitable for all riders.

Every rider has unique needs and preferences.

What works for one person may not work for another.

The following are some of the factors to consider when looking for MTB shoes.

Fit

Getting the right fit is necessary for your comfort. Remember that different brands have different sizing.

Getting your shoes from a local store gives you the chance to try them on before buying.

The seams should not rub your feet when you try the shoes on. 

Even the slightest discomfort may affect your riding experience. 

The rubber should not be too sticky, and the sole should be stiff enough. Find a closure mechanism that feels right.

Weather Elements

Consider the weather conditions in the area where you intend to ride.

Some shoes are more suitable for cold weather than others.

If it is hot, consider getting breathable shoes that offer your feet sufficient ventilation as you ride. 

If you are riding during the cold weather, consider getting shoes that do not have a lot of vents.

The vents may let in a lot of cold air.

Flat or Clipless

You may choose flat or clipless pedals depending on your needs.

In the past, riders used a toe clip on their flat pedals to create a secure interface between the foot and the pedal.

That, however, is not safe because, in case of an accident, the bike would fall over.

Advancements were made to improve on them. Clipless pedals can only be used with specific shoes. 

They have a recess area that accepts a cleat.

Flat pedals, on the other hand, have a big platform to support the rider’s feet.

They are made from aluminum, and you do not require any special shoes when using them.

If your bike uses clipless pedals, you need to buy the right shoes.

Construction and Design

Consider the construction and design of shoes before purchasing them. 

Buy shoes that have are breathable to keep your feet cool while on the trail. 

The upper should be abrasion-resistant, and it should not be stretchy. 

Different brands have different shoe sole materials. Find one that is stiff, durable, and comfortable.

If the sole of your feet is too flexible, it may affect the power transmission. 

If you are trying to choose between two similar MTB shoes, settle for the one with extra features. 

Some MTB shoes may have features such as replaceable heel pads.

Cost

There are plenty of MTB shoes at different prices. 

Find high-quality shoes that do not compromise on your budget limits. 

Remember that the right shoes are not necessarily the most expensive.

Finding quality MTB shoes at affordable prices is possible.

Type of Sole

Different shoes have different soles. The most basic soles are made from nylon.

Cheap shoes may not use enough carbon in construction.

Shoes with soles that have enough carbon are not only light but also rigid. 

Rigid soles can supply power to your pedals and make your ride more comfortable.

Retention System

The retention system is a major consideration when choosing a pair of mountain bike shoes.

Find a retention system that you can adjust easily.

It should be able to retain good functionality even when exposed to sand and dirt.

There are plenty of systems and each one of them has unique advantages.

If you ride on muddy trails, it is important to keep your shoes clean after every trip. 

Get a boot dryer to keep your shoes dry after you wash them. 

Stuff some newspapers inside them. The papers suck water from them.

Reviews: Top Mountain Bike Shoes

Here’s a few of our favorite mountain bike shoes.

1. Men’s Five Ten Freerider Pro Bike Shoes

These shoes from Five Ten are available in several colors. They are like the Adidas Legendary Freerider shoes with a facelift.

It is perfect for all types of climbs from all-mountain to light downhill.

Five Ten Freerider Pro Mountain Bike Shoes
image via REI

Features

  • It has a removable Ortholite molded EVA midsole
  • The material is textile, Man Made
  • The outsole is Full Stealth S1 rubber
  • It has an impact-resistant toe box
  • The removable sock liner is Ortholite molded

Pros

  • It provides excellent toe protection
  • It is versatile
  • It is lightweight
  • The upper is water-resistant
  • The outsole has a good grip
  • It is durable
  • It is available in a variety of colors
  • They are comfortable

Cons

  • The fit is not perfect

2. Men’s Five Ten Freerider Approach MTB Bike Shoes

The men’s mountain bike shoes are available in 12 colors. They are great on performance.

The shoes are an excellent choice for bikers who like downhill mountain biking, rock climbing,  and kayaking.

Five Ten Freerider Approach Mountain Bike Shoes
image via REI

Features

  • It has a rubber sole
  • The material is leather and synthetic
  • It has a Stealth S1 rubber outsole with Dotty tread
  • The upper is suede and mesh

Pros

  • It is versatile
  • It offers all-day comfort
  • The grip is perfect
  • It has a slick design
  • The plush interior padding provides comfort
  • The sizing is accurate

Cons

  • They are a little heavy

3. Giro Rumble Vr MTB Shoe

The mountain bike shoe from Giro comes in four colors. It has excellent performance, and the design is excellent. It is an excellent choice for mtbers who are looking for performance and flexibility.

Giro Rumble VR Bike Shoes
image via REI

Features

  • It has clipless pedal compatibility
  • The upper is made from synthetic and mesh
  • The Vibram outsole has a grippy diamond pattern
  • It is compatible with two –bolt cleats on the bike

Pros

  • The outsole has a good grip
  • It is comfortable
  • The design and workmanship is outstanding
  • It is functional off the bike
  • The closure is good
  • The sole is sturdy compared to most walking shoes

Cons

  • It may be slippery on some pedals
  • The fit is not accurate
  • It may not be perfect for sweaty feet since it retains moisture
  • The recess is deep and narrow so the engagement can be awkward

4. Tommaso Montana 100 Mountain Bike Cycling Shoe

The shoe is versatile. Bikers can use it on simple and hard roads, they offer excellent performance, and the design is great for clipless riding.

Tommaso Montagna 100 Mountain Bike Cycling Shoes
image via Tommaso

Features

  • It fits two-bolt style cleats
  • It has a durable synthetic upper
  • The sole is fiberglass reinforced
  • It has Ergonomic three step Velcro system for a precise fit

Pros

  • It is compatible with most two-bolt cleats and pedals
  • It is great for commuting
  • It is comfortable
  • It is affordable
  • The stiffness of the sole allows you to ride faster and longer
  • The design is beautiful
  • The removable climbing spikes make it possible to

Cons

  • The sizing is not accurate
  • The cleat placement is not infinitely adjustable

5. Fizik Women’s M6 Donna BOA Mountain Cycling Shoes

The women’s shoe from Fizik is made to look and work great.  It is durable and good-looking. It is a great choice for bikes that do not want to spend a lot of money to get a balance of the two.

Fizik Women's M6 Donna BOA Mountain Cycling Shoes
image via REI

Features

  • It has a rubber outsole
  • The midsole is made from carbon-reinforced nylon
  • It has a flexible Boa IP 1 closure system
  • The straps are Microtex

Pros

  • The material is breathable
  • It is strong and tough
  • It is lightweight
  • The design is beautiful
  • It is comfortable

Cons

  • The sizing is big
  • They may not be compatible with some pedals

6. Louis Garneau Women’s Sapphire MTB Bike Shoe

The mountain bike shoes from Louis Garneau are available in two colors. They are affordable, the performance is great, and they do not compromise on comfort.

The shoes are a great choice for beginners.

Louis Garneau Women's Sapphire MTB Bike Shoes

Features

  • The upper is thermobonded
  • The body is made from engineered leather and cycling mesh
  • It has a reflective section on the heel
  • The insole is Hot Stuff
  • It has Ergo Grip 2 outsole with removable studs
  • It has three hook and loop closure straps

Pros

  • It has a seamless construction and few pressure points
  • They are great for use with SPD cleat systems
  • It is breathable
  • The reflective part on the heel improves visibility in low light
  • It is durable
  • It has excellent heel support
  • It fits all major MTB pedals

Cons

  • Sizing is a bit big

7. Sidi Dominator 7 MTB Shoes

The shoe from Sidi is available in six colors. Like other Sidi Dominator shoes, it is comfortable, offers excellent performance, and it feels great. However, unlike the other Dominator shoes, it provides an excellent grip. It is excellent for riding in mud, sand, and every other surface.

Sidi Dominator 7 Mountain Bike Shoes
image via REI

Features

  • It has a nylon composite sole
  • The upper material is Technomicro
  • It has a soft instep closure system with Caliper Buckle
  • It is compatible with two-hole mountain cleat
  • The sole is made from a soft rubber durometer

Pros

  • It is excellent for riding, and they do not make noise when you walk
  • It is breathable
  • It is good-looking
  • The sizing is accurate
  • The Velcro straps are placed perfectly to minimize pressure points

Cons

  • They are a bit costly

8. Pearl Izumi X –Alp Summit Mountain Bike Shoes-Men’s

The men’s bike shoe from Pearl Izumi is available in two colors. It has excellent performance, it is comfortable, and you can wear it for long hours.

Pearl Izumi X-Alp Summit Mountain Bike Shoes
image via REI

Features

  • It is compatible with SPD
  • It has low-cut construction
  • It has nylon shanks
  • The outsoles are lugged Vibram Megagrip
  • The upper has advanced 3-layer seamless Composite upper
  • It has 1:1 Anatomic Buckle Closure System

Pros

  • It is lightweight
  • The low-cut construction offers fast performance
  • The sole is synthetic
  • The soles offer superior traction
  • It is durable
  • It is comfortable
  • The nylon composite offers efficient power transfer
  • It’s versatile off the trail
  • It is comfortable
  • The sole is stiff for immediate sole response
  • It is breathable

 Cons

  • It is hard to find a large size

Benefits of Wearing MTB Shoes

Most mountain bikers understand that wearing MTB shoes is important. However, some of them may not understand why. 

There are plenty of shoes to choose from.

The following are some of the reasons why you need them.

To Reduce Injury

Wearing MTB shoes helps to reduce injuries while you ride.

The shoes have stiff soles that facilitate the transfer of power across the surface of the pedal when riding.

If you wear your normal sneakers or other shoes, they fold around the pedal.

They transfer pressure to certain parts of your feet and give you the feeling of ‘hot spots.’

The stiff soles of MTB shoes provide your feet with better support and reduce the likelihood of getting an injury. It also reduces the chances of cramping or fatigue.

For Comfort

Mountain bike shoes are made with the needs of a biker in mind.

Even though the sole is stiff, the upper is made from breathable materials that facilitate the flow of air. 

Most of them have well-designed vents.

They allow you o move your feet comfortably while riding.

Durability

Most MTB shoes are made to sustain heavy or hard riding. 

The upper is made from a strong and durable material such as synthetic leather. 

They are likely to last longer than normal shoes.

No Slipping

MTB shoes help you to stay attached firmly to the pedals.

You can focus your energy and concentration on enjoying your ride and not on keeping your feet in place. 

The fact that your feet do not slip gives you a chance to control your power generation better.

Push and Pull

MTB shoes give you the chance to clip into the pedals. 

They can, therefore, take advantage of the up and down parts of the stroke.

Down motions activate the quadriceps at the front of the thighs.

Wearing normal shoes does not activate your lower-body muscles like MTB shoes.

Easy to Meet Your Needs

Hundreds of biking shoes suit different preferences.

It is possible to find the right shoes regardless of your biking needs and style preferences. 

There are a variety of colors, designs, and shapes.

15 easy ways to get active now

If you are unsure of the right shoes to meet your riding goals, you can ask an expert to offer recommendations.

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