When you a playing around in the dirt, it means you will need a great pair of shoes. While there are many that you can get for road bikes, mountain biking puts more strain and abuse onto every part of your gear.
We took numerous pairs and came up with five of the best shoes for mountain biking; we then subjected them to severe testing to find out all there was.
In the end, after hours of fun, we came up with one winner in the hunt for the best mountain bike shoes.
What Are Mountain Bike Shoes?
You can go mountain biking in any shoes, yet once you begin to ride regularly, you will quickly find
these don’t perform or last as long as shoes designed as mountain biking shoes.
Shoes for mountain biking come with all manner of features. They have a stiffer sole to deliver more power from the feet as you pedal.
However, some shoes are designed for distinct purposes in many cases, although this can be restricting if you are a casual rider.
Mountain bike shoes come in two main varieties, and these comprise flats and clipless.
Shoes designed for mountain biking tend to come in highly durable materials and can take a few knocks and bangs as you head across any trail.
Soles will have lots of grips, and this you find mainly on the flats as the clipless have two-hole cleats that connect with the pedals.
Top Mountain Bike Shoe Reviews
1. Five Ten Men’s Freerider MTB Bike Shoes
When it comes to mountain bike shoes, flats from Five Ten are among the top names for mountain biking shoes. The Freerider, one of their more affordable options, is ideal for any rider who doesn’t want to be clipped to their pedals.
Each shoe comes with the legendary Stealth S1 dotted sole, which is super sticky and will make you feel as if you are glued to the pedals.
The sole is soft and hard at the same time so that you can hike in great comfort, or there is more than enough support when standing on your pedals with any hot spots forming.
While not as well constructed as its big brother, the Freeride Pro, it is still a remarkable shoe and one of the best-looking shoes for riding flats.
- Casual looks
- Good upper ventilation
- Fantastic grip
- Easy Clean
- Not very grippy in mud
- Can quickly get wet from cross streams
- Sole Type: Flat
- Sole Material: Rubber
- Upper Material: Leather and synthetic
- Weight: 2.84 pounds
- Warranty: Limited Lifetime
For a while, this has been the go-to shoe for riding rough downhills. Or for anyone who doesn’t like the feeling of clips.
With a guide price of around $100, these are highly affordable and a great addition to any mountain bike gear pack.
While these shoes are made of leather and synthetic materials, they offer plenty of breathabilities and are easy to clean if covered in dirt from the trails. If there is a downside, it can be the ease they become wet when traversing cross streams, but they dry quickly, and comfort won’t suffer as a result.
For mountain bikers who want to look good in the best mountain bike shoes and have the best all-around shoe for mountain biking and the odd spell of hiking. The Freerider from Five Ten can be the best mountain biking show choice.
2. Venzo Mountain Bike Bicycle Cycling Shimano SPD Shoes + Pedals & Cleats
For the first pair of clipless shoes, no one wants to spend a fortune. Luckily, the Venzo mountain bike shoes offer a great introduction and the chance to be accustomed to slipping your feet in and out of the cleats.
Tension can be adjusted, so it is easy to adapt these mountain bike shoes to your riding style. Although they can stretch through use, they are still comfortable and offer excellent power transfer to the pedals.
The forefoot is flexible, so you can even run in these Venzo Mountain bike shoes without feeling they are too stiff on your feet. The central part of the shoe being the fastening for the pedals, they are made to fit all Shimano pedals, but they do come supplied with Wellgo pedals. You will find these strong and durable aluminum and a thread size of 9/16 of an inch.
- Comes with pedals and cleats
- Affordable beginner’s option
- Quick-release straps on shoes
- Good power transfer
- Not suitable for wide feet
- Can stretch with use
- Supplied pedals are not Shimano
- Sole Type: Clipless with clips
- Sole Material: Synthetic
- Upper Material: Mesh and synthetic
- Weight: 2.9 pounds
- Warranty: 1-Year
For the times you may find you have wet feet, the uppers are quick-drying, and you can remove the sock liner to aid with this.
With a guide price of around $80, these bicycle shoes with clips are a great way to get used to clipless pedals, considering you have all you need, and they do have plenty of compatibilities. The Venzo shoes may not be the best looking.
Or suitable for walking around too much, yet once you are on your bike, they can help improve your pedaling performance and be among the best clipless mountain bike shoes for anyone on a budget.
3. Venzo Mountain Bike Bicycle Cycling Compatible with Shimano SPD Shoes + Multi-Use Pedals
Venzo shoes come from the same factory, which makes Shimano shoes, so there are no worries the factory doesn’t have a good understanding. The multi-use pedals here deliver the best of both options for anyone who wishes to get into clipless riding.
When sizing, the shoes come with a medium fit, so you need to be wary as the uppers are known to stretch a little, although the Velcro strap does offer lots of adjustment. The uppers are a fully synthetic material and can run a little warm on hot days, yet they remain comfortable.
Power efficiency is fantastic, and the shoes are suitable for casual walking or running with the flexible forefoot and the beveled heel section.
- Compatible with various pedals
- An affordable option for different riding types
- Comes with double-sided pedals
- Cleat screws can work loose
- Pedals can click while rotating
- Shimano cleats not supplied
- Sole Type: Clipless with cleats
- Sole Material: Synthetic
- Upper Material: Mesh and synthetic
- Weight: 2.8 pounds
- Warranty: 1-Year on shoes and pedals
The Venzo mountain biking shoes and pedals come with a rough guide price of around $60, currently offering a substantial saving.
Any rider who wishes to have a go at clipless riding or have a change from flats can get all they need with the included pedals and cleats. You will find there is no worry of build quality, and if there are problems, they do come with a one-year warranty for the shoes themselves and the pedals. (Read How To Break In Birkenstocks With Water)
Any rider who needs to keep their feet firmly on the pedals can do so at a fraction of the cost compared to some of the best clipless names in the mountain bike shoe industry.
4. Gavin MTB Mountain Bike Mesh Indoor Fitness Cycling Shoes Mens Womens SP
Many mountain bike shoes are only suitable for trail riding. The Gavin shoe delivers a pair of women’s mountain bike shoes as they are versatile, and you can take them indoors for a cycling class, as well as hitting the trails or the roads.
The shoe is based on a road shoe, so there is lots of flexibility, yet the fiberglass injected nylon soles deliver maximum power transfer from the feet to the pedals.
Comfort comes from the perforated insole, allowing for breathability and fast-drying during heavy sessions or hot days. Added to this is the notch in the tongue to deliver plenty of freedom of movement in the ankle.
- Suitable for indoor cycling
- Stiff fiberglass sole for max power transfer
- Breathable uppers
- Quick-drying insoles
- Sizing can run small
- Soles may be too hard for some riders
- Sole Type: Clipless with cleats
- Sole Material: Nylon and fiberglass
- Upper Material: Synthetic and mesh
- Weight: 2 pounds
With a guide price coming in close to the $65 mark, the clip-in biking shoes are affordable without too much compromise on quality. The cleats and sole are compatible with SPD, MTB, and Crank Brothers pedals, so there are no restrictions for pedal choice.
With a quick-release hook and loop fasting, they are easy to slip on or off, and you can easily adjust for added comfort and mobility.
Like many MTB shoes that offer mesh uppers, these can easily become wet when crossing streams, yet there won’t be any discomfort thanks to the fast-drying capabilities and the design of the insole.
Any bike rider who wants a versatile shoe may not need to look much further than this affordable option from Gavin.
5. ZOL Predator MTB Mountain Bike and Indoor Cycling Shoe
Last on the list delivers another versatile set of men’s mountain biking shoes that is suitable for spinning classes and various bike riding activities.
A stitchless upper adds to the comfort, and the shoes come with a host of rapid drying features. Mesh panels are conveniently located, and the design of the perforated insole allows for lots of breathability and water drainage if you should get wet feet.
Unlike many shoes, you can walk around in these with the built-up heel section. Power transfer is among the best you can get by using the popular nylon injected with fiberglass sole. For longer rides, you will steel feel comfortable than fighting the sole’s stiffness as in other options.
There is lots of compatibility with SPD, Crank Brothers, and MTB shoe pedals. One drawback is, there are no included clips, so you will need to be sure you purchase the correct ones.
- Hook and loop fastening
- No stitch construction
- Breathable uppers and insole
- Narrow toe box
- Minimal arch support
- Comes without clips
- Sole Type: Clipless with cleats
- Sole Material: Nylon injected with fiberglass
- Upper Material: Synthetic, mesh and leather
- Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Warranty: One Year
The Zol Predator has a guide of just over $60, so they fall in line with many other affordable options, yet they deliver more comfort and performance. The most significant difference being the lack of clips.
No matter what kind of riding you do, there are many comfort features built-in, and with the one-year warranty, you are sure that you have plenty of comebacks should the worst happen.
However, the Zol-MTB shoes are durable and are made to take a few knocks before anything goes drastically wrong with them.
What to Look for When Buying Mountain Bike Shoes
When looking at the best MTB shoes to meet all your needs, you quickly find it is nothing like buying a regular pair of shoes.
There are many things to consider, and the first hurdle you need to get over is the basic design. Do you want to use clipless pedals, or do you want to wear flats?
While there is no right or wrong answer, it will depend on your preference and the level of riding you are doing.
Here, we look at everything you need to know to make the ideal purchasing decision for the types of riding you will be doing.
Classes of Mountain Nike Shoes
Cross-Country Shoes: Shoes, intended for cross country riding, focus on covering more distance with as much ease as possible. These will be longer rides than action-packed routes.
XC shoes are usually very light, have a stiff sole for maximum power to pedal transfer, and have a good snug fit for afoot to pedal connection. You tend to find the majority of this shoe type are clipless. Because this kind of riding isn’t as demanding as, say, downhill, they offer less protection than shoes you use to cross rough terrain.
You tend to find that these are not the ideal shoes for doing so if you need to walk around. Their primary focus is to enable you to pedal with the most efficiency and power.
All-Mountain Shoes: Once you start to look at the best mountain biking shoes for all-mountain, or enduro styles of riding, you have choices of clipless and flats.
What you will be after are shoes that are versatile and comfortable on climbs. Shoes also have to deliver plenty of protection for descents. In the case of flats, you need soles that can grip the pedals and offer stiffness for high levels of power being transferred to the pedals.
When you look at brands for flats, there is a trend because individual company’s stand out above others.
Downhill Shoes: If you are into downhill riding, you will see you start to require biking shoes that offer protection and shoes, including shock absorption underfoot, such as the Chamber II. There will be plenty of cushioning and protection in all areas from the toebox, collars, along with thicker outsole and midsoles.
Some models even come with over the ankle for the ultimate defense. Yet you do lose lots of versatility in this design.
In this section, you tend to find the flat shoe is the go-to design because there is not much focus on pedaling efficiency, and it can be hard to do any tricks while your feet are connected to your pedals.
One of the first things you need to decide on will be if you are going for clipless shoes or flats.
With clipless designs, you will clip the shoes directly to the pedals using metal cleats. While you can find these sold separately, there are many shoes, which come with these and pedals as an inclusion. This saves any confusion, and you can begin riding after changing your pedals to the ones supplied.
The most significant advantage of this design is it allows for perfect pedal efficiency. Hence the reason clipless is most often found for XC and biking over a longer distance. Another advantage being your feet will remain on the pedals if you hit an unsuspecting bump.
The downsides of clipless pedal shoes are it takes some practice to be used to them. It is a strange feeling when you can’t instantly place your feet on the ground.
For beginners, these are not often the first choice of shoe design and tend to be for people coming from a road riding background.
Once you use flat pedal shoes, you will see these are only suitable for platform pedals because of their flat soles. You may think these are just for beginners, yet they are used by experts and those who enjoy free riding. Flats offer a rapid escape if you need to bail.
Generally, you do lose some connection with your pedals, yet a few better-known brands are changing this, such as the Stealth Rubber soles on Five Tens shoes. Nevertheless, you will lose some of the power efficiency with any flat than you will have with clipless.
Other areas where flats often lack are the super-snug fit via a ratchet retention system.
Design of Pedals
Nowadays, there are not many issues with the design of pedals. The only difference being the switching of shoes between clipless and flat pedals, then pedals need changing.
Most clipless now come as being compatible with a wide range of pedal brands, and one of the more common being support for Shimano. MTB clipless pedals all share a two-bolt design for the cleats, and in most cases, you get these once you purchase a specific set of pedals.
Flats don’t come with any restrictions, and they are suitable for any platform pedal.
Power transfer and Sole Stiffness
Once you know how to ride a bike, you know how much pressure is on your feet as you try and apply pressure from climbing up an ascent. In your mountain bike shoes, the efficiency comes from the stiffness of the sole.
It also is a means of easing the pressure on the soles of your feet.
Some of the dedicated XC shoes can be hard to walk in, so these will be ride-only shoes. On the other hand, you have some budget-friendly options suitable for walking, yet these are designed more for downhill and riding trails.
You will find the stiffer the sole, the more expensive the shoe because they deliver a higher power transfer than other models. You will also find, the most rigid shoes are for the more serious racers who wish to gain an advantage over their competitors.
In the construction of a stiff sole, you find each manufacturer accomplishes this in various ways. Some use an inserted shank inside the midsole. And they do offer some comfort and the chance to walk with some flexibility.
Carbon fiber will be used in race-ready models, and this covers the full length of the shoe. Although you have maximum stiffness for power, you lose any comfort for walking.
The most comfortable fit comes from cheaper models that use thicker midsoles and rubber outsole, such as the ones you find in flats.
Outer Soles and Amount of Grip
Clipless pedal shoes don’t rely on the grip because you are fastened to the pedals. However, the outer sole does help you feel connected to the pedal, so there is still some consideration. Besides this, there are the times when peddling is unclipped, or you are scrambling to get your shoe clipped back onto the pedal.
Aside from this, if you want to walk around in clipless shoes. They do have to offer a decent sole which to walk on. Depending on where you are riding, you may need to walk across rougher terrain to get to your next riding point, so even clipless shoes need to deliver a decent amount of grip for slippery surfaces.
Flats, on the other hand, rely on grippy rubber for traction. While they offer walking around comfort, they must help your feet stick to your pedals Five Ten excel in this department, and it offers durability and is super sticky on pedals.
Other brands use a different rubber composition from some of the top rubber manufacturers. Michelin and Vibram rubber is used, yet neither lives up to the reputation of Five Ten.
Retention Systems or Laces?
If you check all the mountain bike shoes, you can see a broad range of devices for fastening or lacing up your shoes.
Flats generally use laces like more traditional sports shoes, but you need to be sure your ends won’t be caught in your chain or around your pedals if you take a tumble.
Clipless designs can usually be adjusted while wearing gloves, so these retention systems are easy to use and offer the chance to make minute adjustments.
You can see complicated-looking systems that use Boa Dials or ratchet designs, and some even come with the addition of Velcro straps and hook systems to keep everything in place.
Shoe weight may not be as crucial as in other sports, yet once you reduce weight, it does help to get the power down to your pedals. A second benefit being there is a reduction of fatigue over long rides.
Because weight isn’t such an important factor, you tend to see clipless shoes vary by a couple of ounces at best. Flats come in heavier, yet because most riders only cover shorter distances, there isn’t a significant concern about shoe weight.
Wet Weather Protection
When out bike riding, you can never guarantee what the weather will deliver. You can be in the sun, or once you hit mountain trails, you can face the worst weather conditions.
Shoes for riding bikes do need to perform in all weathers. Because of this, you can find most shoes do an excellent job of fending off too much water in the foot area. Uppers are often made from materials such as synthetic leather and come with DWR coatings.
It is possible to find shoes including over the ankle protection for winter riding, yet these lack the chance for your feet to breathe, move, and they are heavy.
Aside from this, it would help if you also were sure your shoes allow for lots of breathabilities. Flats especially come with mesh panels that allow feet to remain cool and allow for fast drying.
Toe and Foot Protection
Mountain biking can be one of the toughest sports there is. Out of all your mountain biking gear, your footwear can take the brunt of the bangs and knocks. Nearly every MTB shoes offer toe box protection with an integrated reinforced toe cap.
Shock absorption is another area, but it will depend on the riding you do. Shoes such as Specialized 2FO take great strides in this area, yet Five Ten still takes some beating in their range of shoes for flat pedals.
You may not consider walking when you are focusing on riding your bike. However, there are conditions where you may need to walk or wear your shoes for extended periods while off your bike.
You may be climbing over rocky parts before descending the side of a mountain, or you are away at a competition, and you need to work on your bike on one of the best bike repair stands.
If you find you are on foot, you need to be sure your shoes offer excellent arch support, or you will pay the price later. It is also possible to purchase insoles to achieve the same, yet you will need to check the fitting if you begin adding extra materials.
If you are about to start mountain biking and have studied all the best mountain bikes for beginners, you will want the best footwear to deliver the best experience.
You may be led to think the best mountain bike shoes are the most expensive, yet this isn’t the case, and it comes along with cheaper options that don’t always deliver.
In testing, we put all the above through their paces, and we found that the middle of the MTB shoe budget is where they will be aiming for the majority of users. This quickly led to one top pick of shoe that stands out as a worthy winner, and in this case, it was the Five Ten Men’s Freerider MTB Bike Shoes.
They are proven with all levels of trail riders, and no other shoe does as much for riders as what these can offer.
They are comfortable, stick to the pedals like glue with their renowned rubber sole, and have ample protection. The Five Ten enables riders to find the best shoe to walk around for hours if they have to and can do so without worrying about changing shoes.
Anyone who goes bike packing will find this flat pedal shoe a joy. They have enough stiffness to allow a decent amount of power to the pedals, and they are light enough not to make your legs feel the strain after a couple of hours of riding.
Five Ten shoes continue to lead the way, and the Five Ten Freerider is an excellent introduction to this brand and some of the best MTB shoes on the market.