Evaluating Mountain Bike Shoes
In order to find the right kind of mountain bike shoe for you, you should look for what works for your comfort, as well as the type of bike you have – primarily, the types of pedals you use.
The outsole material of your shoe is important, especially if you aren’t using clip-in pedals. If the shoe has a slick material like plastic for the outsole, it won’t offer great traction. Fiberglass or rubber are far better options for grip and durability.
Also consider whether the shoes have lugs to increase control with the pedal. This can be great for a dedicated mountain bike rider. However, these types of soles don’t lend themselves well to any other type of sport – they are specifically meant for using with mountain bike pedals.
Because this sport relies on your feet to do most of the work, comfort and cushioning is extremely important. An injured foot, or just a fatigued foot, can make the sport a lot less enjoyable. You want your shoes to be breathable, with good supportive cushioning, and to fit very well. The cushioning should be specifically in the arch and the heel to keep the feet from getting sore.
Another thing to consider is if the shoe will withstand the elements. Mountain biking takes you through all sorts of terrain, and often in all sorts of weather. The shoes should be waterproof or water resistant, and tough enough to handle plenty of wear and tear. Be careful with waterproof shoes – they tend to not be as breathable. Instead, look for breathable shoes that have leakage protection to stop water from getting inside, unless you know that you’ll be biking in rain or very muddy environments regularly.
Also consider how much weight the shoe adds to your foot. The heavier the shoe is, the more your muscles have to work to pedal the bike. It may seem negligible, but the extra effort can cause you tire out sooner. You do want to find a good balance between durable materials that offer good support and traction, with lightweight construction. This is why shoe designers now use a synthetic rubber rather than true rubber, because rubber is a heavier material.
Finally, check out the way the shoe closes. Short laces are okay, but straps are safer because you don’t have to worry about laces getting caught in any part of the bike.
Related: Best Cycling Shoes
Types of Shoes for Mountain Biking
Another important thing to know when shopping for the right mountain bike shoe is to consider the type of shoe. There are different types of shoe for different types of mountain biking, so be sure you know what type of riding you want to do.
First keep in mind that there are both clip-in and clipless shoes. Some mountain bikes have a clip-in mechanism to keep your feet on the pedals. Others do not. Choose the shoe that works for your bike. Within those two general types, there are many other sub-types of mountain biking shoe.
- Flat pedal shoes are made for flat pedals, which need a shoe that has a very rigid, sticky sole to keep the rider on the pedal. However, the downside with these shoes is that they don’t tend to offer a lot of cushioning and support inside the shoe, so you’ll need to buy inserts.
- Clipless pedal shoes are made for downhill and cross-country riding. These have a very stiff sole with little to no flexibility, and aren’t great for using in any other situation.
- Cross-country biking shoes are light and streamlined for those who want professional characteristics in their mountain bike shoes. Because this shoe is thinner and lighter, they aren’t super durable over time.
- Downhill biking shoes are heavy-duty biking shoes meant for rough and tumble riding. These are also called gravity shoes, and they are made to protect your feet with thick material that is close to a mountain biking version of armor. While they aren’t as efficient for riding, because you are riding downhill, this isn’t usually an issue. And they tend to be easier to walk in than clipless pedal shoes.
Keep in mind that mountain bike shoes should fit very precisely. You shouldn’t have wiggle room, nor should you feel like your feet are being pinched. The type of shoe you choose isn’t as important as the fit when it comes down to finding the perfect shoe.
These 10 mountain bike shoes are fantastic for many different reasons, but which works for you will be based on what you need from a shoe, and where you are in your mountain biking. Here’s a quick summary of which shoe works best for what type of rider:
- Shimano SH-ME7 Multi-Condition Trail/Edurao SPD Cycling Shoes: Best high end shoe
- Giro Terraduro MTB Shoes: Best balance between biking and off-bike performance
- Shimano SHXC7R Shoe Men’s: Best for hobbyists
- Five Ten Men’s Freerider MTB Bike Shoes: Best all-around lightweight shoe
- Shimano Xc31 Mountain Bike Shoe: Best shoe for affordability
- Diamondback Men’s Trace Clipless Pedal Compatible Cycling Shoe: Best shoe for versatility
- Five Ten Men’s Impact VXI Bike Shoe: Best all-around shoe
- Giro Jacket MTB Shoes: Best for someone who has been wearing skate shoes to ride in up till now
- Five Ten Men’s Kestrel Cycling Shoe: Best for cold weather riding
- Shimano SH-M200L Men’s Mountain Bike Shoe: Best for downhill riding
Remember, it’s always a good idea to try on a mountain biking shoe to ensure that the fit is right. The fit is the most important thing to keep your foot comfortable, to keep you safe, and to make your ride awesome.