When you are out on the trails mountain bike riding, you want to have equipment and gear that is reliable. You also want it to fit and provide a comfortable ride.
Remember–this no such thing as bad conditions–only bad gear!
And when it comes to mountain bike riding, the conditions can put your gear to the test. But hey…that’s why we ride. Mountain bike riding challenges us through many obstacles.
One of the most critical types of gear for a mountain bike rider is mountain bike shoes. The right shoes can provide an incredible ride. But the wrong shoes can give the exact opposite.
That’s because your shoes are what bridges the gap between you and your bike. They transfer power, and they have a direct impact on your comfort level. And as most riders understand–the more comfortable you feel, the longer you can ride.
So with that, let’s first learn how to choose the best mountain bike shoes for YOU. Afterward, we will list the top 10 mountain bike shoes in 2018.
This guide will help you determine the best mountain bike shoes for you and your riding style. So let’s find a shoe, and let’s get to riding!
How to Choose the Best Mountain Bike Shoes
Finding the right mountain bike can be a long process, I know. But fortunately, that’s the hard part. Once you have your bike picking out the rest of the gear becomes MUCH simpler. So, lucky for you, finding the best mountain bike shoes shouldn’t take too much time. Especially since you stumbled upon this guide.
So, keep reading and learn how to choose the best mountain bike shoes for you. We will start with pedal compatibility.
- Pedal Compatibility
First, what pedal type do you have or want? Your bike will come with either flat pedals or clip pedals. Riders change out their pedals all the time. Not sure what the differences are? Let’s discuss both.
- Flat Pedal Shoe
A flat pedal shoe works with a flat pedal. This pedal type is just that…FLAT. So there are technically no special shoes required. The pedal is usually aluminum and will have pins built into it to make your foot grip better.
So why buy flat pedal shoes?
The answer: they make a significant difference in comfort and how well your foot grips. No one wants their feet slipping while pedaling.
The point: if you decide on flat pedals, use a flat shoe.
- Clipless Pedal Shoe
The second type of pedal shoes is a Clipless one. Clipless pedals go with clipless shoes.
What makes clipless pedal shoes different from flat pedal shoes?
Well, unlike flat pedal shoes, clipless shoes actually attach to the pedal. This provides a more stable and secure ride. A cleat screws into the shoe so it can connect to the pedal.
IMPORTANT: cleats do not come with the shoes…they come with the PEDALS. But here’s the good news: the holes in the mountain bike shoes are industry standard. So unless you buy some unknown shoe from some unknown brand, chances are, your shoes and pedals will attach with no problem.
Okay, so you may be thinking, “If the pedals attach to the shoe, why are they called CLIPLESS? Don’t they technically CLIP into the pedal?”
Well, once upon a time ago cycling shoes clipped into the pedals. So, the shoe and pedal became a permanent fixture. The problem was if you lost your balance there was no way to put your foot down. You couldn’t catch your fall. As you can imagine, you not only fell, bike the entire bike came tumbling down with you.
It wasn’t pleasant, trust me I know, I had the road rash to prove it.
So with that, the industry released what they called a “clipless shoe.” The shoes no longer use “clips” but use “cleats” instead. This allows your foot to pop on and off without manual adjustments.
You get the extra power from your foot connected to the pedal; however, you still have the convenience of quickly removing your feet as needed.
So now that you have a basic understanding of the two…which one is best for you? Keep reading an find out.
- Which One Is Best for Me?
Determining the best clip for your riding style should be based on your personal preference. But here’s what I can tell you–most riders eventually switch to a clipless shoe.
So, if you’re a beginner, you may want to use a flat pedal for a while until you get the hang of riding trails. It will feel more natural taking your foot on and off the pedal. You can then switch to a clipless shoe when you feel comfortable.
When you switch over, you have an increase in power. A clipless shoe does so because you can now pull up on the pedal as well as push down. That’s versus the flat pedal where you can only push down because there’s nothing attached to your shoe while pedaling up.
However, you can dive right into a clipless shoe if you like. That’s more my style. Just giving it a go and figuring it out along the way.
But what’s most important is getting out and riding. You don’t want a shoe to disrupt your confidence and prevent you from hitting the trails. Find a shoe that makes you most comfortable and get to riding.
You will find that each shoe sizes differently. Some shoes are roomy, and some are narrow. Some shoes are cushioned, and some are firm. Some shoes use US sizing, and some use European. So, it’s essential to read up on the sizing details.
What I recommend is once you have chosen the best shoe, check out its user reviews. For example, if a shoe sizes small, you will notice a pattern in the reviews. Customers will say “order half-size smaller” or other similar comments.
Also, use a place where the return process is easy. I prefer using Amazon or going to a local cycling store. Both outlets make the return process hassle-free.
If you do go another route, determine their return policy and where they ship from. You don’t want to order an Italian mountain bike shoe from Italy if you are unsure of sizing. This could significantly extend the time it takes to get the right shoes at your doorstep. So be careful where you buy them.
- Closure Style
Another aspect to consider when choosing mountain bike shoes is the closure style. As you will notice, shoes have different variations of laces, straps, and buckles. Let’s briefly discuss each, so you know what to look for.
- Shoe Laces
Different shoes have different size laces. Be sure to get a pair that you can tuck away. This will prevent your laces from getting caught in the chain and sprocket.
When choosing a shoe online, view the different angle pictures and determine if there’s a method to hide the laces. For example, the shoe may also have a Velcro strap on top.
Remember–laces are not readily adjustable and absorb water. However, they are the most reliable.
- Velcro Style Straps
Straps are quick and convenient. They make adjustments fast and easy, even in wet conditions. You will typically find either 2 or 3 Velcro-style straps which help tailor to a customized fit.
A strap does not stretch like laces do. But their convenience tends to outweigh their flexibility. Some shoes will also have a strap+lace combination. This makes tucking away the laces extremely effective.
- Notched Style Buckle Straps
The buckle straps prove to be a favorite for experienced riders. Riders who prefer more security lean towards this style as well.
Yes, buckles tend to be a bit stiffer; however, they provide a firm and powerful ride.
Find a price point that is best for you. Different shoes come in a variety of quality and fit differently. But here’s the good news: every style of shoe tends to have different price ranges.
So, first, determine the type of shoe that’s best for you, and then find a price point that fits in your budget.
The 10 Best Mountain Bike Shoes in 2018 – Reviews and Comparison
1. Five Ten MTB Bike Shoes – Best Choice for Grip
If you are looking for mountain bike shoes with amazing grip, then give the Five Ten MTB a try. Being a flat pedal shoe type, they are highly effective at keeping your foot on the pedal while riding. This provides more confidence while riding so you can hit more technical trails. It grips so well because of it’s Stealth S1 Rubber Outsole built with their signature classic Dotty tread. Feel free to hit a few jumps or ride down a rooty decent without the worry of your feet falling off.
This mountain bike shoe is super comfortable and supportive too. Your feet will feel good even after riding long days on the trails. The suede and mesh upper help your feet to breath. It’s users love this shoe for their excellent durability. They are easy to take on and off through a basic lacing system.
- Excellent grip keeps your feet on the pedals when riding bumpy terrain.
- Firm and supportive fit promotes a more powerful pedal.
- Stylish with many color options available.
- Super comfortable for long days on the trails.
- Works like a basic shoe–nice and simple.
- Feels stiff when walking in them.
- Made for flat pedals, so your foot still has the chance to fall off.
2. Giro Terraduro Mid – Best Choice for A Secure Fit
The Giro Terraduro Mid makes for an incredibly secure fit. I say this because not only is it a clipless shoe, but it implements and lace+strap lacing system. So not only do you have the security of the clip plate and the laces; but there’s a Velcro strap to tuck the laces away. This way you don’t have to worry about getting caught in the sprocket.
The adjustable straps also help you find the perfect fit. As you may know, your foot expands during riding. With this shoe, you can make a quick adjustment and get back to riding fast. Users love this mountain bike shoe for its combination of comfort and power and how solid the connection is to the pedals.
- Excellent power transfer for fast riders.
- Adjustable strap for the best fit possible.
- Cleat plates perform well providing excellent security when riding on technical terrain.
- An extremely durable outer sole and arch support so you will get your money’s worth.
- They run small and come in European sizes. This makes sizing an issue for some.
3. Sidi Sd15 – Best Choice for Durability
Take one look at the Sidi Sd15, and it screams DURABILITY. Just one look at its grippy rubber soles and solid closures and you know they will last. They are a high-quality mountain bike shoes imported from Italy. Its design is best for a narrow foot through it’s sleek and slim shape.
If you are looking for a highly durable product that still remains environmentally friendly, then this may be the mountain bike shoe for you. Sidi uses a Politex material to achieve this. One of it’s best features is the flip-up lever. This level is used to make adjusting size convenient. You can tighten the fit and use its two-button release to loosen. As you can image, this makes adjusting the shoe while riding a nice and simple process.
In regards to the bottom of the shoe, you will find a robust lugged design which is excellent for extra traction on the ground. It’s a clipless shoe, so your foot fastens securely to the bike. It’s users praise these shoes for being able to walk in them without slipping or being too stiff.
- Made durable so they will last for many years.
- Two-button latch systems make fit adjustments super easy.
- Maintenance is easy and straightforward.
- Excellent traction for walking around when need be.
- High-quality shoe from Italy.
- Higher price compared to other mountain bike shoes.
4. Shimano Unisex SH-ME7 Black Sneaker – Best Choice for Comfort
Do you ever go for a long ride and get small debris like pebbles and dirt in your mountain bike shoes? Sure, it can be a minor nuisance, but if you are riding for a long time, this small issue can turn into a BIG distraction. Well, the Shimano Unisex SH-ME7 Black Sneaker does a fantastic job at solving this problem. It comes with a spandex achilles gaiter built into the upper section of the shoe. The gaiter sits well above the ankle keeping the inside of your shoe free of debris.
To continue with it’s added comfort, the closure system is a 3-in-1. Meaning there is a buckle, laces, and a Velcro strap. So not only does this provide an excellent fit, but adjusting size becomes increasingly convenient. They call it a “speed lace” system, and in my opinion, the best lacing system on the list. This is a clipless shoe compatible with two-bolt mountain bike cleats. It’s users love this mountain bike shoe for it’s lightweight and comfortable feel.
- The entire lacing system makes for a super comfortable and convenient ride.
- Laces covered with a Velcro strap to prevent them from coming undone.
- Breathable and lightweight
- Fit can feel unusual at first because of the gaiters
5. Pearl Izumi X-Project Pro 3.0 – Best Choice for Adjustability
If you like to spend the day both riding AND walking but are having trouble finding a mountain bike shoe to accommodate both, then give this shoe a try. It’s called the Pearl Izumi X-Project 3.0, and it’s users rave about how well you can walk in them.
This walkable clipless mountain bike shoe is built with a carbon sole. So the shoe is stable when riding but flexible for those who want to mix in a little hiking. They have excellent traction too. Their EVA foam heel is great for shock absorption, and their TPU lugs dig deep into the trails.
The best part…you can find them at an excellent price. It’s users praise this shoe for its BOA dials that precision to how well they fit.
- Three strap closure system promotes a snug yet breathable fit.
- Extremely durable for riding and hiking.
- Reflective design adds an extra layer of safety.
- Excellent traction and flexibility for walking.
- Fair price.
- Straps provide convenience but less flexibility of sizing. Unlike laces, straps can only pull so tight.
6. Gavin Mountain MTB Sneaker Style Cycling Shoe – Best for Shopping On A Budget
The simple design of the Gavin Mountain Mtb is one of the most practical mountain bike shoes on the market. Comfort and convenience is just the start. With their lace-up closure system, they provide excellent multi-purpose functionality. Clip in or not, you will experience the best of both worlds. Oh…and you will do so on a budget!
They are excellent for beginners, and “cozy” is how some riders describe their fit. It’s users praise this shoe for its excellent support at the sole and for their simple practicality. If you are looking for a multi-purpose mountain bike shoe without all the bells and whistles, then this is the shoe for you.
- Useable for both clipless pedals and flat pedals makes it an excellent first-time mountain bike riders.
- Lightweight and comfortable.
- Superior traction for hiking or using on flat pedals.
- Excellent pricing and functionality for shopping on a budget.
- Compatible with many cleats.
- Limited color options.
7. Scott Sports Elite – Best Choice for a Lightweight Ride
When you first put an eye on the Scott Sports Elite, you can’t help but notice their impressive design. The smooth black+orange color combination really gives them a sleek and smooth appearance. And they just don’t look pretty. They are also extremely lightweight and breathable too. That’s because their 3D nylon mesh is top quality. Now you have the best airflow possible for and cool and breezy ride.
The adjustments are superior. You’ll first find a hook-and-loop strap for the forefoot and an adjustable arch support insole. I know…comfort, comfort, comfort! On a side note, you can also pick up some pretty impressive Scott Sports biking gear to match. But of course, all this comfort does come at at cost. This mountain bike is one of the higher priced shoes on the list. But still, average for the serious mountain bike rider. It’s users love it’s flexible sole and stylish look. Plus, it’s made by Scott Sports, a leader in the mountain bike shoe industry.
- Higher price compared to others on the list, but an excellent price for the quality you receive.
- Top notch breathability, especially beneficial on hot summer days.
- A roomy yet snug fit to prevent heel slippage.
- Convenient and easy to use.
- Sleek and smooth style.
- May fit better for those with wider feet.
8. Mavic Crossmax Elite Mountain Bike Shoe
What’s so great about the Mavic Crossmax Elite Mountain Bike Shoe? Well…there are a lot of things. But I’d say the simplicity of the shoe is what makes it stand out the most. You get a whole bunch of elite features, but in a simple model that any rider at any level can use.
The wide laces and big lugs provide a tough and rugged fit. And the hook and loop lace system promote a comfortable and flexible experience. It’s undoubtedly a shoe you can jump off your bike with and have the flexibility to hike as well. It also comes in a variety of colors so you can find a color scheme that fits you best. Its users love it for how comfortable and lightweight they feel.
- Robust lugs provide excellent traction.
- Designed lightweight and stable for optimum pedaling power.
- Multiple color option so you can match your bike.
- Velcro loop system offers more comfort and an easier application.
- Some have had difficulty with the cleats.
9. Louis Garneau T-Flex 2Ls – Best Choice for Traction + Flexibility
The Louis Garneau T-Flex 2Ls is the real deal. POWER, EFFICIENCY, and AGGRESSIVE are the words that first come to mind when describing this shoe. If you are looking for a reliable mountain bike shoe built for tough climbs and technical trails, then you found the last shoe you’ll ever need. The MAXIMUM stiffness from this shoe through its Carbon T-Flex Power Blade provides the ultimate power transfer. And if traction is important to you, this shoe will not only help you in the thick mud, but it’s flexible too. That’s because it’s designed with a T-Flex dual-density outsole which means better traction and more flexibility. The combination is superior to most shoes on the market.
If you are a serious rider or are looking to become one, then this is the pair of mountain bike shoes for you. It’s users praise these shoes for how lightweight, breathable, and supportive they feel.
- T-Flex outsole provides superb traction and flexibility.
- Microfiber and mesh upper make them both breathable and waterproof. So, you don’t have to worry about carrying extra weight from water absorption.
- Reflective heel for extra visibility and safety.
- A visual display available for positioning your cleats.
- High price
10. SIDI Dominator 7 – Best Choice for A Snug Fit
The SIDI Dominator fits exceptionally snug through its buckle and strap closure system. There are two hook-and-loop straps and one caliper buckle to assure an excellent fit. No heel slippage with this shoe. You can even adjust them while cycling. This makes for a super convenient ride because you won’t lose any momentum from stopping to make adjustments. The price is steep, but, you get what you pay: excellent quality, an excellent fit, and a minimal environmental footprint. It’s users praise this shoe for its durability. I read one customer review who said they wore their last pair of SIDI mountain bike shoes for 17 years of riding! So, yes, they cost more upfront because of the company who makes them. But certainly, the best price for the long run. Or should I say the long RIDE?
- Amazing support for the ultimate transfer of energy.
- Reliable and built for longevity.
- They have the potential to be the last mountain bike shoe you’ll ever own due to their excellent quality and durability.
- High price
As you see, mountain bike shoes are diverse. There are different types in different styles with different features. So take your time, find a shoe that’s best for YOU, and take your mountain bike riding to the next level by doing so.