Finding the Best Mountain Bike Shoes – A Buyer’s Guide

The shoes are without doubt the most ill-treated clothing during mountain biking. They have to face sun, rain, snow, rocks, mud, etc. MTB shoes protect your feet from all possible dangerous situations. Just because they suffer a lot, they must be carefully chosen.

Before you buy them you will need to make an argument and understand what mountain biking are you going to address and what type of shoes are appropriate for that practice.
Below are some tips and suggestions to guide you in choosing and a list of some models of shoes covering the range of products that the market offers.

As you know well, the practice of mountain biking is always restless and on the move. New disciplines are born every two to three years. Companies need to keep pace with the times and adapt to the market, the bikes continue to evolve with new components and new geometries.

Even clothing undergoes constant improvements and changes. Returning to the subject of our discussion, the MTB shoes adapt to this trend, and from year to year change: companies diversify their products according to requirements and disciplines chosen by bikers and why choosing the right shoe becomes more complex.

Clipless or Flat Pedals?

If you use the bike for a while you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you do not know, I’ll explain it. There are primarily two types of pedals for mountain bikes – those with the clipless system (SPD and Crankbrothers are the best known) allows the foot to stay attached to the pedal to increase the performance of pedaling and prevent slipping during wet or damp conditions.

The flat pedals do not have any of the foot attachment system that is free to move, except for the presence of some pin that increases the grip between the shoe and pedal.

The choice between the former and the latter is also conditioned by the discipline that takes practice. Generally in the most “rides” such as the Cross Country disciplines, pedals with the coupling are used while in gravity disciplines, the use of flat is more common. If your trips are almost exclusively on easy terrain and rarely come down to push the bike, we recommend the clipless system.

Once you get used to it, you’ll never go back. If you often face mountains and very technical descents, where you need to push the bike and  you must consider whether the stiffness of a MTB shoe with the hooks does not make you suffer too much or the psychological security of a free foot allows you to deal the technical sections with more courage. If so, you can think of using flat pedals .

MTB Shoes – Features to Look for

Well, you decide whether to use flat pedals or clipless pedals. Even if your choice fell on the first, do not go mountain biking with sneakers or loafers … let’s leave them for those who ride a bike to work or in town! MTB shoes must have certain features which ensure security, stability, comfort and performance. Let us briefly what are the main features to consider in a mountain bike shoe –

  • Rigidity

The main feature that improves efficiency in pedaling. A stiff sole allows to pedal with more power and keeps the foot stable. The downside is the loss of comfort – laying the ball of the foot on a hard surface reduces the convenience especially if you bike for many hours.

There are carbon fiber soles that are rigid but are only suitable for those who plan to devote themselves to competition. Finding the right balance between rigidity and comfort is essential for those who want to cycle for hours and maybe even occasionally do some walking, in which case you can not ignore the rubber sole.

  • Grip

Especially in downhill and in humid conditions, it is essential to have a good grip on the pedal but above all on the ground when you are forced to dismount. Having tessellated soles and having a compound not too stiff especially helps a lot.

  • Comfort

The first thing you are looking for in a MTB shoe is comfort! If you keep wearing for hours, you do not want problems. To improve this characteristic, the soles of some shoes is made of microporous material EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), and some use the VIBRAM technology to absorb shock.

  • Firmness

An MTB shoe must remain well anchored to the foot and for this purpose the closure is decisive: even in this field there are numerous alternatives. The best solution for athletes is that represented by micrometric levers or the BOA system with circular ratchet. The velcro associated with the laces are in my opinion the most practical and suitable for casual bikers.

  • Waterproofing and Breathability

Often waterproofing and breathability are in conflict as it is hard to find materials that do pass air but not water. The foot needs to breathe but it stays dry. The GORETEX combines these two qualities, waterproof and breathable, so the shoes made with this material are ideal. What’s the downside? The cost.

  • Visibility

A secondary feature in a MTB shoe is visibility. Maybe so, but you sometimes have to bike through a dark tunnel or maybe do asphalt roads in the evening. In this case any reflective insert or high visibility color is useful!

What kind of a Biker are you

Tell me what kind of a bikers you are and I’ll tell you what shoes to use.

These few words could sum up my thoughts on the choice of MTB shoes. As I said, talk about mountain biking in general is becoming more difficult: if we were to consider the different disciplines, including Cross Country, All Mountain, Enduro, Freeride, Downhill, you run the risk of getting lost. Personally I do not despise the Cross Country but I am a All Mountain biker who occasionally dabbles with Enduro. So, doing the math, if I had to buy a pair of shoes for each discipline, I’d be bankrupt!

Bikers can be divided into 3 categories –

  • Beginner

You have just started to ride a bike on a Sunday. You pedal mainly on dirt roads or easy trails and not to overlook some biking on asphalt. The shoe for you to be comfortable and breathable. The shoe must be comfortable enough to walk a few steps to see a scenic spot.

Forget carbon soles or pawl for closing, look for natural rubber outsole with EVA structure if you plan to use your shoes especially for off-road. Velcro staps, if you have some extra money to spend. If you bike in winter you could do a little thought to a GoreTex shoe.

  • Advanced

You have been mountain biking for fun for years. You are an expert. You like challenges and the mountains; the paths do not scare you, no matter how rough and steep they are. A semi-rigid sole rubber with well marked tessellation, Velcro fastener or ratchet to keep the foot firm.

If you can afford it, buy a shoe with Vibram outsole and EVA structure, perhaps made with GORETEX . As mentioned, the market is very vast and caters for all needs. For “big feet” there are special models of MTB shoes. If you bike in evening, go for a high visibility color while the cold lovers can choose the models specially made for winter. These are just some examples of mountain bike shoes for those with special needs. Doing a search online you will find many more.

  • Active Competitor

If you like to participate in some races of marathon or XC. You are subscribed to a company, go out to train and rarely think to stop, you fall under this category.

You need the best possible shoes that meet our needs on the field. Go for a hard shoe that guarantees excellent performance even if you lose a bit of comfort . You could go for a carbon sole with closing ratchet better wrap the foot. No matter if the tessellation of the sole is minimal as you will rarely use the MTB shoes for walking.

If you grind kilometers in winter, you might consider buying a pair of winter shoes.

Top Mountain Biking Shoes in 2018

The shoes that you find below are some of the hundreds available on the market so if you can not find the right mix for you, do not hesitate to make a more thorough search.

Most of the shoes mentioned below are sold online at stores like Amazon or Chain Reaction. I suggest you to check offers on Amazon due to the availability of discounts throughout the years. That said, let’s get to the MTB shoes.

Biking Shoes for Beginners

Moving on to the quieter category, one that loves the outputs simple and relaxed mountain bike, the bike riders.

  • Giro Carbide

A good compromise between rigidity and comfort without getting too heavy. The Giro Carbide are suitable for those who love offroad tours.

The closure between bands tear is convenient as well as from synthetic leather uppers, the nylon sole is rather stiff, while the rubber outsole incorporates an intermediate tessellation that allows you to walk for a bit if there is a need . The EVA footbed increases the comfort of the foot.

  • Diadora X-Trivex

Diadora X-Trivex also has a shoe that makes compromise its strong weapon. Comfortable and wearable at the top, rigid and aggressive at the bottom.

As good as the Giro Carbide, this is a shoe that is fine for those who get off the bike a few times and do not walk too many kilometers on foot. Closure with three Velcro strings, soft and stable, EVA footbed and composite sole with intermediate tessellation.

  • Five Ten – Maltese Falcon Ravens Eye

For those who want a more youthful and “wearable” biking shoe, the Five Ten is definitely the go to choice although it is often oriented to the Gravity and Dirt disciplines.

The Maltese Falcon Ravens Eye shoes are a good compromise between comfort and usability without looking like a running shoe. The closure is made with laces and a Velcro to increase firmness, the upper is made of synthetic leather and the sole is made in material specially selected to allow both the right stiffness that a great shock absorption in case of long walks.

Biking Shoes for Advanced Riders


These shoes are elegant and comfortable at the same time. Suitable for those who walk a lot and have a lot of traction when you dismount. The is perfect shoes are suitable for those who prefer the flat pedals and who prefer those with fast release. They are decently priced too. 

  • Mavic Crossride Sl Elite Shoes

Mavic has made great strides in recent years in the production of footwear dedicated to mountain biking. I am a happy owner of the Alpine model, but the model that I propose here is more extreme.

Just see it to understand that it is also designed for those who love adventure mountain bike: it is a high boot to protect the ankle in the mountains, with fully waterproof Gore-Tex construction. The outsole Contagrip is equipped with high tessellation and obvious for an excellent grip even on smooth and slippery terrain while the closure is provided with four Velcro straps. 

The same company we used for years a pair of All-Mountain MTB shoes here is the review of CrossoRide Elite Mavic

  • Shimano SH-XC31L

The SH-XC31L MTB shoes have a quality product that is great for those who love touring by mountain bike, even on challenging tracks.

The upper is made of leather with a Gore-Tex lining for excellent breathability. The closure with classic laces and a single Velcro to protect the ankle. The sole is nylon with marked tessellation improves comfort.

Biking Shoes for Competitors

We start from the top-performing models and rigid, suitable for those who love racing.

  • Shimano SH-XC90LE Custom Fit MTB Shoes

Very stiff and light, comes in two versions: the “Carbon” with carbon sole and the classic version soled nylon and fiberglass.

Both models feature a Knobby but reduced to the essential to limit clutter. At the bottom of the front there are two removable studs to improve grip in muddy conditions and some rubber sleeves protect the carcass on the toe and heel.

  • Northwave Extreme Tech MTB Plus

Northwave presents the Extreme Tech MTB Plus. It is a high-end model that tackles demanding terrain with ease. It has ultrathin carbon Vibram sole with studs and BOA closure system. Everything has been designed to reduce weight and maintain comfort. Do not expect this shoe to do something it was not designed for – tessellation of the sole is minimal. Great for those who never hop(or almost) off the saddle!

  • Sidi Drako Carbon SRS Paint

We complete the list with one of the most famous companies in the world. The top model of Sidi range has features similar to the shoes already listed above. Extremely rigid carbon sole with a few rubber blocks, lightweight upper reinforced heel and toe, BOA closing system.

There is an adjustable retention system in heel to tighten or widen the shoe in that area and have a greater firmness. Overall, a great purchase for competitive bikers.

Robert Flaherty

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