What you wear on your feet can impact the quality and effectiveness of your mountain bike riding experience. Wearing a shoe that isn’t designed for mountain bike riding can leave you miserable and in pain. The best mountain bike shoes are practical and durable, making them a wise long-term investment.
It’s true you could potentially wear any type of shoe, but if you’re training and riding regularly, you’ll want a shoe that is efficient while also providing comfort.
How to Choose The Best Mountain Bike Shoe (Buyer’s Guide)
The best mountain bike shoes will have a sole similar to a hiking boot, in that they’re rugged and slightly flexible. This gives the rider traction and comfort when walking on rocky terrain.
For wet and snowy weather, a mountain bike shoe would handle the conditions better, while keeping your ride comfortable and dry.
Road Bike Shoes vs. Mountain Bike Shoes
A road shoe generally has a stiff sole for efficiency, but is very uncomfortable to walk in. They are meant for flat terrain and dryer weather conditions. Mountain bike shoe sizing will vary between brands.
This isn’t just in the length as there can be variations in the toe-boxes and mid-foot region. Women will need to convert their size over to a men’s. For example, a women’s size 7 is a 5.5 in men’s.
Flat vs. Clipless
This area can be a bit confusing as neither shoe uses a clip to lock the shoe in place. Flats work with flat pedals that use a series of pins to help keep your foot in place. These shoes generally have a soft and sticky sole, allowing for a better grip on the pedal. A flat pedal shoe is likely to be stiffer than a tennis shoe while providing more cushion and padding for comfort.
Clipless pedals have a recessed area for a cleat to fit into it, creating a better bond between the shoe and the pedal. The best clipless mountain bike shoes come with multiple cleats on the sole so you can lock your foot in a position that fits your style. These shoes are well ventilated which is ideal for warm weather riding, but can leave your toes frozen in the colder months.
Buying guide from Global Cycling Network
It's very helpful though it's titled choosing cycling shoes but there is in-depth details on how to choose the right mountain bike shoes comparing to generic cycling shoes.
Criteria for Finding the Best Mountain Bike Shoes
Whether you’re purchasing flats or trying to find the best clipless mountain bike shoes, there’s several important factors you need to take into consideration.
Comfort and Durability
Mountain bike shoes are stiff, which can increase pressure on the forefoot. For those who are vulnerable to pain, it’s important to pay attention to the insole. Ventilation and lightweight materials keep your feet cool while providing some flexibility.
While fiberglass is significantly stiffer, the molded plastic lugged outsole make it more difficult to walk in. For durability, you want a shoe that can withstand rocks, branches, mud, and water.
The tighter the shoe, the more power you’ll be able to transfer. The downside to this is it can restrict blood flow. A contoured heel cup and instep strap will help with stability and power transfer.
Traction and Walking
The best clipless mountain bike shoes and flats will be able to accomadate the terrain you’re riding. A carbon fiber reinforced shank is great for pedaling, and it’s comfortable to hang out in.
You can also read How to Choose the Best Mountain Bike Shoes (From singletracks.com)
Best Mountain Bike Shoes Review
To determine the best mountain bike shoes for you, we’ve spent countless hours riding and testing dozens of different shoes based on these criteria. We put them through rigorous tests while riding them for thousands of miles to find the best mountain bike shoes on the market today.
Which ones made it to the top of the list? Here are our top seven picks of the best mountain bike shoes available.
Giro Rumble VR Cycling Shoe - Men's MTB Shoe
This Giro Rumble VR are high-quality mountain bike shoes for flat pedals. Designed to function on and off the bike, it’s a comfortable all-day shoe for bikers riding on gentler trails.
A molded EVA footbed and midsole provides cushioned support while the microfiber body and vented mesh provide comfort and breathability.
The inner shank transfers power while the sole has a shallow diamond pattern that provides grip on soft ground and the petal.
The Giro Rumble VR holds the heel to provide minimal heel lift while having a roomy toe box and thick padded tongue.
The sole has a decent grip and the vibram rubber provides optimal traction. Rumble VR is a forgiving shoe that hugs the foot without crowding or binding it.
While the sole and padded heal provide comfort, it also compromises power transfer.
If you’re riding on rough terrain, the toe box protection is slightly under-par compared to other mountain bike shoes for flat pedals.
Louis Garneau Women's Multi Air Flex | Best Mountain Bike Shoe For Women
Its outsole is also rigid for efficient pedaling while the HRS-80 assists in a powerful pedal stroke. The entire shoe is well ventilated and has Velcro as opposed to laces.
These women's mountain bike shoes are great for spin classes or riding the trails.
The ventilation system is top-notch for comfort and breathability, while also providing a secure fit.
For evening and night riding, the reflective heal is a nice addition that makes you more visible.
Mountain bike shoe sizing can vary, and in this case the shoes run on the smaller size.
We recommend ordering one size larger than normal. The toe box is slightly narrow, and you need to order the clip separately.
Pearl iZUMi Women's MTB Cycling Shoe
The Pear iZUMi is a lightweight shoe with a nylon and composite fiber plate for durability.
It also removes pressure from your instep with a three strap anatomic closure.
The Pearl iZUMi womens mountain bike shoes are durable and sturdy.
The design helps you to use your leg correctly when pedaling and transfers power appropriately.
Whether you’re new to the sport or a veteran, these mountain bike shoes provide the right support and power transfer.
The mountain bike shoe sizing runs on the smaller end and the front is designed on the narrow side.
Be careful about ordering to large of a size as this can lead to the heal slipping.
Five Ten Freerider EPS Men's MTB Shoes | Best Mountain Shoes for Flat Pedals
The construction of the shoe helps prevent the outdoor elements from entering while providing the essentials of comfort, durability, and power transfer.
The added protection keeps your feet much drier than other mens mountain bike shoes.
With the addition of the PrimaLoft, the parts that get wet dry quicker and reduce the chance of musty aromas.
They’re decent mountain bike shoes for flat pedals that offer an optimal grip and wear resistance when riding.
While the shoe is available in a low and mid-top, the low-top doesn’t protect your foot from getting wet well.
The mid-top doesn’t provide good mobility and is lacking in tread when walking on snow and ice.
Shimano Men's Mountain/Sport SPD Cycling Shoes | Best Clipless MTB Shoes for Beginners
These mens mountain bike shoes are ideal for off-road riding and first time trail riders. The high traction rubber outsole with a rigid midsole plate provides comfort, along with optimal pedal efficiency.
Built to be tough and snug, the Shimano SPD Cycling shoes are breathable while supporting a wide range of foot shapes. The toe box has extra space, and the flat insole is lightweight and comfortable.
These are the best clipless mountain bike shoes for beginners on the market.
The shoe is durable and leak-proof, while being easy to adjust to your foot size due to the Velcro straps.
The Shimano SPD comes in wide sizes, which are difficult to find, and the hard plastic soles make walking easier.
Don’t use standard mountain bike shoe sizing charts as you’ll most likely find yourself with too small of a size.
The shoes also don’t come with cleat nuts as they need to be purchased separately.
Shimano Women's SH-WM53 MTB Shoes
The Shimano Women's SH-WM53 shoes a great pair to pick up if you’re new to XC racing and off-road biking. They come equipped with polyurethane outsole lugs, which provide an excellent pedal grip.
This mud-shredding shoe provides optimal traction on steep sections that require you to either walk or run up them.
The sole of the shoe is made with a fiberglass-reinforced nylon, and it has a stretch-resistant synthetic leather and mesh upper for breathability
The shoe is very comfortable and is great for spinning.
The Shimano clipless pedals and cleats are easy to install and fit great with the shoe.
This is a great mountain bike shoe for newbies and veterans.
The sizing can be off depending on your foot structure, and the toe-box felt a bit too roomy.
After riding for a bit, the toe-box wasn’t as large as it seemed at first.
Giro Empire VR90 | Men’s Mountain Bike Shoes
The Giro Empire VR90 come with laces on a top-end XC shoe that are different from standard laces.
This shoe is rated as the best mountain bike shoes on the market, and they live up to their reputation.
The base has an Easton carbon fiber EC90 sole that is stiff and lightweight for comfort and traction.
This mountain bike shoes come with three different inserts and won’t stretch out over time. A Mont outsole is layered over the carbon to make walking easier while also protecting the carbon.
It offer a great sole grip and are built to be long-lasting.
The laces provide a uniform support and the shoe itself is very lightweight.
This mountain bike shoe is an optimal choice if you’re looking for slim fit.
It's a narrow shoe. The sizing differs from standard size charts.
Be sure to learn how to lace them correctly or the elastic strap can break.
You also want to make sure there is little movement on the pedal as this can make your riding difficult and tiresome. A durable shoe that can withstand the elements while providing comfort will create a more enjoyable riding experience. These are the qualities you want to look for when choosing the best mountain bike shoes for you.