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Best Mountain Bike Shoes: Improve Grip, Traction, and Comfort

Race through trees, dirt, and downhill with these top mountain bike shoes

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BY Linsay Thomas , Scott Roepel / LAST UPDATED ON July 2, 2021

Mountain biking is thrilling, entertaining, and a great way to get outside and see nature. Whether you’re entering a race, riding for fun, or exploring new trails, you will need the right gear for the job. The proper mountain bike shoes will add more strength to your ride and increase your grip on the pedals. If you need a high-quality pair of mountain bike shoes, consider these for your next adventure.

Best Overall
Gavin Mountain Bike Cycling Shoe
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Summary
Summary
They are developed out of carbon fiber with increased durability and power. The mesh material keeps your feet cool.
Pros
Pros
The two-bolt cleats fit SPD, mountain bike, and eggbeater pedals. The lightweight perforated insole provides a comfortable ride and is quick to dry.
Cons
Cons
They may fit a little snuggly, so you might want to order one size larger. They can also be squeaky and loud.
Best Overall
Gavin Mountain Bike Cycling Shoe
Best Value
Gavin Off-Road Mountain Bike Shoes
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Summary
Summary

These MTB shoes are lightweight and cool and feature hook and loop straps. They are compatible with SPD and SPD-SL cleats. You will enjoy enhanced power transfer thanks to the stiff nylon fiberglass soles.

Pros
Pros

The shoes are ideal for both men and women. The white lines on the shoes glow in the dark, making you visible at night. Shimano’s multi-directional cleats work well with these shoes.

Cons
Cons

If you want to get the right shoe size, you must use an EU to U.S. shoe conversion chart. They provide very little protection against rain and mud.

Best Value
Gavin Off-Road Mountain Bike Shoes
Honorable Mention
Fizik M3B Uomo BOA Shoes
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Summary
Summary

These shoes are made in Italy and feature quality craftsmanship. The BOA closure system ensures they fit you perfectly. The skid plate improves stiffness for ultimate power transfer.

Pros
Pros

The shoes are created using kangaroo leather, nylon mesh, and microtex. They have carbon fiber outsoles that create a rigid pedaling platform with a small degree of flex.

Cons
Cons

They are not ideal for use in the summer, as your feet will get very hot. They are out of reach for most bikers, as they are expensive.

Honorable Mention
Fizik M3B Uomo BOA Shoes

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Benefits of Mountain Bike Shoes

  • Enhanced grip. Mountain bike shoes ensure that your hard work goes to good use. Every time your feet slip from the pedal, power is lost. These shoes are specially designed to provide the best grip on pedals. 
  • Protection. MTB shoes ensure your feet are not exposed and protect them even when they smash into a rock. Some shoes offer protection for the ankle and the toe box, keeping you on the trails for longer.
  • Better power transfer. Clipless mountain bike shoes have stiffer soles, lugged outsoles, and firm uppers. The stiff soles are more efficient at transferring power to the pedals. They prevent the loss of power with their stiffness. Stiff soles also reduce stress on your feet, which is very helpful during long rides or descents.
  • Great traction. The lugged outsoles of mountain bike shoes provide great traction. Since you'll get off the bike and walk at some point, the shoes ensure that you don't slip on steep and rocky terrain.

Types of Mountain Bike Shoes

Clipless Mountain Bike Shoes

These shoes are designed for better power transfer, more control, and more efficient climbing. A two-bolt cleat system and dual-sided pedals increase your chances of clipping in. The cleats attach the shoes to the pedals. You’re able to pull up on a pedal stroke, increasing pedaling efficiency. Clipless mountain bike shoes are divided into two categories: trail/enduro and cross country. Enduro shoes have heavy-duty uppers that withstand more rugged conditions, while cross country shoes are lightweight and have very stiff soles and minimal tread.

Flat Pedal Mountain Bike Shoes

These shoes have a skate-style look and a sticky rubber sole for improved grip on the pedals. The soles are of great help when you're walking on slippery or rocky terrain. Their firm midsoles provide a good pedaling platform and a little flex for comfortable walking. The shoes are used with flat pedals and some are studded to provide extra grip. The ride feels more fluid because your feet are not locked into the pedals. However, you'll have to put greater effort into climbs as your feet cannot pull up on the pedals.

Top Brands

Five Ten Footwear

This is a German manufacturer of trail hiking, mountain biking, and climbing shoes. It was founded in 1985 by Charles Cole and was originally an American brand. In October 2011, the company became one of the top climbing shoe manufacturers in the world. In November 2011, it was purchased by Adidas. Its headquarters are now located in Herzogenaurach, Germany. Get the Five Ten Men’s MTB Bike Shoes and find out why Five Ten shoes are so popular. 

Shimano

This company was established by Shozaburo Shimano back in 1921 as an ironworks company. It soon branched out and started manufacturing cycling components, rowing equipment, and fishing tackles. It is headquartered in Sakai, Japan and has 32 consolidated subsidiaries. While it is more popular for its bicycles, it also makes awesome mountain bike shoes like the Shimano Mountain Bike Shoes.

Louis Garneau

This company was founded by Louis Garneau in 1983. He had one goal—to design comfortably-fitting and high-quality cycling apparel that wasn't expensive. Garneau, a former Olympian, was tired of running in non-technical garments. The company produces bicycles, bike apparel, bike helmets, and bike shoes. Enhance your mountain biking experience with the Louis Garneau Women’s MTB Bike Shoes.

Best Mountain Bike Shoes Pricing

  • $50-$100: The shoes here have amazing features like grippy Vibram soles and reinforced toe boxes. They can tackle every type of trail and give you the technical advantage you need to climb that mountain or forge that trail.
  • $100-$200: No matter the weather or the conditions, these shoes offer good grip, stability, and quick-drying breathability. They are designed for comfort and feature durable leather uppers, powerful midsoles, and perforated, quick-drying insoles.

Key Features

Pedal Design

The best thing about using a new pair of shoes is that they will work with your existing bike pedals. However, make sure you don't frequently switch between clipless pedals and flat pedals. Clipless pedals come in different designs, from Crankbrothers' Eggbeaters to Shimano's SPD collection. All popular mountain bike clipless pedals have a two-bolt cleat design. This design usually works with all clipless shoes. There are also no compatibility concerns with flat-bottomed shoes and flat pedals. If you like to swap between clipless and flat pedals, you can replace the pedals yourself.

Stiffness and Power Transfer

A stiff sole is the defining feature of a mountain bike shoe because it allows you to put power on the pedals. Different mountain bike shoes are made with different levels of stiffness. People who compete in mountain bike events require very stiff shoes as they do a lot of pedaling. The rest of us need shoes with a well-balanced design that are ideal for mountain biking and walking. Shoes that are specifically designed for racing have strong materials like carbon fiber in their soles for maximum power transfer. Regular mountain biking shoes feature thick midsoles and rubber outsoles for rigidity and shock absorption.

Outsole and Grip

Outsole grip is a very important feature for flat pedal shoes. It ensures your feet stay on the pedals as you ride uphill and downhill. Five Ten uses the Stealth S1 compound in its Freerider line of mountain biking shoes while Shimano and Giro flat pedal shoes feature Michelin and Vibram rubber. If your bike has clipless pedals, you don't need to focus on the outsole design very much. However, it's still an important consideration. The outsole enhances your attachment to the pedal and can be very useful when you’re temporarily unclipped.

Other Considerations

  • Closure System. Mountain bike shoes have four main types of closure systems: laces, ratchet, Velcro, and BOA. The closure system you choose depends on your personal preference. Flat pedal shoes usually feature laces. Lightweight closure systems like a ratchet design and a BOA dial system are commonly found on clipless shoes and Enduro models.
  • Toe and Foot Protection. Riding over technical trails puts a lot of demand on your shoes. Almost all mountain bike shoes have a toe cap to protect your feet in the event you strike a rock. All-mountain shoes are specially designed to withstand falls and have more cushioning, cross-country shoes are thin on the sides and on the top, while freeride MTB shoes are the thickest.

Best Mountain Bike Shoes Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Gavin Mountain Bike Cycling Shoes

Thinking about getting shoes that will improve your mountain biking experience? Or maybe you just need shoes you can use on a spin bike? Gavin mountain bike cycling shoes are designed to be used both indoors and outdoors. You can pedal up mountains and speed back downhill. The shoes are all about enhancing your connection to your ride and feature advanced engineering. 


These MTB shoes have a two-bolt cleat design that's compatible with MTB, SPD, and Crankbrothers pedals. Their perforated insoles are lightweight and comfortable. The heel cups and hook and loop straps are made from carbon fiber for improved fit and foot stability. These shoes are ideal for fun trail rides and indoor cycling classes. 


While these shoes are built for performance, they aren’t true to size so you'll have to order a size or two larger. They also produce a loud squeaky sound that can be irritating.

Best Value
Gavin Off-Road Mountain Bike Shoes

Gavin designed these mountain biking shoes to offer top performance. They are lightweight and stylish and feature stiff nylon fiberglass soles for the best power transfer from your legs to the pedals with every pedal revolution. The soles have stout lugs to provide better grip on challenging trails.


Breathable uppers enable your feet to stay cool no matter how long you ride, while three velcro straps make for the best fit possible. Reflective tabs on the heels make nighttime riding safe. The shoes are comfortable to wear and the manufacturer perfectly blends synthetic microfiber leather with mesh panels. Air vents ensure the shoes stay cool at all times. If you've been looking for high-performance MTB shoes that are affordable, these are worth checking out. 


However, it's worth noting that the manufacturer uses an EU sizing chart, so they run small. You must use an EU to U.S. shoe conversion chart to get the accurate size. They also don't provide a lot of protection against rain and mud.

Honorable Mention
Fizik M3B Uomo BOA Shoes

The BOA closure that was once only seen on snowboard boots is now a common feature on many shoes, including bike shoes. Three years ago, Fizik redesigned its top MTB shoe to include a single BOA closure. The M3B Uomo BOA shoes now have a more stylish look and feature superior engineering and unique craftsmanship. 


They are handmade in Italy using kangaroo leather, nylon mesh, and microtex for enhanced comfort. They feature full carbon soles under their aggressive rubber lugs. If you want to increase the grip, you can add toe studs. The shoes were developed in conjunction with the company's professional mountain bike racers. If you are an avid fan of cross country racing or mountain biking, these shoes are a perfect fit. 


However, these shoes are not ideal for use in the summer, as they will make your feet hot. They are also on the higher end of the price scale and out of reach for bikers on a budget.

Tips

  • Only walk-in mountain bike shoes for short distances. They may be uncomfortable if walking long distances. They can also be quite slick, so be careful.
  • Your feet may hurt or ache after a long ride, so consider bringing a pair of tennis shoes or flip flops to change into after riding.
  • You will need to purchase clips for the shoes after buying them. They are then inserted into the bottom of the shoe and attach to the pedals.
  • Some mountain biking shoes are versatile and are compatible with hybrid bikes and road bikes.
  • If you want to match your shoes to your bike, you may be able to find a pair in the same color and style that also matches your clothes and helmet.

FAQs

Q: What are the different types of pedals?

A: Mountain bike shoes are able to fit in and grip to different types of pedals. However, not all are compatible with each other. SPD stands for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics and is one of the most common types of cycling pedals. They require two to three cleat clips to properly clip into them. MTB stands for Mountain Bike Pedal, and they are also pretty common. There are also eggbeater pedals that are shaped like egg beaters and are smaller than normal ones. They require special shoes.

Q: How do cycling shoes work?

A: They generally all work by clipping or inserting the shoes into grooves in the pedals to hold them in place. This prevents your feet from slipping off during a difficult ride. Clipping in provides you with improved power and grip on the pedals as well.

Q: Are mountain bike shoes supposed to feel stiff on my feet?

A: Yes, cycling shoes are meant to feel stiff. That doesn’t mean they should squeeze or hurt your foot while you’re wearing them. The stiffness allows them to hold onto the pedals and not bend or fold like normal shoes.

Final Thoughts

For one of the best pairs of mountain bike shoes that are comfortable and cool your feet, consider the Gavin Mountain Bike Cycling Shoes

You can also use the budget-friendly Gavin Off-Road Mountain Bike Shoes, which are grippy and sturdy.