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Hands-on Gear Review
Five Ten HellCat Review
Cons: Heavy, not versatile
The Five Ten HellCat is a downhill and enduro specific clipless mountain bike shoe. There is not a lift line in world where you will not see a few pairs of these shoes. To say that they are popular would be an understatement. In addition to being a favorite of the OutdoorGearLab staff, the HellCat has graced the World Cup podium more than once. This shoe looks very similar to many skate shoes, but don't be fooled; the HellCat is packed with mountain bike specific features. The HellCat is most comparable to the Giro Terraduro, but it comes in a bit more fashionable design and weighs a bit more. Five Ten markets the shoe as a downhill and all mountain design, and we found it to be best suited to downhill and bike park use.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Five Ten HellCat is a downhill specific shoe with a casual look. It goes well with full platform pedals such as the Crankbrothers Mallet DH Race and the Crankbrothers Mallet 3. If laps in the bike park are your thing, then this is the shoe for you.
Comfort is at the top of the list of attributes and accolades we can bestow upon the HellCat. These shoes feel as comfortable as your favorite skate shoe, with lots to padding around the ankle cuff and tongue. They feel similar on the foot to the Giro Terraduro, but are a bit more boxy and rigid in the upper. A rigid toecap offers great protection for those unintentional encounters with rocks and trail debris, and the toe box also has a thin layer of padding to keep you comfortable. The HellCat is the only shoe we tested that utilizes traditional laces for retention. Laces can provide a very precise level of tension, but they cannot be adjusted while riding and require the rider to stop to make adjustments. One advantage of laces is that if you have a failure or wear out a lace, you can easily find a replacement. The HellCats also feature a Velcro strap up near the ankle cuff that can be used to fine tune tension as well as keep the laces in check so they don't find their way into your drive train. Lack of ventilation is the only downside to the HellCat; they have no vents and can be very hot on a warm day.
The KOMs you will be chasing with this shoe will likely be of the downhill variety. Weighing in at 2lbs 9.3oz, the HellCat is the heaviest shoe we tested. If all you ride is downhill, then you probably don't care, but if you are looking for a dual-purpose shoe, there are lighter options available.
The Five Ten HellCat is not one of the best pedaling shoes we tested. This is due to the use of a nylon midsole plate that does not run the full length of the shoe. The platform directly under the cleat attachment zone is fairly stiff, but the shoe has quite a bit of flex in the mid portion. The HellCat is best when paired with a full platform clipless pedal, which can make up for some of the flex by increasing the size of the contact patch. That being said, for the short bursts of power that characterize downhill riding, the HellCat is more than adequate, it is during long trail rides where we noticed the lack of efficiency.
Traction, Walking, Running
The Stealth S1 rubber soles of the HellCat provide tons of traction when navigating rocky sections of trail or doing course walks. (This is a shoe from a well-regarded sticky rubber climbing shoe manufacturer after all.)
Walking in the HellCats is about as comfortable as it gets in a clipless mountain bike shoe with any sort of decent pedaling platform. There is just enough flex to allow for a normal stride and gait. Our only complaint is the lack of tread, which can make the shoes a bit prone to clogging with mud when riding in wet conditions.
The HellCats have no shortcomings here. This is one bombproof shoe. The sole is incredibly resistant to wear, despite being very grippy. The synthetic leather upper is also very resistant to abrasion and wear. Some of our testers have gotten multiple seasons of use out of their personal HellCats. The only portion of the shoe that is prone to wear is the laces, but they are so cheap and easy to replace that we do not see this as a significant issue.
The Five Ten HellCats are best suited to downhill riding, but they are also a capable trail shoe when paired with a full platform pedal. If you like riding the bike park, this shoe should be on your kit list.
For $130, the Five Ten HellCat's are a great value. These shoes should get you through many seasons, and will probably outlast much of your other gear.
The Five Ten HellCat is an excellent, downhill oriented clipless mountain bike shoe. It is a comfortable, durable shoe that provides excellent protection for the foot. A long time favorite of the OutdoorGearLab staff, lets hope Five Ten keeps making this shoe for a long time to come.
Other Versions and Accessories
Five Ten also offers the HellCat in a Black / Grey color, in addition to the Black / Lime Punch version we tested. Five Ten has a range of mountain bike shoes, tailored to different disciplines, including the Five Ten Kestrel.
— Curtis Smith
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