Our Editor's Choice, the Freerider Contact
Five Ten has been one of the leaders in the climbing shoe industry with their Stealth sticky rubber for the past three decades. They transitioned into the mountain bike world in the early 2000s and the Freerider Contact has further improved pedal grip over those first models. What started for our testers as an object of skepticism rapidly turned into the highlight shoe, providing an unexpected rating of 10 out of 10. At first glance, a completely smooth bike shoe sole appears ridiculously slippery and insecure, but that's not the case at all.
The smooth Mi6 rubber simply begs to grab the pins of any flat pedal. While this is the expectation for Stealth soles, the Stealth Mi6 is a cut above. The non-textured sole provides exceptional pedal grip, but also offers features overlooked by other flat shoes: the ability to fine tune foot position and release from your pedal with greater ease. This is a departure from the Five Ten Impact VXi and Five Ten Freerider, which require a bit more effort to lift the sole from the pedal pins. Off the bike, the Freerider Contact provides traction adequate for most situations but does suffer a bit when the going gets steep or wet. It didn't perform as well as the Five Ten Impact VXi, especially in snowy areas.
The smooth Mi6 rubber gives climbing shoe-like grip
While pedal grip is the most important feature of a flat shoe, comfort is a close runner-up and the Freerider Contact scores high marks here, too. After miles of riding, both climbing and descending, comfort becomes even more important. The Mi6 sole not only grips pedal pins like a champ, it also provides a first level of cushioning and damping. While cushioning is definitely necessary, support is also crucial and this is provided with a molded EVA midsole. After multiple hours in the saddle and on the pedals, the thin protective shield was really appreciated, preventing pressure points on the rider's feet. While the Five Ten Impact VXi also provides great protection and comfort, the Freerider Contact has more sensitivity and feels less blocky.
While the Freerider Contact edged out the Shimano AM7 overall, the AM7 also scored high marks for comfort right out of the box. It had a similar feel, although with a lower volume forefoot that may appeal to some. A basic insole provided enough comfort, but the Freerider Contact might benefit by the addition of your favorite insoles, especially for riders with higher arches. The mesh upper provides plenty of ventilation even while riding long climbs on warm sunny days.
Obviously, with an open mesh upper, wet weather comfort is a tradeoff. When it's time to dismount for hike-a-bike sections, the shoes provide ample comfort with good cushioning and the midsole preventing contact with sharp rocks and sticks. The abrasion-resistant uppers and a reinforced toecap add a sense of security for inevitable scrapes and toe stubbing. Fit seems true to size, although the forefoot is a bit higher in volume than the regular Freerider.
No-slip grip in almost every riding condition we put the Contacts through
Rigidity and Power Transfer
Power transfer is excellent and the shoe is definitely an efficient climber, providing an effective platform for multi-hour riding. Even though the Freerider Contact's profile appears slimmer than Five Ten's other offerings, the rigidity was similar to the more substantial Five Ten Impact VXi; both provide greater stiffness than the Freerider. Rigidity is a great characteristic while on the pedals but can become too much of a good thing when walking. This contender performed well, striking a good balance between riding efficiency and walking comfort.
Stiff but not too stiff, the Contacts are a solid choice
The Freerider Contact is Five Ten's lightest shoe in their Freerider line, tipping the scale at 13.75 oz each for a men's size 9. This is also the lightest in our lineup of mountain bike flat shoes, although there was only a total weight difference of 2.25 oz across all shoes tested.
The mesh upper provides plenty of ventilation, even while riding long climbs on warm sunny days. Like the Five Ten Freerider in our test, the Freerider Contact's mesh upper is highly breathable. It was also prone to infiltration by fine dust particles during late summer conditions. With an open mesh upper, the shoes are mostly open to moisture. If breathability isn't as much of a concern and moisture-resistance is an issue based on where your riding takes place, a shoe like the Shimano AM7 may be the ticket.
When it comes to rating durability, the Freerider Contact performs so-so. The beefy abrasion-resistant uppers and protective cap stood up to dozens of granite-studded Sierra Nevada hike-a-bike sections without a serious scratch. However, the sole durability was sub-par. This didn't come as a surprise after we initially researched our shoe selection, finding this was a common complaint from numerous other reviews. After a half dozen rides, we noticed some definite wear marks in the treadless portion of the sole caused by pedal pins. Sharp granite edges left some noticeable scars in the rubber as well.
Although we didn't find the lack of sole durability catastrophic, it should definitely factor into your purchasing decisions, especially with other solid performers like the Shimano AM7
and Five Ten Impact VXi
as more durable options. A decision to pay for performance while sacrificing durability is definitely an individual choice. As this test ran over a span of months and not years, it's tough to say how much life you can expect from the Freerider Contact
. We don't have a shoe life crystal ball, but our best guess at the longevity of the soles is two seasons, depending on the quantity of usage, riding style, and environment.
The soles may not be as durable as other shoes tested, but they sure are fun!
The Freerider Contact is a great all-arounder, performing well both uphill and downhill with a confidence and security-inspiring ride, feeling a lot like being clipped in. For riders seeking solid performance but with greater durability, the Shimano AM7 or Five Ten Impact VXi may be better choices. The Freerider Contact is a shoe for long days in the saddle and can handle technical trails with ease, as well as enduro riding and racing. For pure downhill use, the shoes provide good protection, thought the Five Ten Impact is more substantial, and provides more protection.
While style is a matter of individual taste, it's safe to say the Freerider Contacts aren't going to win any fashion shows with their somewhat orthopedic-style shoe appearance. For more style-conscious riders the Five Ten Freerider, or the Giro Jacket, with their skate shoe looks, are more likely to please. On more casual days and easier lift-served days, the more stylish offerings from Giro, Zoic, and Five Ten may be good alternatives to the Freerider Contact. Five Ten also offers the shoe in a women's model.
The Contacts connect solidly with flat pedals and give a great all mountain ride
The Five Ten Freerider Contact is a high-performance enduro-style shoe that begs to be ridden hard on those long days when you need a shoe that can handle any conditions you throw at it. Lightweight and ventilated adequately for long climbs with downhill performance to match, the Freerider Contact is a top performer.
Our Editor's Choice shoe almost begs for speed
Five Ten Freerider Contact - Women's
- Cost - $150 (same as men's)
- Women's specific version of this high-performance shoe
- Available in two colors: Maroon/Grey and Shock Green/Onix (shown here)