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Are you looking for the best mountain bike flat pedal shoes? After researching the newest and best models on the market, we purchased 12 pairs to put through our rigorous side-by-side testing. Our team of testers wore these shoes in a variety of terrain, from the dusty Sierra Nevada Mountains to the autumn mud of the Pacific Northwest, to test their performance in each of our metrics. Each shoe was carefully evaluated and scored for grip, fit and comfort, rigidity and power transfer, and breathability. We hope our detailed comparative analysis helps you find the best mountain bike flat pedal shoes for your riding style and budget.
The versatile Freerider Pro has become somewhat of a benchmark and is one of the shoes by which all others are judged. When it comes to riding flat pedals, the grip is key, and Five Ten's Stealth rubber is widely recognized as the best in the business. With their Stealth Rubber and full-dot outsole, the Freerider Pros have the best pedal grip of all the models we tested, the next closest thing to clipping in. The stiff midsole provides excellent transfer of power to the pedals and helps keep foot fatigue to a minimum, while a little flex through the toe allows for relatively normal off-the-bike walking. We found the medium volume fit to be comfortable and should suit a range of foot shapes. The shoes offer just enough foot protection without feeling overly bulky and heavy on the feet. The tough synthetic uppers impressed us with their durability and abrasion resistance.
While we loved the tenacious grip of the Stealth rubber on the Freerider Pro, it may be a little too much for riders who like to adjust their feet regularly. Also, while the synthetic uppers are impressively durable, they offer average breathability, especially as the mercury rises. This is an outstanding, versatile flat pedal shoe that can work in most applications. If you want a similar shoe with an ankle cuff, check out the Five Ten Freerider Pro Mid VCS.
Rubber Type: Tack Rubber | Sole Pattern: Gamma Tread Design
REASONS TO BUY
Superb grip and pedal feel
REASONS TO AVOID
Higher price tag
The Latch is a new mountain bike shoe from Giro Sport Design that challenges the standard set by other flat pedal shoe manufacturers. Previous flat pedal shoe models from Giro had a poor fit and lacked the tackier rubber compound preferred for optimal grip. However, the Latch flipped the script written by previous models and immediately stood out on test rides as a great all-around trail riding shoe. Its unique Gamma Tread Design and soft Tack Rubber compound hold the pedal pins with excellent grip. The microfiber upper is both durable and comfortable as it conforms to the foot and provides decent breathability. The Latch is the lightest flat pedal shoe we've tested. The midsole is fairly stiff, making it a great option for extended pedaling missions. Sandwiched into the midsole is a layer of Mute Foam that helps improve grip and comfort in damping impacts and vibrations.
This Latch has a medium to lower volume fit and is snugger in the ball of the foot compared to other shoes tested. While this last felt comfortable for lower to medium-volume feet, those looking for larger-volume shoes (particularly in the toe box) might want to try these for size or explore different options. We were thoroughly impressed by the Latch and feel it is a great option for anyone seeking top-notch grip in a versatile and well-rounded flat pedal shoe.
Rubber Type: Rubber Kinetics DST 6.0 High Grip | Sole Pattern: Full Dot
REASONS TO BUY
Fantastic pedal grip
REASONS TO AVOID
Less rigidity and power transfer the competition
A little hot and clammy
A little heavy
The Ride Concepts Livewire is a fantastic shoe that blends excellent grip, high levels of comfort, and plenty of protection at a reasonable price and checks all the boxes for riders seeking a quality all-mountain shoe. The foundation of the shoe is the grippy Rubber Kinetics outsole that clings to the pedals with authority. The Livewire has a well-balanced sole stiffness, providing good power transfer, pedal feel, and walkability. Ride Concepts incorporated molded toe and heel protection and D30 impact-absorbing inserts in the insole to take the edge trail feedback and impacts. There is much to like about this versatile and affordable model whose medium volume fit should work for most riders.
While the Livewire is adequately stiff underfoot, it's not the stiffest shoe out there. Those looking for the absolute best pedaling efficiency and power transfer may want to consider other options. The Livewire is also a little heavy at 458 grams per shoe (size 11), which may be a deterrent for weight-conscious riders. Beyond that, we found little not to like about this well-rounded and reasonably-priced shoe.
Rubber Type: DST 4.0 Max Grip | Sole Pattern: Full Hexagon Dot
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent pedal grip
Balanced sole stiffness
REASONS TO AVOID
A bit heavy
The Ride Concepts Powerline is a burly shoe that is designed for fast riding, hard-charging, enduro, and downhill riders, but it's not just a one-hit-wonder. These shoes proved themselves to be capable all-day climbers that didn't let us down on long days in the saddle. Aside from their great pedal gripping performance, the DST rubber soles have been around for several seasons and have proven their grip and durability. The uppers are a burly synthetic material that sheds moisture and abrasion and have a fully welded construction. In the spirit of its downhill-oriented nature, these shoes feature extra padding throughout, including a reinforced toe cap as well as padding in the asymmetrical medial ankle and tongue. A medium flexing sole keeps you comfortable on or off the bike, and the high-quality D30 insole cradles your foot and provides an additional layer of padding and shock absorption underfoot.
While they didn't feel egregiously heavy on the feet, the Powerline is among the heaviest shoes in the test. If you're riding lifts or shuttling, this extra weight won't be an issue and is the result of their robust and protective feel. If you're an all-mountain or trail rider who spends significant time climbing, that weight may be quite noticeable. The mesh panel above the toe box also allows for some breathability, but the additional padding makes them a bit warm on the feet. We feel these are the best shoes we tested for gravity pursuits or for super aggressive trail riders.
Rubber Type: Stealth Phantom | Sole Pattern: 3/4 dot
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent grip on bike paired with amazing hiking abilities
REASONS TO AVOID
Slightly higher stack height
The Five Ten TrailCross LT is a unique flat pedal shoe that blends the best qualities of a mountain bike and hiking shoe. If your idea of a fun mountain bike ride is more about exploring remote zones as opposed to full-on singletrack shredding, this might be a great option. The TrailCross LT beautifully combines solid on-bike performance with excellent hiking/walking abilities. It should be emphasized that while these shoes focus on blending riding and hiking, they are still Five Ten's and utilize the top-notch Stealth Phantom rubber. These tacky shoes offer excellent pedal grip and respectable levels of sole stiffness and power transfer. Thanks to the light and airy mesh upper, they deliver unrivaled airflow and dry out quite quickly when things get damp. These shoes are an excellent choice if your rides feature high-consequence stream crossings or extended hike-a-bikes.
If you are looking for a shoe to shred singletrack, there are better options. While the TrailCross LT is solid on the trail, the fact that it was designed as a crossover shoe detracts slightly from its on-bike performance. A jack-of-all-trades is a master of none, as they say. The soft, mesh upper material that lends itself to fantastic airflow isn't as supportive as beefier materials. Additionally, the sole that allows such good walkability doesn't provide the best transfer of power to the pedals. That said, if you're searching for a shoe that works as well on the bike as it does scrambling up the mountain, the Trailcross is a compelling option.
The choices on the market today for flat pedal mountain bike shoes can be overwhelming, with more companies throwing their proverbial hats in the ring to capitalize on the growing flat pedal trend. We have been testing mountain bike flat pedal shoes since 2016 to determine the best of the best. Over the years, we have put 29 pairs of flat pedal shoes through our side-by-side testing. Our review process begins with spending dozens of hours scouring the internet to hone in on the most compelling flat pedal mountain bike shoes available. After we nail down our selection, we purchase models for our rigorous testing. We weigh, analyze, and scrutinize the design aspects of each shoe prior to riding them. Then we take to the trails, riding as much as possible on every type of trail and in every possible weather condition, and take notes on each shoe's performance in each of our metrics. After our testing, we look at our field notes and score each pair of shoes in each of our performance metrics, including
• Grip (30% weighting)
• Fit and Comfort (25% weighting)
• Rigidity and Power Transfer (20% weighting)
• Breathability (10% weighting)
• Durability (10% weighting)
• Weight (5% weighting)
Our testing grounds were primarily the areas that we could access from our home base of South Lake Tahoe, California, and included Lake Tahoe, the western Sierra foothills, and the northern Nevada desert. We rode smooth cross-country trails, steep and chunky descents, and flow trails.
Our lead flat pedal shoe reviewer, Pat Donahue, is a mountain bike fiend. He's been riding mountain bikes for nearly 20 years, and his experience runs from the gravity-fed enduro realm to massive trail riding epics and fat biking. He is happiest while riding burly, chunky trails and aggressive terrain with consequences. Pat contributes to a number of OutdoorGearLab review categories, including hardtail mountain bikes, full-face helmets, and mountain bike tires. He is also a former bike shop owner and, in recent years, has been in dad mode and can be found on his local trails at the most bizarre of hours.
Ian Stowe also contributed to our flat pedal shoe review. Ian has spent years working in the cycling industry, first as a wheel builder with Santa Cruz Bicycles and then as a graphic designer for Cervelo. He is a talented rider with experience in many disciplines, but he spends the majority of his time trail riding and prefers the freedom and feel of flat pedals over clips. Hailing from his home base of Santa Cruz, California, Ian has a wealth and variety of trails nearby and the ability to ride year-round.
Analysis and Test Results
For our latest review of flat pedal mountain bike flat pedal shoes, we tested 12 pairs, including newcomers to the market and long-standing favorites. To help filter through the jargon and marketing hype, we compiled a list of essential performance metrics to help differentiate performance between the models in this review. After rigorously testing each pair of shoes, we rated them on the predetermined metrics of sole grip, fit and comfort, rigidity and power transfer, breathability, durability, and weight. Each rider will have personal preferences on what factors are most important to their riding, which should be kept in mind when looking for a new shoe.
We don't let the price of a product play a role in our assessment of performance, but we do appreciate a good value. Price and performance often go hand in hand, and our top-rated models, like the Five Ten Freerider Pro and the Ride Concepts Powerline also happen to be among the most expensive. Boasting an excellent price-to-performance ratio, we feel the Ride Concepts Livewire offers the best value in the pack. It's one of the least expensive shoes we tested, and it performs nearly as well as shoes that cost significantly more.
Grip is the most important metric in this review, accounting for 30% of a shoe's overall score. Unlike clipless shoes/pedals, flat pedals do not have a mechanical connection between the rider and the pedals. Instead, you have to rely on the sole's rubber compound and tread pattern, as well as the pins on the pedal to create grip. We tested a shoe's grip by riding a variety of types of terrain, especially rough and chunky surfaces that can quickly expose a shoe's grip or lack thereof. A higher level of grip gives the rider greater control over the bike. Less tacky soles can result in excessive foot movement, slipped pedals (possibly leading to injury), and less control. Of course, the pedals you use may also be a factor, as their grip can vary as well. Until recently, the majority of flat pedal shoe soles were made by either Five Ten or Vibram, but now there are other options from tire brands like Michelin and Goodyear, and proprietary rubber compounds from Ride Concepts, Specialized, and Giro.
Five Ten's Stealth rubber has long set the grip standard for flat pedal shoe soles, and the Five Ten Freerider Pro and its Stealth S1 soles continue that tradition. The tacky rubber pairs with the full-dot tread pattern to deliver a locked-in, confidence-inspiring grip. The Five Ten Freerider Pro MID VCS also uses the same rubber and full-dot tread pattern and as a result, the extended cuff version is every bit as grippy as the standard Freerider Pro.
Giro's Latch shoe with its Tack Rubber compound, Gamma Tread Design and Mute Foam midsole is a strong performer in this metric. These elements combine to give the Latch a level of grip that clings to the pedals with tenacity. Specialized has also seemingly cracked the grip code with the 2FO Roost Flat shoe with their SlipNot ST rubber compound. This grippy rubber works with the full hexagonal dot tread to cling to the pedals while climbing, no matter how rough it gets on the descents.
Ride Concepts has partnered with Rubber Kinetics to create the proprietary compounds used on their shoes. The Powerline uses the DST 4.0 Max Grip compound, among the grippiest we tested.
The FiveTen TrailCross LT has a Stealth Phantom rubber sole. It is very, very similar to the Stealth S1 compound found on the Freerider Pro. The TrailCross delivers a very impressive hold on the pedal despite its slightly smaller footprint and slightly higher stack height.
Fit and Comfort
Comfort is a somewhat subjective metric, making up 25% of a shoe's score. There are many variables in comfort, including a shoe's construction, materials, and intended use. Obviously, the rider's foot shape and overall volume also play an enormous role. For this metric, we looked at support, padding, and cushioning for riding and walking, as well as shoe shape and volume. Other factors like the footbed and protective features are also taken into account.
The Ride Concepts Powerline thoroughly impressed us with its high levels of comfort. It is generously padded, with a plush feeling lining and a gusseted, elasticized tongue that wraps around the foot. The orthotic-style footbed creates a nice cradle for the heel and arch, with D30 impact-absorbing inserts under the ball of the foot and heel. Additional toe and heel protection provide peace of mind when things get rowdy.
Specialized also created a comfortable shoe with the 2FO Roost Flat. The shoe has a medium-volume fit with supple leather and suede uppers that conform nicely to the feet. The Body Geometry footbed is very comfortable and supportive, and the XPEL Airmesh lining helps keep the feet dry and happy inside. Those with lower volume feet may find the forefoot of the Roost to be a bit roomy, however.
Both the Five Ten Freerider Pro and the Freerider Pro Mid VCS are snug enough through the heel cup and arch without being too narrow or restrictive and have a fit that should work well for a wide range of riders. As you move forward, both shoes widen significantly at the toe box, which is roomy and spacious without feeling clumsy or too loose. The Giro Latch has a very similar look to the Freerider Pro, although the fit in the forefoot is a bit snugger overall, but loosens up overtime.
Riders with narrower feet could appreciate the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch, which looks and feels like a high-end clipless trail riding shoe. The X-Alp has a snug, low-medium volume fit that securely locks the feet in place for a performance-oriented feel.
Rigidity and Power Transfer
The sole rigidity on a mountain bike flat shoe is an important part of how well it performs and is 20% of its score. We test this metric by pedaling extensive miles in each shoe to determine how much flex the shoe has while pedaling and walking. A shoe that is too stiff can potentially bounce off your pedal pins and isn't so pleasant to walk in. On the other hand, a too-flexible sole can absorb some of the power you are trying to transfer to the pedals. A flexy sole can cause foot or lower leg discomfort and fatigue while pedaling or on extended rough descents. Stiffer isn't always better, and we find ourselves gravitating towards shoes with balanced sole stiffness that provides good power transfer, a nice pedal feel, and works well when off the bike too.
The Specialized 2FO Roost, the Ride Concepts models, and the Giro Latch seem to have nailed the happy middle ground of sole stiffness. All of them are stiff enough from the ball of the foot back that power transfer feels direct and efficient, yet not so stiff that pedal sensitivity is sacrificed. They also have adequate flex through the toe to allow for good off-the-bike walking performance. Whether for a long trail ride or ripping shuttle laps, these shoes strike an excellent balance of sole stiffness.
The Five Ten Freerider Pro and Freerider Pro Mid VSC both offer all of the rigidity you need. These shoes are among the stiffest in our review but still retain an okay walking motion. When smashing down a super-gnarly rock section, the sole remains composed and doesn't want to bounce off the pedal or fold around it. In addition, the Stealth S1 rubber compound seems to work along with the EVA midsole to provide a small amount of damping. When putting the power down, energy is transferred directly into the cranks and these shoes felt quite efficient. Yes, there are shoes that perform better when hiking or pushing the bike. That said, these are cycling shoes and the high levels of rigidity deliver excellent performance on the bike. We can live with an okay walking experience.
A mountain bike shoe's breathability becomes more critical as the length of the ride increases or when the thermometer climbs. For a short ride, particularly in cooler temperatures, breathability is relatively unimportant, but as the ride length increases, it's more important for your shoe to breathe well. Keep in mind the climate where you live when considering how much breathability you want in a shoe. If you live in regions where temperatures approach triple digits in the summer months, breathability will be critical. If you ride and live in cooler climates or primarily ride in the early morning or at night, it might not be so important. We test breathability by evaluating the shoe's ventilation features and by riding in varying temperatures. Breathability accounts for 10% of a shoe's overall score.
The Five Ten TrailCross LT are supremely breathable shoes. The uppers are constructed almost entirely of a highly breathable mesh material that promotes exceptional airflow. Additionally, the thin tongue and thin laces allow plenty of air to enter through the top of the shoe. The downside of this ventilation is that these shoes don't ward off the elements but dry out very quickly.
The Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch is constructed from a recycled Cordura material and breathes better than most. The fabric is tightly woven but relatively thin, allowing warm air and trapped moisture to escape on hot rides.
The world's most high-tech, feature-loaded, and expensive shoe quickly loses its appeal if it falls apart shortly after purchase. This is especially the case if it leaves you stranded on the trail in the middle of nowhere. To test a shoe's durability (10% of the total score), we carefully examine them after each ride, looking for wear spots or failures. We also look at the overall construction of the shoe and the materials used. Most of our test shoes feature primarily synthetic materials in their construction, with rubber and foam comprising the outsoles and midsoles. After using and abusing our test shoes for over two months, we didn't experience any catastrophic failures, and most shoes showed only minor wear.
For riders seeking the most durable option, shoes like the Ride Concepts Livewire, or Powerline should be considered. Their synthetic uppers and beefy soles have shown almost no signs of wear. Each rider should decide how much emphasis they place on durability versus performance versus comfort and make their choice accordingly. Overall, the higher-performance shoes were also the shoes that showed the best durability after testing.
The Five Ten Freerider Pro features a durable, synthetic upper construction that shows no signs of falling apart. It should, however, be noted that the more supple Stealth S1 rubber sole may be prone to wearing out slightly more quickly than a harder rubber compound. That said, we feel the additional grip is absolutely worth a slightly shorter lifespan and recommend reserving your shoes for on-bike use instead of heading to the grocery store or pub.
Weight is an exciting metric and accounts for 5% of a shoe's score. For this metric, we weigh each shoe on a kitchen scale. Some riders scrutinize every gram on their body and bicycle, while others couldn't care less.
Regarding shoes, weight can be important. If your idea of fun is a 30-mile trail ride, weight may be necessary in your purchase decision. If your idea of fun is shuttling and ripping laps at a bike park, you probably don't mind a few extra grams on your feet.
Giro's new Latch shoe was the lightest of the bunch at just 358 grams per shoe in size 10. The Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch was the next lightest shoe in our review. It hit the scales at 365 grams per shoe in a Euro size 43. Not only are these shoes lightweight, but they are also quite stiff, making them a sensible option for trail riders who like to go the distance. Despite their casual appearance, the Specialized 2FO Roost is the next lightest at 367 grams per shoe in a Euro size 43.5.
Navigating the world of mountain bike flat shoes can be overwhelming. When researching shoes, you will be hit with quirky names of rubber compounds and the names of fancy design features. While a new pair of shoes may not be as flashy as the most excellent new bike, they are critical as shoes are one of the primary contact points between rider and bike. Our best advice is to simplify your search by carefully and honestly assessing your riding style and the trails you ride most often. Nailing down these two critical pieces of information should help narrow the field considerably.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.