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Looking for a new women’s flat pedal mountain bike shoe? We researched the latest and greatest models on the market and then purchased and tested 13 models side by side. Making a choice is becoming an increasingly hard decision with so many great-performing shoes on the market. But, not to worry, we have you covered. Our test includes both women’s and unisex shoes as some companies are stepping away from traditional men’s and women’s sizing and instead focusing on shoe size. Each shoe went through rigorous testing and we took extensive notes on the shoe's performance in each of our test metrics. After compiling our notes, we scored each shoe individually to determine the best flat pedal mountain bike shoes available.
Rubber-Type: Stealth Dotty | Sole Pattern: Full Dot Pattern
Great power transfer
Breathability not the best in hot conditions
The Five Ten Freerider Pro is a balanced shoe that provides ample foot protection and durability in a lightweight package. The hallmark of the shoe is its Stealth Dotty outsole that features a continuous dot pattern of grippy rubber that provides a secure grip between foot and pedal. We found these shoes to have enough grip to feel confident on technical sections and drops, while still being able to make micro-adjustments to our foot position on the pedal. The Freerider Pro has a streamlined fit and envelops the rider's foot, securing it inside the shoe. Our testers were impressed with how the fit and medium-flex EVA midsole work together to transfer power directly and efficiently into the pedals. The shoe’s weight also helps with this as it weighs in at just 612-grams for a pair of US 8 women's, making it easy to spin. When the trails get rowdy, foot protection becomes important. The Freerider Pro features strategically placed Poron foam to absorb impacts without adding bulk.
The Freerider Pro left our testers wanting very little, and despite its price tag, the combination of grip, protection, comfort, and power transfer warrants spending a few more dollars on this quality shoe.
Rubber-Type: D6.0| Sole Pattern: Full Hexagon Pattern
Offers a lot of protection
Not enough grip for technical riding
The Ride Concepts Livewire came very close to winning top honors, but after careful testing, we found they do not perform as well on technical terrain as some other models. However, this is a great shoe, especially considering the price. The sole has a continuous rounded hexagonal pattern that allows the pegs on the pedal to lock in like velcro. We also find the edges of the hexagon shape allow us to make small adjustments to our foot position, and the corners would stop our feet from slipping off. There is a lot of protection on the toe and the heel via anti-abrasion material. Also, D30 protection is added to the footbed to help absorb shock.
Our primary complaint with these shoes is their lack of breathability when compared to other top models. Also, keep in mind that these shoes run a bit small when you're considering sizing. We think this is the perfect shoe for someone looking to get a quality flat pedal shoe without breaking the bank.
Rubber-Type: Tack Rubber| Sole Pattern: Gamma Tread
The Latch is a newly designed shoe by Giro and scored well in many of our test metrics and impressed our testers with its performance. Most notably, the Latch does a great job at keeping your feet connected to the pedals on chunky terrain while dissipating those forces before they reach your feet thanks to a Mute Foam midsole that is paired with Tack Rubber with Giro’s Gamma Tread design. The Tack Rubber is soft and grippy while still allowing some foot movement on the pedals. The midsole flexes nicely underfoot without being overly stiff. The Latch also happens to be the lightest shoe in our review which surprised our testers.
There are two areas in which the Latch did not score as highly and that is breathability and protection. The Latch’s microfiber upper breathes fairly well but was not as breathable as our top performers in this metric. The second area where the Latch scored lower is protection. Aside from the dampening properties of the Mute Foam midsole, there are no reinforced protection areas for your foot such as TPU. The Latch is a great choice for riders who don’t need a burly shoe with tons of protection, it's light on the foot, is comfortable, and eats up trail chatter.
Rubber-Type: SlipNot™ ST| Sole Pattern: Full Hexagon Pattern
Not the most protective
The Specialized 2FO Roost Flat is one of the company's newest shoe offerings and is definitely a contender for one of the best shoes on the market. The SlipNot™ ST is as the name says, slip not. It grips the pedals exceptionally well and is comfortable to boot. In some regards, we feel the 2FO Roost Flat has achieved the perfect blend of stiffness and comfort. On the bike, we can easily transfer power into our pedals, even on technical climbs that require big power moves. Yet while hiking to scout rowdy sections of trail and at the bike park, the sole flexes comfortably at the forefoot making walking easy. On the trail the EVA foam midsole soaks up all but the rowdiest sections of the trail, helping prevent foot fatigue.
The shoes' uppers are a combination of textile and suede that becomes even more comfortable as it breaks in, making these some of our tester's favorite shoes to wear. Specialized describes the fit of the 2FO Roost Flat as relaxed, however, it never felt boxy or loose, and we never experienced heel lift while climbing on the bike or walking uphill. The shoe’s medium volume suited our feet rather well, especially as the shoe broke in. The shoe is lined with XPEL mesh which is designed to increase both breathability and provide impact protection. While not the beefiest of shoes, we feel the 2FO Roost Flat provides enough protection for most riding situations except for enduro racing and downhill. One gripe we have about the shoe is the length of the laces, which for our shoe size were exceptionally long and required double knotting plus use of the elastic retention strap to keep them tidy. Overall, the 2FO is a great shoe at a very competitive price point.
Rubber-Type: MAX GRIP | Sole Pattern: Full hexagonal dot
The mid-top Ride Concepts Wildcat provides plenty of protection, grip, and trail absorption for a shoe that weighs less than some low-top models. The MAX GRIP outsole is Ride Concepts' softest and grippiest rubber and its hexagonal dot pattern works well with a variety of pedals and provides great grip. The EVA foam midsole flexes nicely just above the ball of the foot and stiffens towards the midfoot, right where your foot contacts the pedal, creating good power transfer. The ankle is highly padded and provides a lot of support and protection, especially for gravity orientated riding.
We appreciate the extra protection of the padded ankle on the Wildcat, but we found it made these shoes feel a bit hot on the feet in warmer temperatures. It also makes them a little less ideal for pedal heavy rides, as we noticed a little more rubbing than shoes with a lower ankle cuff. That said, if you’re a lift-accessed, freeride, or enduro rider looking for a shoe that is light, protective, and grippy we recommend looking at the Wildcat.
Tara Reddinger-Adams is the owner of North Star Mountain Bike Guides, coaches for VIDA MTB Series, and a former bike shop employee of 11 years. She's also spent time on the racecourse, racing cross country, downhill, and enduro. Tara holds a Professional Mountain Bike Instructor Level II Air certification in addition to Bicycle Instructor Program Level II certification and helps people progress their riding skills in Arizona. She enjoys helping others feel more confident on the bike and improve their skills. Needless to say, she spends a lot of time on her bike and understands the importance of wearing a pair of shoes that both perform well and fit well.
Bo Outland is a lover of all extreme outdoor sports, but especially mountain biking. During college, she would take to the trails in the Santa Cruz mountains before and after school to blow off some steam from her studies. Since moving to South Lake Tahoe, she competes in local mountain bike races, such as the Xterra Triathlon in Incline and Northstar's Livewire Classic, where she podiumed in both races. She truly understands the importance of quality equipment to achieve peak performance.
Our testers live in two very different parts of the country and had two very different experiences with product testing. Tara's testing took place in Sedona and Prescott, Arizona, and in Minnesota, two very different riding locations. Sedona trails are known for their chunk and technicality while those in Prescott, Arizona, and Minnesota are more cross-country flow-oriented, which really allows us to contrast a shoe’s performance.
Bo's testing took place during the summer months in the Sierra of Lake Tahoe. Here she had plenty of opportunities to try each pair of shoes with a variety of terrain ranging from flow trails, long climbs, technical downhills, and the bike park.
The shoe you use with your flat pedal can greatly affect your control of the bike and your overall ride. Some shoes have a soft midsole and outsole that allows you to feel more of the pedal underfoot, while others are more rigid for maximum power transfer, while others are designed to prevent your feet from bouncing on the pedals. When determining what type of shoe you want to purchase, factors such as grip, rigidity, and breathability are just as important as fit and comfort. Our testers put 14 flat pedal mountain bike shoes through rigorous testing to help you find the shoe that best meets your needs. We have included both women’s and unisex models in our review since some companies have stepped away from gender labels on shoes. There are new models from popular brands and perennial favorites among riders. For our testing, we looked at six metrics, including grip, comfort and protection, rigidity and power transfer, breathability, durability, and value. We then compiled our results to help you make a decision based on your riding style and needs.
The Specialized 2FO Roost Flat balances price and performance and are some of the best-performing shoes we have tested. They feature an incredibly grippy sole that offers a great blend of flex and rigidity, allowing you to put power into the pedals and walk comfortably with a normal gait. While not the most protective shoe, they do offer adequate protection for most riding and breathe fairly well. Their lightweight makes them easy to spin the pedals with and helps with fatigue on long rides. Typically, a blend of such characteristics is reserved for higher price points, which makes the 2FO Roost Flat even more attractive.
There are many shoes in our testing that fall within a similar price range but have differences in performance. In these circumstances evaluating your flat shoe needs is important so that you can find the shoe that checks as many of your boxes as possible. For example, the Ride Concepts Wildcat sits in the middle of the pack for pricing but is designed for a more specific type of riding, while the Giro Latch is of similar price and is the lightest shoe in our review and scores well in many metrics, but lacks additional foot protection that some riders may desire.
The grip provided by the outsole is very important for a flat pedal shoe. The pins of the pedal need to be able to bite into the rubber outsole to create a bond between the shoe and pedal. If the rubber is too hard the pedal pins will not bite into the shoe’s sole and the foot will bounce or slide on the pedals. Each company has its own types of rubber which offer various levels of grip. Individual preferences for grip vary and generally depend on your riding style and terrain, for our testing we tend to gravitate toward the middle ground between the two extremes.
Companies with mountain bike-specific rubber compounds, including Giro, Five Ten, Ride Concepts and Specialized do well in this metric. Each brand’s outsole has an excellent grip on a variety of pedals and on a variety of types of terrain. Ride Concepts uses dynamic surface technology (DST) compounds developed in partnership with Rubber Kinetics on the soles of their shoes. This rubber is in a hexagon dot pattern lugs on the outsole and is designed to maximize the connection between the pedal and shoe.
Other companies such as Specialized have developed their own rubber compounds. Specialized uses a SlipNot™ ST rubber sole that provides exceptional grip and connection between the rider's foot and pedal.
Some brands have turned to companies for their rubber compounds. Shimano employed the expertise of the Michelin tire manufacturer to create their own high grip outsoles, while Bontrager uses Vibram rubber, which is popular for hiking shoes, for their outsoles.
Riding style and terrain can determine how much grip you want your pedal to have. In general, we prefer a grip that holds on technical sections of the trail while allowing for small foot adjustments on the pedal. While riding downhill bikes in Lake Tahoe, we realized that Five Ten's Impact Pro was the preferred shoe for the terrain. With a deep, varied dot pattern, it allows your foot to not move unless it is intentionally lifted off the pedal. However, for general trail riding, we prefer the adjustability of the outsole on the Giro Latch, Specialized 2FO Roost Flat, and the Five Ten Freerider Pro. Each of these shoes allows the rider to move their foot on the pedal without completely lifting it off the pedal.
For those who prefer more freedom to move their foot on the pedal, we suggest the Shimano GR7 which balances grip and adjustability, allowing you to move your shoe freely on the pedal while still maintaining a solid grip.
Comfort and Protection
Comfort is highly subjective because our feet vary greatly in terms of volume, length, width, arch size, and more. Yet, there are factors that can generally make a shoe uncomfortable for a majority of people. Seams, width, volume, footbeds, and tongues all affect a shoe's comfort and can make or break your ride. For example, a rider with a bigger foot may find a lower-volume shoe such as the Ride Concepts Livewire to simply not have enough space to fit their foot comfortably.
Depending on the type of terrain you ride, you may need a shoe that offers additional protection for your feet. Your shoe should provide a basic layer of protection for your foot, especially from rocks that can bounce up against your foot on loose or technical descents. Each shoe tested provides some protection, from reinforced uppers, to mid-top designs, absorbing midsoles, and impact protection zones.
Additional materials do come with a weight penalty, however, new technologies are allowing companies to design shoes with high amounts of protection while keeping the weight down. Some examples of this are the Five Ten Freerider Pro which is one of the lighter shoes tested. It has an EVA midsole that aids in absorbing impacts and Poron foam at the toe box and heel for additional foot protection. Poron is a lightweight material that hardens on impact, helping to protect the rider's foot without adding bulk to the shoe. The Freerider Pro is comfortable, yet not bulky with a mid-volume fit that wraps the rider's foot. The forefoot is mid-width which prevents unnecessary side-to-side movement in the shoe. However, for riders with a wide or bulky foot, the fit of the Freerider Pro may be too narrow and shallow.
Other shoes that blended comfort and protection well included the Shimano GR7 which has a gusseted ankle gaiter to keep debris out of the shoe and a reinforced forefoot. The GR7 has a slighter larger volume fit, making it a good choice for riders with a wider foot or for riding in cold conditions that warrant heavyweight socks. The Crankbrothers Stamp Boa has a reinforced TPU toebox for protection from rock strikes and a thick padded tongue that helps protect the top of the foot. The Ride Concepts Hellion is very similar in fit to the Freerider Pro and provides very good impact protection thanks to D30 inserts in the footbed in addition to a two-panel, anti-peel upper, but also weighs over 60 grams per pair more than similar shoes.
For those seeking additional foot protection, the Ride Concepts Flume has TPU reinforcement for protection from rubbing, D30 to absorb impacts, and an EVA midsole for shock absorption.
Rigidity and Power Transfer
A shoe's rigidity or sole stiffness can affect our ability to control the pedals, both positively and negatively. A shoe with a thick and stiff midsole makes it hard to feel the pedal underfoot and to control the bike. A rigid midsole can also prevent a good interface between the pedal and shoe and feel like your foot is bouncing on the pedal. Adversely, if the shoe has a very soft midsole the rider may feel too much vibration from the trail, causing foot fatigue and a reduction in pedaling efficiency. The stiffness of the midsole also affects how comfortable a shoe is to walk in and plays a part in long hike-a-bikes.
The rigidity of the midsole affects how well you can transfer power from your foot into the pedals. Many shoes have a stiffened “plate” to increase power transfer. When the sole of a shoe is very soft it is difficult to put power into the pedals. Flat pedal riders tend to favor a shoe that falls somewhere in the middle in terms of stiffness, as compared to clipless pedal riders who tend to prefer a very rigid sole. Ideally, we prefer a shoe that combines power transfer with just enough flex to remain sensitive to the pedals and allows for a normal walking gait.
The Specialized 2FO Roost Flat is the one of most balanced shoes we tested. Specialized managed to combine the right amount of stiffness for power transfer while being supple and flexible enough to comfortably walk in. Even when making big power moves on rock steps or technical climbs we never felt we were lacking an ability to transfer power into the pedals while wearing the Roost Flat.
The Giro Latch impressed us with its Mute Foam midsole in this metric. The Mute Foam midsole is thinner than some in our testing and helps to prevent your feet from bouncing on the pedals. Mute Foam has a low-rebound action which means there is less bounce on the pedal pins thus increasing grip.
If you ride in a warm climate or enjoy long rides with lots of pedaling, breathability will be a more important factor to you as compared to someone who lives in a cooler climate or prefers shorter rides. In general, breathability is correlated with a shoe's weight, as thicker and denser materials weigh more. We tested our shoes in a variety of locations ranging from Lake Tahoe to Sedona, Arizona to Minnesota, temperatures ranged from the upper 30s to the mid-90s with high dew points. These conditions helped our testers to really focus on a shoe's breathability, especially when we wore a different shoe on each foot. Regardless of how breathable a shoe is, we found none to be perfect in truly hot and humid conditions.
The Bontrager Flatline is the most breathable shoe in our testing. Its synthetic uppers are highly perforated and helped to keep our feet reasonably cool on rides. The Specialized 2FO Roost Flat has a series of perforated holes in front of the most forward lace and at the midfoot which allow in surprisingly ample airflow, especially on windy days. The Crankbrothers Stamp Boa has mesh side panels similar to those found on the GR7, but do not breathe quite as well.
The least breathable shoe we tested is the Five Ten Impact Pro, which is also the heaviest shoe by far. With numerous reinforced areas, these are an excellent option for someone who rides downhill, where breathability is less of a concern.
Mountain biking can be hard on your equipment and durability is frequently a factor in purchase decisions. It is not uncommon for a shoe’s upper to develop holes or for the pedal pins to wear away at the sole’s rubber. Poor quality construction and inexpensive materials affect a shoe's long-term durability. The shoe's upper material, reinforced eyelets, lace retainers, and abrasion-resistant zones affect its long-term durability, in addition to the type of rubber compound used in its outsole.
Many of the shoes in our review feature abrasion-resistant materials at the heel and toe, reinforced eyelets, and elastic lace retainers. The Ride Concepts Flume, Hellion, Wildcat all feature TPU reinforcement at the toe and heel for abrasion resistance, reinforced eyelets, and a lace retainer. The eyelets on the Crankbrothers Stamp Boa are hidden under the shoe's upper to protect them and the toe box is reinforced with TPU. In contrast, the Five Ten Freerider and the Ride Concepts Livewire lack a lace retainer and abrasion resistance areas.
Depending on the materials used in the shoe’s upper it can also deteriorate or deform over time. Since our last review, we have noticed the suede uppers of our Specialized 2FO Roost Flat have stretched out leaving us with more lateral foot movement than we had a year ago.
A shoe's outsole will deteriorate over time, some more quickly than others. As the pedal pins push into the rubber and the small indentations are left behind which may affect how well the shoe grips the pedal. None of the shoes tested had any failures during our test window, however, some started to develop signs of wear more quickly than others, which leads us to question the long-term durability of the shoe. The Crankbrothers Stamp Boa developed small holes and cracks in the rubber where our pins dig in, something not seen on other shoes in the same test period.
It is easier to spin the pedals with a lighter shoe than it is a heavy one and your feet will become more quickly fatigued with a heavier shoe as opposed to a lighter one. The best shoes balance weight, grip, protection, and rigidity. The Giro Latch stands out when it comes to balancing weight, grip, and rigidity. Our size US 8.5 women’s shoes weigh less than 600 grams per pair, grip the pedal very well, and have great power transfer.
Other shoes that stand out in this metric are the Five Ten Freerider Pro, Specialized 2FO Roost Flat, and Shimano GR7 all of which balance grip and protection while maintaining a good grip over the pedals.
Some gravity-oriented shoes such as the Five Ten Impact Pro, weigh almost 400 grams per pair more than the lightest shoe in our review. The Impact Pro is designed for lift access and enduro riding and their weight makes them ill-suited for well suited for cross-country or trail riding.
Finding the right flat pedal shoe can be challenging and we hope you now know more about the characteristic of a flat pedal shoe and what might be important for you. We encourage you to think about what you want in a shoe and how you will use it. All of the shoes in our test can be used for every type of riding, but some are better designed for certain types of riding in comparison to others. When selecting a shoe think about one that will work for a majority of your riding. Wearing a heavy, downhill-specific shoe every day might not be the best choice when you only spend a day or two at the bike park each season. Finding a shoe for every type of terrain and condition may be an impossible task, but you can likely find something that will fit the bill a majority of the time.
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