Why Flat Pedal Shoes?
For a long time, now clip-in bike riders have touted themselves as more superior, leaving those who ride with no clips feeling like novices working their way to one day being able to clip-in. However, times are changing, and flat pedal riding is becoming more popular amongst the best riders. Plain and simple, flat pedal riding helps you become a better rider. By not being connected to your bike, it forces you to learn better bike handling techniques. In turn, helping you send it down the mountain harder, faster, and safer.
What Type of Rider Are You?
All- Mountain or Cross- Country Riding
Flowly trails and climbing are your favorites, but you like to hit the occasional rock and can maybe handle yourself at a mountain bike park. Your favorite shoe would probably be something with a lot of grip so your shoe stays on the pedal for those gnarly climbs, but also not too grippy so you can move your foot without affecting your flow. You'll want something lightweight and fast drying as well. Keeping your shoe lightweight and somewhat flexible is probably more important than having a lot of protection, which makes your shoe more rigid. We recommend the Ride Concepts Livewire if you're on a budget but still want the grip. If you know you like to move your foot on the pedal quite a bit, the Bontrager Flatline might be your shoe, or if you are willing to spend a little more for something light and comfortable, there's the Five Ten Freerider Pro.Enduro Riding
Lots of high-interval pedaling to send it as fast and hard as possible is the way you ride. If there is a jump or rock waterfall, you're going to send it as hard as you can. And while you're, not a big fan of climbing uphill, you pedal as hard and fast as you can on the flat grounds. An ideal shoe for you would be lightweight, tons of grip, and protection. Your shoe is the Five Ten Freerider Pro. However, if you feel like you need more protection, the Five Ten Impact Pros could be of interest.Downhill Riding
You pedal occasionally, but endurance is not super important to you. Your bike is the heaviest of all the bikes made. The bigger the rock gardens or jumps, the better, so you need a heavy-duty shoe to handle your daredevil self. You need the most protection underneath the foot, and in the toe box, so your feet are protected for a significant fall that is destined to happen at some point. The Five Ten Impact Pros are the shoe that is meant for you, offering tons of protection and enough weight to match the heaviness of your bike.
Let's Talk Rubber
Rubber is the most crucial factor to examine when thinking about buying your next pair of flat pedal shoes, as it determines if you stay on your bike or fly off the back and get caught in your tire on the way (we suffered that pain for you).
Five Ten and Ride Concepts have both produced their own rubber compounds that are specific to mountain biking and in doing so, have made a more superior product compared to their competitors. Giro and Bontranger use Vibram rubber, which is a popular rubber used for hiking boots and climbing approach shoes. While this rubber has a lot of grip on rock and dirt, we found it to be rather slippery on metal pedals, especially if there is wet terrain. The Shimano features a Michelin sole made out of the same material as tires; while this was grippy, it was no match to the custom rubber from Five Ten and Ride Concepts, which stuck like glue.
We could talk all day about the rubbers and differences between them, but it is essential you know what style of rider you are to get the best rubber for your flavor of riding. Some might want a shoe that can move around on the pedal a little bit more, and in that case we would recommend the Bontrager Flatlines or the Five Ten Contact, however if you know you want something that will not budge at all, the Five Ten Impact Pros are probably your jam. If you are still in the discovery of what kind of a rider you are, then Ride Concepts Livewire is a great price point and very economical.
Does Tread Pattern Really Matter?
Absolutely. What kind of riding style you prefer will help determine what type of plugs you want on the bottom of your kicks, hence why Five Ten uses their Stealth rubber with tons of different cleats on the bottom. The depth, width, and shape of the lug could either help or hinder your riding. For example, the Ride Concepts Livewire has a rounded hexagon on the bottom, which allows you to move your foot, but the edges of the hexagon help catch the studs on the pedal.
What About Protection?
Even for those of us who are riding the winding mellow flow trails in the backyard have had the experience of accidentally slamming the toe of our shoe into a rock, tree, or worse — having to bail your bike. Without the protection of a solid toe and heel along with a stable footbed, this kind of accident could be detrimental to our riding season. Hence, choosing a well-protected shoe is essential.
You want your shoe to be rigid enough to stay on the pedal; however, if too rigid, it can be uncomfortable and cause your heel to lift, which can impede climbing or hiking your bike. It is imperative to have a balance of rigidity and flexibility. It also boils down to what kind of riding you prefer. A more rigid shoe is going to offer more protection. If you know you are taking bigger risks when riding, then you might want to consider a more rigid shoe.
Sometimes you have to sacrifice one thing to make something else better, and we found that to be the case with durability. The Five Ten Shoes with Stealth 1 rubber and had the most grip, we found had the most scarring from the pegs on our pedals. Also, if you prefer a lighter weight shoe, its sole will not last as long as the heavy-duty Impact Pro. It is up to you as a rider to decide what feature is the most important and weigh out the differences.
We are here to give you all the information and hope that you take this knowledge to make the best decision for your riding. Whether you are a cross-country, enduro, or downhill mountain biker, there is a shoe for you!