The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

How We Tested Mountain Bike Flat Shoes

By Jason Cronk ⋅ Review Editor
Tuesday June 23, 2020
We push all of our test shoes as hard as we can to test their durability
We push all of our test shoes as hard as we can to test their durability

We believe that in order for us to put together a truly informative gear review, we should use and abuse our test gear as much or even more than our readers are likely to do. For our Mountain Bike Flat Shoe Review, we rode our bikes, and we rode them through a lot of challenging terrain and situations to put together the best review for you!

Our testers in action high in the Sierra Nevada
Our testers in action high in the Sierra Nevada

Testing conditions



We tested all of our shoes in a variety of conditions, from riding local neighborhood trails to launching scary features in big mountain bike parks in the Western United States and Canada. We rode long technical cross country loops and packed bikes and bodies into vans for roadside shuttle downhills.

During testing  we even crammed ourselves into ridiculous spaces for shuttle rides
During testing, we even crammed ourselves into ridiculous spaces for shuttle rides

When it came time to write up our reviews for you, we take things so seriously, we even do some of our writing while on the road sometimes!

Our tester hard at work on a road trip in Idaho
Our tester hard at work on a road trip in Idaho

Testing Locations



We were able to put our mountain bike flat pedal shoes to the test in high desert rides, warm forest rides, and the cool temperatures of the high alpine environment of the northern Rockies. Our test shoes were ridden in rain, through some late-season snow patches, over rocks and roots, and through the deeper hot sands of the eastern Sierra high deserts. We were able to experience the huge variety of conditions that many of you will encounter on your own mountain bike adventures!

Testing water resistance and breathability
Testing water resistance and breathability

Testing in the hot temperatures of the high desert
Testing in the hot temperatures of the high desert

Our testing revolves around a set list of metrics in order to perform an objective and consistent review to help you make your best gear choices. Our review of mountain bike flat pedal shoes includes several areas including; pedal grip, comfort and arch support, rigidity and power transfer, weight, breathability, and durability.

Grip


Aside from finding the proper fit for a shoe, one of the most important things to consider is how well a flat shoe's sole can grip the pins of our pedal. If you're riding a clipless pedal and shoe combo, not necessarily a big deal, but with flats, the sole of your shoe is the only thing keeping you rubber side down. So with that, our reviewers spend a great deal of time examining just how well a shoe keeps you attached.

The Rubber Kinetics DST 6.0 High Grip sole really grips those pedal pins!
The Rubber Kinetics DST 6.0 High Grip sole really grips those pedal pins!

Mountain bike flat pedal shoes aren't just made for riding
Mountain bike flat pedal shoes aren't just made for riding

Comfort and Arch Support


We try to be as objective as possible, but this metric is by nature pretty subjective. Some factors for you to consider are how well the shoe feels overall when put it on, quantity of padding, midsole composition, and type of insole. If you have general shoe preferences with running or hiking shoes, keep in mind you can likely find these same footwear features in a flat pedal shoe.

The D30 insoles provide great comfort and arch support.
The D30 insoles provide great comfort and arch support.

Rigidity and Power Transfer


There is a pretty large range of overall shoe stiffness out there between different manufacturers and shoe models, and we spend a significant amount of time cranking out the miles to determine how well our hard-earned efforts are returned. A shoe that is too stiff is great for pure on the bike performance but tends to suffer when off the bike while you're hiking or just walking around. A shoe that's too soft suffers while trying to climb over steep obstacles and is fatiguing on long downhill sections, but is super comfortable when you're just hanging out after a ride. We search for a happy medium between the two; shoes that can hammer all day but not be totally awkward when we're pushing our bikes up too-steep-to-ride trail sections. You'll have to decide what degree of stiffness your riding requires.

The Livewire provides a solid platform for pedaling
The Livewire provides a solid platform for pedaling

Weight


While we have trust in each shoe's manufacturers intentions, we decide to ensure that claimed weights for each individual shoe are accurate and weighed each on our own scale so you have the most accurate information possible when selecting your own shoes.

The Powerline weighing in.
The Powerline weighing in.

Breathability


Another important factor to consider in a pair of shoes is how well they breathe. Swamp foot is no fun, so we also consider how well a shoe keeps our feet at that just-right point of warmth. For anything but pure gravity riding, a shoe needs a decent degree of breathability which also tends to go with how quickly a pair of shoes dries out after they end up with rain or creek crossings. If you ride in cooler conditions, this probably isn't as important, but for moderate to warmer climates, this becomes increasingly important.

Durability


When it comes to durability, it's obvious we want our spendy shoes to last as long as possible. We do our best to gaze into the crystal ball of durability to predict how well each shoe is likely to hold up for the long haul. With that said, we aren't psychics but we do our best to tell the future for you. We look at overall construction, upper and sole materials, wear points, etc. We try to use and abuse our test shoes as hard as we can to give you a good idea how well each test subject will hold up in the long run.

Like our review for riders looking to clipless technology in the Mountain Bike Shoe Review, this is an in-depth, comprehensive review of mountain bike flat shoes that will make your mountain bike shoe purchase decision a whole lot easier. Our testing process wasn't always smooth, and we even drew some of our blood, so you don't have to.

With flat shoes and pedals  good habits are rewarded and bad habits are  well...
With flat shoes and pedals, good habits are rewarded and bad habits are, well...