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Best mountain bike shoes 2022 | 28 tried and tested flat and clipless MTB shoes

Our top-rated flat and clipless shoes for mountain bikers

When looking for the best mountain bike shoes, there are numerous options. To figure out which pair is right for you, the first decision you’ll have to make is whether you want to go with flat-pedal or clipless-pedal shoes.


Our in-depth buyer’s guide will help you choose, as well as provide some information on the foundations of a good mountain bike shoe.

You’ll find all the best mountain bike shoe reviews on this page, and whether you ride cross-country, trail, enduro or downhill on flat or clipless pedals, we’ve ridden and rated the best mountain bike shoes on the market.

To make things easier, we’ve split this list into different types of mountain bike shoes:

These categories aren’t fixed, and many of the shoes are compatible across riding disciplines, but it’s a good place to start if you’re not entirely sure what you’re looking for.

The best mountain bike shoes in 2022, as rated by our expert testers

Best trail and enduro mountain bike shoes 

  • Shimano ME7: £179 / $200
  • Crankbrothers Mallet BOA: £180 / AU$330 / €200
  • Giro Chamber II: £130 / $150
  • Scott MTB AR Boa Clip: £160 / $180 / €180
  • Leatt 6.0 Clip V22: £130 / €149
  • Specialized 2FO Roost Clip: £110 / $130 / AU$220 / €130
  • Bontrager Foray: £120 / $150 / AU$200 / €140
  • Endura MT500 Burner Clipless: £129.99 / $159.99 /€159.99
  • Scott MTB Elite BOA: £125 / $140 / €140
  • Shimano AM5: £80 / $100 / AU$130 / €100
  • Ride Concepts Transition: £150 / $160 / AU$271.49 / €189.49
  • Bontrager Rally: £155 / $155 / AU$250 / €170
  • Ion Rascal Select BOA: £170 / $199.95 / €200
  • Crankbrothers Mallet Speedlace: £150 / $169.99 / €169.99
  • Shimano MW7: £190 / $275

Best XC mountain bike shoes

  • Fizik Infinito X1: £325 / $400 / €350
  • Shimano XC501: £140 / $170
  • Specialized S-Works Recon: £340 / $425 / AU$500

Best MTB flat-pedal shoes

  • Five Ten Freerider Pro: £120 / $150 / €140
  • Five Ten Impact Pro: £125 / $160 / €150
  • Ride Concepts Hellion Elite: £130 / $140 / AU$255
  • Specialized 2FO DH: £145 / $170 / AU$250 / €160
  • Specialized 2FO Roost: £110 / $120 / AU$220 / €110
  • Endura MT500 Burner Flat: £119.99 / $149.99 / €149.99 
  • Ride Concepts TNT: £140 / $160 / AU$300
  • Ride Concepts Vice: £90 / $100 / AU$205
  • Shimano GR5: £80 / $100 / AU$119
  • Shimano GR9: £120 / $160

Best mountain bikes shoes for trail and enduro riding

Trail and enduro shoes tend to have solid, robust designs that can withstand a battering. The soles are stiff, but not so stiff you can’t take part in a bit of hike-a-bike. Many look like flat-sole mountain bike shoes, but others are more similar to typical clipless XC shoes.

All the shoes here take cleats for clipless pedals. Keep scrolling for our selection of the best flat MTB shoes.

Shimano ME7

5.0 out of 5 star rating
The Shimano ME7 is a thoroughly accomplished trail shoe.
Immediate Media
  • £179 / $200 as tested
  • Impressively versatile
  • Protective and resilient

Shimano’s ME7s are some of our favourite trail shoes, having scored a full five stars in recent testing.

We found them to provide the perfect foot position for pedalling and descending, and although there’s enough stiffness to make the most of skinny XC pedals, they also flex enough for hike-a-bike escapades.

The outer flap and neoprene ankle gaiter combine to make them and their lace closure resistant to the ingress of mud, grit and stones.

We also found they’ll keep your feet comfortable in all but the coldest of conditions.

Crankbrothers Mallet BOA

4.5 out of 5 star rating
The Mallet shoes are designed to be used for downhill riding and racing.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • £180 / AU$330 / €200 as tested
  • Comfortable with plenty of cleat adjustment
  • Boa system costs more than speed-lace version

Designed for enduro and downhill riding, the Crankbrothers Mallet BOA shoes are a well-designed set of kicks that feel incredibly comfy.

They have enough feel and flex from the sole, ensuring you get a good level of feedback, without ever feeling droopy around the pedal. There’s plenty of cleat adjustment and the shoes shed mud easily too.

The shoes close with a Boa dial, which makes for quick opening and closing, but it does make these shoes £30 more expensive than their speed-lace equivalents.

It might be worth trying the shoes on before you buy, as we found the sizing a little generous in testing.

Giro Chamber II

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Giro’s Chamber II offers plenty of cleat adjustment.
Immediate Media
  • £130 as tested
  • Plenty of adjustment
  • Good off-bike grip

Giro’s Chamber II shoes are standout performers that are easy for clipping in and out of the pedals, and have lots of cleat adjustment.

A thin sole gives enough feel while remaining efficiently rigid for sprints and climbs.

The shoes’ wide camo-print sole and toe bumper help to protect your feet, and the collar is well padded too.

Scott MTB AR Boa Clip

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Two Boa dials is something usually seen on cross-country kicks.
Immediate Media
  • £160 / $180 / €180 as tested
  • Double Boa dial retention
  • Tough, weather-resistant

These Scott trail kicks use two Boa dials per shoe, which is a design feature more commonly found on cross-country footwear. This makes them a doddle to cinch down to the perfect fit.

These are a tough, terrain- and weather-resistant option and great to pedal in.

The fit can be a little spacious for some, but is easily dialled in with the Boas. These don’t breathe as well as others though, so those in hotter climates might want to look elsewhere.

Leatt 6.0 Clip V22

4.5 out of 5 star rating
The latest in Leatt’s growing shoe range, the 6.0 features some nifty details.
Russell Burton / Our Media
  • Sturdy construction
  • Features an ATOP dial rather than BOA
  • £130 / €149 as tested

Leatt’s 6.0 Clip V22 is comprised of a single-woven piece upper with various abrasion and impact-resistant panels. The brand uses cat’s-tongue material on the inside of the heel to reduce heel lift.

The well-considered fit and breathable upper impressed, as did the ventilated mesh weave. The mesh holds very little water and if they do happen to let a little in, they’ll dry fast. We didn’t find any fault with the ATOP dial, with the clicks defined in feel and noise when tightening.

Specialized 2FO Roost Clip

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Specialized has a shoe for every occasion, and the 2FO Roost Clip is its park-lap, chilled trail-riding pair of kicks.
Russell Burton / Our Media
  • Relaxed fit
  • Excellent pedalling performance
  • £110 / $130 / AU$220 / €130 as tested

Specialized’s 2FO Roost Clip may have a casual appearance and a relaxed yet comfortable fit, but it is still a top-performing shoe on the trails. There is less toe protection as the upper is quite thin, which contributes to a low weight, although this could be ideal for longer rides.

Laces are the closure system of choice and the brand’s tried-and-tested Body Geometry insoles deliver ample arch support. The only real negative is the eyelets for the laces aren’t the smoothest running, so getting the shoe on and off is a longer affair.

Bontrager Foray

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Bontrager Foray fits snugly, with no hot spots, thanks to the excellent Boa-and-strap combo.
Andy McCandlish / Immediate Media
  • £120 / $150 / AU$200 / €140 as tested
  • Old-school looks
  • Secure, comfortable Boa and strap closure

Don’t let the cross-country look of Bontrager’s Forays fool you – this is a versatile choice that excels at trail riding or for long days out in the hills.

The sole is surprisingly flexible for comfortable walking and there’s plenty of grip even without using the bolt-in studs at the front of the shoe.

The Boa dial and strap combo makes for a great fit without hot spots. These are hard-wearing, efficient yet comfortable shoes for trail riding.

Endura MT500 Burner Clipless

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Endura MT500 Burner Clipless is packed with features.
Tom Marvin / Our Media
  • £129.99 / $159.99 / €159.99
  • Excellent sole
  • Well-designed insole
  • Lets water in

The Endura MT500 Burner has plenty of technological and physiological features that create a comfortable and well-fitting shoe for enduro and trail riding.

The insole of the shoe is well-designed. The insole has a ‘metatarsal button’, which is said to help spread your big toe and prevent your foot from scrunching. There are also dots across the sole, which are said to help your foot harden or soften in coordination with your pedal stroke.

The sole of the shoe has an aggressive tread, offering plenty of grip if you have to push your bike up sloppy trails. The cleat is free to move 39mm front to rear, as much as any shoe on the market. You might need a cleat spacer if you don’t want to feel locked in.

The upper is nicely built and ventilated, but it does let water in.

Scott MTB Elite BOA

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Scott MTB Elite BOA trail shoes would be a good shout if you’re used to riding in muddy, wet conditions.
Andy McCandlish / Immediate Media
  • £125 / $140 / €140 as tested
  • Great feel at the pedals
  • Quick and accurate Boa dial adjustment

The MTB Elites from Scott excel at trail-centre outings thanks to their all-weather exterior, quick-drying padding and convenient Boa dial adjustment.

They’re not the best in very cold or waterlogged conditions and will warrant a waterproof sock for such use.

There’s a really direct feel at the pedals with these thanks to the thin soles, but this does mean they’re not suitable for hike-a-bike style adventuring.

Shimano AM5 (AM503)

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Shimano’s shoes have long been popular and the pocket-friendly AM5 looks to be so as well, with good reason.
Russell Burton / Our Media
  • Considered features for the price
  • Lace closure
  • £80 / $100 / AU$130 / €100 as tested

The Shimano AM5s impressed with their solid ventilation and ample ankle protection.

The laces come quite far up the foot to help secure your ankle, even if there isn’t any grippy material on the inside to prevent heel lift.

There are perforations in the shoe to assist with ventilation, and although they will let in water, the synthetic material means they dry quickly.

What prevents the shoes from getting top marks is the sole is a touch too flexible and the inner edge of the toe can hit the cranks when unclipping.

Ride Concepts Transition

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Designed for all-mountain, aggressive riders, these shoes are expensive, but dig into the detail and you find a broad array of features.
Russell Burton / Our Media
  • D30 shock-absorbing inserts
  • On the stiffer end of the spectrum
  • £150 / $160 / AU$271.49 / €189.49 as tested

The Transition is a more gravity-focused shoe that utilises DST 8.0 MID GRIP rubber throughout its bulky-looking sole.

The D30 insert is a soft material that hardens on impact that can be found on the lower portion of the shoe.

They’re a heavier shoe and take an age to dry if they get soaked, but the Transitions are a great pick if foot protection and a stiff sole are your top priorities.

Bontrager Rally

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Rally is built for everything from downhill to day-to-day trail use according to Bontrager.
Russell Burton / Our Media
  • Incredible comfort
  • Versatile across all mountain genres
  • £155 / $155 / AU$250 / €170 as tested

The Bontrager Rally is an extremely comfortable shoe with impressive ventilation. The sole is on the flexier side, which Bontrager has designed as more of a relaxed fit with a roomy toebox, ideal for longer days on the trails and to ease walking.

To avoid feeling the cleat when riding, the shoe would be best paired with a pedal with a cage. The Rally features a lace closure with a Velcro strap cinching the shoe at the top.

Ion Rascal Select BOA

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Rascal Select BOA has been built with descending in mind.
Russell Burton / Our Media
  • Designed with descending in mind
  • Well-ventilated despite bulky appearance
  • £170 / $199.95 / €200 as tested

The Ion Rascal Select BOA features a more rearward cleat channel due to being a more gravity-orientated shoe. There is impact protection at the heel and they are very easy to put on and take off as the tongue opens wide.

We were unsure of the Boa dial’s placement at the top of the tongue in that the tension is concentrated at the top of the foot rather than throughout. That said, some riders may prefer the flexibility of the dial.

Crankbrothers Mallet Speedlace

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Crankbrothers targets users of its Mallet DH pedals with the Mallet Speedlace shoe.
Russell Burton / Our Media
  • Comfortable for longer rides
  • Well-ventilated
  • £150 / $169.99 / €169.99 as tested

The Speedlace is a faster alternative to a full-lace in that there is a Velcro strap that secures the lace and is easier to make smaller adjustments.

On the trail, we found it to be a comfortable and well-ventilated shoe. The sole is fairly stiff, although there is some give at the toebox area to aid with walking.

They even come with a set of Crankbrothers’ own cleats in the box, but they work well with Shimano’s SPD too.

Shimano MW7

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The MW7 is a waterproof, insulated, clipless mountain bike shoe that’s ready to withstand the worst of winter.
Lawrence Crossman-Emms / Immediate Media
  • £190 / $275 as tested
  • Warm and waterproof
  • Ideal for rough, wintry conditions

If you’re looking to get the most from your winter riding, having comfortable feet is a must.

Shimano’s MW7 is a top-tier winter waterproof shoe that will keep you dry in all but the most persistent downpours.

They’re jam-packed full of features, including a Gore-Tex insulated comfort liner, Boa lacing system and Michelin-branded dual-density rubber soles.

They’re very comfortable for both riding and pushing your bike, and kept our tester’s toes warm throughout the winter, as well as fending off puddle splashes, rain and mud admirably.

Best XC mountain bike shoes

Cross-country riders are always looking to save weight and go faster. As a result, cross-country mountain bike shoes tend to look a lot more like road cycling shoes than other mountain bike shred slippers.

Like road shoes, they have stiff soles and lightweight uppers, but they do have deeper lugs and take two-bolt rather than three-bolt cleats.

Fizik Infinito X1

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Fizik’s Infinito X1 shoes are more forgiving than most XC race shoes.
Immediate Media
  • £325 / $400 / €350 as tested
  • Compliant carbon sole
  • Comfortable XC race shoes

The Infinito X1s come with a hefty price tag, but if you are looking for durable, relatively comfortable cross-country race shoes, they could be for you.

The X1s fit excellently, depending on foot shape – with shoes of this ilk it’s best to check first. Plus a rubber gripper on the inside of the heel cup and the Boa adjusters ensure the feet stay put and don’t slip around.

A unidirectional carbon fibre sole with aggressive lugs for off-bike moments is stiff but not overly so. The X1s are more forgiving than other race shoes on the market.

Shimano XC501

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Shimano XC501 is an XC mountain bike shoe, but its heavy performance leanings make it a good match for gravel riding too.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • £140 / $170 as tested
  • Comfy upper and good power transfer
  • Not great for walking

The Shimano XC501 shoes have a glass fibre sole that really shows itself off when you start pushing on the pedals, delivering immediate power transfer.

This does mean that there isn’t a great deal of flex and paired with the relatively narrow outsole, the XC501s aren’t great for walking.

The wrap-around upper helps to create a supremely comfortable and snug fit.

Specialized S-Works Recon

4.0 out of 5 star rating
They aren’t cheap, but Specialized’s S-Works Recon shoes are light, stiff and comfortable.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • £340 / $425 / AU$500 as tested
  • Light, stiff
  • Very comfortable

Specialized’s S-Works Recon shoes are high-performing cross-country mountain bike shoes that are also suitable for gravel riding and racing.

Twin Boa dials make for perfect retention, with an extra Velcro strap for added security. Specialized Body Geometry insoles add shape to the footbed. The fit is excellent.

Best MTB flat-pedal shoes

The best mountain bike flat-pedal shoes will stick to your pedals and let you get a foot down when things get wild. Made for going full-gas downhill, these shoes are robust and there are plenty of options, from summer slippers to shoes that will keep your feet dry and toasty in the winter.

Five Ten Freerider Pro

5.0 out of 5 star rating
Greater protection and a stiff sole make these a leading pair of enduro or downhill shoes.
Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media
  • £120 / $150 / €140 as tested
  • Thick upper offering lots of protection
  • Sole offers maximum grip and plenty of damping

Five Ten is the benchmark flat-pedal shoe brand, with the Freerider Pros arguably its leading product. Beefed-up versions of the classic Freeriders, with a thicker upper and more protection, they’re still light and comfy enough to pedal in all day and aren’t as tall (or cushioned) as the DH-focused Impact Pros.

The sole strikes the perfect balance of height and stiffness for trail and enduro riding, and gives excellent pedal feedback, but it does take a few rides to bed in and develop enough flexibility to sit well into concave flat pedals.

Five Ten’s legendary S1 Stealth rubber offers maximum grip and superb damping, so the Freerider Pros don’t flinch an inch or bounce about, even over the roughest rock and root sections.

While the sole does wear out quicker than some competitors, it’s a price worth paying for the best combination here of fit, stability, feel and outright grip. The shoes support the foot perfectly, with a heel cup that really keeps them in place. Five Ten’s new upper dries way faster, too.

Five Ten Impact Pro

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Five Ten’s Impact Pro shoes are a top choice for those who prefer flat pedals.
Immediate Media
  • £125 / $160 / €150 as tested
  • Grippiest rubber available
  • Lighter than previous models

Five Ten has no rival when it comes to the stickiness of its shoe rubber. The ‘Stealth S1’ sole of the Impact Pro shoes, with its revised pattern, locks the shoes in place on the pedals.

The Impact Pros are just right in their construction; not overly bulky, but still protective with a reinforced toe cap and abrasion-resistant upper.

Ride Concepts Hellion Elite

4.5 out of 5 star rating
The soles on these shoes rival Five Ten’s for grip.
Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media
  • £130 / $140 / AU$255 as tested
  • Supportive and with enough flexibility
  • Feet stay glued in place

These shoes fuse a low-profile, lace-up upper with Ride Concepts’ stickiest DST 4.0 sole. With this ‘Max Grip’ rubber blend, also used on the TNTs, RC has entered an exclusive club – along with Specialized and its 2FOs – whose members can legitimately claim grip levels on a par with market leaders Five Ten.

In fact, the Hellion Elites feel similar on both foot and bike to the Freerider Pros, with a great blend of support and hold in the upper, balanced by just enough midsole flexibility to precisely feel the pedals and the bike, without any digging in or clawing over.

Traction, damping and pedal connection are superb. Your feet stay glued in place regardless of the terrain and weather, with no bouncing or slipping.

The Hellion Elites cost £10 more than the Freerider Pros, but the D3O insole – which places the ‘smart foam’ in zones at the toe and heel to cushion against repeated hits or big impacts – is an extra feature for your money.

Specialized 2FO DH

4.5 out of 5 star rating
A wide outsole gives a huge contact area, helping stability.
Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media
  • £145 / $170 / AU$250 / €160 as tested
  • Incredibly grippy sole and wide outsole
  • High inside ankle

It’s only taken 20 years, but someone has finally come up with a sole that out-grips Five Ten’s S1 Stealth. Specialized’s SlipNot ST compound has so much vice-like traction that you have to unweight your shoe to change foot position.

The DHs bring tons of other new features to the 2FO line, too, such as a faster-drying leather and textile upper, and a sole and footbed with special profiles to increase comfort and pedalling power.

There’s spot-on damping courtesy of the EVA midsole, while the tilted and shaped insole is super-comfy. As the outsole is really wide, the pedal connection area is massive and stable.

The DHs have extra impact absorption and protection (including a higher inside ankle), so are slightly heavier and bulkier, and offer less pedal feel than the more casual 2FO Roosts, which use the same super-grippy SlipNot ST sole.

Specialized 2FO Roost flat-pedal shoes

4.5 out of 5 star rating
The fit, comfort and design make the 2FO Roosts very appealing.
Andy Lloyd / Immediate Media
  • £110 / $120 / AU$220 / €110 as tested
  • Superb traction and very comfortable
  • Suede section can collect mud

The Specialized 2FO Roost flat-pedal shoes use a new sole compound that is super-sticky and on a par with Five Ten’s leading soles.

Inside, there is a Body Geometry footbed that Specialized has spent a lot of time perfecting, and helps the shoes reach their high comfort levels.

The upper is particularly bad-weather friendly with a suede toe that attracts mud, but thankfully the shoes are quick drying.

Endura MT500 Burner Flat

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The MT500 Burner and Hummvee shoes are Endura’s first footwear.
Alex Evans / Our Media
  • £119.99 / $149.99 / €149.99
  • Comfortable and secure
  • Impressive grip
  • Tongue area lets water in

The MT500 Burner Flat shoes are Endura’s first foray into footwear, alongside its clipless equivalent and the brand’s Hummvee shoes. This doesn’t hold them back, though. These shoes rival many competitors and have a whole host of impressive features, such as a metatarsal button and proprioception dots across the insole.

One of the most notable features on these shoes is the sole. It’s as grippy as many competitors and provides loads of traction, with only the largest bumps causing them to move across the pedal’s surface. It’s also stiff and doesn’t dumb down feel.

The upper is lightweight, quick-drying, robust and easy to care for thanks to its wipe-clean material. However, the shoes would benefit from a lace cover because they let water in around the tongue.

Ride Concepts TNT

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The TNTs are heavier than some trail shoes, but this added weight translates to added protection.
Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media
  • £140 / $160 / AU$300 as tested
  • D30 protection
  • Good for use off the bike too

The TNTs are Ride Concepts’ latest DH-specific flat-pedal shoes. Hardening-upon-impact D3O material is used in the insole for cushioning and on the raised inner ankle to protect from crank bashes.

The new DST 4.0 sole has fantastic grip – your feet never flinch, even if covered in slime, and the damping is as good as any of RC’s rivals. The TNTs feel marginally less locked-on than the Hellion Elites, perhaps because these more solid, heavier shoes don’t conform to the pedal platform quite as easily.

A wrap-over laces strap and the higher ankle combine to support and stabilise the foot really well, plus there’s a chunky toe bumper to fend off stray rocks and impacts.

The price tag is high and the extra weight is noticeable when pedalling, but considering the extra tech and protection, value is still decent. The TNTs also double as good trail-building shoes, with enough heft to stomp and scrape dirt without them getting wrecked.

Ride Concepts Vice flat-pedal shoes

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The suede finish looks great but isn’t the most weatherproof.
Andy lloyd / Immediate Media
  • £90 / $100 / AU$205 as tested
  • Decent grip and really comfy
  • Suede finish is hard to keep looking fresh

The Ride Concepts Vice shoes were developed with the brand’s dirt jump and slopestyle riders, giving an idea of what these shoes are intended for.

The shoe has a hexagonal print on the sole that gives more than enough grip. The build quality of the sole is also excellent.

There is D30 material across the heel and toe, a reinforced toe bumper for protection, while metal eyelets and a tongue gusset are nice details.

These shoes might not tick all the boxes for trail or downhill riding, and the suede finish might not be ideal if you ride in the wet or on muddy trails.

Shimano GR5

4.0 out of 5 star rating
These shoes from Shimano have a skateboarding look to them.
Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media
  • £80 / $100 / AU$119 as tested
  • Grippy sole that can be used for walking
  • Good breathability

Shimano’s cheapest flat shoes have a skate-style synthetic upper that saves over 100g compared to previous versions, with a reinforced, rubberised bumper to protect your toes.

The sole has a honeycomb pattern in the pedal zone and grippy ridges at each end for hiking. Shimano’s own rubber blend is adequately grippy and is incorporated into a pretty flexible midsole. This means there’s a lot of feedback from the pedals, so you know exactly what’s going on with the bike.

We prefer the grip and feel here to that of the more expensive GR9s. Traction and damping aren’t class-leading but are sufficient even in wet and muddy conditions.

The upper can bunch up when you pull the laces tight, but overall, these are lightweight, well-dialled shoes that breathe well thanks to plenty of air holes, although that makes them less suited to winter riding.

Shimano GR9

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Shimano GR9 shoes have a Michelin sole.
Immediate Media
  • £120 / $160 as tested
  • Great fit thanks to Speed Lacing system
  • Michelin sole

Shimano’s GR9 shoes are packed full of technical features such as the Speed Lacing system and splash-proof cover.

The Michelin sole is grippy and flexes just enough to provide feedback through the pedals without sacrificing foot support.

They are also reasonably light at 803g for a pair of size EU 43.

Mountain bike shoe buyer’s guide

Mountain bikers have two options when it comes to footwear: clipless shoes or flats.

What shoes you choose is up to you and will depend on your choice of the best mountain bike pedals. Both types have their benefits, but picking the right option is important because different styles work better in different situations.

Which mountain bike shoes are best for you?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s well worth considering what type of riding you’ll mostly be doing – XC (cross-country), trails or gravity-orientated – because this will influence your decision.

Flat-pedal shoes tend to be orientated towards trail, enduro and downhill riders, where feel and grip on the pedals, as well as protection, are important. Some flat-pedal shoes have soles that are stiffer than others, but none are as stiff as a dedicated cross-country shoe.

Clipless-pedal shoes come in a wider variety of forms, catering to virtually every sort of rider. They range from XC shoes, which are much like road shoes but with a little bit of tread on the soles, all the way to DH shoes that resemble their flat-pedal counterparts, save for cleat mounts.

So, what do you need to look out for?


No matter what style of shoe you choose, if they don’t fit correctly they’ll be uncomfortable and won’t perform as well as they should.

We recommend you try before you buy because everyone’s feet are different and manufacturers use different lasts to build their shoes.

Ensure there’s enough wiggle room for your toes and a decent hold on your heel for comfort and power transfer.

You should also make sure there are no hot spots or parts that dig in because these will become painful on longer days in the saddle.

Retention system

The retention system is what keeps the shoes on your feet. Laces are the traditional option, but there are alternatives.

Laces give you great control over a shoe’s feel and fit but can’t be adjusted on the fly and can get claggy with mud – unless they’re protected by a lace flap.

Boa systems use a ratchet dial and a wire that’s looped through the shoe’s opening for quick, easy and accurate closure and adjustment. They’re found on pricier shoes and tend to be specced to help save weight.

Velcro straps and ratchet buckles are more common and pretty rugged but weigh a bit more. They tend to come on cheaper and mid-price shoes.


The sole is key in defining how the shoe performs. XC riders will want a stiff sole that transfers every watt of power to the pedals. A stiff sole also helps when the shoe is perched on a small clipless pedal.

Pricier shoes will benefit from a light and stiff carbon sole, while cheaper ones use plastic, which is heavier and more flexible.

Trail and enduro riders tend to go one of two ways: either an XC-style shoe with more protection and a more aggressive tread or a gravity-orientated shoe with a more flexible, comfortable sole and a construction that performs better with clipless pedals that have a platform.

Generally speaking, weight and sole stiffness are of no concern to gravity-orientated riders, so they tend to go for shoes that offer plenty of pedal feel and foot protection.


Tread pattern is also important. Some shoes offer a lightweight minimal tread, which is great for racing but will come up short if you need to run or walk anywhere while out on the trail. Others offer more grip and protection but weigh a little more as a result.