In the market for a decent pair of women’s specific flat pedal mountain bike shoes? We’ve put two of the most popular head to head to see how they match up.
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Not all that long ago, any woman who wanted a set of flat pedal shoes for mountain biking had pretty limited choice. Five Ten was one of the few brands producing a women’s shoe. Now, although the choices are still pretty limited, there are at least a few more options and Specialized has been one of the few big brands to step up to the mark with its own shoe, the 2FO.
Specialized Women’s 2FO Flat Mountain Bike Shoe
- Price: £90 / US$130 / AU$169.95
- Sizes: EU36 to 42
- Colours: Indigo/hyper green and black/pink
Specialized’s contribution to the women’s flat pedal shoe market is the 2FO, with the name standing for ‘Foot Out, Flat Out’. Specialized has developed this shoe based around its Body Geometry fit system for women, and athlete and rider feedback.
The sole is constructed from Specialized’s ‘SlipNot’ rubber, developed in collaboration with Specialized’s tyre lab. It’s significantly more grippy than many standard skate shoes or trainers, and the tread pattern, which is directional around the forefoot to grip pedal pins all the better, boosts this further.
An open tread pattern at the rear helps with traction when walking on slippery surfaces, and while it’s not grippy enough to start running through mud, it does pip the Freerider Contacts to the post.
The tough outer coating, combined with an injection moulded toe cup is impressively scuff resistant. After some long hard riding and with a bit of a clean they still look pretty fresh. We found the outer great at fending off splashes and the shoe does seem to dry a little quicker than the Freerider Contacts after a soaking — something to consider for anyone riding in the wet.
The air mesh venting over the toe is both a help and a hindrance here; although the mesh does let the water in it also lets it out easily, and the 2FOs didn’t feel as weighty when wet as the Five Tens either. The venting is also effective for heat exchange and the shoes were comfortable in hot weather, but a little on the drafty side in cold temperatures.
We also appreciated the little elasticated strap over the tongue that keeps the laces tucked out of the way. For those of you who do prefer to clip in, there are now both lace and BOA clipless versions of the women’s 2FO.
Five Ten Freerider Contact Women’s Flat Mountain Bike Shoe
- Price: £110 / US$150 / AU$TBC
- Sizes: UK 2.5 to 8.5
- Colours: Shock green/onyx and maroon/grey
Five Ten has been dominating the flat pedal market for years now and has recently expanded its women’s line to produce women’s versions of many of its popular products.
As you’d expect from a company that develops climbing shoes, the rubber soles of the Freerider Contact are grippy. Very grippy. So grippy in fact that they’ve opted for no tread pattern at the ball of the foot to allow easier repositioning of the foot, and it does help: the rubber is tacky enough that random twigs will stick to your soles when the shoes are boxfresh and has no trouble adhering to a good set of flat pedals even when riding some pretty technical mountain descents.
The Freerider Contacts are less bulky and much lighter than some of the previous women’s specific shoes from the brand, and feature a lower internal volume and smaller heel cup to better fit the average female foot. We found the fit considerably better than the unisex Five Ten shoes we’ve used before, with a more supportive feel and less internal movement, which can cause fatigue.
Another fatigue fighting feature is the reinforced sole, which is stiffer than other models and does help keep the foot supported on longer rides, though still allows some feedback through the pedals.
The abrasion resistant outer is tougher and more robust than the regular Freerider, however the fabric toe section does allow the water in and the shoe holds a fair bit of moisture when riding in the rain. It also takes a fair old while to dry out again, but it’s less draughty than the 2FO shoes.
Specialized Women’s 2FO vs. Five Ten Freerider Contact verdict
In many ways the 2FO and the Freerider contact are closely matched and both performed impressively, though each edged ahead of the other in different categories.
The fit of the 2FO is fantastic: close and supportive without being restrictive, and it provided great support along the length of the foot without any pinching or squishing. Combine this with a sole that’s stiffer than the Freerider contact and you have a shoe that is great for long adventures or point-to-point epics, but can feel a little dead on your local stuff. The fit and sole stiffness support the foot, meaning less strain and fatigue, and less achy feet after a long day in the saddle.
On the side of the Freerider Contacts it’ll come as little surprise to anyone that’s tried Five Ten shoes that the grip that the sole provides is still unbeaten. This version is lighter and stiffer than other Five Ten models.
In our opinion, we suggest going for the 2FO if you like long rides, suffer from sore feet, or like to be able to reposition your foot on the pedal easily. If you’re more about technical descents or like a lot of grip on your pedal, opt for the Freerider.
We liked both, and found ourselves switching between both shoes depending on the conditions: the Specialized 2FOs were my choice for a week of riding in soggy and cold Iceland, and I broke out the Freerider Contacts for my regular trails, locals rides and technical and downhill routes. In fact, in an ideal world we’d have the fit of the 2FO with the grip of the Freerider.
We were also happy to see that Five Ten has chosen to make its Women’s Freerider Contact in such a wide range of sizes, right down to a UK2.5. This means, so long as you can actually get your mitts on them from a retailer, that more women should have access to decent shoes if they opt to wear flats.