The Kestrels’ svelte, minimalist looks and lack of laces won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but with someone like 10-time downhill world champ Nico Vouilloz helping with development, expectations of these shoes are understandably high.
It’s the closure system that first grabs your attention. Unlike other manufacturers, which use a combination of BOA dials and Velcro straps, Five Ten has opted to use a single BOA dial and cable arrangement to clamp the shoes securely to your feet. Not only does this reduce weight (520g per shoe, with cleats, in a UK size 8), this simple design also contributes to their clutter-free look. It’s also where the Kestrels can falter slightly though, in terms of comfort at least.
Though they feel extremely comfortable when you initially slip them on, it’s tricky to get the cable to tension evenly as you turn the indexed BOA dial. As the cable criss-crosses itself it binds, leaving the shoe tight in some places and baggier in others. On the trail, we found this resulted in pinching across the forefoot and/or aching at the arch of the foot.
Taking time to tension the BOA dial while manipulating the cable does help, resulting in a more even, secure fit and, ultimately, a more comfortable shoe, but you shouldn’t really have to do this. On longer rides we found ourselves either leaving the Kestrels a little looser than we’d ideally have wanted or releasing the tension of the BOA system and only tightening the dial when we hit technical sections. On the plus side, popping the BOA dial up releases all the cable tension and makes it easy to take the Kestrels off, which is good when they’re caked in mud.
Fit aside, these shoes have plenty of positives, most notably the dual-compound sole, which is one of the best we’ve tried. Five Ten’s super-tacky Stealth Mi6 rubber is used on the toe and heel and provides stellar traction when scrabbling back up awkward trail sections, while the firmer Stealth C4 rubber in the middle of the outsole meant we never struggled when clipping in/out of platform style clipless pedals. Sole stiffness is well balanced too, with a stiff, power-efficient feel that works well with smaller, non-platform pedals but is also forgiving enough when riding long, bumpy trails all day long.
Add to that the splashproof upper and sturdy toe box, and the Kestrels really are full of promise – Five Ten just needs to get the closure mechanism properly sorted out.