Crankbrothers’ new Mallet BOA shoes are designed to be worn for downhill and enduro riding or racing, and are named after Crankbrothers’ very own Mallet DH pedals, which share almost identical intentions.
Crankbrothers says that by considering the shoes and pedals as a unified system, it’s been able to create the “optimal interface”. That means, in theory at least, you won’t need to hack at the Mallets with a Stanley knife or Dremmel to alter the sole or lengthen the cleat slots to make them work at their best.
What’s more, despite being Crankbrothers shoes, the brand says that the Mallets (along with its other shoes) will work with other brand pedals just as well.
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Crankbrothers Mallet BOA shoe construction
Arguably one of the most important parts of any cycling shoe is the outsole. The Mallets use Crank’s MATCH Outsole which features its MC1 mid-friction, fast-rebound rubber compound.
The radial tread pattern that surrounds the ramped cleat box is designed to help make clipping in and out that bit easier, along with being able to shed mud more easily.
In a bid to boost handling control (potentially at the cost of some pedalling efficiency), the Mallet’s cleat box features the MATCH Box Race Zone – a dedicated, additional 5mm of rearward cleat adjustment that isn’t featured on its more trail-orientated Mallet E shoes.
Both the toe and heel treads are more spaced out than that of the central tread, as well as being slightly taller and angled too, for better purchase off the bike when walking.
The malleable, almost rubber-like upper is reinforced around the toe and heel area to boost protection and help the shoe hold its shape and feel stable when in use. There are perforations and mesh windows, which allow your feet to breath a little, as well as prevent the Mallets from getting waterlogged.
The closure comes courtesy of a Boa dial and Velcro strap (these are the priciest of the Mallet shoes on offer). The cord for the Boa closure threads through neatly hidden eyelets, criss-crossing over the padded, very comfortable tongue. There are silicone dots inside the heel cup to better cling onto your socks too, which is a nice touch.
My size 42 test samples weighed 1,140g with cleats fitted.
Crankbrothers Mallet BOA shoe performance
In use, getting the Mallets set up is easy. Crankbrothers says that if you’re running Crank pedals (as I did), you’ll need just one spacer beneath the cleat. For those looking to use Shimano pedals, there’s no spacer required and the cleat can be bolted directly to the shoe.
I slammed the cleats as far back in the cleat slots as they would go – right into the red ‘Race Zone’. When comparing the Mallets to my go-to Specialized 2FO Clip 2.0 shoes, the cleats don’t slide back quite as far – I’m talking a matter of millimetres, though – but I wouldn’t say it was massively obvious on the trail.
What I would say was apparent was that I didn’t have to shunt the cleats right over to one side in order to get sufficient crank clearance for clipping out comfortably, which also reduces mud clearance on one side of the cleat. Instead, I was able to sit the cleats almost centrally across the slots.
Thanks to the offset and narrower upper of the Mallets, I still had more clearance from the shoe to the crank with the cleats in this position, meaning clipping out was never affected no matter the crank angle – a problem some shoes can suffer from when paired with Crankbrothers pedals.
Padding around the ankle of the Mallets isn’t as plentiful as that of the Specialized 2FO clips, but that doesn’t make them any less comfy and also helps contribute to that narrower profile.
I opted to ride in the size 42 Mallets because the sizing is a little generous compared to the likes of Shimano and Specialized, where I ride in a size 43, so I would suggest trying on before buying, to ensure you get the sizing right.
The Boa dial works well and enables a nice even tension across the top of the foot, while the Velcro strap properly locks your foot in tightly and securely. This helps to ensure very little in the way of heel lift when walking off the bike.
It’s handy that the Boa dial can be popped up to release tension, making removing the shoes quicker and easier than a traditional lace-up style design, which comes in handy when they/you are caked in mud.
The toe box is roomy enough to allow your toes to splay out comfortably, and I had no issues with the shoe pinching through the middle of my foot, thanks in part to the relatively neutral, quite flat insole which suits my feet well.
When you do start hammering the pedals, the Mallets offer enough flex and feedback, but without an overly thick sole you can feel what’s going on beneath your feet yet not feel uncomfortable in any way.
They’re stiff enough too, and I had no issues when wearing them on much longer days trail riding in the hills. The shoes never felt like the sole was drooping around the pedal and costing me precious energy. Even when I tried them with smaller Candy 3 pedals, the Mallets managed to balance feel and stiffness incredibly well through the sole.
On damp days in the hills, the Mallets do a reasonable job of shrugging off puddle splashes and the odd, light rain shower, but your feet will still get a soaking eventually. Thankfully, the Mallets don’t take too long to dry, which is a real plus.
Most importantly, though, clipping in and out is incredibly easy and I never struggled to get my foot out for any of those split-second dabs when things start going wrong – I tried these with Mallet DH, Mallet E and Candy 3 pedals.
I had no issues with my shoes contacting the cranks when clipping out either, so movement felt free and easy. That’s not to say the shoes were skating across the tops of the pedals because they weren’t.
The Mallets managed to sit comfortably on top of both of the platform style clipless pedals I tried them with and felt well-supported without the pedal cage feeling like it was interfering when entering or exiting the pedal mechanism.
Crankbrothers Mallet BOA shoe bottom line
Overall, the new Mallet shoes feel incredibly comfy when in use. I’ve had no issues with mud clogging around the cleats, there’s just enough flex and feel through the sole to ensure you get the feedback needed to prevent clipping in or out from feeling vague or unnerving, and there’s a decent amount of cleat adjustment on offer.
They’re not cheap, though, and while the Boa closure makes for really quick removal, I’d consider the Mallet Speed Lace option and potentially save myself £30 in the process.
I also think it’s worth trying the sizing out before buying, just to be sure you get it right. These are lovely, well-designed shoes that work well on the trail.