While Five Ten has dominated the flat pedal shoe market for years, the brand’s clipless range has been a little hit and miss.
Thankfully, the Kestrel BOAs seem to have picked up the baton from their flat-pedal brethren, and with that, transferred their winning formula over to these clipless mountain bike shoes.
Five Ten is targeting the Kestrel BOA at ‘downcountry’ trail riders looking for the benefits of a stiff and efficient cross-country shoe, but with some practical features you’d usually find only on a weightier trail shoe.
Five Ten has done a great job in that regard.
There’s plenty of attention to detail where it matters most, along with an impressively comfortable fit and feel. They deliver when really putting the power down, but aren’t too stiff or awkward, retaining some of that all-important feel and feedback required for good bike control.
They are quite pricey for mountain bike shoes, especially ones that aren’t furnished with carbon fibre soles, but their impressive performance on the trail helps justify that lofty cost.
Five Ten Kestrel BOA shoes specifications and details
Five Ten uses a single BOA paired with two Velcro straps to secure the Kestrel BOAs to your feet.
The upper is made from 50 per cent recycled materials, featuring large, very thick, mesh-like panels to help with breathability. While it isn’t as supple as some, it’s still soft enough to remain comfortable on long rides.
Up-front, a very robust toe bumper adds protection, while at the rear, the heavily formed heel feels solidly made and designed to lock your foot in place.
There’s plush padding around the ankle cuff (though not loads), which boosts comfort that bit further.
Underneath, you’ll find plenty of horizontal lines either side of the cleat slots to help with accurate setup. There’s plenty of available adjustment to ensure even those (like me) who prefer a rearward cleat position won’t be disappointed.
Relatively soft rubber studs feature under the toe and heel area for off-the-bike traction, and don’t feel skatey on harder surfaces, as some firmer rubber or plasticky tread compounds can.
One of Five Ten’s neatest touches is the use of its sticky Stealth rubber. The red patch that sits behind the cleat pocket features this, and means should you get caught unclipped and need to stand on the pedals, it’ll provide sufficient traction.
It’s something a lot of brands, especially those with trail shoes that have a very firm sole, could benefit from.
At 746g for my size EU 42 shoes with Crankbrothers cleats fitted, the Kestrel BOAs’ weight is on a par with many other shoes in this category.
Five Ten Kestrel BOA shoes performance
As soon as I pressed on the pedals, I could feel just how stiff and effective the Kestrel BOAs are at transferring that effort into forward motion.
The connection between shoe and pedal feels solid, meaning when you get on the gas, you can get shifting quickly.
In many instances, with a stiff sole comes a more forward cleat position. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with the Kestrel BOAs and I was able to get my cleats suitably far back towards the middle of my feet.
This helped counter any awkwardness and the somewhat precarious feel commonly found with shoes that prioritise efficiency above everything else.
This more rearward cleat position helps to prevent your legs from tiring more quickly on long descents, too, which is a real plus on lengthy rides.
In terms of fit and feel, there’s definitely an air of XC race shoes about the Kestrel BOAs thanks to their svelte profile, but their robust build and solid toe bumper make them feel far more protective and capable.
Getting an even tension across the top of the feet is simple, even when the straps and dials are cranked nice and tight to produce a proper foot-hugging feel.
A squarer profile to the toe box enables you to let your little piggies spread out when you’re pedalling away, which helps here, too.
There’s some subtle shaping and arch support inside the shoes, and I found I got on with the fairly neutral footbed incredibly well.
While the Kestrel BOAs feel reasonably airy, they’re not as light and breezy as some, though will dry quite quickly following a soaking.
Off the bike, walking on flatter ground is okay, though scrambling up steeper pitches will highlight some heel lift due to the lack of flex through the sole. However, if things get loose underfoot, the rubber studs do a decent job of digging in.
If you can’t manage to clip in quickly enough and need to rest your foot on the pedal, the small patch of Stealth rubber in the centre of the shoe provides some much needed traction.
Overall, I was as confident wearing the Kestrel BOAs to hammer XC laps as I was to hit jump lines or technical descents, thanks to just how comfortable, protective and capable they felt.
How do the Five Ten Kestrel BOA shoes compare?
Like the Specialized Recon 2.0, the Kestrel BOAs enable you to shift cleats decently far back on the shoe, boosting bike control and limiting fatigue.
While the Recon 2.0 shoes have a stiff sole, the Kestrel BOAs feel a touch stiffer. That means they’re not as easy to walk in as the Recons, but they’re not too bad.
When it comes to fit and feel, they’re very closely matched. I’d say my feet felt more comfortable quicker inside the Kestrel BOAs, though, largely down to the closure and neutral foot bed.
Both shoes sport grippy outsole treads, but the patch of Stealth rubber on the Five Tens really makes a difference when unclipped.
While the price difference between the two is £25, I’d lean towards the Five Tens, largely because they’re a touch comfier and stiffer. I’d also get them working double duty for gravel riding, where they should be well-suited.
Five Ten Kestrel BOA shoes bottom line
The Five Ten Kestrel BOA shoes offer a stiff sole for impressive power transfer, but have enough cleat adjustment and a robust, sturdy feel to ensure they don’t feel quite as awkward to ride in as full-on XC shoes.
Thanks to a great fit and comfortable, secure closure, you can pedal in the Kestrel BOAs for hours on end without any hot spots, aches or pains, even when really hammering on the pedals.
With some neat features and plenty of attention to detail, although pricey, I think they’re worth the money.
How we tested | trail and XC clipless mountain bike shoes
We’ve tested nine of the newest and most interesting trail and cross-country focused clipless shoes.
To identify the key differences, we’ve gone out into the wilderness to pedal mile after mile, often with a different shoe on each foot. This may look weird, but there’s no better way to highlight those all-important details.
On top of that, doing long rides around battered trail centre loops and taking part in an XC race has helped us work out each pair’s strengths and weaknesses.
Products on test
- Bontrager Evoke
- Five Ten Kestrel BOA
- Fizik Terra Atlas
- Giro Rincon
- Northwave Rockit Plus
- Rockrider Race 700
- Scott MTB Team Boa
- Shimano ME5
- Specialized Recon 2.0
|Price||br_price, 5, 3, Price, AUD $321.00EUR €222.00GBP £200.00|
|Weight||br_weight, 5, 6, Weight, 746g (42 EU) – with Crankbrothers cleats fitted, Array, g|
|Brand||br_brand, 5, 10, Brand, Five ten|
|Features||br_Features, 11, 0, Features, Sizes: 5.5 - 13.5 uk
Upper: Synthetic upper with abrasion-resistant seamless overlays
Colours: Core Black / Grey Six / Grey Four; Core Black / Cloud White / Impact Orange
|Shoe closure||br_shoeClosure, 11, 0, Shoe closure, Dial and velcro|
|Sole||br_sole, 11, 0, Sole, Stealth Marathon rubber|