If you’re after a pair of simple, stiff cross-country shoes, then FLR’s F-55s are worth looking out for.
The first thing you’ll notice is the stiffness of the reinforced nylon sole, which uses a raised inside lip to create a semi bathtub design for minimum flex. In fact, it isn’t far off lower priced carbon shoes in terms of pushing your power through to the pedals, so racers and speed freaks on a budget are going to really love them. If you’re racing cyclocross or front-fanging up steep, slippery slopes for any other reason, being able to screw toe studs in will be a bonus too.
Don’t rely on the tread otherwise though, because it’s as hard as Lego. Combined with the super-stiff sole, that makes them as grippy as rollerskates on wet rocks. They won’t wear out in a hurry though, and these shoes are for riding, not walking.
Triple Velcro strap fastening keeps things simple and cheap, and while they’re not as ‘clamped on’ in feel as stiffer exoskeleton/hard heel cup shoes, the generously padded heel cuff limits heel lift so you don’t need to get excessive with tightening. An F-65 with ratchet buckle and a dial-fastened F-75 are also available.