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How to choose your MTB shoes

MTB shoes

Having a good pair of shoes for mountain biking is obvious, but it's not always easy to find the perfect MTB shoes among all the models and brands that exist.

Indeed, the various manufacturers (including Mavic , Northwave, Sidi, Five Ten, Giro, etc.) offer a wide range of MTB shoes for all disciplines! They're made for the casual cyclist, the sports hiker, the competitor in cross country (XC), the freerider, the descender... Each pair of MTB shoes has its own characteristics, thus meeting precise expectations.

You should also consider the type of pedals you use on your Mountain Bike (MTB) between automatic pedals and flat pedals.

MTB shoes by discipline

Hiking MTB shoes / Enduro

MTB hiking shoes must, above all, be comfortable. Indeed, the time spent on your mountain bike can be long, especially if you're doing raids, and it isn't uncommon to have to walk with your MTB shoes, hence the importance of having rather flexible soles.

MTB shoes for Enduro are often mid-high or high models to protect the malleolus. There's also a small rubber reinforcement on the front of the foot in case of an unforeseen impact...

The sole should be relatively soft to provide you comfort. The soles also have crampons in order to walk safely on fatty ground. Then there are the 2 familiar types of soles: compatible automatic pedals (SPD) or for flat pedals. The tightening on MTB hiking shoes is quite classic and is usually done with shoelaces. Higher-end models also use a velcro, which makes it possible to wedge the laces underneath.

Downhill mountain biking and Freeride shoes

Downhill mountain bike shoes are resistant footwear. They're designed to withstand the constraints of extreme disciplines such as freeride, slopestyle, dirt, street and even BMX. These shoes make a good compromise between stiffness and flexibility in order to get maximum thrills during pedaling.

On downhill and freeride mountain bike shoes, protection is essential. Most models are therefore reinforced on the front of the foot to protect it against unexpected trail exits or impacting stones.

The soles of these MTB shoes offer a good rigidity/flexibility ratio. The soles are flat with crampons in order to have a maximum grip. For these extreme disciplines, you'll find SPD compatible soles, but also classic flat soles that allow you to ride with flat pedals.

This type of shoes features classic tightening which is closer to the hiking shoes' tightening system with shoelaces and velcro, so as to leave a certain freedom to the foot for fine piloting.

Cross-Country / XC Shoes

Cross-country MTB shoes are light and rigid. This type of MTB shoes provides great efficiency for the rider as there's almost no loss of energy. The XC MTB shoes for competition are a lot closer to road bike shoes.

These are low models where the shoe stops below the malleolus, which makes it possible to have a light shoe. On winter models, a watertight membrane rises above the ankle to keep warmth and water tightness.

The soles are very rigid, always keeping performance and lightness in mind. The soles of these shoes have crampons and, on certain models, one can add metal spikes which facilitate walking during portage sessions. All XC MTB shoes are SPD compatible.

The tightening on this type of shoes is effective so that the foot is well maintained and that the heel almost doesn't move to maintain maximum power during pedaling. The high-end models are equipped with micrometric clamps to provide precision and optimal foot support.

Tips for MTB bikers to choose your shoes:

  • Try to buy a size or above or a half size if the brand proposes it because, as in all sports, the foot swells slightly with the effort and it's more pleasant to be comfortable in your MTB shoes.
  • This doesn't apply directly to the shoe, but if you're using automatic pedals, check your MTB's stirrups condition regularly and tighten them.
  • For moisture removal and for a better breathability of the skin, do not hesitate to use MTB socks adapted to this discipline.
  • If your shoes are wet after a rainy trip or a washing, slip some newspaper inside to absorb moisture faster.
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