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When looking at mountain bike shoes you’ll need something reliable, lightweight, grippy, water-resistant and something durable. Not all shoes are equal and not all shoes have these trades. Some are lightweight and comfortable but not very durable and some offer lots of protection but feel like bricks.
Picking the best MTB shoe is a tough one, there are two shoes that really stand out but which one is best for you depends on your personal preference. Looking at all the pros and cons I believe the Shimano GR7 (link to evo.com) are the best shoes you can get at a reasonable price. It’s not the cheapest nor the most expensive, but you get a top-quality shoe that has all the features you need for flat pedal mountain biking.
The other shoe I prefer is the Free Rider Pro. Many riders have used them over the years and stuck with them. It’s on par with the Shimano GR7 but there are a couple of differences. I’ll go into each shoe and explain what’s good and bad about them so you can decide what suits you best.
So let’s start with the shoe that I like best considering all the pros and cons. The Shimano GR7 may not be much of a looker compared to the Free Rider Pro but it has a few advantages the Pro doesn’t offer. It’s a great all-around shoe that’s suitable for all kinds of riding.
Mellow trails, cross country, or gnarly trails, these shoes won’t let you down. They feel great out of the box and offer enough support in case you need to hike. They offer superb grip, stiff sole, toe protection and allow your feet to breathe because of perforations.
They dry fast (great ventilation), feel comfortable and because of the collaboration with Michelin, they offer very sturdy soles that won’t be penetrated if your pedals have longer pins. That’s all you need in a MTB shoe, at least those are the criteria that make a great shoe for me. There’s more to this shoe that makes it the best value MTB shoe.
Like I mentioned the shoe has a Michelin rubber outsole which has two different patterns which are perfect for biking and hiking. They aren’t as grippy as the Free Rider Pro but that isn’t a bad thing at all. Too sticky can also make it harder to correct your foot position on your pedals at the last moment. This sole offers the perfect balance between grip and being able to correct your stance if you land in an awkward position.
- Michelin offers top quality rubber and even narrow pins will have a hard time penetrating the sole. They offer great grip in dry and wet conditions.
- The oval eyelets and stretchy lace keeper loop are brilliant. This means you don’t have to tuck in your laces every time. As a bonus, this system offers a lot of volume adjustment meaning they are also suitable for riders with wider feet.
- They offer a great balance of conformity versus power transfer.
- Plenty of room for different types of socks. You’ll have no issues wearing thin, medium or thick socks depending on the season.
- It comes with an ankle collar to keep dirt and water out.
- Shimano offers a year warranty even if you are a hardcore rider.
- Sizing is pretty accurate so no need to buy larger or smaller sizes.
Overall this is the best all-around MTB shoe you can get. I love them and plan to buy them again as soon as they wear out. You get a great shoe at an excellent value, you can compare prices at evo.com by clicking this link. I’ve been riding them for a couple of years now and they still are going strong/
Shimano advises to buy them a tad bigger than your regular size, so I did. There is a lot of room for movement when I wear regular socks, fitting thicker runner socks solved that problem.
There are some cons you should be aware of. This shoe isn’t for riders with big flippers who ride long distances. They might feel a bit soft when you’re riding all day. The sole is attached with glue (just like the Free Rider Pro) but I haven’t heard anything about soles coming off.
Five Ten Pro
The Five Ten Pro is on par with the Shimano GR7 and favored by many riders. Not only do they look great, but they also offer superb grip and are lightweight. Coming from a BMX background Five Ten moved on to mountain biking and used their experience to produce top quality MTB shoes.
The Five Ten Freerider Pro (Amazon link) MTB shoes are in my opinion the second best you can get for flat pedals. The Pro is right between the more expensive Freerider, and the Free Rider Impact shoe. The midsole is a bit stiff but it still offers a great pedal feel and you won’t feel disconnected.
They need some time to break in but once they do you’ll understand why this is one of the most recommended shoes. The pro is slightly narrower than the standard freerider and I recommend getting a slightly bigger size.
Like the GR7, the Pro offers enough flexibility for hiking and the newer version offers great ventilation and dries quickly. Of course, this shoe also has ankle and toe protection like any good MTB should. Here’s what makes them a great alternative.
- The Dotty S1 outsole provides a firm grip, unlike any other.
- Features a stretchy lace keeper similar to the GR7.
- Great power transfer because of the stiffness of the shoe. Perfect for riders that like to ride hours on end. Your feet and legs will suffer less.
- Perforations across the toe for ventilation.
The downside of these shoes is the lack of durability. If you ride hard and often you’ll find that they wear down sooner compared to the GR7’s. Many Riders complain about the soles coming off after a couple of months of intense riding.
It’s a very stiff shoe and even after breaking them in, they still feel pretty stiff making them less suitable for hiking compared to the G7. The stiffness is great for long-distance riding but breathability isn’t its main strength when riding in hot conditions. You won’t have any problems in normal conditions and shorter rides so not something to worry about if temperatures are normal.
I think this shoe is perfect for the casual mountain biker that rides once or twice a week. Riders that shred trails frequently should consider if they want to buy a new pair twice a year.