The best mountain bike shoes vary by riding discipline. This guide gives you the top three mountain bike shoes for downhill/enduro, cross country and trail riding. It even includes the best mountain bike shoe for those of you riding with flat pedals.
The structure of a mountain bike shoes isn’t all that different from road bike shoes. They have a stiff sole, durable exterior, and good ventilation. Styles are completely different between road and mountain bike shoes.
This guide includes shoes with the two hole SPD compatible cleat system. If you are riding the three holed system it is made for use with road bike pedals.
Those of you riding flats and not clipping in should only be riding Five Ten Freerider Pro shoes. (Check Current Price on Amazon). They are the best mountain bike shoes for flat pedals because the stealth rubber sole feels like it is melting around your pedals. The soles give you that clipped in feeling, but the ability to bail easily if needed.
The best enduro mountain biking shoes are going to be the same as downhill mountain biking shoes. The disciplines are almost exactly the same except enduro riders have to pedal back up the mountain. Even the downhill mountain bike racers clip in, at least at the professional level.
Best Enduro Mountain Biking Shoes
Key features to an enduro mountain biking shoe are a stiff sole, and a durable exterior. Also, they will have a very wide and flat shape. Even though downhill and enduro riders clip in, they use pedals with large surface area. Downhill riders will ride unclipped during certain stretches of trail. The wide and flat shape of the shoe allows for more surface contact, meaning more traction while unclipped.
- Bontrager Avert Adventure – $150 -These shoes are comfortable, look great, and are easy to walk around in even with cleats installed. They are well built with plenty of padding, but still offer excellent ventilation.
- Shimano ME7 – $150 – If style alone where the only criteria the ME7 would be the number one shoe on this list. Shimano decided to go with a binding instead of laces. A double binding would be better, but the single makes getting in and out of these shoes a breeze.
- Pearl iZUMi X-Alp Summit – $150 – This shoe utilizes a BOA up top and a strap down low to give variable tightening for the top and bottom halves of your foot. This is a crucial comfort feature because many riders experience numbness in their feet, or cold toes. Loosen the lower strap will allow blood to flow to your toes, but a tight BOA up top ensures the shoe stays in place on your foot like it should.
Best Cross Country Mountain Biking Shoes
Cross country is a less aggressive discipline than enduro and downhill mountain biking, the key features of your shoes changes. The best cross country mountain biking shoes have a stiff sole, excellent ventilation and must be light weight.
- Bontrager XXX MTB – $150 – Read this Bontrager XXX Review for more in depth coverage of this shoe, but to summarize it has a stiff sole, its the most comfortable race shoe on the market, includes a double BOA, and it is light weight. You pay for that kind of quality, but its an upgrade that immediately pays dividends.
- Fizik X1 Infinito – $150 – The X1 Infinito utilizes a double BOA like the XXX shoes, and the style is incredibly clean. However, the shoe lacks padding around the top causing pain when the BOA dial is tightened. Not an issue that will bother every rider, but its a common enough problem its worth mentioning. Also, if you have narrow feet any of the Fizik shoes will feel great, but wide footed cyclists should be careful.
- Specialized S Works Recon – $150 – Another shoe getting a perfect 10 in style points is the S Works Recon. This shoe looks fast, and its loaded with great features. To start you get a double BOA, padding in the right places, and a stiff carbon fiber sole. There is no padding on the tongue, but a well placed bandage can prevent rubbing pain.
Best Trail Mountain Bike Shoes
Trail riders are in a unique position. This discipline is more about exploring at your own pace. Fast descents, steep climbs, and even windy switchbacks are common features a trail rider comes across. Their shoes need to be the perfect balance of durability, stiffness and light weight. More important than all of that, though, is comfort. A comfortable shoe will improve your riding experience.
- Giro Chamber II – $150 – If not for the support strap it would be easy to assume the Chamber II is a normal street shoe. Its a cycling shoe with a modern look that is comfortable, durable, and reasonably priced. It is the best overall value in the trail bike shoe category.
- Specialized 2FO Roost – $120 – The 2FO Roost has a traditional lacing system. You can upgrade to a double BOA option for $200. The 2FO Roost puts comfort and durability above style, but if you aren’t concerned with vanity the shoe itself performs well on the trails.
- Bontrager Foray – $165 – This shoe has a single BOA lacing system and is light weight and durable. It is the least comfortable shoe on this list, but it will last the longest and provide the best performance. This is another shoe that gets a miss for style points. It looks like a road bike shoe with mountain bike tread underneath.