Best Mountain Bike Shoes


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Looking for an upgrade on your mountain bike shoes? The team have rounded up some of the best mountain bike shoes and put them through their paces.


BONT Riot MTB Shoes

The Australian brand Bont, which is probably better known for making high-end pro-level road bike shoes, also has a couple of  mountain bike shoes that they offer. Recently they have introduced the Riot MTB which is pitched as a more affordable mountain bike shoe than the original Bont XC mountain bike shoe. The XC and the Riot have similar characteristics, with the Riot shoe featuring a super stiff full carbon sole that can be custom moulded under heat to ensure a custom fit.

Best mountain bike shoe

The Bont Riot features more tread on the sole, which makes walking a lot easier, but the design is certainly XC race oriented. What we liked about the Bont Riot is that replacement tread is also available, so that if you do manage to wear out the tread, new lugs can be purchased and screwed and glued into place. The BONT Riot is claimed to weight a measly 770g for both shoes  – which is slightly heavier than the Bont XC (roughly around 90g heavier for the set), but they are still extremely light for MTB shoes.


Louis Garneau T-Flex 2LS Mountain Bike Shoes

The Garneau T-Flex 2LS comes with the intriguing T-Flex dual density outsole. Basically, grip is constructed of a dual-density PU material that offers both density and traction when needed. The different angles of crampons allow for better mud evacuation. The dual density lugs also offer rigidity and traction whilst also optimizing mud evacuation.


Shoe features:

100% Carbon T-Flex: Designed to increase pedal stiffness whilst still maintaining flexibility off the bike

T-Flex Technology: Provides flexibility at the toe area for easy running and prevents heel pressure

Outsole: 100% carbon T-Flex with dual density tread

Weight: 445g


What we liked about the shoe:

The weight of the shoes are phenomenal – weighing in at just around 445g the shoes are streaks ahead of most other shoes. The lightweight design is thanks to the BOA closure system, which weighs up to 2/3rds less than other cycling shoe closures. The BOA dial also allows for one-handed micro adjustments, and basically offers infinite degrees of fine tuning with a quick flick of the dial.


The BOA closure system also provides a secure and powerful closure, as once it is locked into place, the BOA reels and laces will stay that way whatever type of riding you do. The other notable feature of the shoe is just how comfortable they are, providing a near glove-like fit. And what you may not know is that the BOA laces are durable – made from aircraft grade stainless steel they are stronger per gram than tank armor.


Shimano M162 Mountain Bike Shoes

The Shimano brand is synonymous with mountain biking, but you’d be surprised to find that the company claims to offer the widest selection of cycling footwear in the world. Sure, Shimano is well known for their cassettes, cranks and shifters, but cycling footwear? Well, you shouldn’t doubt their claims, as they were actually the first MTB brand to create a truly functional clipless shoe and pedal system for off-road use way back in the early 1990s. And Shimano has really been producing fantastic mountain biking footwear ever since.


Within the mountain biking sphere, the Shimano M162 range is one of the top models in their aptly named Mountain Sport line of shoes. Shimano claims that the Mountain Sport range is designed to appeal to a broader range of mountain bike riders, from racers to weekend warriors and everything in between. For most riders, the fit of the shoe is a critical element when selecting the shoe brand. Some shoe brands fit certain feet better than other shoe brands, and it really then comes down to personal preference. On the whole though, Shimano mountain bike shoes tend to have a squarer toe box and feel a bit more oversized than other competing shoes.


The Shimano M162 is no exception to this rule, and the oversized ends allow for some ‘wriggle room’ for your toes. It should be noted that the Shimano M162 is a tad bit broader through the heel and mid-foot regions than other Shimano lines. For adjustments, the Shimano M162s use a click-lock buckle coupled with 2 large velcro straps. This is a common design amongst performance mountain biking shoes. Whats nice about the Shimano shoes is the additional mounting point that allows users to further tighten the fit – especially noticeable for those bikers that have narrower feet. This mounting point thus allows even further refinements and tightening. Scuff guards are added at the various wear points around the uppers whilst there is enough mesh to allow the feet to breath.


What we liked about the Shimano M162 mountain biking shoe was the sole – as it is the sole of the M162 that really defines this shoe as a trail shoe. Shimano’s marketing states that the midsole is made from ‘carbon reinforced polyamide for optimum rigidity’. The difference between the M162 and a proper XC race shoe with carbon fibre or stiff nylon sole is clear when you wear these shoes. The M162 will provide sufficient support around the cleat and really allow you to put the power down, but the heel and toe sections offer noticeably more flex than a typical race shoe.


The tread is made from the same stuff that you would find on high-end hiking books, namely Grippy Vibram rubber. The tread really wraps around the sides of the shoe and provides a sense of reassuring grip. But not only is the Grippy Vibram great for grip, it also adds an added layer of extra cushioning when you are running around.


From a weight perspective, they compare favorably to many competing pairs of mountain biking shoes at this price point. Weighing in at just 877g for a standard sizing, the weight is pretty similar to many XC mountain biking shoes. So if you’re looking for an all-round shoe that offers good pedaling efficiency and excellent all day comfort, the Shimano M162 set of mountain biking shoes should be a strong contender on your list.



Pearl Izumi 1.0 and Pearl Izumi 2.0 Mountain Bike Shoes

It would be remiss not to mention the Pearl Izumi range of mountain bike shoes in this list of the best mountain bike shoes. The Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0 and Pearl Izumi X-Project 2.0 range of shoes really stand out amongst other mountain bikes shoes based on their soles. The sole is stiff enough for power transfers, yet flexible enough in just the right places to be comfortable for running as well as walking. For the Pearl Izumi 2.0 mountain bike shoe, the carbon fiber sole is complemented by an EVA foam heel for comfort whilst off your bike. The precise fit is aided by a BOA reel and Velcro fastening that allows bi-directional closure. The Pearl Izumi 2.0 range is recommended as a performance trail shoe with its extra padding and the bigger toe bumper

Obviously, as the name suggests, the Pearl Izumi 1.0 mountain bike shoe is slightly less engineered than its 2.0 sibling, with the 1.0 lacking an EVA insert in the sole, but having a seamless second skin upper. In terms of fit, 2 BOA reels and a non-stretch mesh provide a high performance fit with the same bi-directional closure ability. The 1.0 is recommended as a great race and trail mountain bike shoe as it’s a little lighter than the Pearl Izumi 2.0 variant.

Whichever of the shoes you decide on, both variants of the Pearl Izumi mountain bike shoes are top quality shoes and deserve to be on this list!


Best Mountain Bike Shoes – The Buyers Guide

A word of warning though when you first embark on looking for that ultimate set of mountain bike shoes – NOT ALL SHOES will suit all riders, and each shoe may be suited for the specific rider. So that “best mountain bike shoe” that your mate keeps on bragging about may not actually be the best MTB shoe for you!
Factors such as the terrain, your riding style, even your foot sizing and pedal preference can affect the choice of shoe you choose. There are a few things to consider though when choosing a mountain bike shoe, and our team of experts have selected some of our top tips based on multiple tests of many of the top mountain bike brands to assist you with your decision and find you that top mountain bike shoe.

Obviously, better mountain bike shoes can be on the more expensive end, but a properly fitting shoe will definitely increase your fun factor on the trail and the initial purchase investment will be quickly repaid. When looking for a mountain bike shoe, you need to look for these important characteristics:

  • A good pedal interface
  • A durable build
  • Stiff soles that allow for extra grip

For those more expensive mountain bike shoes on the higher end of the price spectrum, many come with rigid soles that are due to their carbon fiber shank. For the cheaper mountain bike shoes, this carbon fiber shank is either replaced with a plastic reinforcement or it could also be fiberglass. With the rigid sole type shoes, all the power that you generate is applied into the pedal and to ensure you are propelled forward.


Pedal Considerations for MTB Shoes

The one aspect you definitely need to consider when searching for the right mountain bike shoe is the type of pedals your bike has. Basically you get 2 types – flats and clipless. Downhill or freeride mountain bike shoes tend to be compatible with flat pedals, whilst cross country (XC) and all-mountain shoes are generally compatible with clipless pedals.

  • Flat pedals (or platform pedals as some may call them) have a large surface area and commonly come with a set of pins or small spikes to increase grip on the bottom of your mountain bike shoe. With flat pedals, the benefit is you can wear any type of shoe and these shoes are generally less expensive
  • Clipless mountain bike pedals are specialized pedals that are created with a recessed area where a special cleat that is attached to the bottom of the mountain bike shoe goes. By “clipping” into the pedal, the rider forms a better connection between the shoe (and its foot) and the pedal which ultimately leads to improved pedal efficiency.


The word clipless always causes much confusion! They are called clipless pedals because they lack a toe clip (the cinch-down basket and strap system used in the past). The shoes actually do clip into the pedals and secure your foot, allowing more control and power.


If you have decided on the clipless system, ensure you look for shoes with mountain bike specific cleats!

Mountain bike cleats

Mountain bike cleats differ to road bike cleats so make sure you choose the right one – mountain bike cleats shown on the right!


Mountain bike shoes will always have cleats with two bolts mounted side-by-side. Road bike shoes use the SPD-SL system where the cleats are in a triangle and consist of 3 bolts.


Sizing and Fit for Mountain Bike shoes

On the whole, mountain bike shoes tend to run smaller than the actual sizing, so if ordering, it is general consensus that you should order a size up from what you normally wear. However, please be aware that mountain bike brands are not consistent in this regard, with some mountain bike shoe manufacturers running small whilst others run large. Also be aware that feet tend to expand when they get warmer, so after long sessions on the bike your feet would get warmer and for tight fitting shoes this may result in your feet and toes being squashed up against the edges of the shoe and this would just be uncomfortable to ride or even walk in.


Mountain Bike Soles and Traction

Most mountain bike shoes have a fairly stiff sole but are nowhere near as stiff as their road bike compatriots. The stiff sole allows for efficient pedaling but most shoes also have enough flex and a rubber-lug outsole to allow good traction for walking on slick or rugged trails. In fact, there is nothing worse for a mountain bike rider than climbing off your bike and realizing that trying to walk in your new mountain bike shoes is actually more tricky and dangerous than riding on the trail. For the most part, you should look for shoes that provide for both security and traction, and the traction is determined partly by the tread design, and partly by the outsole materials.


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