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The Top 10 Best Mountain Bike Shoes of 2020

From outdoor adventure to stress relief and a total body workout, there are many benefits to mountain biking. But to bike safely, you need the right equipment, and that includes a top-quality pair of shoes. From carbon soles to Boa lacing systems and removable toe spikes, there are a number of features to navigate when shopping for the best mountain bike shoes. Whether you are an experienced rider or you’re new to the sport, our guide to the best mountain bike shoes will help you sort through the options and find a pair that will help you go the distance.

Product FAQ

1. What Are Mountain Bike Shoes?

The best mountain bike shoes are designed specifically for rugged biking. Some mountain biking shoes have grippy rubber soles that make it easier to hang onto the pedals during rugged rides. Those same soles make it easy to get traction when hiking or walking over uneven terrain before or after the rides. Other mountain biking shoes clip onto bike pedals using cleats that are recessed into the sole.

2. How Snug Should Mountain Bike Shoes Fit?

Mountain bikes should fit your foot as well as any other shoe would. You want a snug and comfortable fit, but there’s no need to go a half size down or a half size up when purchasing mountain bike shoes unless the design of the shoe calls for that.

3. What Type of Shoe Closure Is Best?

Purchasing a mountain bike shoe with a traditional lace closure is fine as long as there’s room to tuck the laces into your shoe so they don’t get tangled in the bike while it is in motion. Boa closure systems are also increasingly popular because of the ease and comfort they offer. Boa closures rely on an adjustable dial, lightweight laces, and low-friction lace guides to tighten the shoe. Other mountain bike shoe models rely on velcro strap closures.

4. What Is the Advantage of a Carbon Sole?

Carbon-soled shoes, which have become more affordable in recent years, are a popular option among many mountain biking enthusiasts. Carbon soles are designed to serve as a highly rigid platform to pedal against, allowing you to propel farther by putting the maximum power and energy into each push. That extra power makes a difference for serious cyclists and racers. But for casual riders, the advantage offered by a mountain bike shoe with a carbon sole may not be worth the additional expense.

5. How Important Is the Weight of the Shoe?

On a long ride, the weight of a shoe can make a big difference. Looking for a lightweight shoe is a good idea, but you also want to make sure the shoe still has the heft and durability to hold up to the rigors of mountain biking and rugged terrains. The rule of thumb is to look for the lightest shoe possible without sacrificing durability. It’s a good idea to steer clear of traditional rubber soles, which can be bulky and heavy, and opt instead for synthetic rubber. Carbon soles, which are both highly durable and lightweight, can also be a good option.

6. Can I Use Mountain Bike Shoes for Activities Other Than Biking?

If you purchase a pair of specialty biking shoes, it’s generally a good idea to limit their use primarily to biking. Because of their special features, including their rigid soles, biking shoes aren’t always comfortable when used for walking. And walking in a bike shoe can damage it. If you do plan on using your biking shoes for other activities, look for a pair with an outsole that is not too stiff.

7. Why Do Some Mountain Bike Shoes Come With Removable Toe Spikes?

Mountain bike shoes with removable toe spikes usually have two metal bolts toward the front on the bottom of the sole. Those bolts give you the option of inserting spikes in the shoes for extra traction. This feature can be handy in muddy races or in trips over steep terrains where riders are on and off the bike and in need of extra traction.

8. What Features Are Most Common on Entry-Level Mountain Bike Shoes?

Entry-level mountain bike shoes frequently rely on a nylon shank to provide stiffness in the sole, whereas higher-end shoes rely on carbon fiber for stiffness. Entry-level shoes also tend to have more basic closure mechanisms, such as velcro straps or traditional laces. More advanced mountain bike shoes are more likely to rely on ratcheting straps, dials, or buckles. The features on entry-level mountain bike shoes are designed to support your performance while also not becoming too pricey for riders who aren’t ready to make a significant investment in the sport.

9. Do the Best Mountain Bike Shoes Have a Certain Tread?

There is no specific tread that mountain bike shoes should have. But deeper toe treads in general can improve your traction when hiking off of the bike.

How We Reviewed the Best Mountain Bike Shoes

We took a range of factors into consideration when reviewing the best mountain bike shoes. We looked at the weight and durability of each shoe as well as its ability to serve as a rigid platform from which riders can pedal off of. Since the best mountain bike shoes need to go for miles and miles, we also looked at the degree of comfort each shoe offers, as well as its ease of use.

Overall Price Range of the Best Mountain Bike Shoes

The best mountain bike shoes range in price from $100 to $200. Shoes on the higher end of that range tend to have carbon soles and sophisticated lacing systems that are easy to cinch and adjust mid-ride.

What We Reviewed

  • Giro Empire VR90 Shoes
  • Five Ten Freerider Pro Mountain Bike Shoe
  • Sidi Dominator 7
  • Pearl Izumi Unisex-Adult X-Project Pro Cycling Shoe
  • Scott MTB Team Boa Shoe
  • Shimano SHME7 Trail Enduro Shoe
  • Tommaso Montagna 100 Mountain Bike Cycling Shoe
  • Shimano Sh-rc9 S-PHYRE Bicycle Shoe
  • Mavic Crossmax Elite Mountain Bike Shoe
  • Giro Jacket II Cycling Shoe

Giro Empire VR90 Shoes

Features

The Giro Empire VR90s are lightweight mountain bike shoes that offer a comfortable fit. One of the distinguishing features on this shoe is its customizable insole, which allow riders to select the optimum amount of arch support for their feet. The Giro Empire VR90 has stiff Vibram rubber outsoles that offer a strong grip, giving you lots of power as you pedal as well as traction when making short hikes with the bike. These mountain biking shoes, which are available in an array of 7 eye-catching colors, come with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Pros

  • Strong rubber grip
  • Customizable insoles
  • Lightweight
  • Available in 7 colors

Cons

  • Less protection for the side of the foot
  • Takes time to lace them up

Price $$

Where to Buy

https://www.amazon.ca/Giro-Empire-VR90-Cycling-Shoe/dp/B015T76ZDY

Five Ten Freerider Pro Mountain Bike Shoe

Features

The Five Ten Freerider Pro is a clipless shoe with a rubber sole that provides plenty of traction as well as toe protection. The synthetic upper part of this shoe is constructed out of abrasion-resistant material that helps protect the foot. The upper part of this shoe is also weather-resistant and easy to clean. The dotty surface of the soles offers a glue-like grip when pedaling. The durable Five Ten Freerider, which comes with a removable molded sock liner, performs well in all types of weather and on all types of rides.

Pros

  • Weather-resistant upper
  • Lightweight
  • Removable molded sock liner
  • Toe cap protector

Cons

  • Feels warm on the foot
  • Offers little ankle protection
  • Not as flexible when walking

Price $$

Where to Buy

https://www.amazon.ca/Five-Ten-Freerider-Mountain-Bike/dp/B01GHMV9CM

Sidi Dominator 7

Features

The Sidi Dominator 7 is a sleek and light mountain bike shoe that performs well in wet conditions, offers plenty of grip, and protects the foot from trail debris and rocks. This clipless shoe has a tough nylon sole with heavy treads and a water-repellent synthetic upper. One of the distinguishing features on this shoe is its closure, which involves a Leva Caliper buckle and velcro straps that allow the rider to get the perfect snug fit. The straps also make it easy to perform mid-ride adjustments to the fit. The Sidi Dominator 7 is a durable shoe that is built to last.

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Adjustable padding
  • Available in a wide range of widths and sizes

Cons

  • Gets dirty easily

Price $$

Where to Buy

https://www.amazon.ca/Sidi-Dominator-Womens-Mountain-Vernice/dp/B01M4GHBG4

Pearl Izumi Unisex-Adult X-Project Pro Cycling Shoe

Features

The Pearl Izumi Unisex X-Project cycling shoe performs well on all types of rides. Like some other mountain biking shoes, these have a carbon composite sole that offers rigid pedaling platform, but the X-Project shoe has extra flexibility in the toe, which makes them easier to walk in. The Boa retention system on these shoes, which involves an adjustable dial, lightweight laces, and low-friction lace guides, make it possible to easily achieve the perfect fit without the hassle of traditional laces. Mid-ride adjustments are also a breeze. The X-Project shoe also has a customizable insole and grippy rubber outsoles.

Pros

  • Boa retention system
  • Carbon composite sole
  • Available in 4 colors
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Expensive

Price $$

Where to Buy

https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01GKLIKL8

Scott MTB Team Boa Shoe

Features

The Scott MTB Team Boa Shoe is a durable and adjustable shoe that will allow you to pedal for miles in comfort. The synthetic outsole of this shoe is stiff, making it easy to pedal with power. The upper part of this shoe is constructed out a nylon mesh that protects the foot while also staying lightweight and breathable. The Scott MTB Team Boa Shoe has a removable insole with adjustable arch support, and the Boa closure makes it easy to dial up the perfect fit with just a quick cinch.

Pros

  • Insole is adjustable and removable
  • Boa closure
  • Removable toe spikes
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Toe runs narrow

Price $$

Where to Buy

https://www.amazon.ca/Scott-MTB-Team-BOA-Shoe/dp/B07817P2Y3

Shimano SHME7 Trail Enduro Shoe

Features

Designed with the all mountain rider in mind, the Shimano SHME7 Trail Enduro Shoe is suitable for a variety of pedal styles. This shoe has a stiff carbon composite midsole that allows for powerful pedaling, and a grippy rubber outsole. The upper part of the Shimano SHME7 is constructed out of synthetic leather with mesh over the toes that allows for ventilation. This shoe also has a cuff that raises up around the ankle that protects the foot from rocks and trail debris. A wrap-style tongue makes it easy to pull this shoe on and off, and the speed-lacing system allows for quick and easy tightening and adjusting.

Pros

  • Speed lacing system adapts to a range of foot types
  • Ankle collar
  • Suitable for a range of riding styles
  • Wrap-style tongue
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Not as durable as some other shoes

Price $$

Where to Buy

https://www.amazon.ca/Shimano-SHME7-Trail-Enduro-Mountain/dp/B01GTH0JW6

Tommaso Montagna 100 Mountain Bike Cycling Shoe

Features

The Tommaso Montagna is a versatile mountain biking shoe. This shoe has a recessed cleat area that makes it easy to walk around in while not riding, making it a great entry-level option for riders new to the sport. It also performs well when used during other physical activities, such as spinning, hiking, or even commuting to work. The Tommaso Montagna has synthetic leather upper with mesh sections that provide ventilation. Three velcro straps replace laces on this shoe and offer a secure and adjustable fit, and a padded collar minimizes rubbing and irritation.

Pros

  • Adjustable fit
  • Great entry-level shoe
  • Versatile
  • Cushioned collar for ankle comfort
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Can get hot

Price $

Where to Buy

https://www.amazon.ca/Tommaso-Montagna-Mountain-Bike-Cycling/dp/B01N2HREXG

Shimano Sh-rc9 S-PHYRE Bicycle Shoe

Features

The Shimano Sh-rc9 is a stylish bicycling shoe with a carbon sole that offers plenty of rigidity to pedal off of. The microfibre upper part of this shoe is supple and tough, with perforations that allow for ventilations. This shoe has a wrap-over construction that surrounds the foot and supports a variety of foot shapes. A Boa closure with adjustable dials makes it easy to quickly secure the shoe. The Shimano Sh-rc9 also features a replaceable heel pad and drainage ports in the sole.

Pros

  • Boa closure
  • Fit a variety of foot shapes
  • Comfortable
  • Carbon soles
  • Available in 4 colors

Cons

  • Not as lightweight as some other shoes

Price $$

Where to Buy

https://www.amazon.ca/Shimano-Sh-rc9-S-PHYRE-Bicycle-Shoe/dp/B079DY4GQ7

Mavic Crossmax Elite Mountain Bike Shoe

Features

Designed for cross-country biking and racing, the Mavic Crossmax features a form-fitting fit and a grippy rubber sole. Instead of traditional laces, this shoe is secured on the foot with an adjustable dial and velcro straps. This weatherproof shoe has an adjustable inner sole and a reinforced toe cap. It comes with a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Pros

  • Weatherproof
  • Dial-style closure
  • Reinforced toe cap
  • Available in 3 colors
  • Grippy sole
  • Lightweight
  • Durable

Cons

  • Expensive

Price $$

Where to Buy

https://www.amazon.ca/Mavic-Crossmax-Elite-Mountain-Bike/dp/B01LZOHTU6

Giro Jacket II Cycling Shoe

Features

The Giro Jacket II is a versatile shoe that works well for cycling as well as a range of other activities. This shoe has a Vibram rubber outsole that offers great grip while hiking or biking and a midsole that is constructed with shock-absorbing material. These shoes protect your feet from shock and stress, making it easy to pedal further. With a traditional lacing system, the Giro Jacket II also performs well off the bike.

Pros

  • Water-resistant
  • Versatile
  • Shock-absorbing midsole
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Top velcro strap is a little short
  • No carbon sole

Price $

Where to Buy

https://www.amazon.ca/Giro-2018-Mens-Jacket-Biking/dp/B076HDFC6J

The Verdict

The best mountain bike shoes are the Giro Empire VR90s. These lightweight mountain bike shoes offer everything you need to go the distance, including Vibram rubber outsoles that offer plenty of grip, and lots of support on the inside with customizable insoles. To top it all off, these shoes are well known for the comfort they provide. If you’re looking for a supportive and comfortable option while pedaling and taking short hikes, try the Giro Empire VR90s.

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