Best mountain bike shoes 2024 – 14 top-rated flat and clipless MTB shoes tested by our experts

A mountain bike shoe on a pedal
(Image credit: Donald NG)

The first thing to decide when you're looking for the best mountain bike shoes is whether you're going to be riding on flat or clip-in pedals. While there’s no right or wrong decision here, your riding style, personal preference, and even where you're going to be riding are likely to influence your final decision. 

The best flat-pedal MTB shoes are often utilized for mountain bikers who mostly ride steeper and gnarlier trails due to the freedom and confidence this type of shoe affords. Flat pedal shoes are also great for beginner riders or those wanting to hone their skills with all the right techniques.  

Clipless shoes physically attach you to SPD type pedals, with the aim of improving pedaling efficiency and overall pedal security. The best clipless MTB shoes come in all shapes and sizes ranging from super stiff XC race options, right through to skate shoe-inspired, grippy enduro shoes. 

Our experts have tested the best mountain bike shoes on all manner of trails and every relevant riding condition to assemble this in-depth buying guide. The Five Ten Freerider Pro is our pick of the flat shoes, with the Pinnacle Cedar a great budget option, and the Specialized S-Works Recon comes top in the clipless category, with the Carnac Grits our budget choice.

Skip to the bottom of this article for plenty of advice on what to look for when buying the best mountain bike shoes. (You may also be in the market for a new set of pedals – if so, check out our guides to the best clipless mountain bike pedals or the best MTB flat pedals.)

The best mountain bike shoes

Why trust BikePerfect Our cycling experts have decades of testing experience. We\'ll always share our unbiased opinions on bikes and gear. Find out more about how we test.

The quick list

Best flat MTB shoes

1. Best flat MTB shoe overall

A mountain bike shoe on a pedal

The five-star Five Ten Freerider is the best flat MTB shoe you can buy (Image credit: Richard Owen)
The very best flat MTB shoes money can buy

Specifications

Weight per shoe: 345g (size 42.5)
Pedal system: Flat
Outsole: Stealth S1 rubber
Retention: Laces
Number of colorways: 3

Reasons to buy

+
Great pedal grip
+
Support and feel
+
Impact resistant toe-box
+
Quality laces
+
Part recycled and vegan-friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
Rubber soles can wear faster than some

Five Ten Freeriders have been around for many years in one form or another. Along with their chunkier stablemate, the Impact, Freeriders were one of the first models from the climbing shoe specialists to cause a stir among flat pedal mountain bikers.

And we think it's hard to beat the Five Ten Freerider Pro when it comes to comfort and performance. While the shoe doesn’t possess the thickest of outsoles, it delivers fantastic pedal feel and grip – the latter coming from the dotted Stealth S1 rubber compound. 

The thick upper material offers good ventilation and reinforced protection around the toe and heel area and is relatively easy to keep clean. The fit is spot on with laces the primary means of retention. This particular model makes use of a lace keeper that holds everything in place to prevent them from eventually coming undone.

Bike Perfect's editor, Rich Owen, summed up the shoes in his review. "Serious grip with not-quite-locked-in adjustability, excellent pedal feedback and rugged uppers add up to make the Five Ten Freerider Pro the best flat trail shoe around."

For more on why we think these are the best flat mountain bike shoes you can buy, check out our Five Ten Freerider Pro review.

2. Best budget flat shoe

A pair of black flat pedal MTB shoes

The Pinnacle Cedar is not only a serious biking bargain, but it's lighter than most rivals too (Image credit: Rich Owen)

Pinnacle Cedar

Best budget flat pedal MTB shoes

Specifications

Weight per shoe: 350g (size 42)
Pedal system: Flat
Outsole: Phylon and rubber
Retention: Laces
Number of colorways: 2

Reasons to buy

+
Bargain price
+
Lightweight
+
Toe and heel protection

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as grippy as the best around

If you're looking for a flat pedal shoe that won't break the bank, Pinnacle's Cedar shoes should definitely be on your radar. Not only is their price extremely competitive, but they offer a range of desirable features too.

While the soles bear an uncanny resemblance to the Stealth rubber soles found on Five Ten shoes, we found the compound to be slightly harder and so not quite as grippy during testing. The uppers are narrower than Five Ten Freeriders and while the Cedars sport toe and heel reinforcement, there's less protection than most of the leading shoes.

The advantage of less protection means lower weight, and at 680g per pair (size 10 US, 9 UK, 43 EU), they're definitely some of the lightest shoes around.

We'd recommend the Cedars as a good budget option for hitting less threatening trails and they're vastly superior to riding in regular trainers/sneakers. But if you want maximum foot protection, they're not the best choice. In addition to the men's version, women's and junior models are available too.

3. Best women's flat pedal shoe

A pair of Ride Concepts Flume in blue, with one shoe laying on its side to expose the tread on the sole

The Ride Concepts Flume's Cordura upper is fully welded and stitch-free (Image credit: Mildred Locke)
The best women's MTB trail performance shoes

Specifications

Weight per shoe: 362g per shoe (size EU 39)
Pedal system: Flat
Outsole: Max Grip rubber
Retention: Laces
Number of colorways: 2

Reasons to buy

+
Well made and robust with impact protection
+
Cordura upper is comfortable against the foot
+
Excellent grip on a variety of pedals
+
Elasticated loop to keep laces tucked away neatly
+
Great vibration damping

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most breathable option out there
-
Slightly numb pedal feel

Ride Concepts' Flume comes in several options, from lace-up to Boa closure, and in both flat and SPD – we tested the lace-up flat model. The upper is made from super-durable Cordura, the midsole from soft and flexible EVA, and the outsole is Max Grip rubber with a reverse hexagonal tread pattern. 

We found the Flume shoes super comfortable to wear, both on and off the bike. The highly cushioned collar cradles the ankle and offers excellent support and the Cordura upper feels pretty lightweight. It's a stiff and responsive shoe that really helps you to lay down some power when you’re sprinting up a climb, and also offers some serious vibration damping. 

The tread pattern and Max Grip rubber outsole are outstanding. Traction is easy to come by and we found our footing remained consistently stable throughout our rides. What’s more the TPU toe and heel protection feels very robust and has held up incredibly well to rough treatment on the trails.

The only thing that really lets these shoes down is the lack of breathability. We noticed a feeling of overheating on hotter rides. 

For more info, check out our full Ride Concepts Flume review

4. Best flat shoe for comfort

Specialized 2FO DH Flat shoe

The Specialized 2FO DH Flat mountain bike shoes are superbly grippy (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
The best flat mountain bike shoe for comfort

Specifications

Weight per shoe: 436g (size 43)
Pedal system: Flat
Outsole: SlipNot ST rubber
Retention: Laces
Number of colorways: 2

Reasons to buy

+
SlipNot ST rubber is extremely grippy
+
Comfortable fit
+
Superbly damped sole
+
Low weight for a DH-specific shoe

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited tightening around the forefoot

Specialized's 2FO DH-specific flat pedal shoe uses the brand's SlipNot ST rubber compound, a technology that is now in its third generation. The sole uses a cushioned EVA foam midsole and the toe and heel sections have been designed for compliance. That means that the shoe is stiff for riding performance, but still comfortable for track walks or hiking sections. 

While it's easy to overlook, a properly fitting shoe is essential to riding performance and comfort. Specialized uses its Body Geometry system to ensure that the end product suits riders' needs. For this model, Specialized has focused on the Longitudinal Arch, Metatarsal Button, and Varus Wedge for efficiency as well as body alignment. 

The 2FO DH is a superbly grippy shoe that won't send your feet flying off the pedals during critical sections of the trail. More impressively, the damping properties mean that you'll stay comfortable even in rough rock gardens. And while we would have liked to see a wider throat to offer a little more adjustability with the laces our reviewer, Graham Cottingham, said that, "I never found myself clawing the insole with my toes which is a telltale sign your shoes aren't supporting your foot as they should”. 

Find out more about why the Specialized 2FO DH Flat is one of our favorite flat pedal shoes for downhill and enduro riding. 

5. Best flat shoe for support

Crankbrothers Stamp Speedlace

The Crankbrothers Stamp Speed Lace mountain bike shoes offer plenty of support (Image credit: Aoife Glass)
The best mountain bike shoe for support, secure lacing and breathability

Specifications

Weight per shoe: 385g (size 42)
Pedal system: Flat
Outsole: Rubber
Retention: Laces, strap
Number of colorways: 3

Reasons to buy

+
Quick, secure lacing system
+
Very comfortable fit
+
Quick-drying

Reasons to avoid

-
Not quite as tacky as FiveTens

Crankbrothers' Stamp Speed Lace is a mid-range flat pedal shoe from a manufacturer best known for its pedals and components. 

The synthetic upper is combined with a reinforced toe box to offer protection from hits and rock strikes. The shoe also has venting on the sides to help with ventilation despite a large and well-padded tongue. 

The Speed Lace retention system features laces with a pull tab to quickly secure them. The tab can also be tucked under a strap on the tongue. A Velcro strap is also placed along the top of the shoe to further secure it on riders' feet. 

The overall performance of the Stamp Speed Lace was fantastic when we tested them. They fit well, are comfortable, breathe well, and dry quickly. The feel on the pedals is great and – while the Five Ten is still the leader for sole grip – the rubber is sticky enough. 

Read more of our thoughts about the Crankbrothers Stamp Speed Lace flat pedal shoe in our full review. 

6. Best flat shoe for protection

Ride Concepts Tallac shoes

The Ride Concepts Tallac's upper is great for shrugging off puddle splashes and rain showers (Image credit: Rich Owen)
The best for damping and foot protection

Specifications

Weight per shoe: 430g (size 41)
Pedal system: Flat
Outsole: Max Grip
Retention: Laces
Number of colorways: 3

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent pedal grip
+
Foot protection
+
Brilliant damping
+
Shrug off splashes well

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the best pedal feel
-
Heavier than average

The Ride Concepts Tallac is aimed at riders who want a grippy flat pedal shoe with great damping properties and high levels of protection.  

In terms of outright pedal traction, we found the Tallac to be comparable with all the established category leaders. The hexagonal sole lugs and chosen rubber compound lock brilliantly with aggressive pedal pins while remaining just about loose enough to allow for on-the-fly foot position adjustments. 

On the trail, we thought the Tallac's standout characteristic is the highly damped feel, and over relentless rough chatter they do a superb job of minimizing vibrations and unwanted terrain feedback. 

The Tallac's upper uses a breathable and super tough Cordura fabric which is great for shrugging off puddle splashes and rain showers. There are also heavily protected toe and heel box areas to ensure your feet are safe should you strike something trailside. 

At 430g per shoe (US 10) they're not light, though, which means the Tallac is best reserved for gravity riders who prefer a damped feel and large amounts of protection over high levels of pedal feedback. 

Find out more in our in-depth review of the Ride Concepts Tallac mountain bike shoes.

Best clipless MTB shoes

7. Best clipless MTB shoe overall

A mountain bike shoe on some moss

The Specialized S-Works Recon is a state-of-the-art shoe designed to prioritize performance over everything else (Image credit: GuyKesTV)
The best clipless MTB shoe for performance and speed

Specifications

Weight per shoe: 270g (size 42.5)
Pedal system: 2-bolt
Outsole: FACT Carbon
Retention: Twin BOA dials, Velcro strap
Number of colorways: 4

Reasons to buy

+
Featherweight
+
Super stiff sole
+
Good looks

Reasons to avoid

-
By some distance the priciest clipless shoe we tested
-
Fast sole wear

Ideal for gravel grinding, cyclo-cross and cross-country mountain biking, the Specialized S-Works Recon is a state-of-the-art shoe designed to prioritize performance over everything else. As a result, the shoe is as light as you’d expect – 270g to be precise.

Specialized says neither of these attributes has negatively impacted the S-Works Recon’s ergonomics and claims the Body Geometry sole and footbed have been optimized to nullify injury and promote the best possible foot alignment.

Off the bike, the Specialized Recons provide excellent grip and support thanks to rubberized inserts, but the stiff soles become somewhat uncomfortable when the time comes to hike-a-bike.

Learn more about the lightweight Specialized S-Works Recon shoe in the full review. If you're looking for something that's even lighter, Specialized has recently launched the S-Works EXO Evo shoes, which it says is the lightest off-road shoe the company has ever produced. 

8. Best budget clipless shoe

Pair of Carnac Grit shoes on rocks

The Carnac Grits are dial fastened, which is a great feature for a shoe at this price (Image credit: GuyKesTV)
The best bargain clipless shoe for MTB

Specifications

Weight per shoe: 420g (size 44 with cleats)
Pedal system: 2-bolt
Outsole: All-terrain tread compound
Retention: Single Atop dial, Velcro strap
No of colorways: 2

Reasons to buy

+
Bargain price for a dial fastened shoe
+
Comfortable power vs flex balance
+
Lightweight, vented synthetic upper and fungus fighting inners
+
Surefooted tread with toe stud options

Reasons to avoid

-
Direct sell only, so no pre-buy fit try
-
No micro-adjust tension release

Once the choice of world record holders like Chris Boardman in their heyday, the Carnac brand is now owned by direct sell discount disruptors Planet-X, and the Grit shoes are killer kicks when it comes to low cost high performance.

The nylon sole is shallow and broad, meaning a direct connection to pedal or the ground. The molded-in tread is limited to a heel section, two pontoons either side of the cleat slots and a couple of small knobs under the toe. The upper is a single piece of heel seamed synthetic leather with perforations over the toe box and all down both flanks. An extra heel wrap and heel topper are stitched on at the back and there’s a protective toe kicker too. 

We found the sizing spot on, and the Atop dial does its job OK with consistent fine tooth ratchet tightening and a reverse to release mechanism. 

They can’t match the deeper carbon composite soles of dedicated race shoes for stiffness and sprint power, but there’s enough rigidity to stop you getting hot spots over the cleat even on dusk till dawn missions. The flex and twist in the mid and rear sections of the shoe make them a lot more forgiving on and off the bike, and the low flat and broad sole with rubber tread right to the edges alongside the cleat means they feel stable when walking too.

For more info, check out our full Carnac Grit gravel shoe review.

9. Best clipless for grip

Five Ten Trailcross CL shoe review

The mesh uppers and thin sole of the Five Ten Trailcross CL lean more towards hike-a-bike than technical trails (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
The best clipless MTB shoes for grip

Specifications

Weight per shoe: 407g (size 43)
Pedal system: 2-bolt
Outsole: Marathon rubber
Retention: Laces, Velcro strap
Number of colorways: 3

Reasons to buy

+
Very well ventilated
+
Grippy rubber sole
+
Easy to get clipped in
+
Comfortable to walk in

Reasons to avoid

-
Light uppers create pressure points if laces are tightened too much
-
Soles are too flexible for pedaling hard

Five Ten's Trailcross range is designed to go far rather than go fast, and that's definitely the case with this recently added clipless option. On an adventure-orientated shoe, walkability is always going to be an important factor that needs to be balanced with ride performance and power transfer. We found the Trailcross CL sole to be quite flexible which makes them great for walking on uneven terrain, but less impressive when stamping on the pedals.

We felt that the Trailcross CLs have a great fit with the mesh uppers molding comfortably around the foot. This is great for general riding on easier trails but the lightweight uppers make it hard to feel like the shoes are tight enough when the riding gets more technical – though that only becomes noticeable when riding really technical trails.

When riding, the clipping-in action is super easy and the Five Ten Marathon rubber hooks up well on pedal pins whenever the terrain becomes a little too engaging to get your foot straight back in. You aren't going to be winning any uphill sprints with the Trailcross CL shoes – though you might if you decide to disembark from the bike and push instead. 

Get an in-depth verdict on the shoe in our Five Ten Trailcross CL review

10. Best clipless trail

Specialized 2FO Cliplite shoe

The Specialized 2FO Cliplite's closure system is made up of two dual-directional Boa dials (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Superb balance of trail control and downcountry power

Specifications

Weight per shoe: 424g (Size 44)
Pedal system: 2-bolt
Outsole: SlipNot FG rubber
Retention: Twin BOA Li2 dials
Number of colorways: 3

Reasons to buy

+
Stiff power kick
+
Clear trail feedback
+
Ultra solid foot security
+
Improved wet/cold protection
+
Good unclipped grip

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Hotter than before
-
Conventional cleat slot

Specialized’s 2FO Cliplite has been our benchmark aggro trail, clipless shoe for several years, with the brand’s update improving it further.

The shoes have a ‘Lollipop’ nylon shank in the EVA padded midsole, and ‘Landing Strip’ cleat pockets shaped for fast and easy entry. The outsole is SlipNot FG rubber with a polygonal tread pattern. Between the upper and sole you get Specialized’s orthotically lumpy Body Geometry to spread the bones in your feet and support your arches for a more comfortable, less knee-stressful and power efficient foot plant.

Tensioning is done entirely via the two Boa dials, which are the dual-directional, micro-adjust Li2 version. We found them a firm, supportive fit, and easily adjustable as feet heat and swell on big days out, or you need to click some extra kick into the next attack.

In our tests we found them noticeably stiffer than most shoes when you put the power through the pedals, so they’re a great choice if hammering climbs, or hustling trails hard is on the agenda. They’re not so stiff you’re going to get rattled around or numbed on rocky descents, or relentlessly technical trails like an XC shoe though, and the SlipNot rubber gives you decent grip on a broader format pedal if you decide to unclip. The reshaped ‘Landing Strip’ is faster and cleaner to get into even in filthy conditions, too. 

For more info, check out our full Specialized 2FO Cliplite review.

11. Best clipless enduro

A pair of Shimano GE9 shoes with one upside down showing the sole

The new range topping GE9s replace Shimano's popular ME7s in its gravity SPD shoe range (Image credit: James Watkins)
A great DH/enduro/tough trail all-rounder

Specifications

Weight per shoe: 443g (size 43)
Pedal system: 2-bolt
Outsole: Ultread GE
Retention: BOA / Velcro strap
Number of colorways: 2

Reasons to buy

+
Top class clipless pedal engagement
+
Great pedaling efficiency
+
Super comfortable
+
Robust and protective

Reasons to avoid

-
Premium price
-
Limited traction on foot in the mud

Shimano replaced its highly regarded ME7 gravity orientated shoes with the new GE9s in 2023. The GE9s top the Japanese brand's range of clipless DH/enduro footwear. We tested a pair over several months in a particularly wet British fall/autumn into winter and were very impressed.

The GE9's uppers are made from textured synthetic leather and come in Black and Olive colorways. The sole uses Shimano's latest Ultread rubber compound for maximum pedal grip when not clipped in, along with the brand's updated TORBAL 2.0 torsional midsole which is reinforced with carbon – achieving a 7 out of 12 rating on Shimano’s stiffness scale and has a EVA foam layer to minimize impact absorption.

In testing, a channel up the middle of the sole made rapid relocation of the cleat a doddle after foot out sections. The only aspect of the GE9s that disappointed were their poor grip performance when walking in mud.

Tester James Watkins, summed up the GE9s as, "An excellent pair of gravity focused kicks at the top end of the market providing great levels of comfort and protection with exceptional clipless pedal interaction."

For more info, see our full Shimano GE9 review.

12. Best clipless for bikepacking

Specialized Recon 3.0 shoe side view

The Recon 3.0 share a similar aesthetic with the premium S-Works model (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
The best for quick XC blasts and bikepacking

Specifications

Weight per shoe: 368g (size 43)
Pedal system: 2-bolt
Outsole: Carbon
Retention: Twin BOA dials, Velcro strap
Number of colorways: 3

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable Body Geometry fit
+
Stiff yet walkable sole
+
Grippy tread for sure-footed hike-a-bike
+
Dual BOA

Reasons to avoid

-
Fit could be snugger on narrow feet
-
Relaxed heel cup dulls power transfer

The Specialized Recon 3.0s will tick a lot of boxes for many riders who are looking for a comfortable do-everything shoe. They sit just under the race-specific Specialized S-Works Recon (above) in the four-tier Recon range and while they have benefitted the most from the trickle-down in top tech, the Recon 3.0s are much more than a watered-down performance shoe.

On the trail, we found that the Recon 3.0s are packed with features that you don’t see in the S-Works model, making them a much more liveable and versatile riding shoe. Compared to the Recon 1.0 and 2.0 models, meanwhile, the 3.0s benefit from a second BOA and a stiffer sole. And despite not getting the ultra-tough Dyneema uppers of the S-Works shoe, the Recon 3.0’s share a lot in common aesthetically. There are also perforations across the entire shoe to help with airflow and inside you also get Specialized XPEL mesh to help them dry out quicker.

The uppers are more forgiving than on the S-Works, which is a big benefit if you are bikepacking or have slightly wider shaped feet. We still found the fit to be very secure and had no problems with heel lift – it's just that your feet don’t feel quite as locked in. The sole also has an excellent stiffness about it when putting the power down, without feeling too jarring over rough terrain. 

Learn more about the Specialized Recon 3.0 clipless MTB shoes in our in-depth review. 

13. Best casual look clipless

Etnies Camber CL shoe

The Etnies Camber CL has a skate shoe-inspired aesthetic (Image credit: Jim Bland)
Sick new-age looks with great performance to match

Specifications

Weight per shoe: 517g
Pedal system: 2-bolt
Outsole: Synthetic
Retention: Laces and strap
Number of colorways: 2

Reasons to buy

+
Supreme build quality
+
Brilliant looks
+
Great fit
+
Well-thought-out features

Reasons to avoid

-
Run warm
-
Heavy
-
Deep cleat recess can require tweaking for some pedals

The Camber CL's new-age, skate shoe-inspired aesthetic looks killer, but don't let the casual vibe fool you – this shoe doesn't fall short on performance or tech. 

The upper is constructed from an exo-shield which is breathable and highly durable. Internally the Camber CL gets a neoprene-style sock line sewn inside the shoe, which in use prevents any stray loam from entering and causing discomfort. It's worth noting though that this elasticated cuff does mean they run warmer than average. 

A nylon shank inside the midsole means pedaling efficiency is better than you might expect. Thanks to the STI Evolution foam insole the Camber CLs dampen vibrations well.  

A lengthy cleat recess means cleats can be pushed back to best suit gravity styles of riding. We also found the 'Formula G' rubber around the cleat box meshes really well with platform-style pedals to further boost traction and support when riding hard.   

The Camber CLs are competitive in terms of weight and size, and we love that Etnies plants a tree for every pair of shoes sold. 

Find out what happened when we put the Etnies Camber CL MTB shoes through their paces in our full review.

14. Best clipless for wide feet

Giro Ventana Boa shoe

Despite the larger fit of the Giro Ventana, a BOA L6 retention system keeps things nice and adjustable (Image credit: Sean Fishpool)
The best clipless for riders with wide feet

Specifications

Weight per shoe: 434g (size 43)
Pedal system: 2-bolt
Outsole: Giro Sensor rubber outsole
Retention: BOA L6, Velcro strap
Number of colorways: 2

Reasons to buy

+
Wide, relaxed fit
+
Tough knockabout character
+
Flexible for walking
+
No-fuss BOA
+
Fairly light

Reasons to avoid

-
Heel may slip on hike-a-bike
-
Commuter-shoe looks (though also comes in green)
-
Wide cleat stance won’t suit everyone
-
Limited grip in mud

The ideal shoe for trail mountain biking combines the stiffness and efficiency found in cross-country shoes with a more casual style. A wider profile also helps with stability and protection. This is the sweet spot that Giro's Ventana inhabits. 

The casual-looking kicks feature a rubber outsole and also have EVA cushioning underfoot, similar to hiking boots. The breathable ripstop fabric called Synchwire protects the outer of the shoe from scuffs and tears while out on the trails. 

As for fit, we found the Ventana to be roomy with plenty of space for riders with wider feet. Despite the larger fit, a BOA L6 retention system allows riders to dial in the fit. 

We are fans of the comfortable fit as well as the shoe's stiffness. No, it's not as stiff as a pure-XC shoe, but it's good enough for everyday trail riding, especially for a rider who prioritizes a more relaxed shoe in most dimensions. 

Read more about the Giro Ventana BOA shoe in our full review. 

Comparison table

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Best mountain bike shoes comparison table
ShoeWeight per shoePedal systemOutsoleRetentionNumber of colorwaysRRP
Five Ten Freerider Pro345g (size 42.5)FlatStealth S1 rubberLaces3$100 / £90
Pinnacle Cedar350g (size 42)FlatPhylon and rubberLaces2$67.50 / £45
Ride Concepts Flume362g (size 39)FlatMax Grip rubberLaces 2$190 / £159.95
Specialized 2FO DH Flat436g (size 43)FlatSlipNot ST rubberLaces2$145 / £150
Crankbrothers Stamp Speed Lace385g (size 42)FlatRubberLaces, strap3$149.99 / £144.99
Ride Concepts Tallac430g (size 41)FlatMax GripLaces3$160 / £159.95
Specialized S-Works Recon270g (size 42.5)2-boltFACT CarbonTwin BOA dials, Velcro strap5$450 / £385
Carnac Grit420g (size 44 with cleats)2-boltAll-terrain tread compoundSingle Atop dial, Velcro strap2£79.99
Five Ten Trailcross CL813g (size 43)2-boltMarathon rubberLaces, Velcro strap3$165 / £140
Specialized 2FO Cliplite MTB424g (Size 44)2-boltSlipNot FG rubberTwin BOA Li2 dials3$200 / £175
Crankbrothers Mallet E Speed Lace516g (size 45, with cleats)2-boltMC1 compoundSpeed Lace/Velcro strap2$169.99 / £149.99
Specialized Recon 3.0368g (size 43)2-boltCarbonTwin BOA dials, Velcro strap3$230 / £230
Etnies Camber CL1,034g2-boltSyntheticLaces and strap2$199.99 / £139.99
Giro Ventana BOA434g (size 43)2-boltGiro Sensor rubber outsoleBOA L6, Velcro strap2£159.99

How to choose the best mountain bike shoes

Flat or clipless?

The first consideration you must make when choosing the best mountain bike shoe is deciding whether you want to ride flat pedals or clipless ones. Flat pedals allow a rider to take their foot off easily so are preferred by beginner riders and those riding very steep or muddy trails. As clipless pedals hold your foot in place, clipless pedals help the rider stay in control on technical routes and increase pedaling efficiency on rough terrain. For cross-country mountain biking, enduro mountain biking, and downhill mountain biking clipless pedals are almost exclusively used, although very occasionally gravity racers will choose flat pedals if the conditions suit.

How stiff should my shoes be?

The outer sole of a mountain bike shoe will be made from carbon fiber, nylon, or rubber; each of which differs in terms of performance and application. For instance, carbon fiber is a stiff, performance-focused material that features more on cross-country-style shoes. Nylon isn't as stiff as carbon but is more durable and offers better comfort, while rubber is used exclusively on flat shoes as it provides better grip, feedback, and comfort. Flat pedal shoes will often feature a shank to ensure pedaling efficiency isn't compromised too much.  

What's the best retention system?

There are various retention systems that provide a secure and comfortable fit, namely: laces; Velcro; Techlace (lace and Velcro mix); ratchet, and BOA dials, each of which have their benefits. In some cases, two of these systems can be combined for a more personal and tailored fit. 

For cross-country focused shoes we like to see a ratchet or BOA-style closure, but for trail and enduro we like the simplicity of traditional laces. 

Can I use clipless shoes on flat pedals?

In order for shoes to perform as best as possible they need to be designed with a specific intended use. Some clipless trail and downhill shoes feature a soft rubber for pedal pins to dig into but they aren't going to perform as well on flat pedals as a proper pair of dedicated flat pedal shoes.

How much should the best mountain bike shoes weigh?

Lighter isn’t necessarily better when it comes to mountain bike shoes. You’ll often find the lighter end of the scale geared more towards cross-country riding as this discipline demands maximum power transfer and efficiency but unless you’re Nino Schurter, the performance benefits are not always worth the sacrifice in terms of comfort and price. Try and look for a durable shoe that offers good support and comfort before looking for marginal gains.

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How we test mountain bike shoes

All the shoes tested here have been subjected to as much riding abuse as humanly possible on every manner of trail imaginable. We know that flat MTB shoes need to offer dependable grip while the clipless variety need to have a reliable mechanism, so we ensure to expose them to the filthiest conditions possible to ensure they still perform as designed. We even ride with rival shoes on opposite feet as we discern which one has the edge over the other, so if you bump into us on the trail in odd shoes, now you'll know we haven't lost our marbles (or shoes).

Meet the testers

Bike Perfect's Richard Owen
Rich Owen

Rich has been riding mountain bikes since the early nineties and testing bikes and kit for over a decade. While he does occasionally clip-in, his pedal of choice is definitely of the flat variety and he's tested a vast number of flat MTB shoes over the years. 

A man washing himself in a muddy puddle
Guy Kesteven

Guy's been testing and writing about mountain bikes since the early nineties and we're betting that he's tested more MTB shoes than anyone else in the UK and is our resident clipless shoe expert.

Graham Cottingham
Graham Cottingham

Graham has almost 20 years of riding experience, and has been involved in MTB riding and racing for many years. He's pretty ambidextrous when it comes to shoes, testing both flat and clipless varieties.

Jim Bland
Jim Bland

Jim Bland is a MTB product tester and World Cup Downhill mechanic. Always on the hunt for the perfect setup, Jim will be found comprehensively testing kit with exacting levels of detail. He's a man who prefers his shoes and pedals flat.

Mildred Locke
Mildred Locke

Mildred has written for a variety of cycling publications. Her expertise comes from previously working in a bike shop and learning the ins and outs of the industry.

Aoife Glass
Aoife Glass

Aoife loves a bike-based adventure, whether it’s out in the mountains on her MTB or exploring new places by road or gravel. She’s tested a lot of bikes and kit, and is passionate about making cycling accessible for everyone.

Man pushing bike through trees in sunlight
Sean Fishpool

Sean's an enthusiastic midpack club cyclocross and XC racer and has been involved in the MTB for decades. He is very much a clipped in kind of fella.

James Watkins
James Watkins

James has raced cross-country across the South West of the UK for decades and has even dabbled with a bit of road racing. Given that background, he's ridden many, many pairs of clipless shoes over the years.

Richard Owen
Editor, Bike Perfect

Rich is the editor of the Bikeperfect.com team. He has worked as a print and internet journalist for over 24 years and has been riding mountain bikes for over 30. Rich mostly likes hitting flowy yet technical trails that point downhill. A jack of many trades, he has competed in cross-country, enduro and long distance MTB races. A resident of North Devon, Rich can mostly be found pedaling furiously around his local trails, or slightly further afield in the Quantocks, the Mendips or Exmoor. 

Current rides: Merida One-Forty 6000, Banshee Paradox

Height: 175cm

Weight: 68kg

With contributions from