Your shoes form one of the three major connections between your body and your bike, so it's important to get them right. When it comes to the best women's mountain bike shoes, comfort and performance can make all the difference to how you perform on the bike, and for many, women's specific MTB shoes will make all the difference. They're created with a women's specific foot last (essentially the mold around which the shoe is shaped), and they're based on the average measurements for women's feet, which tend to differ from men's.
Whether your preference is gravity-fuelled technical descents which require supreme pedal grip, or fast cross-country riding where power transfer is the main concern, we've done the legwork (pun intended) to find the best women’s mountain bike shoes for all needs. We're including both the best clipless MTB shoes, as well as the best MTB flat-pedal shoes, and combining the best performance and value. Plenty of these shoes are also versatile enough to handle a range of different riding styles, and pair up with the best mountain bike pedals, so take a look and see which ones suit you best. Also, whatever shoes you wear, it's important to match them up with the best cycling socks.
In the flat pedal category, the grippy sole of the Five Ten Freerider remains unbeaten, and if you want a secure feel these are the shoes to go for. Hot on their heels are the Specialized 2FO and Crankbrothers Stamp shoes, both of which offer a more comfortable, secure fit and are quicker drying.
If your preference is clipless, the Bontrager Foray are robust, versatile and blend stiffness with comfort well. The Fizik X5 Women’s shoes are also a great choice.
If you're not sure what to look for, then keep scrolling to the bottom, where you'll find some extra guidance on how to choose the best women's mountain bike shoes for you.
Best women's flat mountain bike shoes
One of the best-looking flat-pedal shoes out there, the women-specific Liv Shuttle Flat Off-Road Shoe combines good pedal grip with an easy-to-clean outer and quick-drying properties.
The shoe comes with two lace options; contrasting turquoise with a reflective element and stealthy black. The mesh lace pocket in the tongue of each shoe is great for keeping the laces safely contained while riding.
Liv’s GRIPR dual-density rubber gives a good level of grip on the pedal, combined with a mid-level sole stiffness that supports the foot on longer rides. When you need to hop off the bike, the sole has enough flexibility, while the lugged rubber provides enough grip to make muddy or wet technical walks easier. These shoes are a good choice for all-mountain adventures.
Designed for everyday trail riding, the Ride Concepts Women’s Livewire shoe has been designed for women with a narrower heel cup for a more secure fit.
The DST 6.0 HIGH GRIP rubber outsole provides good grip on flat pedals, while allowing a degree of adjustability. A supportive midsole helps keep the feet from fatiguing on longer rides, aided by D30 impact-absorbing material in the insole. However, there isn’t a lot of grip when off the bike, particularly in wet conditions.
A gusseted tongue helps keep dirt and twigs out, and the lace fastening is secure, with laces stowed under the integrated elastic strap.
Designed using Specialized’s Body Geometry fit and design system, the 2F0 Flat 2.0 mountain bike shoes offer a superbly supportive fit that keeps feet from feeling fatigued on long rides.
The synthetic outer repels splashes, cleans up well, and the shoes dry relatively quickly and never feel heavy when wet, making them a good choice for wet weather riding.
Specialized’s proprietary SlipNot 2.0 rubber compound on the sole provides a good level of grip, though not quite as much as the category leader Five Ten. The lug grips nicely with flat pedal pins and allows position adjustment, but doesn’t give masses of grip for walking.
If your main concern when choosing shoes is really good, secure grip on flat pedals, then Five Ten is still the one to beat. The Stealth Phantom rubber sticks like glue to pedal pins, though if you like to reposition your feet a lot you may prefer a little less stickiness.
An EVA midsole provides impact-absorption with plenty of cushioning which provides comfort and keeps the foot securely in place. The downside is that the padding gets heavy when wet and the shoes do take an age to dry; it’s worth investing in a shoe dryer.
Added bonus: you can have them personalized so you don’t end up mixing them up with your mates’ shoes.
The newest addition to the flat pedal market, Crankbrothers Stamp pedals offer a great fit and excellent performance. The range-topping model features a Boa dial closure system that makes one-handed adjustments simple, plus a velcro strap for additional security.
Crankbrothers’ proprietary Match Compound MC2 rubber, plus a lug pattern designed to offer grip when riding or walking, combine to give good on-pedal security, though not quite as much as Five Ten offers.
Padding offers comfort and support, though can make drying them out a prolonged process. Happily, the outer is very good at preventing water ingress in the first place.
If you like the shoes and don’t want to fork out for the top model, or if you want a clipless version, Crankbrothers have cheaper models of the Stamps with lace-up closure, and the Mallet clipless shoes give a similar fit.
Best women's clipless mountain bike shoes
Stiff, efficient, comfortable; the Fizik Terra X5s are an excellent investment if you’re after a pair of long-lasting mountain bike shoes. Designed for the cross-country side of things, they combine a carbon sole that offers impressive power transfer and keeps feet feeling fresh. Their cross-country credentials are visible in the chunky lug on the sole and TPU studs that offer impressive grip on slippy, muddy terrain.
The upper is breathable and forms securely and supportively around the foot thanks to the design and the Boa dial system which makes one-handed adjustments a doddle. A Velcro strap at the toe gives an additional level of support.
If you prefer your off-road on skinner tires and dropped bars, these are also an excellent choice and well-loved by gravel riders.
Our test shoes have seen hours of use on muddy mountain bike trails and rocky, rough gravel rides and they’re still looking great. That’s testament to the robust materials and great design that’s gone into these shoes, with a synthetic outer that cleans well, a rubber ‘GnarGuard’ over the toes and heels that resists scuffing and perforations that make them breathable.
A Boa fastening allows quick micro-adjustments to the fit, and the Forays have a slightly roomier feel in the toe box which is great for chunkier layers in the winter or just more room to move, without compromising the fit around the arch.
The chunky lugs on the nylon sole combined with the rubber outsole give impressive grip in a wide range of terrain and a slight flex to the sole itself provide a little more comfort when walking without compromising power transfer on the pedals.
A low stack height combined with a fiberglass-reinforced nylon sole provides excellent power transfer and stability for the foot, which will keep them feeling fresher for longer.
The design of these shoes wraps around the foot, which helps keep water out and prevents pressure hot spots on the top of the foot as the closure is slightly offset to the side. The closure itself combines a Boa system which makes small fit tweaks simple and easy with a velcro strap at the toe.
Reinforcements over the heel and toe box add protection from rock strikes and generally prevent scuffing and marking.
If you know there’s going to be a lot of mud or you want these for cyclocross, there’s also the option of longer 18mm spikes.
The fact that the Giro Chamber II range includes special-edition versions designed for downhill racer Aaron Gwin and for the Enduro World Series should give you an idea of the target rider for these shoes. The Giro Chamber II shoe combines the styling and fit of gravity-focussed flat pedal shoes with a set back cleat bed. This 10mm set back allows cleats to be positioned more towards the middle of the foot, giving more comfort, control and stability to riders whose focus is more about gravity-fueled downhills than optimal efficiency.
A footbed with shock-absorbing EVA complements the shock-absorbing properties of the Vibram sole, which also features a Vibram Megagrip rubber outsole which helps grip the pedal platform.
Scott’s women’s specific Comp Boa mountain bike shoes are a great choice for general trail riding, cross-country riding and racing. The synthetic upper sits supportively around the foot with a Boa closure for micro-adjustable fit and a velcro strap for extra security.
The chunky lugs on Scott’s Sticki Rubber outsole, combined with toe studs provide plenty of traction in the mud. Mesh panels in the upper provide great ventilation and breathability, but do let water in when it’s wet.
Fiberglass reinforced nylon soles provide great power transfer due to their stiffness, and there’s also plenty of room to adjust the cleat position to suit personal preference.
What to look for when buying women's mountain bike shoes
Flat or clipless?
The main choice when it comes to MTB shoes is whether to get flat pedal shoes or clipless-compatible ones. Shoes are one half of the equation of how your feet connect to the bike, so flat pedal shoes work with flat pedals, with the pins on the pedal digging into the grippy rubber of the sole to provide traction.
Alternatively, clipless shoes have a clip, called a cleat, which bolts to the bottom of the shoe, and clips into a mechanism on the pedal. There are pros and cons for both systems and ultimately it’s a question of personal preference, but the main thing is to make sure the shoes you choose work with the pedals you have. Most mountain bike clipless systems use a two-bolt cleat, as opposed to the three-bolt cleat seen in road cycling.
Do I need women's specific MTB shoes?
Shoes labeled as women’s specific are usually built around a female foot last, the template shoes are made around. These are based around average female foot dimensions and tend to have a smaller heel-cup, lower ankle cut and run to smaller sizes than unisex shoes. Some women find they give a better, more secure fit, other women find unisex work perfectly fine for them, so it's more a question of whether you think those differences will work better for your feet.
What's the best type of closure system?
There are lots of different closure systems: velcro straps, good old-fashioned laces, straps and ratchets and the Boa closure system which is popular at the higher end of the price ranges. All will keep your feet secure, but some allow greater adjustment and easier control.
The Boa system is a twistable dial that tightens or loosens a strong cable; it’s light and easy to use one-handed. Laces are ever-popular and commonly seen on flat pedal shoes; look out for an elastic loop or pocket to stow the dangling ends so they don’t get caught in the chain.
Are all cleats compatible?
While most cleats will work with most clipless shoes, occasionally where the cleat bed is located in a deep channel in the tread — where the stack height is significant — it might prevent the cleat fitting the shoe or stop the cleat from reaching the pedal. This is more of an issue where the pedal being used has a platform around the clipless mechanism.
What about in the rain and mud?
If your riding conditions tend to be muddy and wet, consider getting shoes that offer a water repellent outer, less mesh in the upper and minimal padding or at least padding that dries quickly. You’ll still want some perforated holes low in the foot because as well as offering ventilation they also allow water that’s gotten into the shoe to get out again. No shoe will be completely waterproof because it can always splash in over the top where your ankle is, but some are certainly more suited to wet weather riding than others.
How stiff should the sole be?
There are two things to consider here. Firstly, a stiff sole offers great support to the foot and optimal power transfer so if riding fast and hard is your goal, a stiffer sole is the way to go which is why carbon- and nylon-soled shoes are popular with cross-country riders and racers.
However, if you’re going to need to walk, hike-a-bike, or push up climbs a more flexible sole will make that easier, and it will also allow the foot and the shoe to curve into the pedal more for added grip, particularly important for flat pedal shoes.