As rider-to-bike contact points go, the secure connection provided by the best MTB flat pedal shoes is definitely something to look for.
If you're starting out, riding with flat pedals is a great way to properly hone your riding skills using the correct techniques. While clip-in shoes and pedals are great for pedaling efficiency, they're less useful when it comes to learning how to control your bike. The direct connection between pedal and shoe lets you 'cheat' your way through situations, rather than equipping you with skills you'll need to progress.
Flat shoes and pedals are not just for beginners though; many gravity-orientated pros prefer them to cleated shoes for their greater freedom, and they still be very secure – especially when paired with the best MTB flat pedals. Dropping a foot through your favorite turn is a pretty good feeling too.
We're big fans of riding with flat pedals and know exactly what to look for in a riding shoe to keep your feet glued to the pedals while maximizing feel and comfort on the trail.
In the following guide, we run through our pick of the best flat pedal MTB shoes for men, so if you're looking for female-specific shoes, head to our guide to the best women's mountain bike shoes. And while we're on the subject of feet, you might also want to check out our guide to the best cycling socks.
At the bottom of this guide, we've also included a detailed guide on exactly what to look out for when choosing the right pair for you.
Best MTB flat pedal shoes
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8. Shimano GR9
10. Leatt DBX 3.0
Despite having been around for years, the Five Ten Freerider Pro still has the highest grip, the best damping properties and the best stiffness -to-pedal-feel balance out of any shoe we've ridden. It's arguably the best flat pedal mountain bike shoe available.
At the heart of the Freerider Pro is Five Ten’s proven Stealth S1 rubber sole with its signature dot pattern. It creates a maximum-hold feel on the pedals resulting in the confidence to constantly attack, without the thought of your foot ever bouncing off or losing grip unexpectedly, regardless of the trail.
The vibe-damping characteristics mean it does a great job of soaking up impacts and high-frequency buzz too, and even on long alpine tracks they offer protection against foot cramps or discomfort.
Unlike the standard Freerider, the Pro version uses a shank in the midsole for more support for pedaling and greater protection on longer runs – but it doesn't compromise on pedal feel.
The simple synthetic upper is weather-resistant, quick-drying and gets a hardened toe box for protection, and the fit is snug, secure around the heels, but not restrictive.
The upper can take a few rides to bed in and soften up, but after a ton of hammer both in the UK and abroad, our test pair is still only showing slight signs of wear.
Check out our Five Ten Freerider Pro review for more.
The shoes use a dual layer sole with a Ride Concepts' Max Grip rubber outsole that partially wraps around the sides of the Tallacs. A thick EVA midsole adds comfort and shock absorption.
The Max Grip sole is excellent and gives a properly locked in pedal feel that's as good as anything else on the market. Big lugs at the toe and heel give really good walking traction too.
Sturdy toe and heel boxes give plenty of foot protection and you've got plenty of protective rubber under your feet. The flipside of all this sturdiness is limited pedal feel and extra weight as the Tallacs are significantly heavier than its rivals. Having said that, our tester did not notice the extra grams while riding.
For more info, head over to our full Ride Concepts Tallac review.
The Stamp shoes are designed to work perfectly with Crankbrothers' own Stamp pedals, but have everything they need to be good on anything.
They're available in three specs, and we tested the mid-level Speedlace version; it has a pull-tab system that quickly tightens the shoe and locks the laces into place. This is then tidied in a mesh pouch in the tongue and finished with a Velcro strap to add extra security.
We found the overall fit excellent, with a great blend of comfort and support when riding. Ventilation is decent and well balanced with weather protection, so they don't soak through straight away and dry quickly if they do.
Grip from the Match Compound MC2 sole is good, but can't quite match the likes of Five Ten. It's good off bike too, where lugs on the toe and heel to help you push back up when sessioning a section of trail.
To see how they earned four and a half stars, read our Crankbrothers Stamp Speedlace shoe review.
Bontrager's Flatline shoes use a super sticky rubber sole that's on par with Five Ten's Stealth S1 rubber – you won't be lacking any grip. The whole thing is flexible enough you feel in control without lacking any support.
In addition to great grip, these shoes are durable, comfortable, and reasonably weather-resistant.
While previous Bontrager shoes were frequently on the tighter side, the sizing on these runs large, so try a pair on before you buy. Note the long laces can get a bit annoying too, but it's good to know that Bontrager offers a 30-day return guarantee.
For more details on the Bontrager Flatline shoes, read our in-depth review.
The Specialized 2FO DH Flat is the third iteration of Specialized's downhill-specific shoe, with the most notable change being the new SlipNot ST rubber. It gives a really well-damped quality and offers barrel loads of grip in conjunction with the hexagon-shaped tread.
Visually, the third generation has been toned down for a more casual aesthetic, although the performance is still right up there with the best. The 2FO DH offers loads of protection and an Xpeltm hydrophobic mesh construction to help reduce heat build-up and stop them from becoming sponges in wet weather. Drying time is also improved, which is usually a huge weak point of overbuilt DH shoes.
The 2FO sports Specialized’s Body Geometry for a snug and supportive fit around and under your foot. On the bike, this is genuinely noticeable and high-power stamps on the pedals feel more effective when compared to any other shoe on test. The only negative is that the laces don't extend very far down the foot, which limits tensioning around your toes.
Read more about the Specialized 2FO DH Flat in our recent review.
We have ridden a number of Specialized's new clipless and flat pedal shoes and they're all performed very well, but the Rime stands out. That's not just because of the bold looks – it's because they're designed for adventures rather than just trail or enduro riding, and good whether hiking or riding.
The grip and vibration damping are very impressive and, although the shoe is designed to walk well, it doesn't suffer from a flexible sole that will cause foot fatigue on long trails. That said, the toes still have enough flexibility when you are striding up the hill, and chunky horizontal lugs help you dig in and scramble up loose surfaces.
The Rimes are finished with a TPU and Xpeltm hydrophobic mesh construction for tough, breathable and quick-drying uppers, and secured with standard laces.
Want to know more? Check out our Specialized Rime Flat shoe review
A newer entry to the market, the Hellion from California-based Ride Concepts is essentially an all-rounder aimed at trail and enduro riders. Boasting a range of quality features, the Hellion has proved to be one of the best options available.
Constructed using a two-piece synthetic upper with an anti-peel coating, it’s designed to take a whole ton of abuse while soaking up minimal water and keeping drying times fast.
These shoes were tested for a few months while visiting Queenstown, New Zealand, amd faced countless bike park laps and a serious amount of trail riding – and they're showing next to no signs of wear. The high-quality laces are a nice touch too, and while it’s a small difference, it’s noticeable as they don’t lose tension or become baggy.
The Ride Concept flat pedal shoe range features three levels of sole compound, and the Hellion gets the mid-level 6.0 DST rubber. This is actually claimed to be the ‘high grip’ option, and it lives up to its name, securely holding pedal pins in pretty much every situation.
The Five Ten Freerider Pro still has the edge in rough, high-frequency impact terrain, but interestingly that's not because of the soles – it's the insoles. The Hellions feature sections of D30 – the stuff you find in pads that goes rigid under impact – and it stiffens noticeably under high-frequency judder, ultimately reducing grip and causing your feet to shift.
Swapping to a non-D30 variant of the same shoe saw the issue go away. It’s worth stressing this is only apparent in certain situations, but it is enough to separate the Hellion from the test winner.
The GR9 is Shimano’s new top-of-the-range, gravity-focused, flat-pedal kick, and with a new exclusive sole from Michelin, there’s a big leap forward in pedal traction over the older Shimano models.
The first thing you notice is how the ultra-thin sole exaggerates that ‘in-the-bike’ feeling. Being on the floppy side of the spectrum, it concaves nicely over the pedal, allowing for great feedback from the pedals.
This isn’t all positive though, as on longer descents fatigue is more apparent. Surprisingly, midsole stiffness feels good when pedaling though, and it doesn't feel floppy under power the way its predecessors could. The GR9 is light too, which is noticeable from the first pedal stroke where you’re greeted with a sporty, easy to rotate feeling.
While switching from the older Vibram sole to the new Michelin (with a more aggressive tread pattern) has really improved grip, it’s still not as sticky or as well damped as some.
The upper retains Shimano’s signature lace cover, which helps keep puddle splashes out as well as protecting the really convenient quick-lace system. This toggle-style design offers good overall tension and makes getting them on and off a cinch.
Unlike older Shimano shoes, which had a tendency to soak up water like sponges, the GR9 sucks up next to no water when things get soggy – another great improvement for Shimano.
For a long time, the best winter MTB boots have only been available for clipless pedal users. This was until Five Ten released a fully winterized version of its ever-famous Freerider flat-pedal shoe. The Freerider EPS sports a ton of winter-tackling features which combine to make the EPS a must-have for the colder months.
Features include a heat-reflective footboard beneath the insole, a fully gusseted tongue, a stitchless one-piece front panel, and a synthetic leather upper that's insulated with Primaloft.
The extra height adds warmth as well as splash protection (there’s a low-top version if you find it restrictive) and together it all genuinely transforms comfort in the winter months. They do a truly exceptional job of keeping the heat in and the water out.
As you might expect the EPS is the heaviest shoe on test, but we’ll happily accept that to have warm feet in the bleak winter.
As it’s Five Ten, it’s not surprising that a Stealth rubber sole takes care of pedal traction, and similarly unsurprising that it gives excellent grip and damping. The only thing we would like to see is the midsole shank from the Freerider Pro, as the extra support is very welcome on longer downhills and would boost the EPS High to a perfect 5/5 rating.
Even without that, the combination of warmth and grip means we can’t recommend this shoe enough for people who continue to battle through the grim season.
If you're looking for a mid-top, Leatt's DBX 3.0 will do the trick. We know mid-top or high-top shoes aren't for everybody, but if you're freeriding or downhilling, the added material better protects your ankles and adds welcome support.
Leatt is known for its MTB safety gear, and this shoe is designed with serious gravity riding in mind. You know these shoes are good when the brown version is Aaron Chase's signature shoe...
These feature Leatt's RideGrip compound for the soles, and the upper is mix of synthetic leather and a synthetic suede toe box – all of which makes these a great, weatherproof shoe choice.
How to buy the best MTB flat pedal shoes
How much money should I spend on flat pedal shoes?
While the answer is usually to buy the best shoe you can afford, the good news is that if you're on a limited budget, there are lots of worthy options too.
For example, while the standard Five Ten Freerider is more basic than the Pro version, it's still an excellent model in its own right. At the time of writing, you can pick them for around $60 / £60, which is well below the RRP.
Do flat pedals require dedicated riding shoes?
Arguably you don't need special shoes to ride flat pedals. That said, investing in the best MTB flat pedal shoes will bring a number of significant performance gains over regular trainers.
For a start, shoes designed for flat pedals have very soft rubber and a special tread pattern to maximize grip. The sole will often be a lot stiffer to provide a better pedaling platform, improve stability and reduce foot fatigue.
Most flat-pedal users tend to be more gravity-focused, so speeds are high and impacts are frequent – and potentially harsh. Hardened toe boxes and heel cups are essential for protection against rock strikes and trail detritus. The sole also needs to be able to absorb the feedback and hard impacts associated with ripping down the toughest trails.
How should the best MTB flat pedal shoes fit?
As with most things mountain bike-related, fit is very important. For flat-pedal riders, 'feel' is vital and allows you to maximize the advantages of not riding clipped in. A tight fit might be secure, but if it's too tight it can cut off the circulation to your feet and cause numbness – leaving you with little idea as to where your feet are positioned on the pedal.
On the flipside, if the shoe is too loose then correct foot placement can seem impossible, especially on rough terrain. While we have done our best to decipher how each shoe fits, we still recommend physically trying them on, as ultimately everyone’s feet are different, and size/cut differs from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Is MTB shoe weight important?
The lighter the shoes, the less energy it takes to spin them up to speed. But while lighter shoes are more efficient, there comes a point where protection, stiffness and support are compromised; where that point is varies with different styles of riding though. Trail riders who spend a chunk of their time climbing will value a lighter shoe than a totally gravity-focused shredder who prioritizes damping and protection.
Which are best, laces or Boa systems?
Unlike clipless pedals which commonly use Boa dials and ratchets, every shoe here (besides the Shimano GR9 and Crankbrothers Stamp Speedlace) uses a traditional lace-up design. While more complex fasteners may seem smart, it’s hard to beat the simplicity, adjustability and reliability of a solid set of laces. Note some shoes will use additional Velcro straps to add a little extra support and security, too.
What is damping and why does it matter to shoes?
With regards to shoes, it's the ability of the soles to smooth out vibrations and dull heavy impacts. These obviously cause discomfort, and over time will cause fatigue, too – your feet will start to ache and lose power.
Too much squish here can reduce the feeling and feedback you get through the pedals, though, so it's not just a case of piling in the padding – the damping characteristics of the best shoes are finely tuned for both feel and comfort.