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Best MTB flat pedal shoes: Grippy footwear for all riding disciplines

Looking down a mountain as a MTB rider rolls over some rocks wearing Specialized Rime shoes
(Image credit: Specialized)

Your feet are one of the most important contact points between yourself and your bike, so if you're riding with flat pedals, choosing the best MTB flat pedal shoes can make or break your ride. 

In our experience, riding with flat pedals can be a great way to hone the correct technique, boost rider confidence and form a new level of trail feedback communication to the rider, especially when paired with the best MTB flat pedals. Oh, and dropping a foot in your favorite turn is a pretty good feeling too. 

We are 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'll run through our pick of the best flat pedal MTB shoes for men, so if you're looking for women's shoes, head to our guide to the best women's mountain bike shoes

Then 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

Crankbrothers Stamp Speedlace

(Image credit: Aoife Glass)

Crankbrothers Stamp Speed Lace

Smart lace system and supportive uppers give a secure fit

Weight: 838g | Sizes: 37-48 | Colors: Green/orange or grey/red | SRP: $149.99 / £114.99 / €149.99

Designed to integrate well with Crankbrothers pedals 
Quick, secure lacing system
Very comfortable fit
Not as grippy as the market leaders

Crankbrothers recently released a lineup of shoes, including the Mallet flat pedal shoe that corresponds with the brand's Mallet pedals. The benefit of this shoe is that Crankbrothers intimately knows its pedals, so they designed a shoe that will work flawlessly with them. The shoes are available at three price points, we tested the mid-level Speedlace version with 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 of the shoe to be excellent, providing a great blend of comfort and support when riding. Ventilation is decent too and well balanced with weather protection so they shouldn't soak through straight away and should dry quickly if they do.

The shoes are designed to work best with Crankbrothers own pedals although they will grip as well on other pedal platforms. Grip levels from the Match Compound MC2 are good but don't quite match the likes of Five Ten. Crankbrothers have provided lugs on the toe and heel to help with off-the-bike traction so you can easily 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 Flatline MTB shoe

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Bontrager Flatline

Great grip and feedback for full-gas flat-pedal riding

Weight: 744g | Sizes: 36-48 | Colors: Black, blue | SRP: $130 / £125 / €130

Sticky sole
Thin and flexy for feedback 
Usefully reinforced
Weather-resistant upper
Large sizing
Overlong laces

Bontrager's Flatline shoe uses a super sticky rubber on the sole that's on par with Five Ten's Stealth rubber compound so you won't be lacking any grip. The upper portion of the shoe is weather-resistant, and as a whole, the shoe is flexible enough so that you feel in control without giving up any support. 

In addition to great grip, these shoes are durable, comfortable, and reasonable weather-resistant. 

Even though previous Bontrager shoes were on the tighter side, the sizing on these runs large, so definitely try a pair on before you buy, and the long laces can get a bit annoying too. However, 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.

Specialized 2FO DH Flat shoe

(Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Specialized 2FO DH Flat

Well damped yet communicative DH shoe

Weight: 690g | Sizes: 36-49 | Colors: Black | Price: $160 / £145 / €150

SlipNot ST rubber is extremely grippy
Comfortable fit
Superbly damped sole
Low weight for a DH specific shoe
Limited tightening around the forefoot

The Specialized 2FO DH Flat is the third iteration of Specialized's DH-specific shoe, with the most notable change being the addition of Specialized's SlipNot ST rubber, which is also used across Specialized's other flat pedal shoe offerings.

Visually, the third generation has been toned down, giving it more of a casual aesthetic although the performance is still right up there with the best. The 2FO DH offers loads of protection to the foot and is paired with 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 tech 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 the front of the foot.

The base of the shoe is taken care of using Specialized’s latest generation, SlipNot ST rubber compound, which gives a really well-damped quality and offers barrel loads of grip in conjunction with the hexagon-shaped tread. 

Read more about the Specialized 2FO DH Flat in our recent review.

Specialized Rime shoe

(Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Specialized Rime Flat

Flat pedal shoes designed to hike as well as bike

Weight: 395g (EU43, actual) | Sizes: 36-49 and half sizes 38.5-46.5 | Colors: Black / White Mountain | SRP: $130 / £145 / €129.90

Tenaciously grippy SlipNot ST rubber sole
Well damped sole
Excellent comfort and flexible lace tension
Confident walking characteristics
Decent protection from the trail
Bold aesthetic
Doesn't get the Xpeltm hydrophobic mesh insole of the 2FO DH
The tongue needs positioning to assure full comfort

Specialized has reworked its range of trail, enduro and downhill mountain bike shoes, tweaking the design, fit and kitting them out with its new SlipNot ST rubber for excellent grip and dampening.

We have ridden a number of Specialized's new clipless and flat pedal shoes, all of which have performed very well. However, the Rime stands out, not just because of their bold looks but the fact they are designed for backcountry trails and big mountain adventures rather than just trail or enduro riding. That means Specialized has had to design the shoe to provide excellent grip and protection on the bike but also off the bike when hiking to the peak and starting point of your backcountry trail.

Grip and vibration dampening 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 toe still has enough flexibility when you are striding up the hill which is further improved by chunky horizontal lugs to 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

Five Ten Freerider Pro

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Five Ten Freerider Pro

Flat pedal shoe kings. Five Ten still rule

Weight: 784g | Sizes: 37-45 | Colors: Black, emerald | SRP: $150 / £120 / €140

Confidence boosting levels of grip in all situations
Fantastic pedal feel and exceptional damping in rough terrain
Continue to improve once bedded in
No neoprene roost/splash cuff on the ankle

The Freerider Pro from Five Ten is the equivalent of your favorite band’s greatest hits album. Five Ten has taken all of its best features and piled them into one shoe. This gives the Freerider Pro the most outright grip, the best damping properties and the best support to pedal feel balance out of any other shoe on test, making it the best flat pedal mountain bike shoe available. 

At the heart of the Freerider Pro is Five Ten’s proven S1 rubber sole, using the brand’s signature dot pattern which travels along the entirety of the sole. On the trail, this translates to 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, regardless of the trail. The damping characteristics of the S1 sole mean it does a great job of soaking up the impacts and high-frequency buzz that travels through your feet. Even on long alpine tracks, this offers protection from any foot cramps or discomfort. Compared to the standard Freerider, the Pro version sees the use of a shank in the midsole. This is designed to offer more support for pedaling and greater protection on longer runs without compromising on pedal feel, which it totally nails.

Attached to the sole is a sleek-looking and simple synthetic upper, which is weather-resistant, quick-drying and sees the addition of a hardened toe box that offers protection from flying rock strikes and trailside boulders. With a snug, but not restricting fit, the Freerider Pro shows zero signs of heel lift on or off the bike. The only thing it lacks is an extended gaiter to keep rocks and puddle spray out so expect to tip your shoes out more regularly, but as a plus, you’ll sweat less in summer. It’s also worth mentioning that 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, they’re still only showing slight signs of wear.

Ride Concept Hellion

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Ride Concept Hellion

Ride Concept offer serious competition to established brands, especially if you swap insoles

Weight: 848g | Size: 39-47 | Colors: Black, charcoal | SRP: $120 / £110 / €140

Looks amazing
Performs great in most trail situations
Potentially let down by D30 insole

Fresh to the market, the California-based brand Ride Concepts has launched a series of shoes to cater to the mass mountain bike market. The Hellion model we have here is essentially the all-rounder which is 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 used for a few months while visiting Queenstown, New Zealand where they faced countless bike park laps and a serious amount of trail riding and showed next to no signs of wear, so they're obviously built to last. The high-quality laces used are a nice finishing touch too, and while it’s a small difference, it’s a noticeable one, as they don’t lose tension or become baggy over time. 

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 stated to be the ‘high grip’ option on Ride Concept’s rubber kinematic scale. It sits in between the clipless exclusive ‘8.0 DST mid grip’ sole and the ‘4.0 DST max grip’ which is stated to be one of the grippiest on the market – something we’re eager to try out. In practice the ‘high grip’ sole lives up to its name, securely holding pedal pins in pretty much every situation, however, the Five Ten Freerider Pro still has the edge in rough, high-frequency impact terrain. 

Interestingly, this lack of grip in specific situations isn’t down to the sole itself but the insoles. The Hellions feature sections of D30 impact-absorbing material that’s more commonly used in rider body armor, as it instantly hardens upon any type of impact. While this may be good for protecting your knees in a crash, we can’t help but feel it’s letting the Ride Concept family down on the pedals. Upon impact, it feels like the insole is hardening and changing the way your foot wraps over the pedal. This is more noticeable in high-frequency situations, ultimately causing your feet to shift on the pedal. The effect of the D30 insole was confirmed when swapping for a non D30 variant in the same shoe.  It’s worth stressing this is only apparent in certain situations but it is enough to separate the Hellion from the test winner, so real grip fans should consider switching insoles.

Shimano GR9

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Shimano GR9

Shimano’s flagship flat-pedal gravity shoe is light and offers heaps of pedal feel

Weight: 761g | Sizes: 36-48 | Colors: Black, navy | SRP: $160 / £140 / €165

Low profile sole offers superb pedal feel
Lace flap and retention system are great features
Still not as grippy as the best
Ventilation may be too cool for some weather conditions

The GR9 is Shimano’s new top-of-the-range, gravity-focused, flat-pedal kick, and with the addition of an exclusive sole from Michelin, there’s a big leap forward in pedal traction when compared to older Shimano models. 

The first thing you notice when riding the GR9 is how the ultra-thin sole exaggerates that ‘in-the-bike’ feeling when riding down the trail. With the shoe being on the floppy side of the spectrum, it concaves nicely over the pedal too, and together this offers high amounts of tire feel and trail feedback from the pedals. This isn’t all positive though as on longer descents fatigue is more apparent due to the thin sole reducing impact protection and support. Surprisingly, the midsole stiffness felt good when pedaling so even though the soft upper doesn’t offer that ‘locked in’ feeling, there was no point where it felt too floppy under power, something that wasn’t uncommon on the shoe’s previous incarnation. The GR9 is light too, which is noticeable from the first pedal stroke where you’re greeted with a sporty, easy to rotate feeling.

Switching from the older Vibram sole to a totally new design from Michelin means there’s a big increase in pedal grip over the previous Shimano models, but it’s still not as sticky or as well damped as some of the other shoes on test. The latest sole design also features a more aggressive tread pattern on the toe and heel to boost off the bike grip. 

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 compared to traditional laces. Unlike older Shimano shoes which had a tendency to soak up water like a sponge, the GR9 sucks up next to no water when things get soggy, another great improvement for Shimano. 

FiveTen Freerider EPS High

(Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Five Ten Freerider EPS High

A true game changer for flat pedal users in the winter months

Weight: 1109g | Sizes: Unknown | Colors: Unknown | SRP: Unknown

Genuinely game changing in winter
Well thought out features
High top may not be to everyone’s taste (Low top is available)
Sole is a little flexy
Heavy overall weight

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 cold and wet weather-tackling features which combine to make the EPS a must-have for the colder months.

The winterization is certainly very thorough, with a list of features including a heat-reflective footboard beneath the insole, a fully gusseted tongue, and a stitch-less one-piece front panel. On top of this, the synthetic leather upper is Primaloft insulated for maximum warmth in sub-zero temperatures. The extra height adds warmth as well as splash protection, but there’s a low-top version if you find it restrictive. This package genuinely transforms comfort in the winter months, doing a truly exceptional job of keeping the heat in and the water out. As expected with all the winter modifications, it does make the EPS the heaviest shoe on test, but we’ll happily accept that to have warm feet in the bleak winter.

As it’s a Five Ten, it’s not surprising that a Stealth rubber blend sole takes care of pedal traction. The sole is essentially exactly the same as the standard and trusty Freerider shoe, making for excellent grip and damping qualities. The only thing we would like to see is the addition of the midsole shank that is featured on 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.

Leatt Flat 3.0

(Image credit: Leatt)

Leatt Flat 3.0

Mid-top shoe from Leatt featuring an Aaron Chase signature colorway

Weight : 950g | Sizes: 38-47 | Colors: Green, red, grey, brown | SRP: $120 / £96 / €120

From experienced MTB brand Leatt
RideGrip compound 
Mid-top isn't for everybody
Heavy weight

If you're looking for a mid-top shoe, Leatt's Flat 3.0 will do the trick. We know that mid-top or high-top shoes aren't for everybody, but if you are freeriding or downhill riding, the added material will better protect your ankles from pedal strikes or flying trail debris. 

Leatt is known for its MTB safety gear, so this shoe is designed with serious gravity riding in mind. The mid-top design not only adds protection but also support when you're flying off jumps and careening down rock gardens. You know these shoes are good since the brown colorway is Aaron Chase's signature shoe. 

The shoe features Leatt's RideGrip compound to keep your feet on the pedals, and the upper portion of the shoe features synthetic leather with a synthetic suede toe box, which makes these a great weather-proof shoe choice. 

There are multiple color options to choose from, with the Aaron Chase colorway being our favorite for looking classy on and off the bike. Plus since they're brown, they won't appear to be as dirty after you've kicked up a bunch of mid-summer dust. 

How to buy the best MTB flat pedal shoes

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. If the fit is too tight, it can cause the circulation to your feet to be cut off, which results in numbness leaving you with little idea as to where your feet are positioned on the pedal. On the flip side, if the shoe is too loose-fitting this can make correct foot placement 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, at the end of the day, 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 rotate them around with every pedal stroke. While lighter shoes are more efficient, there comes a point where protection, stiffness and support become compromised. The importance of this varies with different styles of riding though. Trail riders who spend a chunk of their time climbing will value a lighter weight shoe over a totally gravity-focused shredder who prioritizes damping and protection.  

Laces vs boa

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. Some shoes will use additional velcro straps to add a little extra support and security.

Do flat pedals require special 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 will have very soft rubber and a specific 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, where 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.

What is damping?

Damping is essentially a property of a material or moving component that restrains or stops movement in a controlled manner, often measured in curves. For example, most mountain bike suspension forks have damping adjustment; adding more damping, such as rebound damping, slows down the spring oscillation and offers greater control. No rebound damping would mean your fork would behave like a pogo stick, but having rebound damping will change the way the fork reacts. While the soles of flat pedal shoes don’t have adjustable dials, the rubber used needs to be carefully chosen and tuned to soak up heavy impacts and vibrations from the trail. A sole with good damping properties will reduce fatigue on longer rides and translate heavy hits from rough trails into a dull and calm feeling through your feet. 

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Jim Bland

Jim Bland is a review and buyer's guide writer based in North Yorkshire, England. Jim’s chosen riding genre is hard to pinpoint and regularly varies from e-bike-assisted shuttle runs one day to cutting downcountry laps the next. Always on the hunt for the perfect setup, he can regularly be found hammering out test runs in odd shoes, playing with volume spacers or switching tires in between laps to see what performs best. His ultimate day out includes an alpine loam trail, blazing sunshine, and some fresh kit to test.  

Rides: Santa Cruz Tallboy, Specialized Kenevo

Height: 170cm 

Weight: 60kg