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Five Ten Trailcross CL shoe review – a lightweight clipless adventure trail shoe

Does Five Ten’s new clipless Trailcross CL adventure shoe find the perfect balance of on and off the bike performance?

Five Ten Trailcross CL shoe review
(Image: © Graham Cottingham)

Bike Perfect Verdict

The Five Ten Trailcross CL are lightweight, airy, and comfortable but the mesh uppers and thin sole lean more towards technical hike-a-bike than technical trails

Pros

  • +

    Very well ventilated

  • +

    Grippy rubber sole

  • +

    Easy to get clipped in

  • +

    Comfortable to walk in

Cons

  • -

    Light uppers create pressure points if laces are tightened too much

  • -

    Soles are too flexible for pedaling hard

Five Ten’s Trailcross range has always been a bit of an outlier in the brand's shoe range. Five Ten is best known for their flat pedal, and laterally clipless, gravity shoes, and have long been at the top of the game. The Trailcross shoes share less of the limelight, aimed at the go far rather than the go fast, with the range consisting of four flat pedal shoes and a recently added clipless option. Five Ten says the new Trailcross CL shoe was built from the ground up although it looks like it shares a lot in common with the low-cut Trailcross LT design, albeit with the addition of a recessed cleat.

Our testing explained

For information on Bike Perfect's testing procedures and how our scoring system works, see our how we test page.

Adding a cleat in a shoe that also needs to be good to walk in adds a whole different dynamic, Five Ten has plenty of clip-less experience when it comes to making some of the best mountain bike shoes, but have they found the perfect on-bike / off-bike balance with the Trailcross CL?

Five Ten Trailcross CL shoe review

The Trailcross looks a lot like a regular trainer (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Construction and fit

Five Ten’s Trailcross range has quite an unusual aesthetic for a bike shoe. The Trailcross range has much more of a trainer aesthetic which is undoubtedly influenced by Five Ten’s parent company, sports giant Adidas.

The uppers are made from a breathable mesh material and the toe and sides are toughened up with some abrasion-resistant overlays, as well as an impact-resistant toe box to avoid stubbed toes. The tongue is also made from breathable mesh and has very little padding to it. On the other hand, the heel is quite padded to help comfortably grip the foot and avoid heel lift.

Five Ten has also added a hook and loop velcro strap across the top of the foot to further hold the shoe in place. The laces extend a good length down the foot and have reinforced eyelets for durability.

Five Ten Trailcross CL shoe review

Soles use Five Tens recognisable dotted sole with the addition of some blocked tread edges for better traction (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Underneath is a modified version of Five Ten’s recognizable dotted sole. Rather than the ultra-sticky Stealth rubber, Five Ten has used a harder-wearing Marathon rubber compound and the tread features some ridged treads on the toe and heel for added ground grip. The Sole features an EVA midsole which adds stiffness to the shoe while trying to maintain walkability.

Five Ten says that the Trailcross CL uses recycled materials from production waste, claiming that 25 percent of the components used to make the upper are made with a minimum of 50 percent recycled content.

Five Ten Trailcross CL shoe review

Mesh maximizes the ventilation although it doesn't provide much support to feet on technical terrain (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Performance

We found our size 43 (US 8½, UK 9) Trailcross CLs to have a great fit with the mesh uppers molding comfortably around the foot. This was 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. It's not a case of just yanking extra hard on the laces, either, as the tongue is so thin that, if over-tightened, the laces create points of discomfort across the top of the foot. 

Backcountry-type riding can throw up all sorts of trails and the Trailcross CL offers just enough support to get through most situations. If you are expecting to take on a lot of gnarly trail sections, though, we would opt for something a bit more robust. This is partly down to the looser less secure fit, but also the mesh offering less foot protection from trail debris.

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. Flexible soles can lead to some shoes suffering from heat spots caused by pressure from the cleat plate, although this wasn’t something we experienced with the Trailcross CL’s. The sole itself is pretty stable on the pedals too which means you can somewhat combat the flexible sole by pairing the shoes with a large platformed clipless pedal.

Five Ten Trailcross CL shoe review

The thin tongue means the laces create pressure points when tied tight (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

While the heat waves of summer ‘22 have been an ideal testing ground for the ventilation, it hasn’t really given us any experiences of the Trailcross CL in the wet. The ventilation is superb but just based on the amount of mesh though, we suspect it won't take much to get your feet wet. We also haven’t been able to test how the tread handles mud because, despite living in Scotland, there simply hasn’t been any for months. Once the weather turns back to regular programming, we will be sure to update this review with our experiences.

Verdict

It's obvious that Five Ten has focused on summer riding considering the amount of mesh they have used and the Trailcross works extremely well in high temperatures. Despite unseasonably hot conditions that had us questioning whether we were in Arizona or the Tweed Valley, we had no complaints of toasty toes. If you are an adventurer no matter the conditions, Five Ten offers other more weatherproof options in the Trailcross range for riders, although all the other models are flat pedal shoes.

When riding the clipping-in action was super easy and the Five Ten rubber hooks up on pedal pins well if the terrain is a little too engaging to get your foot straight back in. You aren't going to be winning any uphill sprints on the pedals, but you might if you decide to disembark from the bike and push instead. Off the bike, the walking profile is excellent, and the shoes easily dispatched some pretty steep hike-a-bikes in both dust bowl and loamy conditions.  We did find the light uppers meant  our feet never felt as secure in the shoe as we would have liked, although that only really became noticeable when you started riding really technical trails. For relaxed MTB rides or hiking up peaks before cruising flowy singletrack trails down in hot weather, Five Ten has done a great job with the Trailcross CL shoes. 

Tech specs: Five Ten Trailcross CL

  • Price: $165 / £140
  • Colors: Orbit Green, Carbon, Pulse Lime
  • Sizing: EU 5.5 - 14.5
  • Weight: 813g (EU43 pair)
Graham Cottingham
Senior reviews writer, Bike Perfect

Graham is all about riding bikes off-road. Based in Edinburgh he has some of the best mountain biking and gravel riding in the UK right on his doorstep. With almost 20 years of riding experience, he has dabbled in downhill, enduro and, most recently, gravel racing. Not afraid of a challenge, Graham has embraced bikepacking over the last few years and likes nothing more than strapping some bags to his bike and covering big miles to explore Scotlands wildernesses. When he isn’t shredding the gnar in the Tweed Valley, sleeping in bushes or tinkering with bikes, he is writing tech reviews for Bike Perfect and the muckier side of Cyclingnews 


Rides: Canyon Strive, 24 Bicycles Le Toy 3, Surly Steamroller

Height: 177cm

Weight: 71kg