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The Mountain Footwear Guide

Choosing the right shoe is easy, but it’s not simple. This guide outlines what you need to know to zero in on your best options, then presents a few of our picks for this year’s standouts.

How do you ride?

Cross Country

Cross Country racers likely want a dedicated race shoe that’s extremely stiff for maximum power transfer, with a lightweight stripped-down upper.

Trail

Most riders are best served by what we’d consider a Trail shoe with lightweight construction, moderate protection, and a fairly stiff, yet walkable sole.

Gravity

Enduro racers and bike park regulars appreciate added protection and a more flexible midsole for comfort.

And for the flat pedal aficionados among us, skip the “hybrid” clipless compatible shoes and opt for dedicated flat pedal shoes, which deliver superior grip and pedal feel.

Gravel

Gravel riders now enjoy a range of choices aimed specifically at their chosen pursuit, offering the minimalist upper of a cross country race shoe with concessions for all-day comfort.

Sizing and Fit

Knowing whether you have a particularly narrow or wide foot will steer you towards a brand best suited to your needs. Keep in mind that many brands known for narrow fit, like Sidi and Giro, also offer dedicated wide versions of their most popular shoes.

You’re aiming for a fit that’s snug, but not tight. It also pays to consider that pressure points will quickly turn into hot spots. Leather uppers are more forgiving than synthetic uppers, and will break in with just a few hours of ride time.

Sole Construction

Cross Country & Gravel

Cross country racers seek the stiffest soles for maximum power transfer. Everyone else should seek to balance stiffness against flex that ensures comfort on long rides.

Trail & Gravity

Trail-focused shoes typically have softer rubber covering the whole sole, making the shoe more walkable should the need arise.

Flat Pedals

For riders who prefer platform pedals, rubber compound is everything. Some riders like maximum grip for secure foot placement, while others prefer a less grippy shoe that allows for adjustments on the pedal.

Technical Details

Dial

If you need on-the-fly adjustability, go for a shoe with a Dial retention system. Many shoes use the BOA system, while Sidi uses its proprietary Tecno 3 Dial System, both of which allow you to easily tweak your shoes while in the saddle.

Traditional Laces

Traditional Laces have made a comeback over the past few years in equal parts for the unsurpassed comfort and nostalgia that they offer, even if they’re less secure than other options.

Ratcheting Buckle with Hook-and-Loop Straps

If you want maximum reliability reliability, it’s hard to beat a Ratcheting Buckle with Hook-and-Loop Straps at the forefoot, which have proven to be both durable and comfortable.

There are tons of options, which is why we’ve selected just a handful of our favorite shoes below.

Shop Our Favorites

Giro Code Techlace Shoe

  • Narrow-to-Regular Fit (Also Available in Women’s Version)
  • Easily Adjustable Hybrid BOA/Techlace Closure
  • Breathable Perforated Synthetic Microfiber Upper
  • Responsive EC70 Carbon Fiber Sole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 338g (Size 42)
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Shimano S-PHYRE SH-XC9 Shoe

  • Regular Fit (Also Available in Wide Version)
  • On-The-Fly Adjustable Dual BOA Closure
  • Quick Drying Perforated Synthetic Leather Upper
  • Stiff Carbon Fiber Sole with Grippy Michelin Rubber Outsole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 339g (Size 42)
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Sidi Tiger Shoe

  • Narrow Fit
  • On-The-Fly Adjustable Tecno 3 Dual Dial Closure
  • Ventilated Italian-Made Synthetic Upper
  • Stiff and Responsive Medium Modulus Carbon Fiber Sole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 347g (Size 42)
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Giro Ventana Shoe

  • Regular Fit
  • On-The-Fly Adjustable BOA Closure with Hook and Loop Strap
  • Lightweight Synchwire Synthetic Upper
  • Slightly Flexible EVA Midsole with Walkable Full Coverage Outsole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 420g (Size 42)
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Five Ten Kestrel Pro BOA Shoe

  • Regular Fit
  • Adjustable BOA Closure with Hook and Loop Strap
  • Weather Resistant Synthetic Upper
  • Comfortable EVA Midsole with High Grip Stealth Rubber
  • Weight Per Shoe: 461g (Size 9)
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Shimano SH-ME7 Shoe

  • Regular Fit
  • Secure Hybrid Buckle/Quick Lace Closure
  • Rugged Perforated Synthetic Leather Upper
  • Stiff Carbon Fiber Sole with High Traction Michelin Rubber Lugs
  • Weight Per Shoe: 364g (Size 42)
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Giro Chamber II Shoe

  • Regular Fit
  • Traditional Laces with Hook and Loop Strap to Secure Laces
  • Water resistant Synthetic Upper
  • Gravity Tuned EVA Midsole with Vibram Rubber Outsole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 486g (Size 42)
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Five Ten Hellcat Pro Cycling Shoe

  • Regular Fit (Also Available in Women’s Version)
  • Traditional Laces with Hook and Loop Strap to Secure Laces
  • DWR Treated Water Resistant Synthetic Upper
  • Comfortable EVA Midsole with High Grip Stealth Rubber
  • Weight Per Shoe: 563g (Size 9)
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Five Ten Freerider Pro Shoe

  • Regular Fit (Also Available in Women’s Version)
  • Traditional Laces for a Fine Tuned Fit
  • Quick Drying Synthetic Upper
  • Flat Pedal Specific with High Grip Stealth Rubber Outsole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 364g (Size 9.5)
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Sidi Dominator 10 Shoe

  • Narrow Fit
  • On-The-Fly Adjustable Tecno 3 Dual Dial Closure
  • Hard Wearing Microtech Synthetic Upper
  • All Day Comfortable Nylon Composite Midsole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 332g (Size 42)
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Shimano RX8 Shoe

  • Regular Fit
  • Secure BOA Closure with Hook and Loop Strap for Fine Tuning
  • Quick Drying Synthetic Leather Upper
  • Stiff and Responsive Carbon Fiber Midsole with Rubber Lugs
  • Weight Per Shoe: 279g (Size 42)
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Lake MX238 Shoe

  • Wide Fit
  • On-The-Fly Adjustable Dual BOA Closure
  • Durable Leather Upper with Mesh Inserts for Ventilation
  • Responsive Carbon Fiber Midsole with Walkable Rubber Outsole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 384g (Size 38)
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