13 Mountain Bike Shoes Reviewed in 2021

Flat and clipless mountain bike shoes have a long list of requirements, and we like to test as many pairs as possible to share what’s good and what could be improved. Shoes need to protect our feet from sticks and frames, provide support and rigidity, keep feet dry and at a preferred temperature, they should fit well, grip the ground and pedals appropriately, and more. With a total of 26 bones, 30 joints, and over 100 stringy little muscles, our feet can be rather particular about which shoes they get along with. Check out the twelve pairs of trail kicks we reviewed during the 2021 season.

Bontrager Avert Adventure Clipless MTB Shoes

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Greg Heil took a close look at the new Bontrager Avert Adventure Shoes this past spring and had largely good things to say about the sandy-colored kicks.

Heil really enjoyed the reinforced toe box, and mentioned that while the shoes fit a little long he was overall comfortable with his usual sizing. His summation of the shoe included accolades for its overall grip, in addition to the following: “Bontrager packs serious performance features into a shoe that looks remarkably stylish. The high-quality construction of the Avert promises to last for a solid season of challenging mountain biking, but if you’re looking for a shoe that provides a locked-in feeling, it might not be for you.”

Bontrager Foray Clipless Mountain Bike Shoes

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Our BC-based contributor, Sam James, tried out a set of Bontrager XC shoes called Foray on his gravel bike this year and he found them well fitted to the brand’s stated intentions. He enjoyed the added stiffness and cozy fit they provide, with good power transfer for longer adventure. He says that the shoe wasn’t XC-race stiff, but should provide plenty of stiffness for most riders. James also said that the BOA dials are well placed for a snug fit, and his usual size 45 was spot on despite a somewhat wide toebox.

Need one pair of shoes for all of your trail and gravel adventures? James says these will have you set. “The Foray is a great shoe for anyone who wants a mid-range XC/trail riding shoe and values comfort and efficiency over either race-level stiffness or sending gnarly trails. They’re a great price point shoe for the value-conscious rider or the XC racer on a tight budget. They would also make a great crossover shoe for anyone who rides XC/trails and gravel/road and doesn’t want to buy two pairs of shoes, and better suits those with wider feet.”

Bontrager Rally Clipless Mountain Bike Shoes

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James also tested a pair of burrlier Bontrager mountain bike shoes in the same colorway, called Rally. He found them notably comfortable on long pedals, though not as breathable as some similar shoes he has tested.

Here is his conclusion after a few months pedaling in the pair: “The Bontrager Rally shoes retail for $149.99 USD (available from Trek in men’s and women’s styles) and personally I think that’s a great deal, considering just how comfortable they are. They’re not bursting with tech and things like BOA dials and carbon soles, but for anybody who is looking for a super comfy casual-ish MTB shoe with more protection than a lightweight trail shoe, these could be just the ticket.”

Five Ten Hellcat Pro Clipless Mountain Bike Shoes

Our lead editor, Jeff Barber, recently got his feet into a pair of the new Five Ten Hellcat Pro clipless shoes to learn what’s new with the highly acclaimed footwear. He has tested this model in the past, and was impressed with the updates.

“The Five Ten Hellcat Pro mountain bike shoes are still excellent shoes for trail riding, and they continue to evolve, improve, and build on each proceeding version. I expect this latest iteration to last even longer than my old, beloved Hellcats.” Priced at around $180, that is some high praise that suggests putting these shoes atop your list of possibilities.

While Barber loved the durability of his last pair, and the sturdy construction on this new set, he found himself wishing the sole was a little softer and more forgiving.

Fizik Gravita Versor Clipless MTB Shoes

Our tech editor, Gerow, tested two new shoe models from Fizik in 2021. The Gravita Versor is a lowtop model that prizes breathability and comfort, with a moderate amount of protection and some solid sole reinforcement. The shoe shined in most aspects, though he did have trouble keeping the heal cup installed on steeper hike-a-bike chunks of trail.

“The one place these shoes don’t get along well with my feet is up any hike-a-bike. The heel slips too much and isn’t high or tight enough for long walks up the mountain. There is ample toe and heel traction on the sole, but nothing to keep it from sliding off your foot. For comparison, the recently released Crankbrothers gravity shoes have a nearly identical fit, but the designers added silicone-like grippers to the inner heel so that the shoe doesn’t slide off as you climb. While this may not be an issue for wider-footed riders or folks who don’t get into backcountry bike carrying situations, it’s a critical point for those of us who do.”

Fizik Gravita Tensor Clipless Mountain Bike Shoes

The further gravity oriented new shoe from Fizik this season is called the Gravita Tensor. It’s a cliples model designed for the rigors of DH and enduro racing and similarly aggressive riding. The toe-cap protection is almost unbendable, and the high ankle cuff prevents frame strikes while cinching the shoe a little tighter around your foot and deflecting loam.

Gerow says, “At 15-20g heavier than the Versor, these protection bits are easily worth their weight. The shoe fits fantastically, and can be quickly adjusted for the level of taughtness you prefer. That velcro strap may look simple, but it adds just the right amount of on-trail adjustment that will keep these shoes on my feet for seasons to come.”

ION Rascal Select BOA Clipless Shoes

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Straight-outta Colorado, writer Chris Scheiffer tested the ION Rascal Select BOA kicks this summer and she loved the on-trail fit and feel. Scheiffer typically prefers MTB gear to be as bright and colorful as possible, but she made these black and gold numbers work for the summer.

“The Rascal Select provides the breathability of an XC shoe, is sturdy in its overall construction, yet somehow stiff through the length and laterally flexible at the same time. The SUPTraction Rubber Soul, combined with a visually attractive and functional traction pattern makes walking around or extreme hike-a-biking easy breezy. This is one of the stiffest shoes I’ve personally ridden in, likely due to the reinforced shank inside.”

Leatt 3.0 Flat Mountain Bike Shoes

Our resident flat-pedaler lives in the UK, where she beats the crap out of shoes and regularly tests how well they perform underwater. Grace Zarczynska is no stranger to gravity shreds in the muck, and she enjoyed pedaling around in the new Leatt 3.0 Flat Pedal Shoes.

“Let’s get to the central question regarding the shoe. How does it grip? How does its sole compare to the Five Ten compound? Well, after quite a few rides, it feels fairly close. However, I think Five Ten shoes like the Freeride Pro’s provide better grip overall. That said, the Leatt shoe’s waffle pattern did keep me grounded on the pedals without any slippage in wet conditions, and the compound seems to be soft enough to help your feet stay glued without compromising the construction of the shoe. I cannot tell you how that compound will hold up in the longer term, but so far the underside looks fairly pristine. “

Ride Concepts Traverse Clipless MTB Shoes

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Ride Concepts is hot on the World Cup scene these days, despite currently making just one clipless model that they call Traverse. Chris Schieffer reviewed them over the summer and has some important critiques for buyers to consider.

“Overall the Ride Concepts Traverse shoes have great soles, cushioning, and do a good job to protect the foot. They are well constructed, weather-proof, and seemingly indestructible. A solid piece of footwear that you will have for a long time. However, the lack of breathability, rigid stiffness, and peculiar cleat placement are attributes you may want to muddle through before making a purchase.”

Scott MTB RC SL Clipless XC Shoes

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And now on to the featherweight stiffness that every XC racer is looking for. At just 409g each in size 43, these carbon slippers are undoubtedly designed with efficiency in mind. The stone-stiff sole and part of the uppers are made of carbon fiber, and the soles have a little more grippy rubber than some.

Our tester, Gerow, says “In terms of weight, these are not the lightest XC shoes around at 409g in size 43 with a Shimano cleat attached. They also aren’t heavy, and that’s a reasonable weight for such a tough shoe, particularly considering the sticky, rubberized sole. Much of their girth lies in the soft rubber that sticks to rocks and coffeeshop floors far better than most other carbon-soled kicks, and makes these stand out beyond their carbon fiber uppers. That added grip has come in handy numerous times when I needed to clip out and set my foot on a stone, where other XC shoes would have slid off and caused me to do the splits.”

Scott Volt Clipless Mountain Bike Shoes

The Scott testing didn’t stop with XC shoes, as we also got ahold of this pair of Volt gravity shoes. Gerow tested them and found the soles to be hike-able, while providing ample stiffness and pedal support.

Based on the following feedback, it seems that riders who bang their ankles often might want to keep looking. “In addition to the increased toe and sole protection, there is an average amount of ankle padding to prevent bruising from the cranks or trail projectiles. Scott has yet to design a shoe with a higher inner ankle support for frame protection, but with more brands moving that way they may have something in the future. As it stands both large ankle bones, the lateral malleolus and medial malleolus, are left exposed to the elements.”

Specialized 2FO Roost Clipless Mountain Bike Shoes

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2021 was the year of new mountain bike shoes, and Specialized jumped into the game with a few fresh models. Gerow pedaled in these for a few months, and worked with the team at Specialized to remedy some knee pain that possibly resulted from an overly slanted insole. With that sorted, he was otherwise happy pedaling on adventures in this new pair of trail kicks.

Traction and mud-shedding with the SlipNot™ FG rubber sole is on par with most other gravity shoes. They will pack up and become slippery with enough mud, like any other, but in most conditions, the soles offer ample grip. On harder surfaces, like clipless pedals and granite, the softer rubber hooks up well. I was happy with the traction they provided on the few occasions I had to clip out for a greasy turn and then stand on the pedal for a piece without clipping back in.”

Specialized RIME Flat Mountain Bike Shoes

Back in the UK, where Grace Zarczynska splashes from trailhead to trailhead, another pair of Specialized shoes were tested this season. The RIME flats are a burlier do-it-alll pair with a bit of hiking aesthetic mixed in and protective features all around.

“Exposed to the elements, as only a UK winter can do, the RIME Flat shoes stood up to the water-resistance test. Even when I put my feet in the numerous boggy quagmires on my local trails, they stayed fairly dry. I have only really tested these in colder, wetter weather, so it’s unclear how this shoe will work out on the rare dry and sunny days later in the summer, but I didn’t experience any overheating or sweating so far. “