With summer steaming along, it’s time to refresh the worn parts of your bike kit. This year’s crop of the latest mountain bike shoes offer enough technical advances across the board—from quick-dry, anti-stink materials, to clever ratcheting closures, stickier soles, and hidden polymer layers—that every type of rider can benefit. So whether you’re a light and fast cross-country fanatic still oriented to clips, or a downhill specialist looking for the highest-performing flat pedal shoe, you’ll find options worth upgrading to for better connection, more efficient power transfer, plus a few style points on the trail.
1. Specialized Rime Flat MTB Shoe
The best flat pedal shoes grip almost as well as a cleated shoe, but let you dismount in a flash. The Rime Flat ranks high for pedal connection without hampering quick dismounts. They’re also comfortable to walk in. The Rime’s seamless mesh and TPU upper was durable and pressure point-free. The mesh repelled water, so the shoes dried fast, whether they were just sweaty or they got dunked crossing a stream. Specialized’s Body Geometry construction supported my foot with a longitudinal arch, metatarsal button, and varus wedge to keep me efficient and aligned. The cushy midsole is reinforced with a shank for stability and foot protection, which I appreciated pushing up to session a feature, or taking a detour to get a view.
2. Bontrager Foray Bike Shoe
Made for cross-country singletrack, but just as good at gravel adventures, the high-performance Foray’s stiff sole was efficient riding and walking. Aggressive lugs gave me good traction on loose steeps, and Boa L6 cable lacing let me micro-adjust the fit for all-day comfort. The perforated synthetic upper let my foot breathe on hot days. And a welded-on rubberized toe guard repelled rocks and other trail hazards. The stiff sole is made from a Nylon composite. It’s rockered to make walking comfortable, and the cleat mount has a wide range of adjustability, which I appreciated as I like to ride with my cleats back. The shoe came with nylon toe spikes installed. I left them on, but they come off with a twist of a Phillips head screwdriver if you don’t want them or need them. Bontrager gives this shoe a 6/14 stiffness rating. I’d put it closer to 10 or 11. The sole flexes slightly so walking isn’t awkward. But it’s stiff enough I didn’t lose power pedaling.
3. Shimano ME702
Stickier, more durable, and built on a redesigned last that fits wider feet, Shimano’s 2021 ME7 clipless mountain bike shoe is the best version of this heritage shoe yet. Made for enduro riders, the ME7’s Michelin rubber sole got me through countless hours of hike-a-bike exploring new zones. It’s wider than in the past but didn’t leave my medium-width foot swimming. And for riders who really need space, it’s also now made in a Volume + Wide version. A Velcro-close flap covered laces to keep them from getting snagged. And a low-profile clip ratcheted to secure the shoe around my foot. The neoprene Achilles cuff kept out sticks, stones, and other debris. And because the shoe is cut high on the inside, I never bashed my ankle. The ME7 is armored for protection, but it’s also better vented than ever before.
4. Scott Sport Volt Clip
Boa lacing helps dials in the fit on these stiff but still comfortable-to-walk-in clipless-compatible shoes. Sticky rubber on the sole kept hike-a-bike adventures rubber side down. Where the shoe hits the pedal, reverse lugs ensured maximum pedal-to-shoe contact, while the lug pattern switches in the toe and heel for traction walking. Scrambling up a trail in Vermont mud, they got packed with dirt. But once I was back on the bike, the sole cleared quickly. The perforated upper kept my feet from overheating. And the top lace eyelet, which is positioned wider at the ankle, helped snug these shoes down securely. The Volt Clip didn’t have as much shock absorption off the bike as some other shoes, but the toe flexed naturally when I hopped off the bike to grab snacks at a grocery store, or when I popped into a shop to replace my CO2.
5. Crank Brothers Mallet Speed Lace
Designed for enduro and downhill riders, the Mallet Speed Lace comes with a pre-installed Match shim and a Crank Brothers cleat in a neutral position. If you ride Crank Brothers pedals, that’ll save you $20 for new cleats and 10 minutes to install them. But this shoe isn’t just for Crank Brothers pedal fans; any clipless pedal rider will love them. The ramped cleat garage uses mid-friction rubber with a radial pattern around the mount that made it easier to get in and out of my pedals. The garage shed mud efficiently, making these shoes especially good for spring and fall riding. The cleat-mount tracks were long enough I could position my cleats in a setback power position. If you don’t ride Crank Brothers’ pedals, you’ll have to remove the installed cleat and replace it with one compatible with your pedals. Or maybe the shoes and their pre-installed cleats will inspire you to try something new. The shoe’s reinforced synthetic leather and mesh upper had hidden eyelets and pull-to-tighten lacing. Extra lacing tucked into a tongue pocket. And the sole was hike-a-bike ready, with a rockered toe, and lugs that had traction without compromising shoe-pedal contact.
6. Pearl Izumi X-Alp Flow
Made for more casual adventures, and riders who want a shoe that walks as well as it rides, this flat pedal shoe gripped pedal pins with its chevron-pattern sticky rubber. The canvas and microfiber upper are styled to look like a sneaker, with perforations in the toe so your feet won’t get sweaty, and a near-invisible rubber heel and toe bumper reduced wear and tear. The single-piece midsole/outsole had good shock absorption for unexpected dismounts and was comfortable enough walking around town.
8. Ride Concepts Hellion Elite
The most important feature of a flat pedal shoe is to keep your foot connected to your pedal whether you’re cranking up a hill or boosting off a feature. The Hellion Elite’s extremely grippy hexagonal-print soles felt locked in when I was riding, even though they’re flat pedal shoes, and they absorbed shock on the landings thanks to an EVA midsole tuned to the dynamics of mountain biking. Chatter absorbing, fatigue-reducing D30 heel and ball-of-the-foot pads made these the most comfortable shoe we tested for long rides. The two-panel microfiber synthetic upper was abrasion-resistant, quick-dry, and anti-stink. And the gusseted tongue kept rocks and dirt out. Finally, because getting shoelaces caught in the chainrings never ends well, an elastic keep in the tongue tucked lace ends away.
9. Five Ten Trailcross XT Mountain Bike Shoe
This shoe is a bit of a different animal—more of a mashup hybrid of dedicated bike shoe and light trail hiker. Ideal for fuller off-road ventures where you may find yourself walking around a bit beyond the sporadic hike-a-bike section, or a bikepacking tour where you’re exploring off the bike, the Trailcross XT was just stiff enough for solid power transfer on the pedals, but could still comfortably flex with the foot on the trail. Offering fuller ankle coverage with an extended bootie-like collar (with a neoprene cuff) and a mesh upper, this shoe breathed easy, and dried fast—perfect for warmer climes, and even featuring mid-sole drainage for riding through the unexpected splash. And though it’s slightly more narrow and featuring a little more rocker up front than some other flat pedal shoes on this list, Five Ten’s storied Stealth (Phantom Dotty) rubber sole still provided impeccable grip.
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