Mountain bike shoes

Hi everyone,

I’m looking for some advice on mountain bike shoes. I’m a female from a triathlon background but have just started getting into mountain biking for a bit of fun. I’ve got a hardtail XC bike (LIV/Giant Tempt 1) and am eyeing of single sided SPD pedals so I have the option to be clipped in or riding on the flat side. My main concern is finding a shoe which provides enough grip when I’m riding on flat pedals but is still a good shoe when clipped in. (Ideally one’s that look cool too :slightly_smiling_face:). I’m a EU size 40 so can use unisex or ladies shoes.

Thanks in advance!

Shimano ME3 are cheap and I don’t think about them while riding. I use them on both road and mountain bikes. Expensive shoes haven’t been comfortable on my feet.

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Thanks! They are one of the options I’ve been looking at so good to know they’re comfortable :+1:t3:

I only ride flats on MTB but I use 5:10s and I’m sure they do shoes with clips that can be used for both that still use their Stealth rubber. :+1:t3:

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Honestly, 5:10s are the standard for shoes on flats. I went with Vans for my time on flats as no one around me carried the 5:10s and my feet are picky about shoes. When I ride clipped, I have other shoes.

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Giro or 5:10’s are definitely what I would recommend. They come in a variety of colours and options for lacing or lacing velcro combos. The really tough soled Spd shoes are dreadful on flat pedals and I would recommend against going that route.

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Specialized 2FO are what I’ve just bought as I’ve always liked their fit. Not ridden in them yet though so can’t offer much more advice.

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If you’re concerned about being clipped in on a mountain bike, just get the SH-56 multi-release cleats and lower the tension. You can yank your feet straight up to release, or roll them to the side to release - it’s almost impossible to fall over still clipped in.

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I ride clipless 95% of the time, occasionally using flats when I’m instructing specific skills courses. (I’m a certified PMBIA instructor with Ride Ottawa)

Since you are experienced with clipless, you should not worry about a 1 sided pedal. Get a 2 sided clipless pedal with a larger body like a Shimano XT PD-M8020. This larger pedal body will give you a larger area to push against in case you don’t get clipped in right away. On some shoes like a Shimano you can hook the middle of your sole on to body with your heels down if you want to descend clipped out. (But you won’t)

(Sorry to contradict here). I do not recommend multi release pedals unless you have severe knee issues. Your foot can be easily knocked free from slight side force, or upwards force (which is intended) but this is not desireable off road. Since you are accustomed to the action of releasing, you will refine this for off-road very quickly. You are better off to reduce the spring tension and use single-release unless you are inexperienced and nervous. (Like really nervous)

Also with respect to cleat position, you should consider moving the cleat further back towards your heel for a more stable position on the pedal. If you are racing you may duplicate your road cleat position (ball of foot) but shifting the cleat back, even a little, provides better stability. You want to be able to drop your heels below the pedal for downhill stability and body position in steeps.

I am very hard on shoes. Usually the soles delaminate around the cleat and sometimes the toes. I usually only get 6 to 8 months from a pair of shoes. I ride about 250 days a year .

I currently use Shimano ME-7’s and 5-10 Kestral Lace version. I was previously using Mavic Enduro shoes which I also liked. I also have Shimano road shoes, a pair of DNB gravel lace ups and a pair of 45nrth Wolfhammer riding boots.

I prefer the Shimano shoe fit and feel. The buckles are more durable than the Mavic. The Mavics were very stiff. My Shimano road shoes are 12 years old so they are awesome. The DNB shoes were $40 on sale from Chain Reaction, so they are disposable in my mind, but have shown no wear on 10 long gravel grinders. The 45nrth shoes are holding up well too. The 5-10 have flatter sole so they can be used with flats if the cleat doesn’t contact the pedal spindle. The rubber is better with sharp pins on flat pedals. All 3 brands delaminated at 6 months. Shimano and Mavic were replaced on the spot by my LBS (2 year warranty). The 5-10’s will not be replaced until next summer so no more 5-10’s for me. (Since adidas bought them their service has been through a distrbutor here in Canada and they suck.)

Overall I’m a Shimano fan. It I like Mavic too.


My experience of one-sided pedals is that they’re not very good flat pedals, as well as being more difficult to get in/out of when using the cleats. They’re also quite expensive - you can get excellent flats/SPD pedals at the cheap end of the spectrum. I started with one-sided SPDs when I took up MTB as did a few of my friends and we all ditched (some for flats, some for SPD) them as soon as we could afford new pedals.

Big, grippy flat pedals with stealth rubber shoes are awesome and help you to learn good technique to stay connected to the bike. If you learn how to use flats properly they’re just as secure as SPDs in my experience - I find them a much more fun experience. 5.10s are the go-to flat pedal shoe but it’s worth trying a few on to get a decent fit.

If you find yourself racing or doing long, less technical stuff then the (small) extra efficiency you get from SPDs can be nice. Fit is more important here as the shoe is supporting more of your foot so try on as many pairs as you can!


These sound great in theory, but are pretty bad in practice. The flat pedal side isn’t great for a flat pedal (at least with the common Shimano ones) and when clipped your flat side is really prone to pedal strikes. It’s the worst of both worlds.


I use the sampson fondo pedals on all my bikes. Time trial, road, gravel, cyclocross, commuter.

They give you the option to pedal on flats or clip in. They are light. They shed mud really well. But I don’t think the flat side would be suitable for full blow mountain biking.

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Thanks! That’s helpful info and one of my main concerns about going down the spd sole route

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Ideally, if you’re looking to ride both flat pedals and clipped in, you’d have a matching set of shoes and pedals for both applications to have the best setup for each. I have to agree with the comments about single-sided pedals like the Shimano options mentioned - they aren’t great flat pedals and protrude too far when used on the other side.

I also like a lot of the Giro/Specialized SPD shoes, they’re really well built and both brands offer mountain bike shoes with Vibram soles, which are amazing to walk in and have the traction of a hiking boot. If you end up going the clip-in route, definitely check out the Giro Terradura or Specialized Rime shoes.


Thanks so much Juarez for all the info. It’s been very helpful. Currently looking at the Crankbrothers Candy 3 pedal and the Giro Terraduro shoes which look pretty hardy

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Does anyone have experience with the Mavic Crossmax Elite CM shoes?

I am considering buying them, but I am not sure if they will be too hot in the summer.
Temperatures are usually between 25 to 32 degrees Celsius over here in the summer.

I usually don’t get cold feet unless it’s really below zero