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There was a time when clipless pedals hardly existed in the world of mountain biking. Then, it seemed that everyone who wanted to be fast in just about any mountain bike discipline thought they had to run clipless pedals. Now, flat pedals have made a bit of a resurgence, and plenty of people wear both flats and clipless, choosing whichever setup works best for that day’s ride. Of course, along with clipless mountain bike pedals comes clipless mountain bike shoes, which are a bit more varied than their flat counterparts.

But don’t worry. Whether you are a long time clipless rider looking for the latest and greatest clipless mountain bike shoe, or you are making the switch from flats, we are here to help you choose the best clipless mountain bike shoe for your needs!

Choosing a Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

What Type of Riding Will You Do?

Clipless mountain bike shoes range from those aimed at hardcore, gram counting cross country racers to those for downhill racers who bang out warp speed laps at lift-served bike parks. If either of these descriptions sounds like you, then you probably want a shoe made specifically for your preferred discipline. Otherwise, we generally recommend a good all mountain or enduro oriented shoe, as these will serve you well regardless of your riding style.

What Type of Pedals Will You Pair Your Shoes With?

On one very basic level, clipless mountain bike pedals come in three styles, regardless of the clipping mechanism that they use. They tend to have:

Only the clipping mechanism with no surrounding platform

A small to medium-sized platform surrounding the clipping mechanism

A full cage and/or platform with pins, which surrounds the clipping mechanism

Generally, cross country racers looking for the lightest possible shoe/pedal combo, opt for a pedal like the Shimano XTR M9100, which has no cage around it at all. Because of this, XC shoes are extremely stiff, as the sole is responsible for transferring all of the rider’s power to the small pedal platform.

Trail, enduro, and downhill riders generally opt for a pedal with either a medium or large cage, such as the Shimano XT M8020 or Crank Brother’s Mallet E. While a stiff shoe will work for these pedals, riders typically opt for a shoe with a bit more flex, which will allow their foot to interface with the cage, particularly for pedals with a full cage. This gives the feeling of being on flats, along with the efficiency and security of clipless pedals.

How We Chose the Best Clipless Mountain Bike Shoes

We based our reviews of the best clipless mountain bike shoes on their rigidity and power transfer, how they performed off of the bike in hike-a-bike situations, their comfort and fit, their durability, and finally on their weight. We also gave a nod to shoes that offered a good value for their price.

While rigidity and power transfer is our top metric, max rigidity is not necessarily the best nor most desirable trait for everyone. Particularly if you are using a larger pedal, like the Shimano Saint M820 or Crank Brothers Mallet E, you might prefer a shoe with more flex that allows you to deliver power through the pedal’s platform.

Traction and performance off of the bike will be much more important to some riders than others. Generally, this is not much of a concern for XC racers, and XC clipless shoes tend to be the worst in this category, thanks to their stiff soles.

Comfort and fit should be your top priority when choosing any mountain bike shoe, or any other shoe for that matter. However, because comfort and fit tend to be subjective and vary from person to person, it is harder to accurately describe how a shoe will fit each and every rider. Instead, we focused on giving you an idea of how each shoe generally fits, and any overarching comfort pros or cons that it might bring.

We are not overly concerned with weight, but we know that plenty of riders are, and we took this metric into consideration, particularly for XC focused shoes, since this is the discipline where every gram counts the most.

The Best Flat Mountain Bike Shoes of 2019

Top Picks

Shimano ME7: Best All-Mountain and Enduro Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

Giro Empire VR90: Best Premium XC Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

Shimano S-Phyre XC9Great XC Race Shoe at a Staggering Price

Giro TerraduroBest Bang for Your Buck All-Mountain and Enduro Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

Giro Privateer RBest Budget XC Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

Giro Chamber 2: Great Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe for Enduro and Downhill Riders

Shimano ME7

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 80% 80%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 100% 100%
  • Comfort and Fit 90% 90%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Pros

Comfortable

Versatile

Great Power Transfer

Great Off the Bike Traction

Cons

Not the Cheapest Nor the Lightest Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain

Closure: Speed Lace System and Upper Ratchet Strap, Large Velcro Panel Over Laces

Sole: Carbon Fiber Composite

Outsole: Michelin Rubber

Weight: 425g (size 44)

Upper Material: Synthetic

Giro Empire VR90

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 100% 100%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 60% 60%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 60% 60%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

Ultra-Lightweight

Amazing Power Transfer

Cons

Too Narrow for Many

Questionable Durability

Best Applicaton: XC

Closure: Laces

Sole: Easton EC90 Carbon Fiber

Outsole: Vibram Mont Molded Rubber High Traction Lugged Outsole

Weight: 338g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

Shimano S-Phyre XC9

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 100% 100%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 40% 40%
  • Comfort and Fit 90% 90%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

Dual Boa Closure

Amazing Power Transfer

Cons

Expensive

Lack of Durability

Poor Off Bike Performance

Best Application: Cross Country Racing

Closure: Dual Boa IP1

Sole: Dynalast Carbon Fiber

Outsole: Dual-density Michelin Rubber

Weight: 390g (size 45)

Upper Material: Teijin Synthetic Leather

Giro Terraduro

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 100% 100%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Well Rounded

Great On and Off the Bike

Great Value

Cons

Fairly Heavy

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain

Closure: Replaceable N1 Ratcheting Buckle Closure at Ankle, Two D-ring Velcro Straps at Midfoot

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: Vibram High-Traction Lugged Outsole

Weight: 458g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

Giro Privateer R

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 80% 80%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 70% 70%
  • Weight 90% 90%

Pros

Durable for XC Shoes

Lightweight

Good Power Transfer

Great Value

Cons

Narrow Fit

Less Durable Than Terraduros

Best Application: XC, Trail

Closure: Replaceable N1 Ratcheting Buckle Closure at Ankle, Two D-ring Velcro Straps at Midfoot

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: Co-molded Nylon and High Traction Rubber

Weight: 386g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

Giro Chamber 2

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 80% 80%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Weight 50% 50%

Pros

Well Protected

Durable

Wide Range of Cleat Adjustment

Cons

Heavy

Narrow for Riders with Wide Feet

Best Application: Enduro, Downhill, All-mountain

Closure: Laces Plus Power Strap

Sole: Tri-molded SPD Compatible

Outsole: Vibram Megagrip

Weight: 525g (size 44)

Upper Material: Water Resistant Microfiber

Shimano XC7

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 70% 70%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 70% 70%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

Top of the Line XC Performance at Half the Price

Cons

Still a Pricy Shoe for Marginal Gains Over the Giro Privateer R

Best Application: XC

Closure: Boa IP1

Sole: Carbon-Reinforced Nylon

Outsole: Dual-Density Michelin Rubber

Weight: 365g (size 45)

Upper Material: Perforated Upper

Five Ten Kestral Lace

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 90% 90%
  • Comfort and Fit 60% 60%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Patented Five Ten Grip and Durability

Cons

Heavy

Comfort Issues

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain  

Closure: Lace-Up with Hook and Loop Ankle Strap

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: C4 Stealth

Weight: 484g (size 43)

Upper Material: Polyurethane-coated synthetic

Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O.

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 90% 90%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 40% 40%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Pros

Great Pedaling Efficiency

Comfortable and Grippy off the Bike

Cons

Expensive

Least Durable Shoe in Review

Best Application: XC, All-Mountain

Closure: Two BOA IP1 dials

Sole: Carbon Composite

Outsole: Molded Carbon Rubber Tips on TPU Lugs

Weight: 419g (size 44)

Upper Material: Advanced 3-Layer Seamless Composite

Shimano ME7

Best All-Mountain and Enduro Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 80% 80%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 100% 100%
  • Comfort and Fit 90% 90%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain

Closure: Speed Lace System and Upper Ratchet Strap, Large Velcro Panel Over Laces

Sole: Carbon Fiber Composite

Outsole: Michelin Rubber

Weight: 425g (size 44)

Upper Material: Synthetic

What We Like: Comfortable, Versatile, Great Power Transfer, Great Off the Bike Traction

What We Don’t: Not the Cheapest Nor the Lightest Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

Price: $200.00

The Shimano ME7 is an extremely high-quality all-mountain and enduro focused clipless mountain bike shoe that is rugged enough for the most demanding enduro courses, but well rounded enough to take on long cross country rides and to the downhill park, as well. Its Michelin rubber sole is the best in our review, and it is our top choice for hike-a-bikes. There are shoes that do certain things better than the Shimano ME7, but you would be hard pressed to find a better all-around clipless mountain bike shoe.

Giro Empire VR90

Best Premium XC Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 100% 100%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 60% 60%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 60% 60%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Best Application: XC

Closure: Laces

Sole: Easton EC90 Carbon Fiber

Outsole: Vibram Mont Molded Rubber High Traction Lugged Outsole

Weight: 338g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

What We Like: Ultra-Lightweight, Amazing Power Transfer

What We Don’t: Too Narrow for Many, Questionable Durability

Price: $134.98-$300.00

The Giro Empire VR90 is not a shoe that is made to please everyone. It is the lightest and stiffest soled clipless mountain bike shoe in our review, and it is an XC racing shoe through and through. However, its off the bike performance just edges out the Shimano S-Phyre XC9, so if you are after a premium XC shoe but still need a shoe that will take you on the occasional hike-a-bike, then the Giro Empire VR90 might be the clipless mountain bike shoe for you.

Shimano S-Phyre XC9

Great XC Race Shoe at a Staggering Price

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 100% 100%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 40% 40%
  • Comfort and Fit 90% 90%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Best Application: Cross Country Racing

Closure: Dual Boa IP1

Sole: Dynalast Carbon Fiber

Outsole: Dual-density Michelin Rubber

Weight: 390g (size 45)

Upper Material: Teijin Synthetic Leather

What We Like: Dual Boa Closure, Amazing Power Transfer

What We Don’t: Expensive, Lack of Durability, Poor Off Bike Performance

Price: $400.00

Unlike the Shimano ME7, the Shimano S-Phyre XC9 is not a shoe for everyone. With a price tag of $400, less than top-notch durability, and an ultra-stiff sole, the S-Phyre XC9 is a premium XC racer’s shoe and not much else. However, if you don’t mind shelling out $400 on a shoe with less than ideal durability, then you will be hard pressed to find a higher performance XC race focused mountain bike shoe.

Giro Terraduro

Best Bang for Your Buck All-Mountain and Enduro Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 100% 100%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain

Closure: Replaceable N1 Ratcheting Buckle Closure at Ankle, Two D-ring Velcro Straps at Midfoot

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: Vibram High-Traction Lugged Outsole

Weight: 458g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

What We Like: Well Rounded, Great On and Off the Bike, Great Value

What We Don’t: Fairly Heavy

Price: $109.95

While the Shimano GR7 just edged out the Giro Terraduro as our top enduro/all-mountain and all-around clipless mountain bike shoe, the Terraduro goes blow for blow with the GR7 in almost every category. Add to this the fact that the Terraduro is just a shade over half the price of the GR7, and it is a shoo-in for the best bang for your buck clipless enduro/all mountain shoe in our review.

Giro Privateer R

Best Budget XC Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 80% 80%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 70% 70%
  • Weight 90% 90%

Best Application: XC, Trail

Closure: Replaceable N1 Ratcheting Buckle Closure at Ankle, Two D-ring Velcro Straps at Midfoot

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: Co-molded Nylon and High Traction Rubber

Weight: 386g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

What We Like: Durable for XC Shoes, Lightweight, Good Power Transfer, Great Value

What We Don’t: Narrow Fit, Less Durable Than Terraduros

Price: $99.95

Like the giro Terraduro, the Giro Privateer R provides a great deal of what the more expensive shoes in its category do, but the Privateer R does it at about a fourth of the cost of premium XC race shoes. The Privateer R might not be quite as light or quite as stiff as the Giro Empire VR90 or Shimano S-Phyre XC9, but most riders would be hard pressed to tell that difference on the bike, and for the price, they are impossible to beat.

Giro Chamber 2

Great Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe for Enduro and Downhill Riders

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 80% 80%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Weight 50% 50%

Best Application: Enduro, Downhill, All-mountain

Closure: Laces Plus Power Strap

Sole: Tri-molded SPD Compatible

Outsole: Vibram Megagrip

Weight: 525g (size 44)

Upper Material: Water Resistant Microfiber

What We Like: Well Protected, Durable, Wide Range of Cleat Adjustment

What We Don’t: Heavy, Narrow for Riders with Wide Feet

Price: $149.95

If you haven’t noticed the trend, Giro has some of the best bang for your buck clipless mountain bike shoes on the market, and the Giro Chamber 2 is the third of those entries on our list. While it is not quite as well rounded as shoes like the Giro Terraduro or Shimano ME7, the Chamber 2 is an all-mountain shoe that skews heavily toward the rowdy enduro and downhill side of the mountain. Just how good is the Giro Chamber 2? Just ask Richie Rude and other EWS racers who depend on it to bring home the bacon.

Shimano XC7

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 70% 70%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 70% 70%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Best Application: XC

Closure: Boa IP1

Sole: Carbon-Reinforced Nylon

Outsole: Dual-Density Michelin Rubber

Weight: 365g (size 45)

Upper Material: Perforated Upper

What We Like: Top of the Line XC Performance at Half the Price

What We Don’t: Still a Pricy Shoe for Marginal Gains Over the Giro Privateer R

Price: $225.00

The Shimano XC7 is the less expensive sibling of the $400 Shimano S-Phyre XC9. At just over half the price of big brother, the XC7 is an extremely capable XC race shoe in its own right, and one that is significantly more well rounded and durable than its much more expensive counterpart. It might not offer the price to performance value of the Giro Privateer R, but the XC7 punches above its weight class, when you consider what the top shoes in its category cost.

Five Ten Kestral Lace

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 90% 90%
  • Comfort and Fit 60% 60%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain  

Closure: Lace-Up with Hook and Loop Ankle Strap

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: C4 Stealth

Weight: 484g (size 43)

Upper Material: Polyurethane-coated synthetic

What We Like: Patented Five Ten Grip and Durability

What We Don’t: Heavy, Comfort Issues

Price: $105.00-$150.00

There is a lot of good things to say about the Five Ten Kestral Lace. It brings all of the things that people know and love about Five Ten flat mountain bike shoes to the clipless mountain bike shoe arena. It boasts Five Ten’s patented grippy and durable rubber, making it a great shoe for all mountain riders who frequently hike-a-bike. Unfortunately, comfort issues held it back from competing with the Giro Chamber 2 and Shimano ME7 as our top pick for riders who get rowdy.

Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O.

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 90% 90%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 40% 40%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Best Application: XC, All-Mountain

Closure: Two BOA IP1 dials

Sole: Carbon Composite

Outsole: Molded Carbon Rubber Tips on TPU Lugs

Weight: 419g (size 44)

Upper Material: Advanced 3-Layer Seamless Composite

What We Like: Great Pedaling Efficiency, Comfortable and Grippy off the Bike

What We Don’t: Expensive, Least Durable Shoe in Review

Price: $350.00

The Pearl Izumi X-Project Pro is the most innovative and ambitious clipless mountain bike shoe that we have ever seen. It aims to be a top performer in every subdiscipline of the sport, from gravel racing to downhill racing and everything in between. To go along with this, it aims to be the best pedaling and hike-a-biking  shoe on the market. In the end, it is really close to being all of those things. Unfortunately, its questionable durability means that it does not stay any of those things for long, and at $350, it is an expensive shoe to replace every few months.

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