If you’re using flat pedals on your mountain bike, you have a greater variety of styles and brands to choose from. As long as you pick a shoe that’s stiff (provides better energy transfer when pedaling), snug, and lightweight, you’re good to go.
However, most serious cyclists will also add one more thing to this list of characteristics–a killer grip. You don’t want your feet sliding around on the pedals when you’re hitting the trails. Here are a few great flat pedal MTB shoes that will make your rides safer and more enjoyable.
Teva’s Links shoe was designed for mountain bikers by mountain bikers, specifically freeride mountain biker Jeff Lenosky, who collaborated with designers to solve several problems the cyclist faced with commonly used footwear. The Links features a sticky Spider365 rubber outsole, a reinforced toe, and outer materials that are waterproof so your feet don’t get wet in muddy conditions.
This video from a former professional MTB rider highlights how versatile they can be.
Online reviews of the Links are positive among MTB enthusiasts. Some riders feel that the grip is almost as good as being ‘clipped in’ because they stay in place so well and even allow for some positive energy on the pull stroke.
Five Ten (Great For Freerides)
Five Ten has several styles of bike and hiking shoes that could double for general mountain biking, freerides, or downhills. It also has a reputation for shoes with ‘sticky’ soles that grip pedals really well. Its Freerider bike shoe features a sticky sole that grips the pedal firmly while you’re riding downhill.
The Aescent style by Five Ten is another great all-round MTB shoe for flat pedals. It grips well, includes arch support, and offers a little more flexibility than most, which is good if you need to go from biking to hiking, or vice versa.
DZR (Clipless with cleat covers)
DZR Mechanic Urban shoes are a great cross between the sneakers you’d probably wear around the house and gear that want to hit the trails. The super sticky sole is designed to grasp the pedal even on the upstroke and the sturdy sole allows for better power transfer while pedaling. These look more like skater than cycle shoes, but their main focus–better grip and a comfortable fit–are crucial to both sports.
Shimano is a big name in pedals, so it makes sense that they’re also a respected source in the MTB community. Shimano’s shoes are designed to be versatile enough to be used off-bike as well as on, so if you have to hop off your bike in rough terrain (or if you get a broken chain) you can still manage to walk in safety and relative comfort.
The Shimano MT44 (link is in Spanish but easy to translate if you’re using the Chrome browser) is just one example of their dual-use shoes. They grip the pedals with firm fibreglass soles and rubber lugs, but also have an EVA midsole and drawstring closure for a snug, comfortable fit.
Similarly, the Shimano MT34 offers a good grip on flat pedals and a comfortable fit for walking, but its recessed cleats offer an extra bit of ‘dig in’ when you really need to push your bike.
Vibram’s Giro Rumble VR shoes are a good basic MTB shoe that ticks all the boxes–it’s lightweight, firm, super-gripping sole, and it’s very waterproof. It goes from powerful pedaling to trekking through the terrain with no problems, and it isn’t flashy or brightly colored, so you could use it for casual wear, too.
If you aren’t a frequent rider, you can get away with wearing a pair of lightweight hiking boots with a heavy rubber outsole. The rubber sole will grip the pedals fairly well, but not on rough or downhill terrain. Merrell makes a few pairs that are stiff and have good, gripping soles that would be fine for beginner cyclists, freeriders, or those who don’t ride frequently enough to justify buying a separate pair of bike shoes.
One thing you’ll notice when looking for flat pedal shoes is that there are far more designed for clipless pedals or multi-use pedals. This is not a bad thing for flat pedal riders because there are some great clipless options that can be used without the cleats on flat pedals. There are even some with almost completely recessed cleats that provide excellent grip when the clip is engaged and a great walking sole for those moments when you have to get off your bike and navigate the terrain on foot.
Looking to score a fantastic deal on a new pair of mountain bike shoes? Then don’t miss this list of 5 low cost places to buy mtb shoes online.