If you have a junior bike racer in your family, or if you just want to get the kids involved in your hobby, you need to make sure they have the right equipment.
Of course, the bike is the most important thing (and the most expensive) that they’ll need, but you can’t forget about footwear. MTB riding isn’t as much fun if you don’t have the right gear, and thankfully, kids mountain bike shoes don’t have to cost a fortune to be great.
Hiking Boots Are The Cheapest Option
If your kids won’t be riding often, don’t bother buying a cycling specific footwear. Hiking boots with good, grippy soles are fine for infrequent riders and those who stick to smooth terrain and trails. For that matter, any sneaker or boot with a firm, sticky sole will help small feet keep traction on the pedals and apply more power to the bikes. drivetrain
Flat Pedal Options
Most of the widely available youth shoe options for mountain bike riders are the flat pedal type. Learn more about them here. This is due mostly to the fact that there’s a general understanding that kids should learn flat pedal form and technique thoroughly before attempting to use clipless systems.
Several of the big brands in adult MTB shoes–Five Ten, Northwave, Diadora, and Diamont all have children’s styles–but in general, the selection is pretty limited.
Older children have more options available, since many companies start sizes at an adult size 5. The Five Ten’s Freerider start smaller than that, but they still cost more than an average pair of sneakers. Still, they look casual enough to be worn off the bike too, so your child will get plenty of wear out of them.
Diadora offers a few pairs that are more like miniature versions of their adult ones. The Phantom Jr is one of these styles, and while it’s not as expensive as its grownup counterpart, it will still set you back around $100. They also offer styles that are more like a sturdy version of a regular sneaker that is great for kids who casually ride mountain trails, but who still want decent mountain bike appropriate shoes they can wear all the time.
Clipless Options (For Serious Riders)
For hardcore riders, there are some clipless offerings available, though parents need to make sure that their kids know how to properly use the system before sending them off to hit the trails. The Diadora Phantom Jr mentioned above can be used with or without cleats, giving your child a chance to try them out on flats before making the switch to a clipless system like SPD or Look.
Northwave’s Hammer Junior is a smaller version of their grownup Hammer. Like the Diadora ones, just start out without the cleats until your child is ready for proper clipless riding.
Most children can probably get away with starting off in a pair of rigid hiking boots or even sneakers designed for skaters, which tend to have a better grip and can be worn every day. Once you do move them on to MTB shoes, check places like ebay or geartrade.com for gently used ones if you don’t want the expense of buying them brand new.