What Type of Shoe Is Best for MTB?

Mountain biking is not just about riding your bike, planning your destination, and heading straight directly to wherever that may be.

It is also about preparing the important things you should wear and have along with you.

What better way to prepare yourself for full riding gear than by getting the right mountain biking shoe.

But the thing is, many beginner mountain bikers don’t know that they need to wear a mountain bike-specific show when they go riding. Most often than not, they just wear any rubber shoes they can find, be it a basketball shoe, running shoes, or even gym trainers.

Those can work fine, especially running shoes, but doing so means that you compromise the shoes’ lifespan and your safety.

This is why you need to wear the right type of mountain bike shoes.

In this article, we are going to show you the different types out there, as well as show you their respective pros and cons so you can choose the one right for you.

What are clipless pedal shoes?

Clipless pedal shoes are mountain biking shoes that are specifically designed for clipless pedals, hence their name.

These are a type of bike pedal that locks your feet onto the pedal via the small locking mechanism found on the sole of the shoe and the pedal itself. This locking mechanism is called the cleat.

Before modern clipless, they were called clipped pedals because you have to manually strap your feet on them. Then came the clipless pedals where you just simply twist your foot and it automatically separated from the pedals. Clipless pedal shoes then make this happen.

What are flat pedal mountain bike shoes?

Flat pedals shoes are the most common kind of mountain biking shoes. They are just like ordinary shoes which are very similar to the ones you use for skateboards or for skating. This is why many mtb shoes that have stiff soles are like skate shoes because of the same ride concepts.

These shoes have sticky soles that give a good grip between your shoes and the pedals’ pins so you won’t slide without compromising flexibility and feet movement.

Woman riding a bike on tropical park trail in summer

This is a beginner-friendly cycling shoe because you don’t need to be experienced in using clipless pedals for you to do well on this. Simply hop on your bike, place your feet on the pedals, and off you go to the bike park or wherever you want to go trail riding.

Benefits of Using Clipless Pedal Shoes

Stability

One of the best things about using clipless pedal shoes is that it makes your ride more stable.

You might have experienced riding on rough roads and your feet bounce off the pedals every time you ride through bumps. Not only does this make you lose your balance, but you can also lose momentum and pedaling efficiency.

Balance

Clipless pedal shoes improve your balance because your feet won’t bounce off if you ride through rocks or roots.

This ensures that they stay on put and are locked in place on a specific area so that they won’t slide and compromise your balance. This might feel sketchy at first, but it’s worth it once you get used to it because it makes you a better mountain biker.

Pedaling efficiency

Another nice thing about clipless pedal shoes is that it improves pedaling efficiency. This happens because your feet won’t move when they’re planted on the pedal.

You also don’t have to just push the pedals down so you can move forward. Instead, you create a rhythmic push and pull motion that increases the amount of force generated from your feet.

So instead of just pushing down, you also pull it up. Note that you can’t pull the pedal up when you have flat pedals.

Benefits of Using Flat Pedals

Flexibility

The best thing about flat pedals is that they are very flexible. What this means is that you can adjust your feet’ placement on the pedals without unclipping them after twisting. These shoes are very flexible, making them the shoe of choice for beginners.

Dabbing

Another nice thing about flats is that you can easily dab with them. Dabbing is the movement you do when you stretch out your foot from your pedal and you touch the ground.

You usually do this if you’re hitting a tight turn or you want to avoid skidding or sliding off your bike. This is a very important skill to know because this is where your safety depends on.

Safety

Getting to wear flat mountain bike shoes makes your ride safer especially if you’re a beginner. There are already many instances when bikers who are on clipless MTB shoes crash on their bikes and fall to the ground with their feet or foot still locked on the pedals.

Not only does this increase the risk of serious injuries, but it can also lead to accidents that can involve other people. With flats, though, you don’t have to worry about this because you can just flick out your foot and dab on the ground to regain balance.

Versatility

Flat pedal bike shoes are very versatile because you can wear them for different occasions.

Although they are specifically made for mountain biking, you can still use them on casual events such as going to the mall, shopping, or for other things. They also don’t look weird and off because they look like regular shoes, compared to if you were using clipless pedal shoes.

What is the best shoe type for cross-country MTB?

We recommend you use clipless pedal shoes for cross-country riding because you need to focus on pedaling efficiency above anything else.

The trails you’re going to ride on aren’t also that technical so you don’t need to dab and constantly move your feet for fears of sliding out, which works well on xc shoes.

Meanwhile, a flat mountain bike shoe work best for enduro and downhill riders because of their technical trails which require constant feet adjustment and moving to maintain balance.

Can downhill riders go clipless?

Mountainbiker rides on path in forest

Yes, downhill riders can still wear clipless pedal shoes if they like. In fact, most professional downhill racers wear clipless shoes because this improves stability and pedaling efficiency.

However, you need to build up the right reflexes so you don’t end up crashing on the ground with your feet locked onto your bike.

Clipless pedal shoes also work great if the trails you are riding on are dry. But if it’s raining and it’s soaking with mud, then better use flat pedal cycling shoes so you can easily move around if your bike suddenly slides. We recommend Five Ten Freerider if you want MTBshoes that have an aesthetic rubber sole.

Clipless vs Flats: Which is Better for Racing

Clipless pedal MTB shoes are the best mountain bike shoes if you are into racing. They improve your pedaling efficiency because you push and pull the pedals using your feet instead of just pushing them downwards like when you’re using a five-ten flats, just like skate shoes.

Also, make sure that you have built the right reflexes when it comes to clipping out of your pedals.

However, it’s also smart to know that Sam Hill, the Enduro World Series champion for 2017, 2018, and 2019 wears flat pedal shoe trail shoes that have ride concepts design and rubber soles. So, maybe it’s more about skill and talent, right? But then again, the shoes play a huge role in this.

Related post: 8 Best Mountain Bike Clipless Pedals

Conclusion

There are two main types of mountain bike shoes. These are the flat pedal and the clipless pedal shoes. If you’re more into long distance rides, then clipless are for you because they improve pedaling efficiency.

Meanwhile, enduro and downhill riders can wear flat pedal shoes because of their flexibility and versatility. You can have a taste of both worlds, though, so you’ll know which one is a better fit for your riding style.

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AUTHOR
Jomar Teves
A writer by day, a tech enthusiast by night, and a mountain biker at the weekends. After four years in business school and working for multinational clients, Jomar believes he can improve the world through his writings. Jomar has six years of experience as a writer and has a degree in entrepreneurial marketing. Some of his works have been published on Blokt, Clutch Points, and iTech.