Five Ten shoes are best known for their gummy soled flat pedal shoes, the brand also has a long history in rock climbing where grip is paramount to keeping you hanging on and your bones intact. Their first foray into clipless pedals was received with mixed reviews, criticised for being heavy and clunky. Fast forward to present, and their Impact VXi has become a popular shoe for the enduro, trail and downhill crowd.
Stepping away from the traditional triple velcro strap shoes that have saturated the market for most of mountain biking’s short life, we are seeing more casually styled shoes with a slightly less stiff sole. Best paired with a trail style pedal like the Shimano XT M785 or Crank Bros Mallet, a flat soled shoe can help your riding excel in more ways than just standing around off the bike.
First thing to note is the Five Ten’s slightly peculiar looks, a bit like shoes you buy from the chemist, but that seem to become less so obvious when worn and they grew on us over time. The solid black shape and big velcro strap sure make them look special but are important features to their high performance. The lack of perforated or mesh material helps keep water out, and the velcro serves to keep the laces out of the way and locks in the secure fit.
Laces may seem a bit old school with many high end shoes using velcro straps, ratchet buckles or the lightweight BOA dials, but in this case the laces pull a nice and even tension across the foot to create a snug fit without tight or loose spots. The laces are long, but kept out of harms way under the velcro strap. When wet they don’t become too heavy like we’ve been used to with the old Shimano DX shoes which must triple in weight when riding in the rain.
What we like most about the gummy sole, is that it boosts your confidence when tackling tricky sections of trails. If you need to dab a foot, or you don’t quite make it up or down a section of rocky, slippery trail you can rest assured that if you plant your foot down to regain balance your foot won’t slip, pretty much any surface these shoes feel stable and planted. That’s something you just don’t get with your typical clipless shoe with a spiky hard rubber sole.
During our first ride we attempted climbing up steep and rocky chutes with a little more confidence knowing that if we wouldn’t quite make it safely and had to unclip and step backwards off the bike, we wouldn’t fall.
Flow’s local trails in Sydney require a bit of off-the-bike pushing, climbing up rocks and even swinging off ropes at times. There is no shoe better for this, they won’t send you sliding down a rock face with your bike making horrid metal scraping sounds, you’ll be glued to the earth nicely. The cleats aren’t as recessed into the sole as most shoes are though, so you’ll definitely hear them clicking along as you walk.
Fit wise they are pretty good. Up the front of the shoe there is a lot of room, so be warned if you have particular narrow feet, as there could well be too much room and you’ll be clenching your toes to stop your foot moving around inside the shoe which makes for tiring riding. The heel is snugly set into the shoe and didn’t pull up at all when pushing bikes or walking about. The mid foot is also quite snug which accentuates their feeling of being very wide up front, wider than anything we’ve used recently. We were able to slide the cleats a long way back in the slots, the generous range of fore and aft adjustment here is worth noting.
With the big cycling footwear brands like Shimano, Specialized and Bontrager for example really pushing footbed customisation and adjustable arch and metatarsal options, it’s a shame to see Five Ten not offering any fit customising options. So, if you’re one with high arches or flat feet you may need to BYO your own insoles, and from our experiences, they do feel fairly flat under the foot when riding.
Protection is excellent, in comparison to the softer sole Teva Links shoes we love and continue to wear, the protection especially around the front is a real toe saver. That moment when you plant your foot around a corner and kick a rock ain’t nice, so you don’t need to worry about that when you step into these guys.
Stiffness is spot on for this type of shoe, we are all about ‘feeling’ the bike underneath you. A carbon soled cross country racing shoe has the tendency to isolate you from your bike, but these guys give you just the right amount of bend and allow you to turn and move the bike around with your feet.
We’d happily wear these all day, the balance between pedal efficiency, comfort on and off the bike, looks and protection make them a great alternative to the traditional cross country shoes we’re used to.
Other all-mountain style shoes we’ve tested:
Teva Pivot: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-teva-pivot-clipless-shoes/
Shimano M200, first impressions: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/flows-first-bite-shimanos-new-sh-m200-enduro-shoes/
Specialized S-Works Trail: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-specialized-s-works-trail-shoe/