The 15 Best Mountain Bike Shoes for Wide & Narrow Feet [2021]

The Best Mountain Bike Shoes

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This is a selection of the best mountain bike shoes for wide, regular, and narrow feet.

You find here clipless shoes as well as shoes for flat pedals. Some shoes are also available for women.

Below, you also learn how to choose the best type of MTB shoes for your riding style, and much more.

Let’s dive in.


What Are the Best Mountain Bike Shoes?

For your easier orientation, I divided the selected shoes into the following three categories:

  1. Clipless MTB shoes for wide feet*
  2. Clipless MTB shoes for narrow feet*
  3. Shoes for platforms

*These shoes are compatible with most MTB clipless pedals and 2-bolts cleat systems on the market, including Shimano SPD, Crankbrothers, Look, and more.

Every category includes shoes from various price ranges (from budget to premium), so you can choose shoes depending on your budget.

The Best MTB Shoes for Wide Feet and Clipless Pedals

Below, you find MTB shoes suitable for riders with wide feet. They have a wider heel, and their toe box tends to run wide. To further improve your riding comfort, combine them with cycling insoles.

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Tommaso Montagna 100

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Sidi Dominator 7 Mega SR

Also available at jensonusa.com

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BL D1
Shimano SH-XC9 S-Phyre

Also available at jensonusa.com and wiggle.co.uk

Read More

Skip to the comparison table…

Tommaso Montagna 100 (Best Mountain Bike Shoes Under $100)

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Main Features

  • Available in black only
  • Fastening system: 3 Velcro straps
  • Removable climbing spikes
  • Durable

If you are a beginner and don’t want to invest too much into a new pair of mountain bike shoes, I recommend Tommaso Montagna 100. They are perfect for wide feet riders.

The unique feature of these shoes is that you can use them with removable climbing spikes. They improve your traction, so you won’t keep slipping off in mud or wet conditions.

Montagna 100 shoes have a plastic sole with rubber pads. Their design is good not only for mountain biking but also for cyclocross because they provide a good grip that is useful for running parts of a course.

The mesh upper allows good airflow. This means that these shoes are well ventilated, and your feet won’t overheat in summer.

The fastening system is made of 3 Velcro straps. It is not the most comfortable fastening, but it is prone to damage when crashing. It also

Overall, Montagna 100 are good entry-level shoes that won’t ruin your budget.


Sidi Dominator 7 Mega SR

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Main Features

  • Available in black
  • Fastening system: 2 Velcro strap combined with a ratchet buckle
  • Weight: 402 g (unknown size)
  • Stiff, nylon sole
  • Very durable

Sidi does not produce narrow shoes only. Their ‘Mega’ line is designed for riders with wide feet. The Dominator 7 Mega SR shoes are ideal for experienced riders.

Yes, their fastening system consists of a cheap Velcro strap and ratchet buckle that are not as comfortable as Sidi’s Tecno system. But the price of these shoes is also much lower than the higher-end Sidi’s models.

The Dominator 7 shoes are stiff. Your pedal strokes will be efficient and you experience a good level of comfort during long rides.

The upper is breathable, so your feet won’t sweat as much in the summer.

Your heels also get great support thanks to the plastic heel cup. It will keep them stable and safe. Additionally, the plastic toe cap will protect your toes against rocks and other impacts.

Sidi shoes are also well known for their durability. Dominators 7 are no exception. If you are a rider with wide feet who wants shoes that last, these are for you.

Also available at jensonusa.com


Shimano SH-XC9 S-Phyre Wide (Best Mountain Bike Racing Shoes)

BL D1

Main Features

  • Available in 3 colors (black, blue, silver)
  • Fastening system: 2 BOA dials
  • Weight: 330 g (size 42)
  • Carbon fiber sole with anti-slip pads and the possibility to add toe spikes for extra grip
  • Very stiff yet comfortable

Shimano SH-XC9 are the highest-end mountain bike shoes from Shimano. They are made in narrow and wide versions, so they fit most of the riders. Just make sure you choose the right width.

The XC9 are focused on performance – they are very stiff (11 from 12 in Shimano’s stiffness index). Thus, your pedal strokes’ energy transfer will be super effective, making them a perfect choice for cross-country.

If you are afraid that these shoes won’t be comfortable due to the high stiffness level, don’t be. They still maintain a high level of comfort.

They are also perfect for cyclocross, thanks to the rubber pads that provide excellent grip even in muddy conditions. And, if the conditions are really bad, you can add toe spikes for an extra grip.

The heel cup will also support your ankles to stabilize your feet and prevent any twists.

Shimano SH XC9 are perfect mountain bike shoes for the most demanding riders and pro racers. Even Mathieu van der Poel wore them!

Also available at jensonusa.com and wiggle.co.uk


Lake MX241 (Best Mountain Bike Shoes for Hot Weather)

BLA D1

Main Features

  • Available in black
  • Fastening system: 2 BOA dials
  • Weight: 405 g (size 44)
  • Carbon fiber sole with anti-slip pads
  • Very breathable
  • Stiff yet very comfortable

Lake MX241 are mountain bike shoes made for the most demanding riders and pros. They are not cheap, but they are super comfy, stiff, and suitable for hot weather.

You will be able to ride with them for hours and don’t feel any discomfort or hotspots. They are very good for hot weather because their upper is perforated and very well-ventilated.

However, if you use them with shoe covers, they can hold heat well so that you can ride them almost all year round.

MX241 will hold your heels firmly to prevent any twisting. Yet, the toe box is wide enough even for people with wide feet. You can micro-adjust the fit with 2 BOA dials and the heel cups (with heat molding).

Thanks to the rubber pads, the sole is also suitable for cyclocross, as it provides the necessary grip for sections where you have to jump off the bike and run.

Overall, most of the owners of these mountain bike shoes are very satisfied, especially with their comfort.


Louis Garneau Granite 2 (Best Mountain Bike Shoes for Cyclocross)

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Main Features

  • Available in 2 colors (grey, black)
  • Fastening system: Velcro strap combined with a BOA dial
  • Weight: 365 g (size 42)
  • Nylon and fiberglass sole with anti-slip pads
  • Well-ventilated

Louis Garneau produces high-quality cycling shoes for an affordable price. Their Granite 2 mountain bike shoes combine excellent ventilation, comfort, stiffness, and grip.

Their nylon and fiberglass sole has anti-slip pads that improve traction, especially in wet conditions. This makes them a very good choice for cyclocross.

Your comfort will be ensured by a wide fit, convenient BOA dial fastening system combined with Velcro and heel retention that will stabilize your heels.

You will probably not see these shoes among the pros. I guess it is due to a poor Louis Garneau marketing strategy, but they are worth it.

Louis Garneau Granite 2 combine an excellent price-value ratio. It makes them a good choice for experienced or more demanding riders that are not afraid to get dirty in cyclocross.


Browse the best mountain bike clipless pedals available on the market and combine them with your new mountain bike shoes.


The Best MTB Shoes for Narrow & Regular Feet and Clipless Pedals

The shoes in this part feature narrower heel and toe boxes. They are suitable for riders with narrow or regular feet. Make sure to check the best cycling insoles that you can insert into your new pair of shoes to improve your arch support.

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Gavin Elite

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Giro Cylinder

Also available at competitivecyclist.com, jensonusa.com, and wiggle.co.uk

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Sidi Tiger

Also available at competitivecyclist.com, jensonusa.com, and wiggle.co.uk

Read More

Gavin Elite (Best Mountain Bike Shoes for Beginners)

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Main Features

  • Fastening system: Velcro straps and ratchet buckle
  • Weight: n/a
  • Good value for the money

Gavin Elite mountain bike shoes combine two Velcros with a ratchet buckle fastening. The ratchet buckle allows you to fasten your shoes even during a ride.

Thanks to the mesh upper, they are decently ventilated, so your feet won’t sweat as much, and you will feel more comfortable even during hot days.

Their sole is protected by rubber. This means you can walk in them for short distances. Yet, they are not made for trekking or hiking.

The Gavin Elite shoes tend to run true to size. They are ideal for regular or narrow feet.

They are ideal for beginners. Some people also use them for indoor cycling.


Sidi Dominator 10 (Best Mountain Bike Shoes for Experienced Riders)

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Main Features

  • Available in 2 colors (black, grey)
  • Fastening system: 2 Tecno dials
  • Weight: 353 g (size 43)
  • Stiff, nylon composite sole
  • Very durable

Sidi Dominator are mountain bike shoes ideal for experienced riders. They are very comfortable and offer a very convenient fastening system that consists of 2 Tecno dials.

This model is better ventilated compared to the Sidi Tiger thanks to the perforated upper.

Their sole is made of nylon composite that is stiffer than plastic but more flexible than carbon fiber soles. It is protected with rubber that won’t slip on slippery surfaces.

These mountain bike shoes are not very suitable for cyclocross, for example, because the sole is relatively slippery.

On the other hand, their stiffness, lightweight, high quality, and durability make them perfect for experienced riders that don’t want to spend a fortune.

Also available at competitivecyclist.com, jensonusa.com, and performancebike.com


Fizik X5 Terra (Best Mountain Bike Shoes for Road Bike)

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Main Features

  • Available in 5+ colors
  • Fastening system: Velcro strap combined with a BOA dial
  • Weight: 395 g (size 45)
  • Carbon fiber sole with anti-slip pads

Fizik X5 Terra are one of the best-looking MTB shoes in this selection. They are available in plenty of colors, so it will be easy for you to match them with your bike or cycling kit.

They are well-ventilated, thanks to the perforated upper. The strap allows you to put them on your feet more quickly. The BOA dial will allow you a precise fit.

The sole is made of carbon fiber. This means that they will effectively transfer the energy you put into every pedal stroke.

This makes them the best mountain bike shoes for a road bike. But, if you like to ride cyclocross, for example. You can do that as well.

You will appreciate the cleverly designed rubber pads on the sole. They will allow you very good traction for the running parts of the course.

X5 Terra will also provide your toes and heels with protection thanks to toughened material. This is good, especially if you ride in rough terrain.

I can recommend these shoes for people who want to combine road and mountain biking and want only one pair of shoes.

Also available at wiggle.co.uk


Giro Cylinder (Best Clipless Mountain Bike Shoes Overall)

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Main Features

  • Fastening system: Velcro strap combined with a BOA dial
  • Weight: n/a
  • Well ventilated
  • Nylon reinforced sole

Giro Cylinder are perfect mountain bike shoes if you don’t want to spend too much money. They are affordable yet durable and well-ventilated thanks to mesh and perforated upper.

They combine a Velcro strap with a BOA dial for effective fastening. The sole is stiff, thanks to the nylon reinforcement. This means the energy transfer to the pedals is efficient, and you won’t lose too much energy.

Cylinders come with an inner insole that provides medium arch support. Yet, some owners report these shoes as not as comfortable as they hoped. So, feel free to use cycling insoles.

They are also durable so that they will last. These features make them good for beginners and people with a low budget.


Sidi Tiger (Best Mountain Bike Shoes Cross Country)

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Main Features

  • Available in 5+ colors
  • Fastening system: 2 Tecno dials
  • Weight: 340 g (unknown size)
  • Very stiff yet comfortable thanks to the carbon sole

If you want the latest and greatest, Sidi Tiger should be worth your attention. Julien Absolon, two-times cross country Olympic gold medalist and multiple times UCI XC world champion, wore these shoes when he won some of his biggest races.

Although the product’s official website does not state these shoes’ weight, users claim they are lightweight. The sole is made of carbon, and high-end shoes are designed to be lightweight.

Replaceable rubber pads also protect the sole. This is good because you can replace them and increase the lifespan of the shoes.

The mesh openings ensure the breathability of the shoes. And, to protect your toes, the front part of the shoes is rubberized.

Sidi Tiger are comfortable for riders with narrow feet because they tend to run narrow.

You can also take advantage of Sidi’s Double Tecno-3 Push fastening system, as convenient as BOA dials.

I recommend Tigers to cross-country riders who need to squeeze their shoes to the maximum. You can justify their price if you win your next XC race with them.

Also available at competitivecyclist.com, jensonusa.com, and wiggle.co.uk


The Best MTB Shoes for Flat Pedals

If you ride your mountain bike with platforms, get MTB shoes designed for platforms. They are stiffer than standard shoes. Thanks to their flat shoe, you also get a perfect grip.

Five Ten Freerider (Best Mountain Bike Shoes for Flat Pedals)

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Five Ten Freerider for men
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Five Ten Freerider for women

Main Features

  • Suitable for wide feet
  • Available in 5+ colors
  • Available for men and women
  • Fastening system: laces
  • A stiff and grippy sole
  • Impact-resistant toe box

Five Ten belong among the most popular brands that focus on designing shoes for flat pedals. I could not miss their legendary Freerider model – a predecessor of the improved Freerider Pro.

They have a very grippy sole, so your feet won’t slip of platforms. The shoes are lightweight, durable, and relatively stiff, so they efficiently transfer the energy you put into your pedal strokes.

One of the things the owners of these shoes praise the most is comfort and durability. You can ride in these shoes for hours, and you won’t experience any discomfort.

You can use them for walking and hiking too. Although shoes designed specifically for hiking provide a better grip on rocks, Five Ten’s are a good compromise if you want to ride on platforms and combine them with a short hike.


You might also be interested in this selection of the best mountain bike flat pedals.


Five Ten Freerider Pro (Best Grip Mountain Bike Shoes)

STOLKHSI
Five Ten Freerider Pro for men | Source: competitivecyclist.com
COBLCRWHACMI
Five Ten Freerider Pro for women | Source: competitivecyclist.com

Main Features

  • Suitable for narrow & regular feet
  • Fastening system: laces
  • A stiff and very grippy sole
  • Impact-resistant toe box
  • Very durable

The Freerider Pro are an improved version of the Five Ten Freerider. They are even more durable so that they will last you longer.

They provide you with an excellent grip for complete control of your bike. They are perfect for trail riding as well as for enduro.

Their sole is stiff (stiffer than standard Freeriders), so it efficiently transfers the power you put into every pedal stroke. Yet, the shoes are super comfy.

The upper is perforated on the front, so the shoes are breathable during a ride. But, once you stop in direct sunlight, your feet may start to feel a bit hot, so keep that in mind.

Freerider Pro also have an impact-resistant toe box which improves the safety of your toes. The box protects them against rocks and stumps.

Overall, Frerider Pro are the best MTB shoes for platforms on the market. Period.


O’Neal Flat Pedal Shoes

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Main Features

  • Suitable for narrow & regular feet
  • Available in black
  • Fastening system: laces
  • Grippy, honeycomb sole

These O’Neal shoes were designed for flat pedals. Their honeycomb sole will ensure that you will get an excellent grip and your feet won’t slip.

The toe cap is reinforced to add more protection. So if you crash, you don’t have to be afraid of breaking your toes.

One of the best things about these shoes is their design. Their casual look is also suitable for walks in parks, in a city, etc. You can use them as everyday shoes, and you will still look stylish.

Of course, these shoes are comfortable. And, if the inner sole won’t suit your needs, you can replace it with your own.

Overall, these are one of the best MTB shoes for flat pedals.


Vans Atwood (Best Mountain Bike Shoes for Walking)

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Main Features

  • Suitable for narrow & regular feet
  • Available in 20+ colors
  • Fastening system: laces
  • Grippy sole

Vans is a very popular brand among BMX and MTB riders. And, the Vans Atwood are one of their most iconic shoes.

Their sole is flat and contains a lot of holes into which the metal studs on your flat pedals can “stick.” Thanks to this, the shoe won’t slip off and provide you with a very good grip.

These shoes have also earned popularity thanks to their comfort and a sense of connection with your bike. However, people with flat feet should consider wearing them with cycling insoles because this model does not offer sufficient arch support.

One of the main benefits of these shoes is that they are easy to walk in. After all, they were not designed specifically for mountain biking but rather for walking.

Take advantage of a large color selection. I am sure you will pick the color you like from more than 20 that are available to match your clothes.


Giro Rumble (Best Hybrid Mountain Bike Shoes)

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Main Features

  • Suitable for wide feet
  • Available in 4 colors
  • Fastening system: laces
  • A stiff, grippy sole
  • Compatible with MTB cleats

Giro Rumble are hybrid shoes that you can use with or without cleats. They are ideal for hybrid bike pedals but you can use them for mountain biking too. It depends on what do you prefer.

Their sole allows normal walking and also mounting MTB cleats. So, whenever you decide to take your riding to the next level, equip your bike with MTB clipless pedals, your shoes with cleats, and you are good to go.

They are also comfortable because their mesh upper is breathable. Ideal for hot days.

They will transfer the energy you put to pedalling better compared to other non cycling shoes thanks to the stiffer, Vibram sole.

Some owners report that it is better to buy one size up to ensure the best fit possible. Your normal size may be a bit small with the Giro sizing.

Also available at rei.com, competitivecyclist.com, jensonusa.com, and wiggle.co.uk


ProductWeight per ShoeType of FeetCategory 
Tommaso Montagna 100n/aWideFor clipless pedalsCheck Price
Sidi Dominator 7 Mega SR402 g (unknown size)WideFor clipless pedalsCheck Price
Shimano SH-XC9 S-Phyre330 g (size 42)WideFor clipless pedalsCheck Price
Lake MX241405 g (size 44)WideFor clipless pedalsCheck Price
Louis Garneau Granite 2365 g (size 42)WideFor clipless pedalsCheck Price
Giro Cylinder315 g (size 42)Narrow & RegularFor clipless pedalsCheck Price
Sidi Dominator 10353 g (size 43)Narrow & RegularFor clipless pedalsCheck Price
Fizik X5 Terra395 g (size 45)Narrow & RegularFor clipless pedalsCheck Price
Gavin Eliten/aNarrow & RegularFor clipless pedalsCheck Price
Sidi Tiger340 g (unknown size)Narrow & RegularFor clipless pedalsCheck Price
Five Ten Freeridern/aWideFor flat pedalsCheck Price
Five Ten Freerider Pron/aNarrow & RegularFor flat pedalsCheck Price
O'Neal Flat Pedal Shoesn/aNarrow & RegularFor flat pedalsCheck Price
Vans Atwoodn/aNarrow & RegularFor flat pedalsCheck Price
Giro Rumblen/aWideFor flat pedalsCheck Price

My Verdict

Depending on what type of rider you are, you should choose the type of bike shoes to suit your needs (for clipless or flat pedals).

The best clipless mountain bike shoes for narrow & regular feet overall are the Giro Cylinder (also available at competitivecyclist.com). They come with a convenient BOA dial with a durable Velcro strap, so you can tighten them while riding. Your feet won’t overheat thanks to a good ventilation. You can ride in them all day and still feel relatively comfortable.

The best clipless mountain bike shoes for wide feet overall are the Sidi Dominator 7 Mega SR (also available at jensonusa.com). They offer excellent durability, comfort, and stiffness. Considering their quality, they are still pretty affordable.

The best mountain bike shoes for flat pedals are the Five Ten Freerider (also available at competitivecyclist.com). They have a sole designed for flat pedals, ensuring maximum grip and good comfort. It will make your ride much safer and fun. You can walk in them too because they are suitable for walking. Five Ten Freerider are available for men & women, and, as a bonus, they look stylish.


How to Choose Mountain Bike Shoes?

Both MTB clipless shoes and MTB shoes for flat pedals share very similar features. Below, I explain the most important ones.

Clipless Mountain Bike Shoes vs. Shoes for Platforms

There are 2 main types of MTB shoes you can buy. You can either buy mountain bike shoes for clipless pedals or mountain bike shoes for flats (also called flat pedals or platforms).

The main difference is that the MTB shoes for clipless pedals are clipped into the pedal, so your feet are fixed. The MTB shoes for flats are the exact opposite.

Check out the summarized pros and cons of MTB shoes for clipless pedals and MTB shoes for flats in the table below.

Type of ShoesProsCons
MTB Clipless Shoes• They improve your safety because your feet won't slip off the pedals, and you can control your bike more easily.
• They improve pedal stroke efficiency thanks to the stiff soles and fixed position on the pedal.
• They improve comfort. Mountain bike shoes are made to be lightweight, ventilated, and comfortable.
• It takes a while to get used to clipping in and clipping off.
• There is a risk you won't be able to clip off in time when you lose balance (this improves with your experience).
• They tend to be more expensive compared to MTB shoes for flat pedals.
Shoes for Platforms• You don't have to clip into them, so they are safer for some types of terrains (like trails).
• They are more suitable for walking.
• They are cheaper than MTB clipless shoes.
• They are not as stiff compared to MTB clipless shoes.
• They are not fixed on the pedal, so your feet can slip.

What Type of Mountain Bike Shoes Should You Buy?

The choice of MTB shoe type depends mainly on the type of terrain you want to ride in.

  • I recommend clipless MTB shoes for disciplines like cross country, cyclocross, and riding on unpaved, forest, or dirt roads. Your feet will be in a fixed position, and your pedal strokes much more effective.
  • MTB shoes for flat pedals are better for riding on trails, for downhill, or BMX. Your foot position won’t be fixed, which allows you to quickly take your feet off the pedals to regain balance.

Price Range

As with every product, I recommend you set a budget. I outlined MTB shoes price categories and the features you can expect below.

MTB Clipless Shoes

  • Budget (Under $100) – these shoes are suitable for beginners. They usually only offer velcro strap fastening, but you can also find models with a ratchet buckle. Shoes from this category are heavier and not as stiff due to the plastic sole than more expensive models.
  • Value for money ($100 to $300) – an ideal compromise between cheap and high-end mountain bike shoes. This category is ideal for most bikers. The shoes in this category offer an excellent price/performance ratio. They are relatively light and comfortable. They use a combination of Velcro straps and ratchet buckle, Velcro strap and dial (BOA, Tecno, etc.).
  • Performance (Above $300) – this price category offers high-end shoes that pros and the most demanding riders wear. The soles of these shoes are made of carbon, so they are very stiff. The shoes are lightweight and fit well, thanks to dials (BOA, Tecno, etc.).

MTB Shoes for Flat Pedals

Most MTB shoes for flat pedals are available in the $50 to $150 price range. They usually differ in brand, durability, stiffness, and design. They use laces as the fastening system.

Fastening System

There are 4 main types of fastening systems used on MTB shoes. Velcro straps, laces, ratchet buckles, and dials (BOA, Push, etc.).

cycling shoes fastening systems
Cycling shoes fastening systems (click to enlarge) | Product images credit: Giro, Vittoria

Velcro Straps

Velcro is used on the cheapest models of clipless mountain bike shoes. This system is relatively simple and inexpensive, but it is not as convenient as other fastening systems.

On the other hand, Velcro straps are lightweight and not prone to damage. For example, if you crash, you don’t have to buy a new pair of shoes because your fastening system will break.

Laces

Laces are a stylish and cool-looking fastening system that we know from non cycling shoes. Most mountain bike shoes use laces as the fastening system.

Laces are the lightest fastening system. They are also not prone to damage. However, their main disadvantage is that it is almost impossible to tighten them while riding.

Ratchet Buckles

Ratchet buckles are a compromise between Velcro straps and BOA dials. They are used in combination with Velcro straps and you can also tighten them while riding.

On the other hand, they are heavier than other fastening systems and are also prone to damage if you crash. They are very difficult to replace because they are attached to the shoe.

Dials (BOA, Tecno, etc.)

High-end mountain and road cycling shoes are nowadays equipped with dials like the BOA dials, Tecno, and its alternatives.

This technology is the most effective and convenient fastening system on the market. And, of course, the most expensive.

Every click of a BOA dial adjust the fit by 1 mm. To engage it, you have to push the dial. Then you can tighten or loosen the steel lace. You release it by pulling up the dial. How cool is that?

Dials are prone to damage. On the other hand, you can replace them easily, so you don’t have to buy new shoes.

Pros & Cons of Different Types of Fastening Systems

Check out the pros and cons of individual fastening systems in the table below.

Type of Fastening SystemProsCons
Velcro straps• They are cheap and you can fasten them while riding.
• They are not as prone to damage when crashing as ratchet buckles or dials.
• They don’t provide you with as precise and comfortable fastening as BOA dials.
Laces• They look cool.
• They provide you with effective fastening.
• It is the lightest fastening system.
• It takes time to tie them.
• It is almost impossible to tie them while riding.
Ratchet buckles• You can fasten them while riding.
• They provide you with relatively effective fastening.
• They are heavier compared to other types of fastening systems.
• They are prone to damage when crashing.
• The buckles are hard to replace.
Dials (BOA, Tecno...)• Quick, effective, and precise fastening also while riding.
• They are easy to replace.
• They are lightweight.
• They are more expensive compared to other fastening systems.
• They are prone to damage when crashing.

Comfort, Fit & Ventilation

Mountain bike shoes have to be comfortable. After all, you want to enjoy your ride, don’t you? If you can, try the shoes in person to make sure you buy the right size and fit.

If you shop online, make sure you measure your feet before you order the selected size. If the shoes don’t fit, return them and try a different size or model.

TIP: Cycling insoles can improve your riding comfort by supporting your arches.

Proper ventilation is important, especially during hot summer days. The ventilation helps to cool your feet, so they won’t sweat as much.

You will also feel much more comfortable, and you will perform better because you won’t feel like your feet are burning.

Sole Stiffness

Clipless cycling shoes have much stiffer soles than mountain bike shoes for flats and other types of non cycling shoes. The stiffness is important—the higher the stiffness, the lower energy losses with every pedal stroke.

Riders that experience painful or inflamed balls of their feet (metatarsalgia), or lack of oxygenation of the toes due to blood shortage (ischemia) should be careful when using stiff shoes. This study showed the shoes with carbon soles increase peak plantar pressure, which may aggravate these foot conditions.

Every bike shoe manufacturer uses its stiffness index. It is not easy to compare them. You can check out this Shimano stiffness index chart as an example.

High-end clipless mountain bike shoes are stiffer compared to cheaper models. Their sole is made from carbon fiber that is 42% stiffer in longitudinal bending and 550% in three-point bending than plastic.(source)

The cheapest clipless MTB shoes have a sole made from plastic. It is heavier material compared to carbon, and of course, much softer.

There are also clipless mountain bike shoes that use a combination of carbon and plastic (carbon-reinforced sole). They are a good compromise between the above-mentioned types.

Flat vs Clipless Pedals & Cleat Type Compatibility

Can you ride with clipless mountain bike shoes on platforms and vice versa? Well, you can, but it won’t be a very comfortable ride…

Flat Pedals (Platforms)

Platforms are the simplest type of pedal. You do not need special clipless shoes to ride them. You can wear mountain bike shoes for flat pedals or any non cycling shoes.

You will find plastic platforms on cheaper, mass-produced bicycles. These pedals are usually equipped with reflectors on both sides to increase your visibility in the dark.

Plastic platforms are not very good for longer bike trips or more demanding terrains. I remember when I was riding one of my first bikes. During a trip, I destroyed the pedal just by pedaling too hard. You can guess how it turned out. I had to push my bike more than 10 miles (16 km)!

Mountain Bike Hello GIF by Red Bull - Find & Share on GIPHY

Mountain bikers and BMX riders use platforms that are made of more durable materials, such as aluminum or magnesium. They offer better support for the foot, and thanks to the metal studs, the shoe does not slip off them.

I’ve summarized the pros and cons of using different bike pedals using multiple resources and my experiences in the following table.

Type of PedalsProsConsRecommended for
Platforms (flat pedals)• You can use them with almost any type of shoes.
• You don't have to clip into them so you can take your feet of them easily. This increases your safety and confidence.
• You learn the right echnique and tricks more easily.
• You can't pedal in circles (you cannot pull up).
• Your foot can slip off more easily.
• Shin injuries from pins.
Beginners, commuters, BMX riders, MTB riders, downhill riders
Road pedals (clipless)• You will feel like you have better control over your bicycle.
• They are lightweight to lower your fatigue over long distances.
• You can pedal in circles.
• They are longer than MTB pedals, so they provide more support for your foot.
• You can't clip in from both sides.
• Expensive - You will have to buy pedals, road bike shoes, and cleats.
• It will take you some time to get used to them.
Road cyclists
MTB pedals (clipless)• You will feel like you have better control over your bicycle.
• You can pedal in circles.
• You can clip in from both sides.
• Expensive - You will have to buy pedals, mountain bike shoes, and cleats.
• It will take you some time to get used to them.
MTB and gravel riders, cyclocross riders
Hybrid pedals (flat + clipless)• You can decide what type of shoes you use (normal footwear or specialized cycling shoes).• They are heavier compared to clipless road and MTB pedals.
• They are bulky.
Commuters, bike packers, people who like bike trips and hiking, mountain and gravel bikers

Pros and cons of different types of bike pedals | Sources: Bicycling, Skedaddle, Singletracks, Active


Clipless Pedals & Cleat Type Compatibility

The MTB shoes are manufactured in a 2-hole configuration to be compatible with MTB clipless pedals and cleats. The MTB cleats are much smaller and lower-profile than road cleats allowing you to walk more easily. Among the most popular clipless MTB pedals manufacturers belong Shimano (SPD), Crankbrothers, and Time (ATAC).

Unlike MTB bike shoes, road cycling shoes are usually manufactured in a 3-hole configuration (see the picture below). They are compatible with road bike pedals like Shimano-SPD SL, Look Keo, Time Xpresso, etc.

A separate category consists of 4-hole configuration cycling shoes that were designed specifically for Wahoo Speedplay pedals. You can use a 3-hole configuration for Speedplay pedals, but you have to use special adapters to make it a 4-hole configuration.*

*This only applies to Speedplay road pedals, Speedplay MTB pedals use a 2-hole configuration.

cleat hole configuration edited
Cycling shoes cleat hole configuration (click to enlarge)

Mountain Bike Shoes FAQ


BONUS: What Shoes Do Pro XC Bikers Wear?

Here is a list of professional XC riders and the MTB shoes they wore in the 2020 season.

Rider NameShoes
Jordan SarrouSidi Drako 2
Julien AbsalonSidi Tiger
Mathieu van der PoelShimano S-Phyre XC9
Nino SchurterScott MTB RC Ultimate
Pauline Ferrand PrevotSuplest Crosscountry Pro
MTB shoes used by pro MTB XC riders
GIF by UCI - Find & Share on GIPHY
Nino Schurter in action

This post is regularly updated to provide you with the most up-to-date tips on products. If you find a product that is not up to date, please, contact me.

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