The Five Ten brand is synonymous with quality, performance, and dominance, especially within downhill and freeride circles. Unbeknownst to some, Five Ten’s fame started in the mid-80’s when their Stealth rubber was first introduced for climbers (the Five Tennie). The high-friction rubber formula would go on to revolutionize the mountain bike scene to the impossibility of escaping any conversation over mountain bike shoes without hearing the name, “Five Ten.” Despite such a stronghold, Five Ten maintains a humble approach, continually seeking ways to reshape, innovate, and improve. The new 2017 Hellcat is a perfect of example of Five Ten’s dedication to betterment.
But first, check out Danny Hart crush Mont-Sainte Anne last year in the 2017 Hellcat:
Although the Hellcat underwent several changes this year, it still retains a classic, raw look. The new Hellcat is lighter and more durable with a lower profile, redesigned heel, improved cleat recess, and firmer C4 Stealth rubber featuring Five Ten’s Dotty tread pattern. Most of these changes were aimed at improving the Hellcat’s durability (an issue Five Ten is not afraid to admit), and similar upgrades were made across the Five Ten lineup.
- Model: Five Ten Hellcat
- For aggressive AM and DH
- Clipless compatible
- Lace/Velcro closure
- Stealth Dotty C4 outsole
- Leather and synthetic upper
- 3/4 dual density vibration dampening TPU shank
- EVA midsole
- Perforated tongue
- Improved cleat recesses
- Colors: Black/Red, Semi-Solar Yellow, Black/White
- Sizes: US 5-14
- Weight: 900g (without cleats)
- MSRP: $150 USD
10 Wood Rd.
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The Hellcat’s upper is a combination of leather and synthetic for durability and breathability. Heavy stitching runs the entire border of each panel, including the fully stitched toe box. The shoelace eyelets and strap slider are reinforced with a hardened plastic. Due to its overall stiffness, a single Velcro strap provides a more fixed closure to prevent heel lift. The upper synthetic portion, tongue, and toe box are perforated for ventilation.
The sole is comprised of a compression-molded EVA midsole, dynamic shank, and Five Ten’s C4 Dotty Stealth rubber. The dense, closed-cell EVA foam is known to be soft, flexible, and durable, with excellent cushioning properties. According to Five Ten, the dual density shank flexes upward for hiking while maintaining stiffness when putting down pedal power. Previous iterations of the Hellcat featured Five Ten’s S1 rubber. The C4 Dotty is a harder, more durable rubber, as you don’t need to be too sticky with a clipless interface, but sticky enough when off the bike.
Fit and Feel
If your foot is familiar with a Five Ten, you need not worry about changing size despite several small changes in construction. I’ve owned three different Five Ten MTB shoes over the last two years and the Hellcat’s inner sole feels no different. The toe box is roomy enough, but less so than previous versions of the Impact VXi, which could’ve used less toe space. Although I prefer wider, the one-inch closure strap adequately stabilized my ankle while offering somewhere to tuck the laces. For a beefier strap closure and highly reinforced toe, check out the Hellcat Pro.
Common with any MTB shoe, the Hellcats require a good bit of break-in time and are much stiffer than they appear. Overall stiffness is likely due to the upgraded C4 sole and beefier cleat recess, which is a welcome trade-off. It took about six to eight hours before the shoe felt sufficiently molded to my foot and void of any hot spots.
This flex-up-hammer-down midsole business mostly sounds like a clever marketing bit, but I’ve found no real reason to think the sole does otherwise. Can I comfortably hike my bike without feeling like someone strapped a wood plank to the bottom of my shoe? Yes. Can I soak a drop and stomp without wrapping my foot over the pedals? Within the bounds of my abilities, indubitably! Only time will tell if the vibration-damping TPU shank will hold up to the hype.
The C4 sole is not that super-sticky magic you’ll find in the Mi6 rubber, but a softer rubber is wasted in a clipless setup and destroyed while hiking. Instead, the Hellcat uses the same rubber employed in their technical climbing shoes, designed for precision edging, scrambling over boulders, and locking into a smear (for you rock climbers).
At 900g sans cleats, the Hellcat is far from your XC endurance shoe, but trades weight for a comfortable shoe on and off the bike. Reinforced cleat recesses are deeper than previous iterations, which further enhances footing off the bike. I even found myself commuting to and from the trailhead, Hellcats donned.
There’s no shortage of praise for Five Ten bike shoes. In fact, when it comes to gravity, freeride, and all-mountain (especially in the flat pedal realm), Five Ten is considered cream of the crop. Personally, Five Ten durability has been hot and cold over the last few years, but the revamping across several models, like the Hellcat, is very reassuring.
Thanks to Five Ten for providing the Hellcat for review!