13 Clipless Mountain Bike Shoes, Tested and Reviewed

We test and review 13 pairs of clipless mountain bike shoes for everything from XC to gravity riding.

When it comes to mountain bike shoes, riders fall into one of two camps: clipless or flats. While there’s often good-natured ribbing between the two factions, the majority of mountain bikers who have been riding for a while end up riding clipless.

Today there are endless options when it comes to clipless mountain bike shoes, from lightweight and stiff XC-style kicks to wide and flexible shoes that look incredibly similar to their flat-pedal brethren. Over the past 15 months, Singletracks writers have tested and reviewed 13 different pairs of clipless mountain bike shoes for riding in pretty much any conditions, and here’s what we’ve found.

Product namePriceClosureIntended use
Five Ten Hellcat$150Laces, hook and loop strapTrail
Five Ten Kestrel Pro$200BoaTrail
Fizik X1 Infinito Road Shoes$400DialsXC
Fizik’s Terra Ergolace X2$129LacesTrail
Ion Rascal Select$149Laces, hook and loop strapEnduro
Mavics XA Pro Shoes$160DialsTrail
Northwave Ghost Pro XC$399.99DialsXC
Northwave Himalaya Cycling Shoe$249.99LacesFat bike
O’Neal Pinned SPD$89.99LacesTrail
Ride Concepts Transition$160Laces, hook and loop strapEnduro
Shimano AM5$100LacesTrail
Shimano ME7$200BuckleEnduro
Shimano S-Phyre XC9$400BoaXC

Five Ten Hellcat

photo: Jeff Barber
  • Intended use: Trail
  • Closure: Laces, hook and loop strap
  • $150 MSRP

Five Ten is well known for their flats, pioneering the use of ultra-sticky rubber to provide excellent pedal grip. The brand also markets a number of clipless shoe options, like the Hellcat. Our reviewer has now spent more than a year punishing these shoes and has come to appreciate them even more than when the initial review was first published.

Early on we found it difficult to unclip these shoes due to the oversized toe box, but moving the cleat back and switching to a clipless pedal with a larger platform did the trick. After logging hundreds, if not thousands of miles through wet and dry conditions, the shoes may look a little dingy but they’re still in great shape. The velcro strap still holds tight, there are no rips or tears, and the padding continues to retain its loft.

Five Ten Kestrel Pro

photo: Matt Miller
  • Intended use: Trail
  • Closure: Dial
  • $200 MSRP

Like the Hellcats above, the Five Ten Kestral mountain bike shoes feature Stealth rubber outsoles, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Five Ten adds a Boa closure for an even more secure fit and a sock liner to hug feet tightly. A lower velcro strap keeps feet planted on the insole for out-of-the-saddle pushes.

In his review, Matt says, “For me, this is all the shoe I need no matter what kind of riding I’m getting into and I don’t see any reason to find a bigger, clunkier shoe for downhill riding, nor do I need to look for something slimmer for everyday trail rides.”

Fi’zi:k X1 Infinito

  • Intended use: XC
  • Closure: Dials
  • $400 MSRP

One look and it’s obvious the Fi’zi:k X1 Infinito shoes are meant for cross-country riding. And not just any type of XC riding; these shoes need to be raced to to realize their full potential. Two ratcheting dials allow riders to get a tight fit that won’t slip in competition where fractions of a second can make a huge difference. A full carbon shank makes these shoes stiff and instantly transfers power to the pedals.

Gerow notes in his review that “while they are not inexpensive, they are on par with a lot of top-shelf carbon-soled kicks on the market, and they are undoubtedly built to last.”

Fi’zi:k’s Terra Ergolace X2

  • Intended use: Trail
  • Closure: Laces
  • $129 MSRP

These may look like Dad shoes, but there’s a good chance they will out ride and out hike most of the whipper snappers out on the trail. With a simple, old-school lace closure, the Fi’zi:k Terra Ergolace X2 shoes are meant for taking things at a steady pace and tackling whatever the trail reveals.

And when it’s time to hop off the bike for a little hike-a-bike, the Terra Ergolace X2s are happy to oblige with a grippy, lugged sole. This is an excellent trail shoe, but also a great choice for endless bikepacking adventures. Read Gerow’s full review here.

Ion Rascal Select

  • Intended use: Enduro
  • Closure: Serpen-Tie (lace with hook-and-loop instep strap)
  • $149 MSRP

The Ion Rascal Select is another all-day clipless mountain bike shoe that pairs a set of laces with a removable velcro strap for added security. This shoe includes a unique gaiter design to keep debris out of the shoe on days when rocks and dirt tend to go airborne. Designed for breathability, the Rascals also dry quickly while the robust, rubberized toe is made to last.

Gerow says the grippy outsole “comes in handy when things get hectic on the trail and there isn’t the time or focus to clip in after a dab. I have been able to save multiple near-crashes by planting the mid-sole on my pedal and knowing it will stay put.”

Mavic XA Pro Shoes

  • Intended Use: Trail
  • Closure: Dial
  • $160 MSRP

If you squint your eyes, the soles on the Mavic XA Pro clipless mountain bike shoes almost look like they belong on a springy pair of joggers. The sole is indeed flexible for hiking and even jogging comfortably, though there is a small carbon plate around the cleat interface for stiffness where it’s needed. The closure features a massive velcro strap and a single ratcheting dial, paired with a low-profile fit.

This is another shoe that is a great fit for trail riding and even bikepacking. Gerow concludes his review saying, “The XA Pro is a fantastic kick for long rides, or days when you want to ride and walk around without swapping footwear.”

Northwave Ghost Pro XC

  • Intended use: XC
  • Closure: Dials
  • $399.99 MSRP

These Italian designed and manufactured clipless mountain bike shoes are easily some of the lightest, stiffest bike shoes available. While they appear thin and narrow, they’re actually quite comfortable thanks to the high quality construction and materials throughout. The synthetic uppers stretch and mold to the wearer’s foot over time while shedding mud and protecting from abrasion.

Naturally for an XC race shoe, two ratcheting dials are paired with a full carbon sole. Northwave adds strategically-placed bits of Michelin rubber for grip for when trail conditions really deteriorate. Read Jeff’s full review here.

Northwave Himalaya Cycling Shoe

  • Intended use: Fat biking
  • Closure: Laces
  • $249.99 MSRP

Whether fat biking or training through the winter, the Northwave Himalaya Cycling shoe is designed to keep feet warm and dry in the gnarliest conditions. The lace closure is covered by a wind-blocking upper that also brushes slush and snow aside. An insulated liner provides even more protection from the elements.

Like the Ghost Pro XC shoes, Northwave uses Michelin rubber on the outsoles. Riders can choose to run clipless pedal cleats, or to cover the cleat channel for use with flat pedals. Matt notes in his review that the Himalaya Cycling shoes “are comfortable, easy to use, and will probably last several seasons.”

O’Neal Pinned SPD

  • Intended use: Trail
  • Closure: Laces
  • $89.99 MSRP

The O’Neal Pinned shoe looks like a flat pedal shoe, and that’s by design. In fact O’Neal makes two versions of the Pinned shoe: one clipless, the other flat. (You can even convert the clipless version to flats with an included rubber patch.) The uppers are constructed from durable leather and the simple lace closure gives this shoes a classic, understated look.

Inside, the Pinned shoes feature a fairly stiff sole for power transfer and to make clipping in and out a breeze. The recessed tread on the outsole is best suited for hardpack or messing around at the local jump track. In his review, Gerow says the shoes “are designed with racing and hard riding in mind, where riders will stay on the bike 90% of the time.”

Ride Concepts Transition

  • Intended use: Enduro
  • Closure: Laces, hook and loop strap
  • $160 MSRP

This is one burly pair of clipless mountain bike shoes, suitable for aggressive gravity riding. The mid-tops feature ankle protection on the inside of the shoe and rubberized heels and toes to keep feet safe. When you need to bail, there’s even D3O material in the insole to absorb the shock of impact.

Laces and a hook and loop closure keep the shoes tight, while the grippy sole is designed to provide a solid connection to pedal edges. Matt sums up his review saying, “Even though it has great impact protection, and toe and heel protection, it still feels light and well vented enough for everyday trail rides as well, making it great for almost anything.”

Shimano AM5

  • Intended use: Trail
  • Closure: Laces
  • $100 MSRP

The Shimano AM5 may not be the flashiest or fanciest mountain bike shoe, but it’s clearly designed to last. This shoe is incredibly simple and casual, with a lace closure in the front and a low ankle in the back. Shimano-branded cleats are recessed exactly the right amount so they barely make a click on concrete but clip in and out with ease.

The soles aren’t overly stiff which makes for comfortable hike-a-bikes. They’re fairly well vented despite offering robust construction and materials. Jeff says the AM5 is “a great choice for both comfort and stability, and should be able to withstand many miles of trail and all-mountain riding.”

Shimano ME7

  • Intended use: Enduro
  • Closure: Buckle
  • $200 MSRP

The Shimano ME7 shoe is designed for riding fast and riding hard. Looking at the shoe, it’s clear it means business with the tucked and covered laces and an industrial-strength ratchet strap. Perforated synthetic leather uppers are designed to deflect rocks and debris while allowing air flow through laser-cut holes.

Shimano recently updated the fit with a wider toe box up front. The lugged sole features grippy Michelin rubber yet the shoe retains an overall lightweight feel. Read Sam’s full review here.

Shimano S-Phyre XC9

  • Intended use: XC
  • Closure: Dial
  • $400 MSRP

The S-Phyre cross-country mountain bike shoes from Shimano are designed to win races and turn heads. Two ratcheting Boa dials provide a super tight fit, gluing the stiff sole to riders’ feet. Even the inside of the heel is designed to grab onto the wearer’s foot with a cat-tongue material that makes it easy for feet to slide in, but not out.

Once again the grippy bits are covered in Michelin rubber and deep lugs are designed to find purchase even along the sloppiest race courses. Matt says there probably aren’t “many mountain bike shoes out there that will match the performance of the Shimano S-Phyre XC9. They are pricey and aren’t going to look new for long under hard riding, but they are light, stiff, efficient, and somehow still very comfortable.”

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