Casual Styling, Aggressive Construction: The New Bontrager Avert [Review]

Bontrager packs serious performance features into a clipless mountain bike shoe that looks remarkably stylish.

The all-new Bontrager Avert Adventure Shoe combines casual styling with hardy construction to create a mountain bike shoe that you might even be able to get into a nightclub with. The Avert is available in two colorways: Sandstorm (tested) or Trek Black. For maximum style and to flee from the trap of all-black, all-the-time, I really appreciate the khaki Sandstorm colorway.

Keeping with the casual appearance, the outsole of the shoe looks understated, the panels blend together seamlessly, and the lace closure doesn’t scream “enduro.” But as you dive beneath the surface, the shoe gets much more interesting.

Below the lace closure is an integrated elastic tongue that’s connected to the shoe on both sides, providing a snug, secure closure that promises supreme pedal control out on the trail. The sole is heavily lugged for hiking and features a “shock-absorbing EVA midsole for all-day comfort,” according to Bontrager. The Avert is also an SPD-specific shoe, accepting all two-bolt cleat designs.

While the exterior of the shoe may look stylish, it actually consists of a robust Cordura fabric that promises to hold up in all weather conditions, even after hundreds of miles of riding. Additionally, the toe box is reinforced to protect against rock strikes. 

Out on the trail

When first slipping the Avert on, the tight elastic tongue closure feels a bit snug, but once your foot is in the shoe, it feels sublime! Over the course of my test, I did notice that the shoe began to stretch out, forcing me to crank the laces down ever tighter to maintain a feeling of control. If you’re looking for the locked-in feeling provided by a ratchet strap or an additional velcro strap found on many other shoes, the Avert might not be for you. But if you want to avoid the obviously geared-up endurobro vibe at the bar afterward, the Avert will blend right into the crowd.

The lugged outsole provided superb traction for hiking throughout my entire test. The grip while scrambling up steep rock slabs or slogging up loose, sandy climbs was unparalleled. The Avert provides just enough flex in the toe box to grip and climb while off the bike, without being too flexy on the pedals. Over the course of my test, I created almost no visible wear and tear to the outsole, indicating that these shoes should prove capable of a solid riding season with thousands of miles of mountain biking.

Bontrager specifically calls out the shock-absorbing midsole as one of the Avert’s key features, but I personally couldn’t identify any difference in feeling or performance, even when using these shoes side-by-side with different brands. Since this is an SPD shoe, the driving force generated while pedaling is sent down through the ball of the foot, or at least through the forefoot if you’re using a more rearward cleat position. If this was a true flat pedal shoe, then sure, the midfoot shock absorber would make sense as the force is delivered through the midfoot in that case—but the foot position used with standard flat pedal shoes is completely different than on most clipless shoes. Even when hiking, I’m generally off the bike because I’m climbing some seriously steep terrain. I usually have to dig my toes into the steep mountainside to gain some purchase and create forward momentum, which doesn’t activate the midsole at all. Based on my test, I’m skeptical about the claimed benefits of this technology.

Finally, perhaps my favorite feature of the Avert is the wonderfully reinforced toebox. While the concept is by no means unique to this shoe model, the Avert’s toebox styling is so subtle that I didn’t think of it being reinforced… until I smashed my foot into an exposed rock and didn’t feel a thing! The toebox protection has saved my toes several times, for which I’m exceedingly grateful.


As I was trying on a pair of snowboard boots in a shop recently, another customer who was obviously blazed AF came up to me and asked if they fit “true to size.” Beyond the fact that he was high as a kite, I now think that people who ask this question don’t have a damn clue what shoe sizing in the real world is like. As far as I can tell, there’s no such thing as “true to size” anymore. 

Shoe lasts vary dramatically from company to company, and over the past two years, this variability has caused me some serious havoc while buying new riding shoes, running shoes, snowboarding boots, and more. In one trail running brand, I dropped half a shoe size between one year and the next in the exact same model due to changes in their molds.

In my experience, the Bontrager Avert fits longer in the last than other brands in the same claimed size, but it’s still well within the normal range. That said, based on massive sizing inconsistencies from brand-to-brand. I would highly recommend that you try these shoes on before you buy.

Parting thoughts

Bontrager packs serious performance features into a shoe that looks remarkably stylish. The high-quality construction of the Avert promises to last for a solid season of challenging mountain biking, but if you’re looking for a shoe that provides a locked-in feeling, it might not be for you.

Are you hitting the trail, or are you hitting the dance floor? With the Avert, the choice is yours.

MSRP: $175

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