Three years ago I reviewed the Five Ten Hellcat, a flat-pedal-style, clipless mountain bike shoe from the iconic footwear brand. In my testing, I found unclipping was surprisingly difficult, writing “Essentially, the wide toe, combined with the cleat placement, causes the crankarm to block the twisting motion required for me to unclip.” Following that review, I switched to a different pair of shoes, but a few months later, decided to give the Hellcats another shot, this time with a set of Shimano XTR trail pedals instead of Crankbrothers Eggbeaters. Lo and behold, switching pedals solved the problem! Sorry to leave everyone hanging.
After getting into a groove with the 2018 Hellcats, they became my go-to pair of dirt shoes. I likely put thousands of miles on them, and they’re actually still going strong. In the meantime, Five Ten introduced an update to the shoe, and added a $180 Pro version (available from Adidas and other online retailers), which I decided to test this summer to see what’s changed.
Starting at the bottom of the shoe, the Hellcats naturally feature a nice thick slab of Stealth rubber in a familiar polka dot pattern. These shoes actually use a type of Stealth dubbed Marathon, which is the least grippy but longest-lasting version of the wonder material. The previous Hellcats used a slightly stickier and faster wearing C4 version of Stealth, and judging by the wear on mine after three years of riding, it’s plenty durable. The less-sticky Stealth Marathon rubber isn’t a deal-breaker, but it does feel slightly less grippy on rocks and roots when it’s time to hike a bike. The upshot is the soles should hold up for a very long time.
The Five Ten Hellcat Pros feature a textile upper which offers improved ventilation and lighter weight than the coated leather found on the regular Hellcats and previous versions like the 2018s I own. I found the updated Hellcat Pros weigh 2.5oz. less per shoe, than the previous, regular version which is fairly significant, especially when considering how many times our feet spin up and down on a ride. I’m not entirely sold on the look of the textile uppers; I think I prefer the more classic look of the leather version. Also, these Hellcats seem to let water in more quickly when crossing creeks, and I suspect the textile upper is partly to blame. Unfortunately, like the leather version, these tend to take a while to dry out after getting soaked.
In case you missed it, Adidas Five Ten announced earlier this year that they are phasing out “virgin polyester” materials, subbing recycled materials throughout their product line, starting with the fan-favorite Freeriders. According to the brand, 20% of the pieces used the make the Hellcat Pro uppers are made with 50% recycled content, so clearly they are beginning to make some progress on the switch.
I’m not really into the taxi-cab yellow color (officially, Solar Yellow) of these shoes. The version currently on the Adidas website is mostly black with subtle red highlights which I think looks nicer. The 2018 Hellcats I wear (also yellowish) aren’t much better in the color department, yet I still love them.
It appears many of the latest shoes from Five Ten are getting away from traditional stitching and instead making use of welded seams. This gives the shoes a very different look that’s more smooth and uniform, almost plasticky. So far the welded seams are holding up incredibly well. Unlike traditional stitching, there’s no worry about threads getting snagged, ripped, or pulled out of place, which will hopefully keep the shoes in one piece for longer. On a recent ride I looked down at my bars for a moment and clipped the top of the shoe’s toe box on an implanted rock in the trail, and I thought for sure I had ripped my shoe wide open. As I came to a stop, I couldn’t believe it: there wasn’t a single scratch, let alone a tear. It seems Five Ten is onto something with their latest materials and construction techniques.
Like previous versions of the Hellcats, these shoes feature a standard lace closure paired with a hook-and-loop strap to keep everything nice and tidy. The strap is incredibly strong and doesn’t stretch like the previous version, which allows for a very tight fit if you want it. There’s not really a lace management system on the shoe; I just tuck the loose ends under the strap and it works great. Simple.
Adidas Five Ten modified the cleat channel significantly this time around, making it much longer and more ramped. More and more riders are sliding cleats rearward for a more mid-foot connection, and these shoes certainly allow that. I found that clipping in and out with a pair of Shimano SPDs works well, and I didn’t need to use a shim. The cleats are recessed just the right amount, offering very little click-clacking across pavement thanks to their nearly flush placement.
I’ve been testing the Five Ten Hellcat Pros since July, and truthfully I figured I would have been done testing much earlier. Every product review is different, and my goal with a shoe review is to wait until the shoes are fully broken in before drafting a single word. For most shoes I’ve tested, a month or so is enough time. These took a bit longer.
For starters, the soles are incredibly stiff. Even after months of use, it’s tough to flex the shoe from heel to toe in my hands, even a little bit. There’s very little lateral twist either. That works out great for the trail riding that I do, which typically involves a good bit of pedaling where efficiency is king. The tradeoff is they start to feel a little uncomfortable toward the end of an epic ride, and they’re not the most agile hikers. The soles have certainly gained a bit of flex after breaking them in, though I would still place these on the stiffer end of the trail shoe spectrum.
The toe box is fairly roomy, fitting my wide-ish feet just fine. Padding around the heel is nice and thick to protect against rock strikes. There isn’t any fancy cat tongue material inside the heel cup, but I found the shape, combined with the tight strap up top, works just fine to prevent unwanted heel slippage.
With minimal padding and textured material, the shoe’s tongue provides good coverage. Initially, I experienced some discomfort on the top of my right foot, almost like the tongue had a button or fold on it that was creating a pressure point. I ultimately discovered that if I tugged and slid the tongue toward the inside when putting the shoe on, the discomfort disappeared. Looking closely at the tongue, there isn’t anything there — not even a seam — that could be causing this, so I might just have a weird foot.
To conclude, the Five Ten Hellcat Pro mountain bike shoes are still excellent shoes for trail riding, and they continue to evolve, improve, and build on each proceeding version. I expect this latest iteration to last even longer than my old, beloved Hellcats.
- Well constructed and seemingly durable
- Secure fit
- Not too heavy
Pros and cons of the
- Rubber sole could be stickier without sacrificing much durability
- Stiff sole sacrifices a bit of comfort for pedal efficiency
- Yellow Cab colorway