Review: Five Ten Impact Low Mountain Bike Shoe

So, this is two mountain bike shoe reviews in a row for me… one might think I’d lost track of my Y chromosome. But a fella needs the right shoe for the right occasion… right?  In any case, while I was on a seemingly endless hunt for the perfect clipless shoe, I decided it was time to get back on my flats, so the hunt for some great shoes for flats began.  It ended with the purchase of the Five Ten Impact Low.

How are they built?

The Impact Low uses an Action leather upper, mesh venting in the sides and tongue, and Five Ten’s “stealth rubber” sole. They employ what Five Ten calls “slingshot construction,” which is designed to eliminate heel lift, keeping the foot secure in the shoe while eliminating the potential for “hot spots,” which can develop during long days in the saddle.  All leather and mesh panels are double stitched, and the rubber parts are glued securely.

The most interesting thing about the Impact Low’s design is that the tongue is actually a half-tongue; it is only separated from the rest of the shoe on the outer side, the inner side being a continuation of the side, wrapping across the instep.

Here you can see how the “tongue” is only separate at the outside of the shoe, wrapping across the instep continually from the inside of the shoe

How do they feel?

Once you get the Impact Low on, it feels very secure. I say “once you get them on,” because they don’t slide on as easily as most shoes. That one-sided tongue makes entry a little awkward, but once you get the shoe on, there’s no question that your foot is in there solidly.

Surprisingly, this relatively difficult entry and very secure fit also come with excellent comfort.  The combination of comfort and security is rare in any type of footwear, let alone a performance cycling shoe.  This is no problem with the Impact Low.

The Impacts did seem to run a bit large:  I generally take a 12 US/46 Euro, but my perfect fit here came in at a 11.5 US/45 Euro.

How do they perform?

The combination of security and comfort is most welcome, whether you’re going out for a quick spin or an all-day epic.  I’m not sure exactly what “slingshot construction” is, but my heel did indeed remain secure.  If there’s anything which is a deal breaker for me in performance footwear, it’s a sloppy heel, an inviolate criterion I came to demand as a result of my downhill skiing experience.

Most importantly, these shoes excel where a flat pedal shoe should: grip.  That “stealth rubber” does indeed latch on to flat pedal pins very well.  I’ve heard riders say their Five Tens make them “feel clipped in,” which is an exaggeration, but the grip is best in class.

In fact, having ridden clipless exclusively since I purchased my first mountain bike in 2000, grip was my #1 criteria in selecting a flat shoe.  The bike shop was kind enough to throw a set of flats on a bike and let me take every shoe I was interested in for a test ride, just as if I was in the market for a bike.

The Five Ten Impact Low has excellent grip on flat pedals

The Impact Low mountain bike shoe is also comfortable and grippy for hike-a-bikes, and comfortable enough for the walk to the brew pub after the ride.  What they aren’t is light (and at $130, they’re not exactly cheap either), but then these are actually designed as free ride shoes, so weight was not a primary design criteria.  I’m not a free rider, so why did I end up with these shoes?  Because they excelled so well in the areas of grip and comfort that any other considerations melted away.

After a full season on these shoes, I’m glad I made the leap back into flat-pedaled riding.  Although I’ve since found my perfect mate for clipless riding, these still get plenty of pedal time because they’re fun, functional, and comfortable.

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