8 of the best XC MTB shoes you can buy in 2020
© Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool
Fancy giving your cross country performance a boost? Clipless could be the way to go. From entry-level lace ups to high-spec disco slippers, here are the ones worth investing in.
Cross-country mountain biking is one of the more demanding disciplines of off-road riding. While finding the sweet spot of a race-ready featherlight set-up that can also withstand the massive power and physical demands of XC riding can be challenging, it’s not all about your bike (or training). The equipment and clothing you choose to smash your local Strava segments can play a big part in your success, especially when it comes to footwear.
In cycling, there are two types of footwear set-ups – flats and clipless (which, although you clip-in to, don’t require top clips, hence the name). With cross-country cycling, you’re going to be less concerned about pulling off a no footer over some jumps than keeping your pedals driving you forward, and for that, you need reliable foot placement. For this reason, a majority of XC riders prefer a clipless set-up as it offers support, placement and consistency of power through the pedals.
There are other key features to consider when purchasing a spanking new pair of shoes though, including sole stiffness, the inclusion of waterproof materials and vents to keep you cool on the trails. The most obvious though is how it’s fastened to your foot – while a BOA retention system is considered the creme-de-la-creme, it’s possible to achieve secured fastening through Velcro and lace-up systems, too.
Ultimately though, it’s important to consider your riding style, the terrain you most venture along and, of course, what you want to get out of your shoes. Whenever possible, try-before-you-buy and remember, don’t break in a new pair of cycling shoes on a long ride...
1. DHB Dorica MTB Shoe
Contrary to popular belief, Wiggle’s in-house brand dhb is one of the oldest manufacturers in cycling. Starting off as Butler Cycles in the 1920s, the company has evolved considerably over the years. Catering for all budget types and riders, its Dorica MTB shoe is a prime example of where affordability meets function.
For £56, these entry-level shoes boast comfort and versatility with an unparalleled fit from the Oxford-style; lace-up opening. Constructed with ventilation in mind, the lightweight Dorica features a nylon sole with perforated areas for airflow, a 2-bolt SPD mounting system and provision for toe spikes, should you need them.
2. Mavic Crossmax Elite
Famed for its wheels and tyres, Mavic has long been a strong contender in the world of mountain bike footwear. The Mavic Crossmax Elite Shoes feature an Energy Grip Terra Outsole that’s been combined with Contagrip to provide excellent grip in all weather and terrain conditions. Using a BOA retention system, the Mavic Ergo Dial QR (or quick-release dial system for those not au fait with marketing jargon) sits neatly on top of the foot to provide effortless fastening with a micro-adjustment fit. There are also two additional aramid straps to reinforce the Ergo Dial QR. Available in three colourways, these shoes are ideal for cross-country riders who don’t mind getting a little down, dirty and rowdy on the trails.
3. Giro Privateer Lace
If you’re looking for a more supple shoe – one that deforms comfortably to the foot and almost feels broken in for you – then the Giro Privateer Lace shoes aren’t to be overlooked.
Don’t be fooled by the sleek lace-up aesthetic – they’re designed to power through even the most rugged and volatile of trail conditions. A high-quality breathable microfiber upper is paired with a lugged rubber outsole, and all tied off with a lace-up enclosure
The inside of the shoe features a moulded EVA footbed, which provides essential arch support for those long days in the saddle.
4. Gaerne Hurricanes
Founded in Italy during the 1960s, Gaerne has been at the forefront of cycling shoe technology for a number of decades. The brand’s new lightweight Hurricane mountain bike shoes are no different.
They're designed to offer exceptional breathability while providing support and comfort, while the BOA system allows you to dial in the perfect fit with its micro-adjustment dial. Thanks to their carbon footplate which provides profound stiffness, these shoes help provide optimal power transference. Finally, the sole’s rubber tread uses a Michelin compound that’s designed to balance performance and abrasion resistance in all conditions, even the most extreme.
5. Northwave Rebel 2
If the price didn’t already give it away, these shoes are targetted at advanced all-rounder mountain bikers. Featuring a carbon XC sole with a full-carbon insert for pedal contact, they have a stiffness index of 12 (no Spinal Tap jokes at the back). To enhance rigidity and traction, Northwave uses TPU inserts (the thermoplastic used in protective cases to ensure your phone doesn’t smash when you drop it) at strategic points throughout the shoe to reduce wear and offer significant resistance. Fastening is taken care of with a Double SLW2 dial, allowing you to adjust the fit in small increments and also open for a full release with the push of a single button. Now available in four awesome colourways, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better all-rounder.
6. Fi’zi:k Vento Overcurve X3
When performance matters most, and you can’t afford to lose a second, you’ll need a shoe that’s race-ready and can withstand even the most competitive of fields. Enter Fi’zi:k’s Vento Overcurve X3 mountain bike shoes. Designed with an asymmetric shape to better fit the profile of your foot’s shape, the kicks pair a soft-yet-durable Microtex upper material with the X3 carbon-injected outsole to create a lightweight, stiff and robust shoe, ready to take their place between the race tapes.
7. Shimano S-Phyre CX9
If you’re looking for a shoe that oozes charisma and packs a punch when it comes to performance-focused features, then look no further than the Shimano S-Phyre CX9 mountain bike shoes.
Dedicated to cross-country and cyclocross racing, these disco slippers’ uppers are constructed from one piece of material to provide a slim profile and glove-like fit. Two BOA dials allow you to achieve a precise and comfortable fastening that won’t let up, no matter the conditions. And the shoes are finished with a Michelin outsole that not only helps keep the weight down, but leaves traction unparalleled.
8. Specialized S-Works Recon
You’ll be hard-pressed to find another mountain bike shoe that’s so widely considered the creme-de-la-creme of cross-country cycling shoes.
With World Cup winners on its roster and a legacy of cross-country titles under its belt, Specialized has expert engineers, designers and professional athletes at its disposal to test and refine its products before they hit the shelves. That in itself is testament to the S-Works Recon XC shoes, which feature ergonomic sole and footbed technology that’s been designed to improve power and pedal efficiency while keeping your hip, knee and foot in alignment. Smart.