While many mountain bikers swear by their clipless setup, they’re not for everybody. If you’re riding flat out but don’t like clipping in, you’ll need some trail-grade MTB flat shoes to keep you anchored to the bike.
Flat-soled mountain bike shoes are specially designed for glue-like control no matter how hairy things get. And while they don’t physically snap into your pedals in the same way as a clipless cleat, specialist rubbers and treads allow flats to firmly stay put.
The added benefit, of course, is that you can dab your foot at any moment and never have to worry about struggling to get a cleat disengaged. What you do lose is the ability to pull during your pedal stroke, but this movement isn’t part of everyone’s technique.
Mountain bikers have long debated the value of clipping-in versus flats, while the success of CRC Mavic star Sam Hill continues to have a big impact on the topic with his mantra, “flat pedals win medals”.
Matching your flat shoes with some gnarly platforms is your next step. Pedals like the Nukeproof Horizon model feature spaced pins to help the rubber of flat shoes dig in and grip tightly, even against significant forces.
One other decision you’ll have to make is about the protection offered by the shoe and this will be determined by your riding style or personal preference. For some people a light, trainer-like feel might suit, offered by models similar to the adidas FiveTens. For others then a tough and rugged protective layer could be the answer, and something more like the Northwave flat shoes might be a better solution.
Check out this video summarising the features of our favourites:
We’ve handpicked five of the best flat pedal shoes available at Chain Reaction Cycles:
The Giro Riddance mountain bike shoes provide outstanding grip with the help of Vibram’s outstanding compound using new Megagrip™ ISR rubber, combining a grip and stickiness like no other.
Combined with an EVA midsole for class-leading vibration dampening and a bike-specific tread design, even the gnarliest, rootiest, and rockiest terrain can’t unlock your foot from those pedals.
The Northwave Clan MTB Shoes are grippy, durable, and protective, giving you a shoe that loves to get down and dirty, inspiring you to push tyre grip a bit further and huck a bit farther. The shoe features a welded upper offering abrasion-resistance with TPU reinforcements on the toe and heel to protect against rock and root strikes.
Mesh zones boost breathability when it’s warm, keeping your feet fresh on the trails. Meanwhile, the padded tongue provides additional comfort and protection.
Northwave’s Tribe MTB shoes give incredible flat pedal grip and stability with a design that looks great and offers significant protection when bounding in the hills or diving into some sketchy downhill descent. The suede upper features mesh zones for cooling airflow but the rubber print toe, heel zones, and reinforced toe caps ensure rock strikes and trail debris are easily shrugged off.
A cushioned mesh tongue is comfortable and the lace-up design keeps bulk to a minimum.
Five Ten is one of the most recognised names in MTB flat shoes. The latest Sleuth DLX combines the class-leading grip of their famous Stealth® Phantom rubber sole with a Micro Dotty™ tread pattern for unrivalled pedal grab. More durable than the super soft compounds found on dedicated off road-riding shoes such as the Impact, the non-marking compound makes for the perfect shoe for wearing on and off the bike.
A weather-resistant suede upper with the classic lace closure creates a superbly comfortable shoe with a secure fit for the perfect casual shoe.
When you’re dropping into a steep run, hitting big booters and laying it low around berms you want a shoe you can rely on to keep you in control – enter the Deemax Pro Flat Off Road Shoes. For solid grip Mavic use Spider sole geometry, giving you sure-footed grip but at the same time ease of movement on the pedals.
An engineered lug pattern integrates easily with pedal pins, while a dual-density midsole flexibly adapts to the pedal while being incredibly protective. Lastly, rear grooves provide stacks of grip for those off the bike push-ups back up the trail.