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The best SPD Trail and Enduro shoes

Our shoe pick for clipless pedals

There’s always been a strong split within the mountainbike world when it comes to the subject of whether to ‘clip-in’ or to ride ‘flats’. With clipless (SPD) pedals now offering options with bigger, lighter platforms for better support, and shoes getting stiff but sticky soles, now could well be the time for you to try this system out.

Riders who’ve grown up with BMX and moved into downhill are usually more than happy with the control, stability and freedom that flat pedals give; whereas riders graduating to the gravity world from XC/trail-riding are often reluctant to be anything but clipped in, claiming efficiency is a priority.

Opener_1681 copy

With these worlds colliding and many of us riding up-to-date long travel enduro bikes for stage racing, trail centres and up-lifting, there has been a strong focus on efficiency on all terrain, whether going up or down. Throw in a good number of pro downhillers riding ‘clipped in’ and all this has sparked some really positive developments in clipless shoes and pedals.

What are we looking for in a clipless shoe?

UPPER:
Here we are looking for a design that offers good foot support and comfort from a lightweight yet quick drying upper. Modern synthetic microfibres are usually the choice, with newer materials being a huge improvements on earlier examples. Mesh ventilation can aid summer comfort but will let water in (and out again) meaning damp feet on a wet day. They’ll tend to dry quicker though… Reinforcements on the heel cup (for support) and in the toe area (for protection) are essential for harder riding. Additional ankle protection is often seen, with a raised or asymmetric collar and toe box bumpers being essential features that ward off rocks and debris at high speeds.

The shape and sizing of shoes will vary with brand, so as with all kit, ideally try before you buy.

CLOSURE:

Laces may still be popular on skate style and DH shoes and they still show up on clipless models, often with a weatherproof cover or stabilizing lace retention strap. On many performance orientated shoes we often see more modern systems using Velcro straps (usually 2/3) and an additional closure dial or ratchet. This gives quicker and easier adjustment and results in good fit and security for your foot, usually staying adjusted correctly for the duration of the ride. With a stiffer sole these adjusters can be tightened to help reduce heel lift when walking on firmer ground. Reliability of these fixing is good and spare hardware is usually available, often a problem in the past. A hard impact can release the tension or cause damage to these adjusters, so here we feel two dials is often a safer bet than one, especially if your riding gets rowdy.

Shimano M200 SPD_1675

MIDSOLE:

Stiffness provided by the midsole, along with good stability and fit of the foot within the shoe, is the key to getting improved pedaling performance, important when mileage increases. For racing enduro or pressing on hard bashing out a trail centre loop, lack of sole flex resulting in efficient pedalling is the aim, along with comfortable off the bike walking (with minimal heel lift).  These designs will be much stiffer than your skate inspired DH shoes and maybe feel a little too ‘XC’ to start with, but persevere and the benefits will shine through, especially on longer rides.

IMG_1683 copy

OUTSOLE:

A good trail/Enduro shoe will have a tread design and compound suitable for scrambling around off the bike. Avoid the hard plastic tread often seen on stiff XC shoes which give little traction on rock; soles from Vibram and sticky rubber from FiveTen are a good start and are now more likely to be seen. Lugged tread to aid traction when off and pushing in the mud is a must, especially as the stiffer sole won’t conform to the soft ground as well as a shoe designed for flat pedals. Ideally, the rubber lug placement won’t interfere with cleat engagement either. A panel of tread in the centre of the sole can help you keep your footing if you fail to engage in the pedal first time and you still need to remain in contact with the bike. Most outsoles on these SPD shoes will be narrower too and this will allow you to get the shoe sitting closer to the cranks if necessary. You’ll feel this lack of width when off the bike, but it’s part of the package that makes them fit for the purpose intended.

Insole

INSOLE:

More potential technology here depending on the price of the shoes, with custom fit aftermarket options available to give a personal fit. Standard insoles should be supportive, ventilated, quick drying and easily removed.

Five Ten Sole_1685

CLEAT FITTING:

The ‘cleat box’ is the cut away area that sits above the level of the tread and gives you the ability to walk unhindered on most terrain. Mountainbike cleats use an industry standard two bolt attachment and fix to a cleat nut plate within midsole of the shoe. This is usually supplied or fitted to the shoes when you buy them, but check. Longer cleat slots giving more choice of position are now common. This enables you to be run your cleats further back allowing you to drop your heels for descending stability and control as you would when riding flats pedals. A standard XC style shoe may not allow this and it’s details like this that can make a small but valuable difference.

Here we take a look at six shoes, some established favourites and others new on the scene.

Shimano M200 SPD_1664

SHIMANO M200

It’s 25 years since Shimano launched their SPD (Shimano pedaling dynamics) pedals and shoe system and now have a range to covers most riding styles. The M200 is aimed at enduro racing and uses Shimano’s new Torbal (Torsion balance) tech. This provides a stable pedaling platform, the correct amount of torsional twist (for aggressive riding) yet reduced sideways roll of the shoe when clipped in. The carbon reinforced midsole and harder cleat contact mount results in an efficient pedalling platform. They’ve been developed to work well with Shimano’s ‘Trail’ platform style SPD pedals although this is certainly not essential.

The upper constructed from a light yet robust synthetic microfibre material, with strategically places venting panels and strips on the toe box and the sides. The M200 is an ‘all-weather’ shoe so like the FiveTen Kestrel it will shrug off a reasonable amount of water yet still keep you at a good temperature year round.

Shimano M200 SPD_1667

A speed lace system and ratchet buckle is used for adjustment with a splash cover for protection sitting over the top. Robust heel and toe-box bumpers along with raised and padded inner ankle area give great protection for hard and fast riding. A high traction sole with plenty of sticky rubber along the whole length gives the right amount of traction when off and pushing.

The M200 is now a proven and sound choice with plenty of attention to detail and Shimano’s reassuring longevity. A good all-weather or four season race shoe.

PRICE: £129.99

WEIGHT: 762g (pr)

SIZES: 38-50

www.madison.co.uk

www.shimano-lifestylegear.com
Five Ten SPD_1659 c

FIVETEN KESTREL

A new style of shoe for FiveTen, having been in development for over four years (with testing from Nico Vouilloz), and now also seen on the feet of Cannondale’s Jerome Clementz. A super-stiff mid sole is combined with a mix of FiveTen’s Stealth rubber, with a harder compound around the cleat box to help reduce pedal/shoes friction giving easier cleat release.

The Kestrel’s upper is quick drying with a finely perforated toe area keeping the worst of the water out yet retaining breathability. We first used these at the tale end last winter and were impressed with their wet weather performance, yet later on in the heat of the summer they also remained comfortable. The ankle is cut low, providing little impact protection, but the toes and heel are buffered by additional rubber.

Five Ten SPD_Sole b

A single Boa ratchet ‘dial’ and wire system is used to fine tune the fit. A wire ‘lace’ criss-crosses the upper foot, tensioning the shoe with a twist of the dial. This is easily done before or during the ride. We’ve noticed the single dial doesn’t always adjust the tension evenly and feel that a two dial system would spread the tension more reliably. On occasion we’ve knocked the Boa dial when riding and released the tension slightly.

The Kestrel’s sizing comes up a little roomy for the given size, so it’s worth trying on before buying.

A very stiff, tough, shoe for putting in some serious miles. If you’re not keen on the Boa system but like the idea of a stiff Fiveten SPD shoe then take a look at the recently launched Kestel Lace.

PRICE: £140

WEIGHT: 806g (pr)

SIZES: UK 4-13

www.fiveten.com

Giro SPD

GIRO TERRADURO

From a distance you could mistake the Terraduros for a run of the mill pair of XC shoes, but take a closer look and the rugged details show off their intentions.

The microfibre upper is heavily perforated for ventilation with a rubber toe-cap for rock protection and a solid heel cup for stability. Foot retention is via 2 Velcro straps and a replaceable MR-2 ratchet buckle; all reliable stuff. A black textured protective material runs the full outline of the sole and protects the lower part of the upper from abrasion.

Giro SPD_1652

A reinforced mid-sole gives a solid platform to push on when pedalling and resists twisting under load without feeling too wooden. As well as being stiff, the Terraduros have a curved design to the sole with more give at the front of the shoe than the FiveTen Kestrels. The Vibram rubber lugged tread gives confident traction when off and pushing. These are very comfortable shoes, whether on or off the bike, plenty of thought has gone into the fit.

The quality Aegis footbed and the option of a ‘High volume’ (HV) fit, are typical of Giro’s attention to detail when it comes to design.

The Terraduro is a well thought out performance shoe, that is built to last and very comfortable.

PRICE: £129.99

WEIGHT: 840g/pr

SIZES: 40-48 (High volume option available)

www.zyro.co.uk

www.giro.com
Shiman SPD_c

SHIMANO AM9

The old Shimano ‘DX’ shoe (as it was often called) was an established favourite and seen on the feet of many gravity and DH riders who chose to ride clipped in. It soon became a popular choice, shrugging off water and muck effectively, and although a touch heavy was very durable and lasted for years.

The new AM9 (launched last summer) is the latest take on this proven model and has many revisions. A tough synthetic upper is retained and again fastened by laces and covered with a huge flap. This protects your feet from water and trail rubble; it keeps the laces in check too. There is plenty of padding in the tongue and ankle area and with an asymmetric cuff, comfort and protection are high.

Shiman SPD_b

The sole has a similar look to that of a flat pedal shoe and is tackier than the older models. It now has an improved tread with more aggresive lugs at the front and rear of the shoe too, a good move as the previous model was not great when pushing back up the hill. A longer ‘Pedal channel’ cleat box allows easier cleat entry. The AM9s are stiff enough, pedalling efficiency is good and the new shoe is lighter than before, which is a welcome improvement.

The 4-season practicality, improved sole and reduced weight should make the AM9 a hit with many riders from trail to DH use.

PRICE: £99.99

WEIGHT: 744g (pr, SZ 40)

SIZES: 36-48

www.madison.co.uk

www.shimano-lifestylegear.com

 

Specialized SPD_1647 copy_1

SPECIALIZED 2FO CLIPLITE

A new shoe for launched last summer and chasing hard on the heels of the new wave of stiff soled enduro race shoes. In a similar style to the FiveTen Kestrel, Specialized have taken their 2FO ‘Slipnot’ compound rubber sole and mated this to a stiff midsole for great pedalling efficiency and good traction on dirt and wet rock.

With a lightweight, supportive, and quick drying upper, the shoe uses Specialized’s proven ‘Body geometry’ fit, an area in which they’ve spent plenty of focus and investment in over many years. The closure is adjusted using the Boa ‘dial and wire’ system as seen on the FiveTen Kestrel but in this case with two dials (instead of one) and an additional strap. There’s some additional padding around the ankle cuff with a light mesh waffle under the tongue too.

Specialized SPD_1649 copy_1

The midsole is as stiff as the FiveTen Kestrels and has the curved shape of the Giro Terraduro, a good combination. As with most of these new wave SPD shoes, the 2FO Cliplites have a large cleat box with enough adjustment to get the cleats sitting a good way back. The sole is fully covered with Specialized’s Slipnot rubber compound but has a fairly low-profile tread, nothing like the deep lugs on the Shimano M200.

The Cliplite is well made and ticks all the boxes for an up to date SPD shoe. It’s also available in a range of limited edition colours too, not just the plain black/grey model in the photos.

PRICE: £130

SIZES: 39 – 49

www.specialized.com

Mavic SPD_1656

MAVIC CROSSMAX XL PRO

You’ll be familiar with the French brand Mavic from their wheels, and as is their way, they only produce high performance hardware and kit. The Crossmax XL Pro shoes have a distinctive style and have been designed and tested by European enduro racers, and this shows in the attention to detail. The design of the upper sits well above the ankle, with a textured stretch cuff keeping out grit and trail debris. The upper is heavily ventilated (possibly too much for the UK?) and is adjusted by a speed-lace system with a ratchet and topped with a covering flap.

Mavic’s sister company Salomon provides the ‘Contragip’ rubber for the heavily lugged sole which as expected has a compound ideal for this type of shoe (being used on their outdoor trail running footwear). The midsole is stiff and the rubber covered toe area is curved, helping with walking when off the bike. This higher cut boot is a purposeful option giving additional protection with no real weight penalty.

Mavic SPD_1657

Mavic spec an Ortholite insole which is anti-bacterial, odour reducing and ventilated as well as offering good cushioning and support.

For those wanting a touch more support without going for a heavy and hot boot these Croosmax XLs are well worth a look.

PRICE: £150

WEIGHT: 920g (pr)

SIZES: UK 3-13

www.mavic.co.uk

CONCLUSION

All the shoes we’ve featured have used the proven trail SPD shoe style and taken the design up a level or two. As with most kit, the fit is very personal and what works for one rider may well be uncomfortable for others. We’re seeing some really great touches, with added protection, secure adjustments, increased weather resistance and good off the bike traction all being benefits over and above many regular trail shoes. If you’re mixing up your trail riding and DH/uplifting then maybe a shoe with more of a gravity slant would be more suitable? We’ve thrown the Shimano AM9 in the mix here but also check out the Giro Chamber (from our 2016 Dirt 100 pick) along with a good choice from FiveTen.

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