Are Mountain Bike Shoes Worth It?

Mountain Bike Shoes

Have you just started mountain biking? Are you on the fence about purchasing mountain bike shoes? In this post we will discover if mountain bike shoes are truly worth the investment.

So are mountain bike shoes worth it? Mountain bike shoes are worth the investment because they offer an increased level of power, control & comfort while mountain biking. You will be able to pedal with more power because your connection to the pedal is more secure which reduces wasted effort that occurs when your foot slips. This will allow you to climb and ride faster with less effort. You will also have increased control in your pedal rotation. Mountain bike shoes are far more comfortable than riding in a standard running shoe or cross training shoe.

Did you know you could actually damage your regular shoes when mountain biking? It’s also important to know which style of mountain bike shoes to purchase. We’ll go over the different styles below so you can pick the perfect mountain bike shoe for your preferred riding style.

Three Main Reasons You Should Purchase Mountain Bike Shoes

The reasons below are based on the fact that you are using a cage or strap pedal (not recommended for downhill biking or rough terrain rides) or you are using flat pedals with spikes. Mountain bike shoes for flat pedals will definitely have added benefits than trying to ride with running shoes or cross trainers on flat pedals. The results will be even more amplified with clipless mountain bike shoes. Clipless shoes will also perform better than mountain bike specific shoes on a flat pedal system.

  1. You will experience increased performance while riding. Mountain bike shoes insure that your foot is always in the perfect position for the most effective energy output. What this really means is that you will be able to ride faster and be more efficient. You’ll also feel more in control of your bike which is extremely important if you are going over difficult terrain. Bumpy trails can cause your foot to slip off of your bike and in the end put you into a dangerous position and potentially wreck.
  2. You will enjoy a more comfortable ride. Running shoes are very comfortable when you are running but when you wear those running shoes on a mountain bike that comfort is compromised. If your using a pedal cage or pedal straps they can hurt the tops of your feet where the running or cross training shoe is thin. If you are going on a long ride you could develop blisters and sores from the thin layer that separates your foot from the medal cage or strap. If your soles are thin on your regular shoes the spiky nature of the mountain bike pedals could also make the bottom of your foot sore while riding. Mountain bike shoes are designed specifically for mountain biking. Therefor you should experience a very comfortable ride if you go this route.
  3. You can damage your regular shoes. The soles of your cross trainers, tennis shoes or hiking shoes can be severely damaged if you use them to mountain bike. Due to the spiked nature of the mountain bike pedals the soles of these you will get puncture holes in the bottom of your shoes. The pedal cages and straps can also damage the top of your shoes as well. Cross trainers and running shoes are not designed to rub against the hard plastic and heavy materials found in pedal cages. You could end up spending more money repairing your other shoes than it would cost to just purchase a pair of mountain bike shoes.

Keep in mind there are various types of mountain bike shoes for the various styles of riding. Before you purchase mountain bike shoes you should ask yourself what type of riding you will be doing the most. This will help guide you to the type of mountain bike shoe that fits your style of riding. In the next section I’ll cover the various types of mountain bike shoes.

What Type of Mountain Bike Shoe Is Best For Me

The various types of mountain bike shoes that are designed specifically for the different styles of moutain biking. Cross Country, Enduro, Trail & Downhill are the most common forms of mountain biking. In some cases it might be worth it to invest in two pairs of shoes if you plan on doing multiple styles of riding.

  • Cross Country Mountain Bike Shoes – Are normally lightweight and easy to walk in off your bike. You will lose some foot protection in return for being lighter for those long rides.
  • Enduro Mountain Bike Shoes – If you love earning those downhill enduro runs with some steep climbs than you might consider opting for an Enduro Styled mountain bike shoe. They offer a more foot protection than a cross country shoe.
  • Trail and All Mountain Shoes – If you are going to spending a lot of time on your bike when you ride you might consider the trail or all mountain style. It is similar to the enduro option but slightly lighter weight and very comfortable to walk it.
  • Downhill Mountain Bike Shoes – Also known as gravity shoes are great for trails that offer a lift or shuttle service to the top of the mountain. They are normally heavier and offer more protection than the other styles.

Matching Your Pedals With Your Shoes – Flat Pedals vs Clipless Pedals

Once you decide on the type of shoe you will purchase you want to make sure you match your shoe with your pedal system. Are you using flat pedals or clipless pedals?

The biggest advantages of using flat pedals:

  • Easy bailout if you get into trouble.
  • It forces you to develop better techniques since your not clipped in.
  • Easy to get going again if you stop on the trail.
  • It’s way more comfortable to walk your bike.
  • Better for beginners who are just learning how to mountain bike.

The biggest advantages of using clipless pedals:

  • You’ll have better pedaling technique with even foot distribution.
  • Excellent when it comes to power transfer. You’re getting the most of our your leg muscles as you ride.
  • Your feet remain secure during the ride adding to the comfort level.

3 Less Expensive Options If You Don’t Want To Buy Mountain Bike Shoes

If you are new to mountain biking you might not want to fork out the money for a pair of mountain bike shoes. It’s an expensive support to get into especially if you purchased a full suspension mountain bike. If your budget is tapped out and you want to ride on a budget here are 3 alternatives you can use until it’s time to invest in a pair of mountain bike shoes.

  1. Heavy Duty Pair of Cross Trainers – Not all cross trainers are created equal and some cross trainers have a thick leather area over the laces. This would be more conducive to mountain biking because you could slide your foot in and out of a cage and strap without doing too much damage to your shoes. If you simply using a flat pedal you’ll be OK with a pair of cross trainers.
  2. Hiking Shoes – You could use a pair of hiking shoes as an alternative. The added benefit of using hiking shoes is that you are in the mountains or on trails so hiking shoes are perfect in those sections where you will be walking your bike. You could also ditch the bike for awhile and just go on a hike.
  3. Running Shoes – You could always a pair of running shoes for mountain biking. Keep in mind that you might damage the soles and tops of the shoes if you are constantly going in and out of the cage or strap. Running shoes will also work well on a flat pedal system.

Related Questions

How should mountain bike shoes fit? A well fitted mountain bike shoe will have a snug fit in the heel with even pressure throughout. You should not feel any pressure in your toes. Your toes should have a little wiggle room. without pinching or pressure.

Can you use clipless shoes on flat pedals? Yes you can use clipless shoes on flat pedals. Clipless pedals and the shoes that accompany them allow you to comfortably walk around unlike road bike shoes that are quite uncomfortable to walk around in.

Mike Rausa

I'm a 42 year old married father of 3 that fell in love with mountain biking late in life. Mountain biking quickly became my go to fitness activity. I created this blog to help beginners to advanced riders with tips and strategies to improve your riding experience. More About Me...

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