Review by Jeff Brines // Photos by Ryan Hoff (action) and Jeff Brines (product)
Five Ten has long owned the flat pedal shoe market. The company’s stealth rubber shoes offer platform pedal grip that has proven unrivaled. As a clipless pedal rider, I’ve long wanted a 5-10 stealth rubber shoe that offers SPD compatibility at a reasonable weight and with good sole stiffness. Enter the new Maltese Falcon LT.
Five Ten Maltese Falcon LT Highlights
- Stealth S1 rubber sole
- Upper shoe material: synthetic textile, water repellent
- Closure: laces/velcro
- Weight – 475 grams each (claimed) 498 each (actual)
- Price: MSRP $140
Perhaps the most important thing about any shoe is fit. To think you’ll garner enough information via the internet to determine if a shoe will really fit, without trying it on, is probably a stretch. Still, I’ll give my $0.02 as to the shoe's fit. First, I have a flat C-width foot. For the skiers out there (I spend my winter reviewing ski boots) I usually fit 98mm last lower-volume boots with minimal work. Point is, despite my flat flippers looking “fat”, my feet are actually average volume. All that said, my foot fit in this shoe with minimal break in and it seems true to size. I did develop some hot spots on extended descents but this is fairly normal for me and is remediable with a few small modifications to the footbed and cleat position. YMMV (your mileage may vary).
Now, I’m not a girl. I do not have a shoe fetish. And I’m partly embarrassed (or not?) to say that almost all of the footwear in my closet serves a specific function (ski boots, road shoes, work boots, driving shoes, golf shoes etc). Point is, I'm no Jimmy Chou - more of a Josh Temple type, truth be told.
WIth that said, I’m always shocked at just how bad cycling shoes can look. Wild colors, strange fabric, goofy shapes, clickity clackity noises. Often I wonder if the shoe designer collective starts the design process by taking a bunch of acid, popping in the movie "Elf" and scribbling on a notepad the inspiration that comes forth... be that as it may, the result is seldom "normal" looking.
Looking to the Maltese Falcon LT, the shoe is far easier on the eyes compared to most other cycling shoes. However, when compared to 5-10's own flat shoe offerings, I believe there is still a bit of room for improvement. The Maltese Falcons have a look that is something between space-age moon shoe and the kicks your grandpa might be wearing at the local nursing home with a bit of skater-ish shape thrown in. As much as I dig the lace covers I wonder if they are really something we need outside the always-muddy UK…and dropping them would reduce weight. In the end, I’d like something styled more closely to a traditional skate-style shoe but in the grand scheme of things, these ain't half bad…
On the Trail
Being that this is an enduro/downhill type shoe, I felt it was best to test it with a platform style clipless pedal - enter the Crank Brothers Mallet DH. From first clip in, it was readily apparent that I was riding a shoe with the ultra grippy Stealth Rubber. The pins of the pedal tenaciously dug into the sole of the shoe, which in a way made the float of the Mallet feel a lot “tighter”. It was much more difficult to rotate or adjust the shoe’s orientation once clipped in.
To help negate this feeling, I dropped the pin height of the pedal a bit. This allowed the shoe to feel a bit more “free” and take advantage of the pedal’s float when clipped in. Still, even with the pins lowered, I found myself feeling more locked in when compared to other trail shoes with less friction in the sole. I actually had a few “oh shit” moments when trying to unclip (yes I tipped over...). Obviously, this could be negated by a less aggressive flat pedal, playing with shims to raise the cleat or even going to a non platform style clipless pedal. However, with a bit of time, I became used to the how the rubber and pedal interacted but it did take a hair more effort to get out of no matter what flat-pedal clipless setup I was utilizing.
To me, the big question with respect to this shoe is how it performs while riding unclipped and standing on the pedal. All clipless riders can relate to those times when you are unable to clip back in prior to a gnarly section of trail. In such situations you have two choices, slow down and clip in or hold your speed, smash your shoe on the pedal in the best position you can and hope for the best - which is akin to playing russian roulette as to whether or not your shoe will stay on the pedal. The Holy Grail of shoe-pedal interface is a system that’ll allow the rider to ride as if he/she is on flats when unclipped. So, how did these perform in such as situation? To test the capabilities of the shoe I went to pretty extreme measures. I actually installed non-Crank Brothers cleats on the Maltese. This way there was a cleat on the bottom of the shoe that I’d be unable to clip into. After a few rides like this, the answer is that the Maltese Falcons performed notably better than most any other non-stealth rubber clipless shoes but still wasn’t “stealth rubber to normal flat pedals” good.
The fact of the matter is that there is a metal cleat on the bottom of the shoe right under the ball of your foot. Chances are, when you are unclipped, you are still close to this “athletic” part of your foot which means there is a high likelihood of the cleat skating around on the top of the pedal. When you have this metal on metal interface, no amount of sticky rubber is going to fix it. Sure, you could raise the pins or lower the cleats but this means you would have to accept that getting out of the pedal would become extremely challenging (when actually clipped in).
Going back to the correct cleat I started to realize that with a little adjustment, you could ride these unclipped more aggressively than normal clipless shoes. Simply stand on a part of the shoe where the cleat is no longer interfacing with the pedal. This puts you in a less than perfect position on the pedal but you know? It works.
For some riders this could translate to seconds on the race course as they could unclip, dab, mash their heel or toe on the pedal, ride a few seconds through something rough without getting kicked off then find a moment to clip back in during a smoother section of the trail. For others, who can’t seem to wrap their head around riding on their heels or toes, the shoe will likely just frustrate you.
Turning to efficiency (no pun intended) the shoe pedaled well and never felt all that heavy. Sure, this isn't an XC race shoe but it isn’t billed as such either. Weight and stiffness felt on par with, or perhaps a bit better than, other shoes in this category. Living in Jackson, it never gets all that hot around here but the shoe seemed to breathe well and kept my feet happy while riding. Again, the shoe isn't XC stiff but I seldom found myself thinking "man I wish this was a bunch stiffer". Overall it had an acceptable balance of “feel” and “stiffness”.
Finally, I did ride in the rain and I found the Maltese Falcons certainly repelled water better than most. And since they don't soak up much water they also dry out quickly after the more H2O-rich sessions. Overall they performed very well in the wet.
Long Term Durability
The shoe’s durability has been excellent so far. No stitching has gone AWOL, no tears are apparent anywhere, and the sole is wearing well. Great marks here all around.
Things That Could Be Improved
Honestly, the only way to make this shoe work better for its intended purpose, would be to engineer the shoe’s rubber to be sticky in certain places and non sticky in others.Obviously, at ~500 grams or so some weight could be dropped and perhaps a touch more stiffness added. But hey, everything could *always* be lighter and stiffer right?
Beyond these improvements, the only way to accomplish the aforementioned "holy grail" clipless shoe would be to engineer an entirely new pedal/shoe system. Perhaps an electro-magnet system? Somebody has to day dream right?
What's The Bottom Line?
This shoe is an awesome trail or (dare I say) enduro shoe. It's relatively light, stiff by “skate shoe” standards and holds up well. The shoe’s stealth rubber sole brings an interesting component to an already solid shoe. For the clipless riders out there who love the locked in feel of stealth rubber on flats and want a bit more grip when unclipped, this is your true calling. For those looking for the easiest setup to clip in and out of, keep looking. To me personally, the Maltese Falcon is one of the best choices out there, at an attractive price to boot...
For more information, head on over to www.fiveten.com.
About The Reviewer
Jeff Brines didn't go on a real date until he was nearly 20 years old, largely as a result of his borderline unhealthy obsession with bicycles. Although his infatuation with two wheels may have lead to stuttering and sweatiness around the opposite sex, it did provide for an ideal environment to quickly progress through the ranks of both gravity and cross-country racing. These days, Jeff races enduro at the pro level, rides upward of 150 days a year while logging over 325k of human powered ascending/descending on his bike. Bred as a racer, Jeff is more likely to look for the fastest way through a section as opposed to the most playful. Living in the shadow of the Tetons in Jackson, WY, Jeff works in financial intelligence and spends his winters as head ski gear guru and content manager over at earlyups.com.