by Nick Ducharme
Five Ten are just about the most popular DH and trail mountain bike shoes for platform pedals. Their Mi6 Stealth Rubber (designed to help rock climbers walk up vertical surfaces, I believe) claims to hold your platform pedals like a clip in shoe/pedal system or like you holding your thunder buddy during a lightning storm. Well for those of us that appreciate actually being clipped in, Five Ten offers the Impact VXi Clipless shoe as seen on the fast feet of World Cup hero, Greg Minnaar. This newest shoe worn by the course scorching South African claims lighter weight, better fit, more protection and well, being “perfect” according to the Five Ten website. Perfection is a tough thing to come by, let's see how they stack up to the claim...
Impact VXi Clipless Highlights
- Outsoles are Stealth Mi6 rubber with a partial dot tread for great grip and shock absorption
- Uppers are synthetic
- Raptor tongue
- Built on a downhill-specific shoe last
- Reinforced heel and tip
- Midsoles are compression-molded EVA
- Dual density insole
- Laces with a single Velcro strap for a precise, snug fit
- Weight: 431 grams (Size 9 US / 42 EUR)
- MSRP: $180 USD
Upon first pawing the shoes I could tell they were different from any other DH clipless shoe the world has ever seen. They felt light but solid. The synthetic upper had a tough feel to it and the Mi6 outsole rubber creeping up around the toe and heel box added a menacing look, menacing to the rocks that try to rip your digits off, that is. The padded Raptor tongue isn't very thick but with EVA foam inside, it's pretty plush and the addition of a velcro closure, absent on the Impact VXi for platform pedals, is a nice touch to keep your heel restrained when tugging up on the pedals.The shoes are a bit bulky to look at but not as much as older Impact shoes and only slightly bigger than most other skate style shoes. I for one appreciate a wide toe box, so the bulk of the shoe is less of an issue than a shoe with smaller form facto and a matching smaller inside volume.
So, after bolting a fresh set of cleats on and lacing them up it was time to introduce the Impact VXi clipless shoes to the dirt. Little did we know, but we were in for some killer test conditions for a shoe designed to have better mud shedding and better drying capabilities than any older Five Ten shoe.
On The Trail
Day one with these went from chilly mountain conditions to downright nasty. When the hail started falling as we were headed back up the lift it was time to seek a bit of shelter. When it didn't seem to be letting up we braved the elements and headed down the hill. Fingers numb, snot frozen to the side of our faces (think “Dumb and Dumber” getting off the scooter in Aspen) we made it through the slop and sleet. We make mention of this to point out the impressive clean-abilty and fast drying properties of the shoe. The weight of the shoe is noticeably increased when wet, but nowhere near as much as older Five Ten models. The compressed foam and synthetic materials used in the new Impact VXi keep water absorption down, limiting weight gain and drying times by a lot. The shoes were ready to go the next day after being dragged through wet slop and then hosed off and left to air out in the sun. Pretty rad!
Shoe fit is accurate. This tester appreciated the wider toe box employed on this Five Ten model and the lace/velcro combination means there was nearly no movement inside the shoe once they're on.
After the first day at Big Bear these shoes have seen heavy duty as an everyday trail shoe and even for that use they excelled. While not the stiffest shoes out there they were stiff enough to ward off “hot spots” on all but multi hour pedaling days.
In terms of protection, while I never actually bashed a toe directly into something solid, the midsole and outer sole material that is used to form the toe and heel guards is pretty solid and definitely feels like it could save your little piggies from most impacts. Not steel-toe-boot solid but good.
Pedal to shoe interaction was great. These shoes did not need any additional spacers under the cleat, like some other shoes we've used. We like this because it puts the foot closer to the spindle. The cleat attachment area is plenty large for any cleat/pedal combination you can think of, and it's one of the longer sets of cleat slots we've ever seen, offering a lot of fore/aft adjustment and plenty of muck clearance. The Mi6 rubber grabbed hold of the little spikes on our Crank Brothers Mallet pedals but still released when we needed to perform an emergency dab or drag a foot through a corner. All in all, the Impacts provide a very secure feeling when clipped in, which can be a little unnerving unless you're used to running your cleats tight and prefer the secure fit.
For the days when the "shuttle" is your own 2 feet these are a welcome companion. The soles flex enough at the toe to be more comfortable than most other shoes that are meant to have cleats attached to them. They're not skate shoe comfortable, but that isn't what you want in your clipless MTB shoe anyway. Pushing the bike up to the top of some of our favorite runs was easy and as close to comfortable as it can be in a shoe with a metal cleat bolted to the bottom of it.
Things That Could Be Improved
Five Ten has almost earned their claim of “perfect”. Of course nothing is perfect for every situation and we can always want more of a good thing. These shoes have held up to rough and gnarly terrain and come out virtually unscathed. They are not the best shoe for long days in the saddle, but that isn't their purpose. They just may be the best DH and burly All-Mountain/Enduro clipless shoe on the market though.
Long Term Durability
After a few months of thrashing, spills and lots of long days pushing away at the pedals and hiking our way back to the top of some of Laguna's best DH trails these shoes are no worse for wear. There are no seams or threads coming loose. The Mi6 rubber, despite its stickiness, has held up great. Even the Velcro hook and loop bits are still intact and the laces have held up great as well, partially thanks to the Velcro strap holding them in place and away from the shoe-lace-hungry teeth of the chainring.
What's The Bottom Line?
It wasn't long ago that Five Ten was just about the only option for a good DH-specific flat pedal shoe, and for many, still is. With so many other companies developing great footwear, Five Ten needed to step up their game, and they did just that with the new Impact VXi clipless shoe. If you're looking for the best DH clipless shoe out there or you want a more comfortable and stylish (read, less roadie looking) shoe for everyday trail rides, look no further. They're good enough for Greg, so they certainly won't be slowing you down...
Visit www.fiveten.com for more details.
About The Reviewer
Nick Ducharme is a long-time bike industry corporate monkey (most recently working as a suspension engineer/frame designer) but has since left that glorious lifestyle and started up his own MTB suspension maintenance and tuning operation, Formula 4 Speed Suspension Personalization, in sunny Orange County, CA. Passing on prototype development and trips to Asia to join the elite crew that is the Vital Thrash Team, this former XC and DH racer now turned Enduro aficionado is the inaugural California Enduro Series expert champ shooting to retain that title for this year as well. Big miles and high speeds are more his thing than big air and high flying so his riding style is more engineer than flashy but that calculated and fearless approach has gotten results (and destroyed lots of tires). When not shredding in the hills he's elbow deep in motorcycle guts or a 350Z engine bay.