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Five Ten Freerider VXi Shoes

Average User Rating: (Excellent)
Vital Rating: (Excellent)
Five Ten Freerider VXi Shoes Five Ten Freerider VXi
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Vital MTB Retail Partners:
Chain Reaction Bicycles Jenson U.S.A. Competitive Cyclist Backcountry

Compare to other Flat Pedal Shoes

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Vital Review

“Tested: Five Ten Freerider VXi - Our Go-To Trail Shoes”

Reviewed by Steve Wentz, Matt Thompson, and Brandon Turman // Photos by Shawn Spomer and Brandon Turman

"Wait wait wait… you want us to test a shoe with no tread? On a mountain bike?"

The proposition seemed preposterous. How could it work? Surely we'd be slipping and sliding all over the place?

Needless to say, the new Five Ten Freerider VXi shoes are an interesting breed. They feature the classic Dotty tread pattern at the toe and heal, but are treadless under the ball of your foot where your pedals rest while riding. The new Stealth Contact outsole pattern is Five Ten's unique solution for those that find the other models to have too much grip. The unique pattern is claimed to allow you to easily reposition your feet without picking them up, but would they offer the same level of grip and pedal security that we'd grown accustomed to?

We received the Freerider VXi shoes at the beginning of the Vital Test Sessions, a multi-day trail bike testing adventure consisting of hundreds of miles on the bike and lots of hiking for photo shoots. This allowed us to get a good jump on the test, and we've been thrash testing the new kicks ever since. Now it's time to break them down in another Vital Tested feature.

Freerider VXi Highlights

  • PU-coated Action Leather and Mesh Uppers
  • Full Lace Closure
  • Contact Outsole with Treadless Design
  • Stealth S1 Rubber
  • Sizes 3-12 in Half Size Increments, 13 and 14 US
  • Weight: 14.4 Ounces (409 Grams) Per Shoe
  • Five Ten Red, Pumice, and Charcoal Colors
  • MSRP $130

For some, it seems like just yesterday when Sam Hill and Nathan Rennie broke onto the World Cup scene with their signature Five Ten shoes that would revolutionize things for flat pedal riders. The radical "sticky" rubber sole was a breakthrough in many ways, allowing riders to maintain pedal grip through the choppiest of sections while flying down the hill. It wouldn't have been possible without Five Ten founder and President, Charles Cole, who originally developed the rubber to make rock climbing easier.

Stealth S1 rubber has an incredible amount of friction while still being durable. This is a result of the plasticity and elasticity of the material. The sticky feeling we're all fond of is a result of the plasticity, or the ability to absorb the pedal pins, providing that grip we need. The elasticity allows the rubber to reform to its original shape. As an added benefit, the combo of the two gives offers a good deal of shock absorption, reducing foot and leg fatigue. The Steath S1 compound is sticky enough, in fact, that Five Ten is likely the only company that could get away with the radical treadless design.

Aside from the rubber, the Freerider VXi shoes are all-new, and they represent the advancement in construction techniques and technology following the company's acquisition by Adidas. The fit has been refined and slimmed down, offering a shoe that's not only sleeker, but also 50+ grams lighter than the previous Freeriders. The uppers use a combination of mesh and a material dubbed "Action Leather," which is a fitting name given its ability to breath while still being highly abrasion-resistant. There's double-stitching throughout, and construction details and sealing have been improved across the board.

When compared to the previous Freerider models, the VXi shoes also have a reinforced toe cap, which provides more toe protection from stray rocks and stumps as you're cruising down the trail. The ankle area gives more side-to-side support thanks to some added stiffness and height. Finally, an asymmetrical welt (that's the edge of the sole) makes it so that the upper portion of the shoe no longer rubs against the crank, increasing durability.

Initial Fit Impressions

Out of the box, the shoes fit well. They're true to size and consistent with the fit of other Five Ten shoes we've used in the past. While narrower than previous designs, the toe box still offers some room to move around, which is great for comfort. They fit a normal to wide foot well, but those with super wide feet may find require some additional break-in time to relieve any pressure points.

Walking around, we've got to admit that they weren't incredibly comfortable in every aspect when brand new. We were okay with that, though, provided they would wear in over time. A common complaint we've have with many shoes, including some in the Five Ten lineup, is that they can be too bulky (Impacts) or too soft (Freerider). The new Freerider VXi shoes offered something new - they were firm, stiff, and supportive at first, but slim. That stiffness translated into rub on the insides of ours ankles, on the achilles, and where the tongue meets the bottom of the leg. The fit is far from the cushy feel you get with the Impacts and it's a performance feel that clearly means business from the get go.

On The Trail

Over the course of about five or six good rides, the uppers loosened up, formed to our feet, and broke-in well. After that, comfort was very much improved in every way. We were really surprised at the level of comfort considering how stiff the uppers were at first. The shoes never rubbed us raw anywhere, even with the added stiffness during the break-in phase.

How did the semi-treadless Contact outsole design work? When we first put our feet on the pedals, we were shocked by the amount of grip the shoes offered while pedaling or standing. In short, the Freerider VXi shoes are every bit as grippy as the Five Tens already in your closet, provided your weight is on the pedals. Once you lift the shoe ever so slightly, even just by barely unweighting it, it's incredibly easy to move around on the pedals, especially when compared to the standard Five Ten Dotty tread pattern. Quick readjustments were a no-brainer and we didn't have to spend any time thinking about the repositioning process. The radical tread pattern worked, and we were stunned.

What we did have to be conscious about, which was new for us, was keeping our weight on the pedals. Weighted, the shoes held like glue. Unweighted, like when seated and pedaling through a bumpy portion of trail, or occasionally while rallying really rough sections, the shoes can move around a bit too easily sometimes, and we found ourselves on our heals more than once. Although this was a rare occurrence, luckily it was super easy to get back to ground zero. In doing so, we noticed that it's usually much faster to reposition your foot with the VXi shoes, unlike other models which sometimes require repositioning a few times to find the sweet spot.

The Freerider VXi shoes also feature a noticeably more rigid sole than the previous Freeriders. One benefit of a stiffer sole is increased power transfer, which is excellent considering many trail riders will have an interest in these shoes. However, with a stiffer sole comes less pedal feel. During our first few rides it was hard to know where our feet were on the pedals. Once they broke-in the feeling was much less vague. Dozens of rides and three months later, the shoes now offer all the pedal feel we could ask for. Like fine wine, they only get better with age.

One of the reasons we love Five Tens is the phenomenal grip they also offer off the bike while hiking, and the Freerider VXi shoes did well on rocks and hard-pack. When things get loose or wet, and especially in loose over hard-pack conditions, you've got to be aware of your footing. We almost lost it a few times, but we'd take this shoe over most other offerings because the rubber and ability to quickly readjust makes up for it.

Long Term Durability

After hundreds of miles of use, we can tell where our pedal pins contact the shoe, but we think that's neither good nor bad. A softer rubber would likely wear more quickly, and a harder rubber with more durability would yield less grip, so we're happy with how they're doing. The rest of the shoes appear to be very durable as well - there aren't any stray threads, holes in the fabric, or detached portions of the sole, and the shoes look great for the long haul.

What's The Bottom Line?

Five Ten was the first to drastically improve flat pedal mountain bike footwear, and with the Freerider VXi shoes they're doing it once again. The simple fact that their Stealth rubber is sticky enough to allow for a treadless design is mind boggling, but guess what? It works. The treadless innovation (that's what the 'i' stands for in VXi), when combined with the refined uppers and improved construction techniques, yields the best flat pedal shoe for trail and all-mountain riding that we've tried to date. You've just got to be willing to give them a little time to get to that perfect stage. They're now our go-to shoes for just about any bike adventure.

Hit up www.fiveten.com for more details or to pick up a pair of the new Freerider VXi shoes, which are available now.


About The Reviewers

Steve Wentz - A man of many talents, Steve got his start in downhilling at a young age. He has been riding for over 17 years, 10 of which have been in the Pro ranks. Asked to describe his riding style he said, "I like to smooth out the trail myself." Today he builds some of the best trails in the world (and eats lots of M&M's).

Matt Thompson - Humble enough not to claim his Master's Downhill World Champ status when we asked him what his accomplishments were, Matt has over 20 years on a bike and likes to go fast. Really fast. At 210 pounds of trail building muscle, he can put the hurt on parts in little to no time.

Brandon Turman - Brandon likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike and talk tech. In 13 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. Nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

“Arguably the best flat pedal shoe”

The Good: 5.10 sole works, lighter weight, stiff sole for pedaling

The Bad: No lace cover, looks (but that's subjective)

Overall Review:

This review is for the Freerider xvi elements shoe (since it doesn't have a category of its own on Vital).

First off, I need to say that I really like these shoes. They are a lot lighter than the previous freeriders that I had which I found to be too heavy and bulky for general trail riding which is the bulk of my riding. The elements are slimmer and lack the padding around the tongue and heel of the previous freeriders which I like. The sole on the elements is supposedly the stickiest compound 5.10 makes and I found them to be perfect for my needs. Put your foot down and it stays there. Unweight them slightly and you can readjust. I haven't slipped a pedal since wearing these. The sole is stiff too so power transfer is immediate.

My previous shoes were shimano am's which I feel fit a better for my wide feet. The xvi's are slightly narrower but nothing a shoe stretcher didn't take care of in one day. The waterproof material works great but at the cost of stiffness of the shoe material. It takes a little more time than normal to break them in and form to your foot in my experience.

The elements is designed for more extreme/colder weather but I've ridden these in 88F weather and it didn't feel too warm, a previous concern of mine. Walking in these are fine as long as the ground is dry. In the wet, foot placement needs more consideration as there's a huge slick patch for the pedals. Nothing too bad, but it does need a little more attention than my previous shoes.

For an all weather shoe, I think it's unusual that there's not a lace cover so water and mud don't collect and enter the shoe at the top. Finally, I wish 5.10 had more color options or and all black model (the kid's version of these look better imo, but whatever, looks are subjective).

“Problems with the sole: FIVE TEN have been in touch and want the shoe to study, so I am being dealt with.”

The Good: Sturdy uppers. Very grippy and comfortable.

The Bad: Didn't last. They developed a hole in the 3mm thick sole. Holes mean wet feet in the UK. SINCE POSTING FIVE TEN HAVE BEEN IN TOUCH AND WANT TO TAKE THE SHOES BACK. I'M HOPING THAT THEY WILL GLEAN SOME INFORMATION ABOUT WHY I ENCOUNTERED THIS PROBLEM WITH MY SHOES.

Overall Review:

The other reviewers have listed all the good attributions of this shoe and i wholeheartedly agree with them. I thought this would be a shoe I would buy again, due to it's great grip, comfort and good looks. However, one of my shoes developed a pea sized hole in the sole after 4 - 5 months equalling 70 hours of usage (I Strava all my rides). This was due to the central pins on my HT pedals, which ironically, Vital has used for their photo shoot. I guess movement from my feet has picked away at the stealth rubber, which I guess are 3-4mm thin!  I contacted the UK distributor who pointed me at the shop I bought them from, but no joy, I was quoted "wear and tear".   The shop assistant in Evans Cycles told me that the shoes were for 'free riding and downhill' and not pedalling!  I think he was a roadie.  I pedal up to do downhill.   They did offer me the same shoe, with a 20% discount (about £75) but I declined.

So I'm stuck with a pair of shoes, that show no sign of wear on the uppers, with a hole in one sole.  It's winter here now and a hole means wet feet.  These shoes have cost me £1.24 an hour to use.  That to me is really bad value.  The support of the shop and the distributor is absolutely lame and completely unsatisfactory.    If the shoes lasted 2 years I would award 5 stars.  18 months 4 stars, etc.   Four - Five months, it's going to be one star.  With the lack of support, it from Five Ten, Bigstone (UK distributor) and Evans Cycles, it is 0.5. HAVING SPOKEN TO THE PRODUCT ENGINEER, I NOW HAVE FULL CONFIDENCE IN FIVE TEN AND THEIR INTENTION TO FOLLOW UP ON THIS PROBLEM I ENCOUNTERED.

“Great shoe for on and off the bike”

The Good: Great looks, lots of color choices, don't look like ski boots

The Bad: The VXi does not offer the same protection as the Freerider version

Overall Review:

I’ve tried several bike specific shoes in the past, most recently Sombrio shoes as well as the Five Ten Freerider and after really liking the old Five Tens I thought I would try out the newer Freerider VXi versions. The first thing I noticed about the Freerider VXi versus the standard Freerider is the lack of bulk, the VXi although still offering quite a bit of protection are nowhere as bulky and stiff/rugged as the older Freeriders. This is great when the shoe is used as a casual sneaker but there have been some occasions that I’ve missed the thick toe covering of the old shoe, this was noticed when sticking the foot out around fast corners or dabbing in the rock gardens. You can definitely notice the lack of material in this shoe versus the Freerider on the whole shoe, even the tongue is less bulky, but most noticeable is the toe piece has quite a bit less martial and protection. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just if you are looking for the same kind of protection as with the Freerider version you may not find it in this shoe. I like to think of the VXi’s as a lighter/softer version of the Freerider.

The quality of the shoe is still great; after a season of riding various conditions the seams and stitching is still together and there have been no issues with any material breakdown. Comfort wise, on the bike, just like with the Freerider these shoes work great, whether you are riding all day at a resort or just trail riding or doing hike-a-bike trips, they perform perfectly. I do find these shoes a bit more comfortable off the bike compared to the Freerider version, I think this is due to being less stiff than those, so if you do tend to use your bike shoes are a casual skate shoes, I would choose these VXi  versions over the Freerider version.

One thing I did notice is that cleaning these shoes after a muddy ride is a tad harder than the Freerider as with these the mud seems to sink in a bit more into some of the materials whereas with the Freerider it just seemed to wash or wipe off easier.

On to the grip, this is the reason we all ride Five Ten shoes, I have read reviews that the Freeriders were at times too grippy. I never found this to be the case but could see how some people find that the shoes stick to the pedal at times and do not allow for much movement when you want to adjust your footing.  With these VXi, they are still super sticky but they do offer a bit more movements on the pedals. They still do perform extremely well and stick to the pedals like no other shoes, regardless if conditions are dusty or muddy.

So overall my experience with the VXi has been very favorable, they are more comfortable than the Freeriders but do provide less protection from the elements. If you are looking for loads of protection stick with the Freerider (or even more so the Impacts) but if you need a less aggressive shoes that still sticks to the pedals and can be worn off the bike these are the way to go.

“next level flat pedal shoe”

The Good: superb traction, stiff pedaling platform (for a flat shoe), low weight, slim profile, excellent midsole and heel cushioning

The Bad: no gusset on tongue, needs break in time.

Overall Review:

It seems many of the things I did not like about the original Freerider have been addressed in the new Freerider VXi.

First, the new outsole pattern makes foot adjustments on the pedal easier without sacrificing grip.  The original Freerider almost had too much grip.  Second, the Freerider VXI has a slimmer profile and lower weight.  The Freerider VXi is significantly lighter and has more rocker, allowing the shoe to walk with ease.  I found the original Freerider to be a bit bulky and lacking rocker.  Third, the new VXi provides excellent midsole and heel cushioning.  The VXi sports an eva midsole that offers good cushioning compared to the Freerider.  Fourth, the Freerider VXi has a solid pedaling platform for a flat pedal shoe.  It's a noticeable difference in power transmission when compared to the Freerider which was too soft for some riders. 

The Freerider VXi sets the new standard for performance flat pedal shoes.  Buy this shoe if you want a lightweight, breathable and supportive shoe.  Get the 510 Impact if you value protection and durablity at the expense of bulk and weight. 

Vital MTB Retail Partners:
Chain Reaction Bicycles Jenson U.S.A. Competitive Cyclist Backcountry

Specifications

Riding Type Trail, Freeride, Downhill, Dirt Jump / Urban
Construction Breathable, Abrasion-Resistant Action Leather Upper
Rubber Type Stealth S1 on Contact Outsole
Sizes US 3-14
Colors Five Ten Red, Pumice, Charcoal
Weight

0 lb 14.4 oz (409 g)

Miscellaneous The new Contact outsole is treadless under the foot's ball for float
Price $130.00
More Info

Five Ten website

Vital MTB Retail Partners:
Chain Reaction Bicycles Jenson U.S.A. Competitive Cyclist Backcountry