by Brandon Turman
Just a few years ago the options for a good flat pedal shoe were very limited. Edit that, there was only one real option. Since then a handful of companies entered the market and we're now lucky to have several options to choose from. Teva came out swinging when they introduced the Links shoes last year - they were bold, they were bright, and they were designed in collaboration with one of our sport's greats, Jeff Lenosky. Just one year later they're quickly expanding their mountain bike lineup to meet the needs of nearly every rider - whether something dedicated to the ride or something casual to rock on a late night cruiser adventure, they've got it all.
One of the recently introduced shoes is the Links Mid, a pair of kicks designed to offer more support and protection than the original Links model. The need for the Mids likely spurred from Teva's impressive list of slopestyle riders that love to go big. Cam, Kurt, Sam, Kelly and crew are all masters of the tailwhip, but they probably wanted something to stop the bike from busting up their ankles when it came around. The solution? Raise those sides up! While Teva doesn't have a dedicated Pro downhill squad, that solution also helped create a shoe that caters to the DH scene quite well.
Features & Highlights
Just like the Links, the Links Mids are built very well. Construction features are numerous and include Teva's well-regarded PedalLINK outsole, double stitching where it counts, metal lace end caps, a lace guide on the tongue to help keep it from wandering, a heel stabilizer, rubberized grid over the toe area, a toe bumper, extra padding and breathable mesh around the ankle. Since they only added a relatively small amount of material, the shoes are a very comparable weight to their predecessors, and that's a good thing.
Ever snagged a toe on a rock? We have. It's never fun. Sometimes it downright hurts. Fortunately the Mids offer more toe protection than the original Links. While it's a marked improvement, nothing replaces a solid toe box when foot meets boulder. Then again, a stiff toe area detracts from the overall comfort of a shoe, so it's a toss up between protection and comfort. Teva met in the middle of the road on that one with fairly robust but still flexible rubber casing around the toe box.
Along those same lines, how many of you have ditched the bike mid-air only to land on your heels and immediately crumple to the ground? We've done that too. Teva worked in something they're called the "Shoc Pad" into the heel, which is basically a way of providing a little extra cushion when you need it. Does it work? We'll have to take their word for it. Luckily we haven't had many mid-flight bails recently.
Another key feature Teva likes to highlight is their waterproof upper materials. Are they truly "waterproof?" While the fabric may be, the shoes as a whole aren't. Your feet will get wet after a run or two on a super wet day due to the lace and tongue openings, but the mask does do a decent job on mild days or when charging through stream crossings. Despite the waterproof coating, breathability is sufficient. Can't say we've ever come back with overly sweaty feet after a hard ride.
Comfort & Fit
The original Links were among the most comfortable shoes we've ever tested. Surely the Links Mids would follow suit, right? To be honest with ya, the higher cut was pretty rough on the old ankles at first. The upper portion of the shoes seemed to almost dig into the sides of our ankles when the shoes were laced to the top and pulled snug. The upper edge of the tongue would also cause a bit of discomfort when bending over. However, over a handful of rides, the shoes gradually became much more comfortable as the material broke in. Styling also improved a bit over time as the tops took on a more rounded, natural looking shape.
Size wise, the Mids seem to be spot on. They run true to size, so order what you normally wear for everyday shoes.
On The Bike
One of the real shining points of Teva's lineup is their PedalLINK sole. Like the catch phrase suggests, these shoes do a phenomenal job of linking you to your ride. When coupled with a good pair of pedals the grip is very impressive, especially when the shoes are new. Traction seems to have decreased a little bit after a few good months of use, but it's still getting the job done well. Teva found a great balance when it came to sole stiffness - it's easy to tell where your foot is but the sole isn't overly flexible. Course walks and hike-a-bikes are a no brainer thanks to Teva's Spider365 rubber compound and the cleverly angled tread pattern at the front and back of the shoes.
Durability has been great so far. We've been running this pair for three to five rides a week for three months with no real complaints. They're holding up quite well - all seams are in tact and the sole is in one piece. By the looks of things, the front and back of the sole will wear from walking faster than we'll wear the shoes out riding.
Things That Could Be Improved
In our eyes, the biggest thing that could be improved about the Mids is their overall stability for downhill use. Side-to-side, they offer a tad less ankle roll support than some of their beefier competitors. We think this could be aided by widening the relatively narrow area of the sole near the ball of the foot, or by slightly beefing up the inner structure along the sides of the shoes. Note that they're plenty stable for the dirt jumps, park runs, all-mountain rides, the pump track and the like, but we'd prefer something a bit beefier for full on downhill runs and rowdy descents.
Save a good power washing, there's little chance we'll ever get the dirt out of all the nooks and crannies. Then again, we're mountain biking, right? Nothing ever stays clean and we're cool with that.
Finally, the laces are about a mile long. Okay, not a mile, but you get the point. There's no lace cover to keep things in check, so shortening the laces about five inches would be a welcome change.
What's The Bottom Line?
A little extra height and a little extra protection went a long way towards making the LInks a true do-it-all gravity shoe. It turns out those silly slopestyle kids knew what was up. The Mids are winners in our book. If you're on the fence, give them some time. They'll grow on you, just like that trusty baseball glove or your favorite pair of jeans.
The Links Mids are available at an MSRP of $120 in sizes ranging from super grom to super huge (3-14). Hit up www.teva.com for more details.
About The Reviewer
Brandon Turman 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 to really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill. His perfect trail has a good mix of flow, tech, and balls-to-the-wall speed. He loves little transfers, rollers, and the occasional gap that gives him that momentary stomach in your throat kind of feeling. Toss in some rocky bits with the option to double over them or risk pinch flatting and you've got a winner in his book. In 13 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. After finishing up his mechanical engineering degree, his riding focus turned to dirt sculpting and jumping with the occasional slopestyle contest thrown in for fun. Nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.