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Clipping in is a great feeling - the sound of a cleat snapping into place and the sure-footed feeling that follows are music to the ears of many mountain bikers. However, the connection between clipped-in rider and bike is only as good as the shoe that unites them. A new pair of clipless shoes can greatly improve comfort and bike control while adding some distinct style to your riding gear.
There are two very distinct types of clipless shoes: plastic-soled XC style and skate-style shoes with flat rubber soles.
Plastic-soled clipless shoes provide the most efficient transfer of energy from the shoe to the pedal thanks to their stiff soles. They are extremely light, breathable, and are the weapon of choice for cross-country racers and trail enthusiasts.
The more relaxed fitting, skate-style shoes are optimal for downhill and freeriders who choose to clip in. These shoes are intended for use with clipless pedals with a platform and allow riders to feel the pedal underfoot while securing them in place over even the roughest terrain.
Clipless shoes come in the same sizes as regular shoes - men's in sizes 6-14 and women's in 5-10.
Shoe uppers come in a variety of materials: suede, leather, synthetic leather, nylon and plastic to name a few.
When shopping for a new set of clipless shoes, there are two key things to keep in mind: riding application and the type of pedal they will be used with. Riders with smaller pedals looking for pedaling efficiency and breathability for long rides or the race track may want to look into a stiff soled cross-country style shoe. Those looking for a more relaxed fit and supple sole, especially for all-mountain or downhill applications, will want to look into a rubber-soled, skate-style design. Skate-style models work best with freeride and downhill pedal designs equipped with a platform.
Clipless shoes range from around $75 to $400 a pair.
Starting in the $75-$125 range, shoes are available in both hard and soft-soled designs. These shoes offer great value and performance for riders interested in a reliable pair of riding shoes, as they offer many of the features available in more expensive models.
Moving up to the $125-$200 range, a broad selection of shoes begin to incorporate features like ankle protection, carbon fiber soles, lace covers to keep water and mud out, and improved ventilation.
Finally, the numerous models in the $200-$400 range combine every available feature into lightweight, high-performance riding footwear. These models all use a stiff-soled design made from either carbon fiber or plastic.
Before buying, be sure to do your research and read product reviews. Reviews are a great way to find out specifics about a particular model, user impressions, and things to watch out for. After you've purchased a product and had enough time to thoroughly test it, we encourage you to leave a review for other people to see when they are researching bikes and parts on the web.
We hope you've found this information to be helpful. If you have a question that isn't answered in this guide, our mountain bike forums are a great place to get advice from knowledgeable riders. Your local bike shop is also a great resource.
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