Vital MTB Face Off: The Best Flat Pedal Shoes

Looking at the number of companies that have tried and failed to make an impact in the flat pedal shoe market over the past 15 years or so, you’d be forgiven for thinking that getting a rubber sole to stick to a piece of metal with pins on it requires some form of black magic. If that is indeed the case, witchcraft must be on the up, given that we are finally seeing real progress from several outfits not called Five Ten. Good enough to actually threaten the current undisputed ruler of grip? Or at least get very close? We've spent a good 400 hours riding the best flat pedal shoes currently available, so we're now just about ready to answer those questions. Read on to find out!

1st Place: Five Ten Freerider Pro - Best in Test ($150 USD)

5-10: two numbers that have been synonymous with the best flat pedal grip that money can buy for quite some time now. Derived from climbing rubber, a Five Ten Stealth sole is the closest you can get to clipping in without actually running SPD’s, while shoe construction and quality has been steadily improving ever since Adidas took over the brand as well. The Freerider Pro is everything you could ask for in a flat pedal shoe; grippy, comfortable, and now with greatly improved water management capabilities for those wetter climates too.

Shop the Freerider Pro and the Freerider Pro Women at Adidas.

Read Our In-Depth Five Ten Freerider Pro Review

2nd Place: Bontrager Flatline - Runner Up ($129.99 USD)

Trek’s housebrand Bontrager is a new name in the flat pedal shoe game. The Flatline is a comfortable, lightweight shoe that offers good stiffness and protection, and surprised us by delivering plenty of grip as well. Throw in a very reasonable price and you’re looking at the new kid on the block that has the chops to take on the big dog.

Check out the Flatline and Flatline Women at Bontrager.

Read Our In-Depth Bontrager Flatline Review

3rd Place: Specialized 2FO 2.0 ($150 USD)

When Specialized released the original 2FO shoe a few years back now, we found a lot to like about it – but we were ultimately disappointed with the amount of grip provided by the “SlipNot” sole. Onto the new version then, and it’s a whole other story. SlipNot 2.0 is a significant step forward compared to the old compound, and it positions the new shoe to take a serious swipe at the very best in class.

Check out the 2FO 2.0 at Specialized.

Read Our In-Depth Specialized 2F0 2.0 Review


Table of Contents

How We Tested

We had prior long-term experience with some of the shoes reviewed here, while others were new to us. To make sure that each shoe would see enough trail time and all kinds of conditions, we spent the better part of one year testing the 7 pairs presented in this Face Off. From mudfests to desert scorchers, the shoes mostly saw pedal-up-and-shred-down action on long-travel enduro bikes, with the occasional bike park day thrown in for good measure.

Towards the end of the testing period, we would often take several back-to-back runs on the same tracks with different shoes. This allowed us to really hone in on the differences in performance and grip, keeping all other variables constant.

By The Numbers

Here you have it, one table with all the answers:

Shoe Total Score Grip Protection Comfort & Performance Water Management Score Weight (grams)  Weight (score)

Five Ten Freerider Pro

 9.55

10

9

10

9

466

9

Bontrager Flatline

 9.30

9

9

10

9

430

10

Specialized 2FO 2.0

 9.25

9

9

9

10

423

10

Shimano GR7

 8.65

9

7

8

10

432

10

ION Raid AMP

 8.60

8

9

8

10

467

9

Giro Riddance

 8.25

7

10

9

8

537

8

Vaude MOAB AM

 8.05

8

7

8

9

455

9

In order to help us establish this final ranking, we evaluated the aspects of performance that we feel are most important for a flat pedal shoe. Note that the “Comfort and Performance” category excludes grip, in favor of other aspects like power transfer, fit, stability etc. Prices in this category were close enough that we did not feel the need to score on this attribute. The different aspects were weighted as follows:

Grip: 35%
Protection: 20%
Water Management: 15%
Comfort and Performance (excl. grip): 20%
Weight: 10%

Get a Grip

Whilst all the shoes tested here offer more than enough grip for general plodding about and mellow trail riding, the differences were a lot more pronounced when things got gnarly.

The first, and by far the most important job of a flat pedal shoe is to provide enough grip on the pedal to allow for adequate control and power transfer. For this test, we focused in on shoes that are suitable for everything from trail riding to park laps or downhill races, and as such, we put a significant amount of weight on this attribute. Whilst all the shoes tested here offer more than enough grip for general plodding about and mellow trail riding, the differences were a lot more pronounced when things got gnarly. Similarly, all the shoes performed well enough with the heels down and everything going to plan, but we also rode sections of trail that put a lot more stress on both the rider and the equipment to figure out what’s what. For example, some shoes initially seemed grippy enough only to start sliding around on the pedals when things got steep and rough. Bad bunnyhop technique is another particularly effective testing tool, as this will instantly reveal how good the surface grip of any sole really is. We also tested with many different pedals, to evaluate whether a particular sole worked better with some pedals than others. A final word on sole patterns: it appears that the grippiness of the rubber compound is far more important than the lug pattern for delivering a good experience on the pedals. In fact, lugs that are too tall or weirdly shaped actually seem to provide less grip, particularly in situations where the foot is halfway off the pedal or there is less weight on it.

Always Protect Yourself

Protection is a vague term at best, and one that is hard to measure and quantify. In a shoe, we’re looking for a combination of materials and design to help ward off injury when your foot ends up in a place where it shouldn’t be. As a generalization, stiffer or thicker material scores better than a thin, flimsy shoe. We did probably manage to crash or at least stick our foot into some ill-fated bush with all of the shoes on test here, but a certain amount of subjectivity is still somewhat hard to avoid here. Also note that the scores are relative to the category, if you are after the ultimate in protection you’d probably be better off with something like a Five Ten Impact High, but that is in a completely different league when it comes to weight and general “clunkiness”.

Water Management

If there is one issue sure to rile up most flat pedal riders, it’s the issue of water management. The reason for the hard feelings is that while Five Ten has been in a league of its own when it comes to grip for a long time, it also held the title for the shoe least likely to dry out before your next ride for about as long. More recently, we’ve seen great improvements in this aspect not only from Five Ten but also its competitors, and although avoiding soggy feet altogether still requires somewhat unorthodox solutions, the situation is a whole lot more manageable now. To test this aspect more thoroughly and attempt to put some science to it, we came up with our own soak test. We weighed the shoes dry, and then we dunked them in water for a good 20 minutes or so. We then removed all the shoes at the same time, let them stand for a few minutes to eliminate any standing water, and then we weighed them again. 5 hours later, we took to the scales again, followed by a final weighing at 20 hours after dunking. This allowed us to measure both how much water a given shoe takes on, as well as how long it took for the shoe to dry out.

The results of this soak test are shown in the graph and table below. The stand-out performer in this test was the Specialized 2FO, which took on an average amount of water but then dried out quicker than average. Our field testing confirms this, as we subjected this shoe to particularly nasty conditions and we found that it took on less water than we were used to, and would also dry quickly. This is largely down to the materials used, which for the most part do not hold much water in.

Shoe Water Ingested (grams) Water Content After 5 Hours (grams) Water Content After 20 Hours (grams)

Five Ten Freerider Pro

167

129

81

Bontrager Flatline

155

112

75

Specialized 2FO 2.0

158

113

56

Shimano GR7

149

108

64

ION Raid AMP

140

96

60

Giro Riddance

187

136

96

Vaude MOAB AM

185

111

65

Comfort and Performance (excluding Grip)

Aside from producing grip on the pedal, a flat pedal shoe should also be comfortable enough to be worn all day but stiff and precise enough to provide good control and power transfer. In scoring this aspect, we took into account the general fit as well as any particular issues that transpired during testing. For example, is the shoe too sloppy or too stiff? Are there hotspots? Does the shoe conform to the shape of the foot? Did we notice our feet getting tired after a while on the pedals? Note that we have provided details on the general shape of each shoe in the relevant individual reviews below, that’s where you’ll find information on whether the shoe runs small, big, narrow, or wide.

Weighing In

The final aspect we scored the shoes on is weight. With just over 100 grams separating the heaviest shoe from the lightest in this test, there is not a lot in it, but note that those grams act in much the same way as extra weight in the rim of the wheel does – it can feel heavier when pedaling than the actual number would suggest outright. For long days of pedaling, we generally prefer a lighter shoe, so this information is relevant even to you non-weight weenies out there.

Ever Lasting Love

You’ll note that we have chosen not to score the shoes on longevity. This is for the simple reason that they have all put in a great performance for a couple of months on the trail – but this is not enough to fully evaluate this aspect in a piece of equipment that people expect to last for at least a couple of seasons of heavy use – and testing 7 pairs of shoes for a full year each simply wasn’t feasible. We’ve included our observations on certain longevity aspects in the individual reviews below.


Vital's In-Depth Reviews

The best three flat pedal shoes in the world, starting with our winner:

Five Ten Freerider Pro – Best in Test

Our love affair with Stealth rubber soles goes back a long way, but it was the Freerider Pro that finally showed that Five Ten also knows how to do a really good job on the rest of the shoe. It is less bulky than the classic Impact, but still offers a full Stealth S1 sole that produces nothing short of phenomenal grip on the pedals (and also lasts a whole lot longer than the regrettably soft Stealth Mi6 version found on some other 5-10 shoes). It will perhaps not protect your feet in the same unwavering way as the Impact, but it also weighs a whole lot less and it is a whole lot more comfortable as the day wears on.

Five Ten Freerider Pro Highlights

  • Synthetic, light-weight, weather-resistant upper
  • Impact-resistant toe box
  • Compression-molded EVA midsole
  • Removable Ortholite molded sock liner
  • Stealth S1 dotty outsole for proven grip and durability
  • Colors: Black/Red, Blue, Navy
  • Weight: 466 grams (size 46EU/12 US, verified)
  • MSRP: $150 USD

Initial Impressions

With a fully synthetic upper, the Freerider Pro has that rounded skate shoe look that has become very commonplace in mountain biking. There is plenty of ventilation on the top of the toe box, but nothing along the sides. The front of the shoe is reinforced to protect against impact, while the sole is stitched on around the whole front as well. The Stealth S1 sole has a uniform dot pattern along the entire length of the shoe.

There is a compression molded EVA midsole that adds cushioning and support, and a molded Ortholite insole that adds further stiffness from the middle of the foot and backwards. The front of the shoe flexes relatively easily when you bend it, while the middle and the rear are noticeably stiffer for better support while pedaling. The shoe is padded inside, but the lining is less bulky than the old Impact for example. The tongue retains good thickness and is constructed with a fairly dense foam which bodes well for those times when the top of your foot encounters an unwanted obstacle. The lace holes are reinforced and there is an elastic strap to tuck your laces under as well.

On The Trail

The fit of the Freerider Pro is snug, but true to size. It wraps around your foot and holds on firmly, but without any particular pressure points. In terms of width, it will suit people with narrow to normal feet, while those with extra-wide flippers may want to look elsewhere. Walking around, the shoe is very comfortable, and it will also perform admirably while hiking. That grippy sole is great for most surfaces, only really coming up short in deep mud where the lack of lugs on the sole will see it come up short against a proper hiking shoe.

Sometimes the sole seems positively magnetic, such is its capacity for generating grip with the just lightest of pressure.

On the bike, the Freerider Pro puts in a very convincing performance. The shoe is stiff enough to provide good control and power transfer to the pedals, but not to the point of completely muting the feedback to your feet. The snug fit holds your foot in place at all times, which gives a very direct connection to the bike, while the Stealth S1 sole is unrelenting in its ability to hold on to any pedal you present it with. Sometimes the sole seems positively magnetic, such is its capacity for generating grip with the just lightest of pressure.

Water management was the Achilles heel of Five Ten shoes for many years. The Freerider Pro is greatly improved in this aspect, as illustrated by a middle-of-the-field placement in our soak test. It still dries out a bit slower than the best in class here, but the performance is now acceptable. Out on the trail, it will keep your feet dry in all but the worst of conditions, short of river crossings or monsoon levels of downpour.

Another sore point with owners of the original Impact line is longevity. For many years, Stealth soles would be plagued by delamination issues, where the sole would detach itself from the shoe prematurely. These concerns have been laid to rest since then, and you should expect to get a least a couple of seasons of fairly intensive use out of your Freerider Pros. Stitching around the toes and generally improved construction mean that they no longer delaminate, and weekend warriors should be able to get a couple of seasons of riding in before the soles would start to develop holes from the pedal pins.

Shop the Freerider Pro and the Freerider Pro Women at Adidas.


Bontrager Flatline – Runner Up

Trek’s house brand Bontrager is mostly known for producing components, but they have been steadily growing their catalog over the past few years and they have now entered the flat pedal shoe game with the Flatline. Drawing inspiration from other similar offerings currently on the market, the Flatline looks like a reinforced skate shoe. Made from synthetic materials, this relatively lightweight shoe offers good protection and a very comfortable fit, while its Vibram sole surprised us with excellent levels of grip on the pedals.

Bontrager Flatline Highlights

  • Vibram rubber outsole for an optimized shoe-to-pedal interface
  • Uniform tread pattern provides consistent, predictable interface between pedal and outsole
  • Directional tread at toe and heel gives off-bike scrambling traction, uphill or down
  • Shock absorbing EVA midsole
  • Durable, synthetic leather upper
  • Ortholite insole for long-wearing comfort and durability
  • Colors: Black, Red
  • Weight: 430 grams (size 46EU/12 US, verified)
  • MSRP: $129.99 USD

Initial Impressions

Pulling the Flatline from the box it certainly looks the part. The overall shape is a bit taller than the test winner, but the lines are fairly similar otherwise. The fully synthetic upper features a reinforced toe and heel box, with an EVA midsole for cushioning and support as well as an Ortholite insole (albeit a simpler version than that found in the Freerider Pro for example). The upper also features ventilation along both sides of the shoe.

In a move shared by two other contenders in this test, Bontrager went with a Vibram sole for the Flatline. In this version, the middle area of the sole features a low profile pattern of squares, while the toe and heel areas have been given a deeper waffle pattern to provide a little extra grip while hiking. The sole exhibits good stiffness, while the rest of the shoe is slightly more flexible than the Freerider Pro for example, due to the use of lighter weight materials in general. The padding is also not as dense, which makes for a lighter shoe overall. Note that the sole is only glued on, not stitched.

On The Trail

Slipping into the Flatline for the first time is a very welcoming experience. The fit is roomy and runs true to size, and will work well for people with normal to wide feet. The interior is soft and comfortable. The Flatline isn’t as snug as the Freerider, but it still doesn’t feel excessively wide or vague. The laces are long, and people with narrow feet will find that they use up a lot of them to compensate for the generous cut. Good thing that there is an elastic strap to tuck the loops into when you’re done. Also note that Bontrager includes two sets of laces, one black and one red, should you want to spice things up a bit more.

The overall fit and performance are excellent, and the cushioning of the sole is just right – not too soft, not too stiff.

Walking around, the shoe is comfortable and dynamic. The flat sole does not offer a ton of grip when hiking up a dry and dusty hill, and we can’t say that the different pattern in the toe and heel areas made much of a difference either. On the bike, it’s another story however. The overall fit and performance are excellent, and the cushioning of the sole is just right – not too soft, not too stiff. The Vibram outsole selected by Bontrager (there are many versions) provides plenty of grip on any kind of flat pedal (as long as it’s a good pedal, that is). The low profile pattern makes it possible to place your foot where you want it, but that doesn’t mean that the grip is vague or otherwise suspect. On the contrary, while it doesn’t quite measure up to Five Ten’s Stealth sole, the Flatline puts up an excellent fight and we have not hesitated to use it for any kind of riding.

In terms of water management, the Flatline finished strictly mid-pack in our soak test. On the trail, it does seem to resist water well, and it will take a lot for it to soak through, courtesy of modern synthetic materials and a good design. When it comes to overall longevity, this shoe has only been on the market for a few months, so we can’t be too formal in our assessment yet. The lack of stitching around the sole is a potential area of concern, although we know of other shoes that are not stitched and that will still go the distance. As for the tread, it is showing minor signs of wear by now, but nothing out of the norm. We’ll keep using the Flatlines throughout this year, and we’ll come back to this review should we find anything of concern to report.

Check out the Flatline and Flatline Women at Bontrager.


Specialized 2FO 2.0 – 3rd Place

When the original 2FO popped onto the market a few years ago, we were initially very excited. The futuristic looks and advanced construction techniques were a breath of fresh air among the traditional footwear players, and Specialized’s long tradition of making gear that fits well also promised great things. Ultimately, that shoe was let down by what can only be described as strictly average grip. For that reason, we approached the 2.0 version of the 2FO with more reservations, but it turns out that our concerns were unfounded. The new version is everything that we loved about the first generation, with a sole that will now challenge the best in the game.

Specialized 2FO 2.0 Highlights

  • Body Geometry sole construction and foot bed
  • SlipNot™ 2.0 rubber compound
  • Pedal-specific lug pattern
  • Dual-density midsole 
  • Captured foam in the upper protects the foot from impacts
  • Air mesh on the tongue and uppers provides protection, while quickly shedding water weight
  • Thermo-bonded upper
  • Cushioned EVA foam midsole is sealed with a protective skin for support and tear resistance
  • Lacelock elastic keeps laces out of the chainrings
  • Colors: Black, Hyper Green/Black
  • Weight: 423 grams (size 46EU/12 US, verified)
  • MSRP: $150 USD

Initial Impressions

Thanks to using different materials and construction techniques, the 2FO does not resemble the other shoes on test here. The uppers look like they have been injection-molded, and they actually capture foam inserts to provide extra protection. The tongue is extra thick, and features airmesh to promote faster drying. The toebox has been heavily reinforced, and the “Body Geometry” insole is heavily sculpted to provide extra arch support. It also features a bit of extra padding under the heel for extra comfort.

The outsole is made from Specialized’s own SlipNot rubber, now going on the second generation (2.0). Whilst the original failed to impress, the revised compound works much better, and allows the 2FO to take its rightful place among the serious challengers in this category of shoes. The lug pattern appears simple, but has been given extra depth around the heel and toe area for extra traction while hiking, while the overall shape of the lugs was developed specifically to work well with the pin patterns of most flat pedals. As a whole, the sole is slightly less stiff than some of the others tested here.

On The Trail

The 2FO offers a very cushioned fit, which is snug around the middle of the foot with ample room for the toes. It runs true to size and should fit normal to wide feet particularly well. The flexible sole means that it is easy to walk around in, and it also offers the most amount of shock absorption of the shoes tested here - almost like walking on air. Specialized always works hard to make their gear fit properly, and the “Body Geometry” insole works really well on the foot, providing ample arch support and a comfortable experience in general.

The grip provide by the SlipNot 2.0 rubber falls just short of the test winner, but it’s right up there with best of the rest and more than enough for any kind of riding you might have in mind.

Once on the pedals, the 2FO continues to impress. The grip provide by the SlipNot 2.0 rubber falls just short of the test winner, but it’s right up there with best of the rest and more than enough for any kind of riding you might have in mind. The extra cushion of the midsole adds comfort without detracting from the connection to the bike. In terms of protection, the 2FO scores very highly as well. The materials used are tough, and there is plenty of extra padding where needed – especially impressive given that these are also the lightest shoes tested here. The only slight negative we found is the stiffness of the toe area, which contributes to creating a bit of a sharper crease where the shoe bends, which can sometimes be felt after a long day out. The extra-thick tongue can also resist a bit when cinching down the laces, but now we’re nitpicking. These small issues lead to a slight reduction in the “Comfort” score, which would otherwise have seen the 2FO climb up to 2nd place on the final standings.

When it comes to water management, the 2FO scored a perfect 10/10. It did take on a fair amount of water in our soak test, but it dried out a lot faster than the others, leaving it ready to roll for the next ride. On the trail, the materials used really protect well against the elements, so unless you’re actually traversing deep standing water, your feet will stay dry for a long time. A good choice if you ride a lot in wetter climates but don’t want to suffer the bulkiness of a “true” winter shoe (which there aren’t that many of to begin with). As for longevity, we’ve put our test pair through quite a lot over the past 4-5 months, and they are still holding up really well. The sole is showing signs of pedal pin wear, but nothing dramatic. The 2FO does not feature a stitched sole, but the construction of the reinforced toe box seems ready for anything, and we’ve yet to detect the slightest signs of trouble with regards to delamination or other issues.

Check out the 2FO 2.0 at Specialized.


The Contenders

We chose the participants for this test carefully, looking for shoes that are suitable for everything from general trail riding to DH. They were all developed specifically for mountain biking, and as such, they all do their job well enough. Since this is a shootout, somebody has to win, but the rest of the contenders all have something to offer as well.

Shimano GR7 Review

Shimano partnered up with Michelin to develop a new outsole for the GR7 (and GR9) flat pedal shoe. Much like several of the other contenders, the sole features a heavier lug pattern around the toe and heel to assist while hiking, while the central area is flatter. The shoe itself is constructed with lightweight materials, offering ventilated panels along both sides as well as holes above the toe area. There is also a neoprene ankle gaiter meant to help keep debris from getting into the shoe, a common issue out on the trail. The toe box is reinforced, but overall the shoe is among the more flexible and least bulky of those tested here.

Even with sloppy footwork, the GR7 wants to hold onto your pedals, which is always a confidence-inspiring trait in a flat pedal shoe.

On the trail, the Michelin outsole surprised us with the levels of grip it is able to generate, falling only just short of the test winner in all but the worst of conditions. Even with sloppy footwork, the GR7 wants to hold onto your pedals, which is always a confidence-inspiring trait in a flat pedal shoe. We did find the shoe a bit lacking when it comes to general stiffness and power transfer, which makes itself felt especially on longer rides or on rougher trails. The protection on offer also seems a little bit subpar when compared to the best. If on the other hand you value a tactile feeling and lots of pedal feedback to your feet, this could be the one for you, as it’s very easy to figure out where you are on the pedals at all times with the GR7. The GR7 runs true to size, and will work well with a regular to wide foot.

Shop the GR7 at Jenson USA and the GR7 Women at CRC.


ION Raid AMP Review

The Raid AMP is a classy affair. Everything from the looks to the construction just scream quality, and the list of features is pretty long as well. Reinforced toe box, breathable side panels, raised inside ankle area with protective patch, an intricately molded and cushioned insole, and ION’s own “SupTraction” rubber sole. The latter features aggressive lugs around the heel and toe areas to provide grip while hiking, with a flatter area in the middle for the pedal pins to do their job with. The front of the sole is stitched, and the overall construction is very sturdy without any unnecessary bulk.

When questioned, ION indicated that they were looking to provide a good compromise between grip, durability, and the ability to reposition the foot on the pedal while riding, which they seem to have succeeded with.

On the trail, the fit of the Raid AMP is somewhat austere. It runs true to size, but although it is never uncomfortable it can feel a bit “boxy”. ION says they were looking to build a high-performance shoe with very direct power transfer, and on that point we’d say they succeeded. The sole is definitely stiff, and the overall fit of the shoe is tight, generating an instant connection to the pedals. Sadly, the grip on offer falls a bit short of the class leaders, which ION are fully aware of. When questioned, ION indicated that they were looking to provide a good compromise between grip, durability, and the ability to reposition the foot on the pedal while riding, which they seem to have succeeded with. We just think that a bit better grip would be the way to go, and ION has just announced a new version of the SupTraction compound that should arrive on shoes as of next year and that may well address this issue. Overall, there is a lot to like about the Raid AMP, not least its distinctly non-biking look, and with a few improvements ION could be onto a winner. The Raid AMP runs ever so slightly on the small side, and should fit a narrow to regular foot.

Shop the Raid AMP at Competitive Cyclist.


Giro Riddance Review

At first glance, the Riddance is an impressive shoe. With heavy-duty materials and lots of padding, the shoe announces itself as pretty much ready for anything. All that bulk comes at a price though, as the Riddance is easily the heaviest shoe of those tested here as well. You get the obligatory reinforced toe box, lots of ventilation along the sides and the top, and a stitched sole for extra longevity. On the topic of the sole, Giro went the same route as Bontrager and partnered up with Vibram, but both the lug pattern and the compound are slightly different here.

It runs true to size, and the ample padding provides for a snug but not constricting experience.

On the trail, the Riddance is one of the most comfortable shoes tested here. It runs true to size, and the ample padding provides for a snug but not constricting experience. The sole is stiff and works well for pedaling. Unfortunately, the grip provided by this version of the Vibram sole is not quite up to the job, leaving the rider feeling slightly disconnected at times. This may be down to both the compound and the shape of the sole itself, which is slightly concave – perhaps not ideal for finding grip on pedals that are already concave in themselves. The stiffness of the sole and shoe may also prevent it from really “sinking into” the pedal. As for water management, the Giro did take on the most amount of water in our soak test, and took its own sweet time to dry out as well. There is a lot of material used for padding here and in this regard, it shows. The Riddance runs true to size and fits a narrow to regular foot.

Shop the Riddance and Riddance Women at Competitive Cyclist.


Vaude MOAB AM Review

The MOAB AM from German company Vaude looks like a sneaker, but it was made specifically for mountain biking. The list of features includes a reinforced toebox, uppers made from real suede leather, and an impressive dedication to keeping things as “green” and environmentally friendly as possible: “Terra-Care” leather which is ecologically manufactured, laces made from recycled PET, 50% of recycled materials used in the lining – there’s even castor oil in the Ortholite “EcoPlush” insoles! The outsole is made by Vibram, using a mix of their “Vert” and “MegaGrip compounds. The central area is near flat, with just minimal patterns for extra grip, with significantly more lugs in the toe and heel areas for improved off-bike traction.

If you spend a lot of time walking in your riding shoes, or riding in your walking shoes, these could well be the ones for you.

On the trail, the flat section of the sole surprised us with better-than-average grip. Only severe mud got the better of it eventually, although it does fall short of the class leaders in regards to grip in general. It also took on a lot of water in our soak test, although it did then dry out faster than any other shoe as well. Other than that, whilst the sole is stiff enough for pedaling, the overall construction of the shoe remains a bit too “sneaker-like” for our taste, leaving us feeling a little bit unprotected and unconnected at times. If you spend a lot of time walking in your riding shoes, or riding in your walking shoes, these could well be the ones for you. The MOAB AM runs true to size and fits a narrow to regular sized foot.

Shop the MOAB AM at Vaude.


Want more Face Off action? Check out our previous shootouts:

Vital MTB Face Off: The Best Heavy-Duty Brakes

Vital MTB Face Off: The Best Flat Pedals

Vital MTB Face Off: The Best Dropper Posts

Vital MTB Face Off: The Best Tire Inserts

And don't forget to check out these useful Roundups as well:

Vital MTB Roundup: 11 of the Best Heavy-Duty Kneepads

Vital MTB Roundup: 13 of the Best Lightweight Kneepads


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 45 // Years Riding MTB: 13 // Weight: 190 pounds (87 kg)

Johan loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.

Photos by Johan Hjord and Nils Hjord

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