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Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe (discontinued)

Average User Rating: (Excellent) Vital Rating: (Outstanding)
 Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe  Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe  Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe  Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe  Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe  Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe
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Tested: Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe

Rating: Vital Review

Review by Joel Harwood // Photos by AJ Barlas

Five Ten was founded by rock climber Charles Cole. In 1985, Cole created the Stealth S1 rubber compound, which quickly became the gold standard within the climbing community due to its tenacious grip and durability. In the early 2000’s racers like Kovarik and Hill were dominating DH and helped to make Five Ten the go-to shoe among flat pedal riders. When Greg Minnaar came on board, he asked for a SPD-compatible shoe with the advantages of stealth rubber. The Impact Clipless VXi and the Maltese Falcon LT are their most recent shoes that have not only won the hearts of the DH community, but the trail riders too. We’ve been hoping for an even more pedal friendly shoe for a while now, and Five Ten let them out of the bag at Crankworx last summer.


Five Ten Kestrel Highlights

  • BOA closure system for performance fit
  • Dual Compound Outsole
  • Stealth Mi6 rubber on heel and toe for great grip and shock absorption
  • Stealth C4 rubber where pedal contacts shoe to increase power transfer
  • Ortholite sock liner
  • Carbon infused shank for increased sole stiffness
  • Uppers are polyester synthetic and textile
  • Synthetic toe for splash resistance
  • Perforated upper and tongue for breathability
  • Rubber toe bumper
  • Weight: 403g per shoe (Size 9 US)
  • MSRP: $180 USD

Initial Impressions

At first glance it is clear that the folks at Five Ten took a new approach with the Kestrel. Compared to the Maltese Falcon, Hellcat, and Impact VXi clipless, this shoe was built with all day epics and efficiency in mind. The Kestel upper is more streamlined than other Five Ten models, although still more robust than a typical cross-country race shoe. The heel and toe areas feature synthetic materials and rubber for durability and water resistance, while the tongue and uppermost portion are ventilated for heat management. The sole of the shoe is pre-cut for cleats and allows for plenty of adjustment with ample cleat room regardless of brand. The Mi6 and C4 rubber are seamlessly bonded.


The most notable feature is the BOA closure system. The system is comprised of steel lace, nylon guides, and a mechanical reel located on the outside of each shoe. It is meant to provide a more precise fit, eliminate pressure points, improve adjustability, and reduce weight. The BOA may be a first for Five Ten, but it has been successfully utilized in a wide variety of applications, including cycling shoes. Functionality aside, it also adds to the sleek aesthetics of the Kestrel.


The general style of the Kestrel parallels that of the Impact VXi and Maltese Falcon Race. Black, grey, and red highlights are stylish without being over the top bright. Style is subjective, but we dig the look of the Kestrel.

To help you position the Kestrel in the Five Ten range, here is a comparison chart of the different clipless models on offer:


On The Trail

This ‘winter’ the Pacific Northwest has seen mild temperatures and a healthy dose of rainfall. The shortage of good skiing (unless you enjoy boilerplate and avalanche debris) has meant plenty of riding and in the worst conditions imaginable, perfect for product testing.


Shoe fit is accurate and consistent with other Five Ten models. We were a little concerned about sizing at first as the BOA system and performance fit prevented us slipping them as easily as others, but once we had our feet in we were reassured that not only was the sizing accurate, but that the Kestrel contours the foot better than just about anything else available.

The BOA can be easily adjusted to personal taste. On our first ride it took a few attempts to get things dialed, due mainly to our inexperience with the system. Once we found the sweet spot, the advantages of the BOA became more and more apparent. The steel cable and nylon guides spread the load evenly across the foot without any pressure points. The system allowed us to tighten and adjust the shoe very precisely for a snug fit – no energy is wasted by gaps within the shoe. Traditional laces will always attract riders looking for a certain style of shoe, but in our opinion the BOA simply performs better.


For a number of weeks now the Kestrel has suffered through wet conditions. Although it isn't 100% waterproof, the Kestrel sheds water easily. The thin uppers absorb very little water, they dry out quickly and mud can easily be wiped off. We haven’t experienced sweltering temperatures, but breathability is improved over the Maltese Falcon LT, which we happily use during the summer months.

The Kestrel is Five Ten’s stiffest shoe to date. The carbon infused shank definitely improves power transfer, yet the sole hasn’t been made so stiff that pedal feel is lost. We like the Maltese Falcon LT, but we were hoping for a little more stiffness which the Kestrel has in spades. Too stiff? We don’t think so. The compromise between the improved pedaling efficiency and flat pedal security is bang on.


Part of the reason Five Ten chose to use a dual compound sole was to improve the interaction between clipless pedals and the Kestrel. The Stealth C4 rubber is meant to make clipping in and out easier, in addition to improving energy transfer to the pedals. The ease with which we could clip in and out was indeed slightly improved depending on the pedal tested. Small cages had more than enough contact with the sole of the shoe, but the Kestrel truly shone when paired with larger bodied pedals. In particular, we had great success with Shimano XT Trail and Crankbrothers Mallet 3 pedals. The Mi6 rubber on the heel and toe ensured that we still had the grip we’ve come to love when things get wild or when hiking.

We did our best to avoid crash testing the Kestrel, but a few roosted rocks found their way to our instep throughout the test. While the tongue has less padding than the Impact VXi, it has enough that the stray rocks didn’t bother us more than usual. Protection is on par with most all-mountain shoes and better than pure XC shoes. We feel that the trail-oriented Kestrel has struck a good balance between minimalism and protection.

Things That Could Be Improved

After a few months of abuse, we are having a tough time finding fault with the Kestrel. It really is that good. Folks with a high instep may find that the BOA doesn’t allow enough slack to slip into the shoe without some effort, but we’re just nitpicking. The inner nylon guides are showing slight signs of wear from rubbing the cranks occasionally. After a year or two of riding, it is likely that this might weaken the guide to the point where it might fail.

Long Term Durability

We had our reservations about the BOA system and the mechanical reel being susceptible to damage. No such luck however, even with a few direct encounters with deadfall and rocks throughout the test. The uppers show no sign of the abuse they suffered, regardless of our maltreatment. The soles have held up well throughout the test, with little visible evidence of where the pedal pins directly meet the Stealth C4 rubber. Full marks here.


What's The Bottom Line?

Five Ten has produced another winner with the Kestrel. It retains what we’ve come to love about Five Ten, but it features a few upgrades that meet a trail rider’s needs better than ever. It is the ideal shoe for any trail rider, enduro racer, or beer leaguer. It isn’t cheap, but you get what you pay for with the Kestrel. Stiff? Relatively light? Durable? Functional? Stylish? All of the above.

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About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood has been playing in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia for the last 9 years. He spends his summer months coaching DH race groms in the Whistler Bike Park, and guiding XC riders all over BC. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest while blasting his trail bike down trails that include rock slabs, natural doubles, and west coast tech. On the big bike he tends to look for little transitions and manuals that allow him to keep things pointed downhill, rather than swapping from line to line. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products. Joel's ramblings can also be found at

The Greatest All-Mountain Shoes with One Fatal Flaw

Rating: Featured Member Review
The Good:

Comfort, Quality Construction, Pedaling Performance, Walking Traction

The Bad:

Boa Closure System, A Little Heavy

Overall Review:

The Five Ten Kestrel is a feature-rich shoe that offers fantastic craftsmanship, pedaling performance, comfort and off-the-bike traction. And if that was the end of the discussion there would be nothing on the market to keep it from being crowned the king of the all-mountain bike shoes. However, despite all the good features, no candid conversation about the Five Ten Kestrel can fail to consider, in full and painful detail, the Boa closure system, which might halt the coronation.

But before we get to talking about the Boa closure, here are the indisputably good points: Pedaling performance on par with most XC race shoes? Check. Walking traction on par with a quality pair of approach shoes? Check. Construction and craftsmanship on par with an Italian-made hiking boot? Check. And a price tag well under $200? Check and check-mate. And if Five Ten chose to equip the Kestrel with a ratcheting-type buckle closure, which is the gold standard for shoes of this type, we can pretty much end the discussion here and start engraving the trophy. But is anything ever that easy?

So here are the details. The Kestrel is a shoe that straddles two worlds. First is 'XC World', the world of high performance clipless bike shoes which offer excellent power transfer but do little in the way of style and comfort. Walking in such shoes is a hazard, especially if you find yourself having to hike on slippery roots or rocks (which almost never happens when mountain biking - right?). The second world is 'DH World', the world of flat pedal shoes, bras and bros. In this world shoes are comfy and wide and even, dare I say it, stylish. You can safely hike-a-bike in these shoes to session your favorite spot, even in sketchy slippery conditions. Sometimes these shoes add a wide Velcro strap and a mounting point for a clipless pedal cleat, but usually they rely only on shoe laces to keep said shoes on said bros' feet.

Then there's the Kestrel. It performs like its bred for XC World but takes its styling cues and wear-ability straight outta DH World. You can articulate your foot when you walk in the Kestrels - hey, how about that? The soles offer enough traction for some light rock climbing. But when you're mashing the pedals you're really not giving up much in the way of power. The fit is a little wider than most XC shoes but definitely narrower than most DH shoes. They're also a little heavy compared to XC shoes but offer much more in the way of protection from trail goblins that are out to scratch and bruise you. They are as comfortable during an all day epic as they are at the bar directly thereafter.

And now on to the 800-pound gorilla which is the Boa closure system. I'm assuming that if you're reading this article then you have some idea what Boa is, so in lieu of a detailed explanation, Boa closure is essentially a ratcheting dial that tightens a thin metal cable that runs where laces were previously found on shoes dating back at least to ancient Greece. Instead of grommets, the Boa equipped shoe has a low friction plastic eyelet system that allows the cable to slip through it and be tightened evenly. Unlike laces, the Boa cable does not stretch thus forming a very secure closure that doesn't need much in the way of tightening once the desired fit is achieved - maybe a click or two here or there. To wit, you cannot zone tighten a shoe with Boa. To release the system, simply pull up on the dial and the cable unspools itself allowing for rapid egress of foot from shoe.

So, sounds great, what's the problem? Boa IS great - as long as its working like its supposed to. Problem in paradise is that ours is an attrition sport and nothing in MTBing works like its supposed to forever, or even for very long. That having been said, if we break a lace on a DH shoe, that's an easy thing to improvise a repair for even if you're nowhere near a Foot Locker. And as for the 'gold standard' combination of Velcro straps and/or ratcheting straps - they usually come in configurations of three or four per shoe so there is some built in redundancy there. It would take two or even three of those failing on one shoe on one ride to render it so useless that you couldn't get yourself back home. In fact, in almost 25 years of mountain biking, I never once had a ride ending shoe problem using straps or good old-fashioned laces.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the Boa closure. On a recent ride in my Kestrels (which I've owned for six months) I managed to snap the dial off the right shoe while slipping left off of a skinny. And there was simply no way to remedy the situation with 20 miles of trail left between me and my car. Thank the gods for duct tape. What's worse, mine was no less than the third Boa failure I witnessed in the last six months as a buddy to whom I recommended the Kestrels snapped two dials within the first few weeks - both causing him to have to hoof it all the way back home. Once that dial is damaged it is game over as the cable unspools itself thinking you are ready for that rapid foot removal. I have also heard anecdotally of the cable snapping (though this was with a Boa closure on a wading boot not a biking shoe). Again, if the cable snaps, its game over as there are no grommets through which you can use an improvised lace.

These flaws of durability with the Boa system are particularly noteworthy if you intend to ride these shoes deep into the back country or on long epics that put you far from where you want to be in the event of a catastrophic equipment failure. But even if that doesn't describe your riding habits, it just sucks to have to worry about something like this ruining a good ride. A large part of the reason that I replaced my Giro Terraduros with the Five Ten Kestrels is that I wanted a shoe that would be more durable and offer more in the way of protection for some lift-served gravity riding that I occasionally sprinkle into my steady diet of trail riding. While I can say that the construction of the Kestrel is rock solid - the exterior is highly abrasion resistant, reasonably cool on hot days, reasonably water repellent when sloshing through a random puddle or creek crossing - it is the closure system that has them sidelined currently. On the bright side, a replacement parts kit is available directly from Boa for $6.99 plus shipping so I hope to bring these shoes back into service shortly. 

The final analysis is a little difficult for me to coalesce. This is not a bad shoe. Its a little on the heavy side but nonetheless, Boa closure system notwithstanding, it might be the best shoe of its kind. Call it, "One Fatal Flaw." Five Ten released a lace-up version of these. Maybe I'll try those next. 

Four out of five stars (one star deduction because they broke on me).

Kestrel Boa: Good all day shoe

The Good:

Comfortable and stiff, easy to walk around

The Bad:

Boa sometimes can come undone

Overall Review:

I have two pairs of these shoes, and really enjoy them for longer rides due to comfort and stiffness. They fit a little bigger then I expected when first trying them on, and opted to go a half size smaller then I usually would in other shoes. The boa is nice and tight and provides first support, however sometime I will have to adjust cable routing to ensure the cable applies pressure to the right portions of my foot. I feel the boa is a good system but when riding in trees, at one point the boa caught a branch and came unlocked so the cables loosened up. Not a huge deal and it has only happened once. Overall I love the shoe, but would not be opposed to get the lace up version of the kestrel.


Product Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe
Riding Type Cross Country, Trail
Rider Unisex
Construction BOA Closure System
Dual Compound Outsole
Stealth Mi6 Rubber on Heel and Toe for Great Grip and Shock Absorption
Stealth C4 Rubber where Pedal Contacts Shoe
Ortholite Sock Liner to Keep Things Cool
Carbon Infused Shank for Increased Sole Stiffness
Uppers are Polyester Synthetic and Textile
Synthetic Toe for Splash Resistance
Perforated Upper and Tongue for Breathability
Rubber Toe Bumper
Pedal Type SPD
Sizes US Sizes 5-13, 14 (UK Sizes 4-12, 13)
Colors Team Black
Weight 1 lb 12.4 oz (806 g)
Miscellaneous Weight: 403g per Shoe (Size 9 US)
Price $180
More Info

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