The great thing about mountain biking is that you can ride most bikes in any shoes. This means that, at least for your first few times out, you don’t have to have any special gear to get on a bike and see if you enjoy it. However, most people find once they’re committed to the sport, they want bike-specific shoes. If you’re at this point, here’s how to get the best ones for you.
Go to the Store
It’s easier to buy online, until you get your shoes and they don’t fit, or they don’t work for you, or you just hate them. Trust me when I tell you to head to a store (we’re biased, but we prefer Gamder Outdoors) for the first time. They will be able to choose different style shoes for you to try on so you can see what you like and what is comfortable.
Pick Your Style
Some people prefer flat pedals, while others prefer a clipless system. You will need to buy shoes that fit the type of pedal that you want. If you’re going to be doing any specialty mountain biking, like racing, you will probably want to find a clipless system. Most of these will be a 2-hole system, so you’ll want compatible shoes.
Most mountain biking shoes have stiff soles so you can pedal more efficiently, but they should also bend and flex enough for you to be able to walk around on rugged trails that can sometimes be slick. They tend to come with recessed cleats, which makes all of the walking you’ll do easier. You’ll also want to choose a closure system you’re comfortable with, whether that is velcro, laces, or cam straps with buckles.
Think About the Seasons
Most people tend to bike in the spring, summer, and fall. If you want to ride in the winter, too, some companies make shoes that are winter-specific. You will probably want to buy these in addition to your regular shoes because they come without vents and are made from materials that can keep your feet hot in the summer! Don’t expect one pair of shoes to work through both summer and winter, or you could end up with cold feet and ruined shoes!
Make Sure They Fit
Shoe sizing varies a lot between different brands, so it’s important that you try on your shoes before you buy them, especially when you haven’t purchased them before. Buy shoes that are comfortable from the start, because the stiff soles mean that they might not stretch as much as regular shoes. Be sure that you wear your riding socks, so you know how the shoe will feel on the bike. If possible, try it out on an actual bike, even if you just ride around the store a few times.
If you can, test shoes with different soles. You’ll be able to feel the differences in thickness and flexibility, both on the bike and off. This will allow you to choose a shoe that’s comfortable for you in both circumstances.
Remember that mountain bike rides can be long. You don’t want a pair of shoes that is just “good enough.” Any uncomfortable spots will be highlighted and the discomfort magnified when you’re spending hours on a trek. Take the time to make sure the shoes aren’t rubbing or chafing before you buy them.
Consider Shoe Accessories
The idea of shoe accessories might sound crazy, but there are actually a few things you might want to go along with your new shoes.
Shoe covers are booties that you can put over your shoes when it’s particularly wet or muddy out. They have cutouts in the bottom for your cleats, and they will help keep your feet warm and your shoes dry, which can make them last longer.
Shoe dryers help get your shoes 100% dry, even after the wettest ride. Since this can go far towards preserving your shoes for a long time, they can be worth the investment for your mountain biking shoes.
You may also want toe warmers, elastic laces, and more! Talk to the professionals at the store when you buy your shoes to find out what options they sell.
Buying your first pair of mountain biking shoes is exciting because it shows your commitment to your new sport! Take the time to find a pair that is just right for you so you can enjoy your time on your bike without distrusting your feet.