Five Ten offers shoes that run the gamut from casual skate shoes to hardcore climbing shoes. Their Stealth rubber compounds are pretty much the standard by which other rubber soles are judged. If you ride a mountain bike with flats, rather than clipless, their new Freerider Vxi mountain bike shoe is probably for you.
Utilizing their proprietary Stealth S1 rubber outsole as the base, the Freerider Vxi is constructed with a mix of breathable mesh-like material and action leather, which is a polyurethane coated leather. Metal eyelets, a welt design that places durable material on the crank side, and double stitching throughout add up to a shoe that should be as enduring as it is good looking. But Five Ten has also paid attention to fit, because if you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to be able to give 1oo%. That being said, I did find the Freerider Vxi to fit a bit more snug than I would have liked, forcing me to abandon my favorite Merino wool riding socks in favor of ultra-thin synthetics. Not a huge deal, but I like to wear the same socks for all reviews, in order to be consistent. So it should be noted that they felt a little tighter in the toe box than I would have liked for a mountain bike shoe.
After sorting out which socks to wear for optimum fit, I went for a short ride to see how they felt on my pedals before hitting the trails. The Contact outsole is sticky rubber that’s smooth beneath the ball of the foot, with the toe and heel areas having circular, flat dots for traction. In theory, this should provide plenty of pedal grip, yet still make it easy to reposition your feet on the pedals. I found that it did indeed work well for keeping my feet firmly planted, and after a short learning curve, remembered to un-weight each foot a bit when trying to move around.
On the trail, they performed great. Most of my riding is done on bone dry trails with loose, powdery dirt, and the occasional rocky sections. None of it is very technical, so there is rarely a need to dismount. In the few spots where I might have to walk (over sharp, broken rocks) the Stealth rubber provided more grip than would be expected from what is mostly a smooth outsole. The downside is that at the lowest point in the trail, we have a single water crossing. At that section, it was like being in a cartoon with a banana peel strapped to each foot. Ok, maybe not that bad, but all that traction disappeared the moment we added a bit of water. If your riding includes wet or muddy patches, keep in mind that you’ll need to tippy toe (really) through those spots if you can’t ride through them. Otherwise, they put in a good performance, and it’s easy to see why they’re popular with downhill and freeride fans, as well as cross country riders. If you’re making a trip to Moab’s famed Slickrock, be sure to pack a pair.
Five Ten offers the Freerider Vxi mountain bike shoe in whole and half US size from 3-12, plus 13 and 14. If they offered a 12.5, I’d probably be inclined to give them a try over the slightly snug 12, but we’ll see what a few more miles does for the fit. As far as durability, they look like they’ll stand up to plenty of riding. If the off-bike traction issue doesn’t present any problems, this is a great shoe for the casual mountain biker, as well as more aggressive riders that prefer flats over clipless. fiveten.com
*The new Freerider Vxi Elements mountain bike shoe, available in stores now, has their MI6 rubber which was actually developed by Five Ten’s founder, Charles Cole, for the movie Mission Impossible 4. It’s the same super grippy rubber on the shoes Tom Cruise and his stunt crew used in the scene below. (Don’t try that at home, ok?)
Disclosure of Material Connection: We received the Five Ten Freerider Vxi for free from Five Ten in consideration for review publication.