Teach me about MTB shoes- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Teach me about MTB shoes

    I'm finally going to try riding clipless pedals. Only really riding on weekends, I'm looking for more a budget setup that works well. I will most likely be buying the Shimano PD M540 or M520 pedals.

    Are most all brands of MTB shoes compatible with these pedals? What are the differences between these shoes, that cost so much. Why would I need $80 or more MTB shoes? Can I get away with a cheaper pair? Is it harder to get in and out of shoes that don't look like cleats. For instance, If I had a preference I would rather wear shoes that look like they could be worn off of the bike as well. But it seems most ride the cleat looking shoe instead, any reason?

  2. #2
    My other ride is your mom
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    most common brands you will run into will be compatible with SPD cleats which is what you will need with the M540 or M520 pedals. As for the cost.....beats me. I focus on what feels good on my feet as my primary factor in choosing a shoe....nothing, and I mean nothing....is worse than shoes that don't fit well. Going cheep generally will not doom you, but there are some nice features such as the ratcheting mechanism some of the cheaper models do not have.....you can get in and out of them fast and they stay tight. The other consideration is how much hike a bike you do.....this and fit I would say are the most important factors.....my 2 cents.




  3. #3
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    i just bought a bike that came equipped with the M520 pedals.

    I bought a $50 pair of shoes (shimano SH-MT21) from my local Performance Bike and i am very impressed with the system so far, its flawless.

    im new to clipless so i dont have much advice, but you asked if its worth buying shoes under $80. My reply: dont buy shoes over $80, you dont even know if you will like clipless (but you probably will). Plus, the shoes over $80 look like roadbike shoes. Why do they make them so shiny?

    What i got for $50:


  4. #4

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    primary difference between mtb shoes is sole stiffness, material, closing mechanism, and weight. almost all of them will accept spd cleats.

  5. #5
    pronounced may-duh
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    The shoes that look like bike shoes have stiffer soles that make them better when pedaling. The ones that look like regular shoes are more flexible for walking.

    The more expensive shoes are supposed to be better built to last longer.

    You generaly get what you pay for. Shimano makes very good shoes. Sidi are very expensive but most people agree that they fit fantastic. Italians just know a thing or two about making shoes.

  6. #6
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    Shoes...

    First, you can find shoes under $80 that will function fine. Much like helmets, less expensive shoes provide the same function as more expensive shoes. The price difference is due to materials, weight, ventilation, etc.

    With all that said, there is a difference. You may not notice it on one ride. But you will notice it over multiple rides and over multiple seasons.

    Let's say for the sake of this post, that you ride every weekend on a trail that takes you through a creek that gets your feet wet. Less expensive shoes will hold that water longer and degrade your shoes faster than more expensive shoes. At the end of the season, the less expensive shoes will be toast and you'll have to spend another <$80 for shoes while the more expensive shoes have several seasons of life left in them.

    I try not to post personal examples in the Beginner's forum because I firmly believe that my personal preferences shouldn't skew the advice I give. I guess I'm a hypocrit, because I'm going to post a personal example:

    When I first started riding clipless, I took the less expensive is better approach to shoes. I figured the cost of new shoes in to my annual bike budget and took this approach for about 5 years. Shoes cost about $50 a pair then so I spent about $250 on shoes over that 5 year period.

    10 years ago, I purchased a pair of Sidi Dominators. They were about $100 at that time or double what the less expensive shoes cost. The Sidi's fit me better than any of the lower cost shoes. They kept my feet cooler in the summer and dryer in the winter. I beat the crap out of them. I broke buckles and ratches from banging them on rocks but those parts are designed to be replaced. After 5 years, they finally gave up the ghost and I replaced them with another pair of Sidi's. My TCO for this pair (including replacement parts) was about $140 over the 5 years that they lasted. For clarity, toward the end of their life, they stank, they were torn up and ragged out. But they functioned.

    I replaced them with another pair of Sidi's. I paid $120 for them and they're about 5 years old now. They're also ragged out, ripped up and are starting to stink. I've replaced the buckle 3 times. I only paid for one replacement because I took the hardware off my old shoes for spare parts before tossing them. So at 5 years, my TCO for the shoes is still around $140.

    My next pair of shoes will likely also be Sidi's. I haven't priced them in a while but I expect the cost has gone up. But compared to replacing a lower cost shoe every season (or even every two seasons), the increased cost of Sidi's is offset by their increased durability and longevity.

    I know this is a long read but I'm trying to be complete and offer reasons why I feel that more expensive shoes cost less long term.

  7. #7
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    Shoes, like most MTB items, are a "get what you pay for" item. However, most of us don't need expensive racing shoes to ride in. Ken's Sidi's at around $100-120 are very good shoe at a reasonable price. I think if you are just starting out, a cheaper shoe is fine if you are not sure you are going to commit to the clipless system. If you look around, you'll find some pretty good shoes on sale. I just started using clipless pedals, and I found a pair of Specialized Comp MTB shoes that retail for $120 at my LBS for $60 'cause they were last year's model. Before I found those, I was going to order some Sette shoes from pricepoint.com that were selling for around $50. The plan was to ride with the cheapo shoes until I made sure I wanted to stick with clipless pedals and then step up to a nicer shoe after the Sette's wore out. The Specialized shoe is great and will likely last at least 2-3 years for me (weekend warrior), so I'm good to go on shoes.

    For the record, I have the Shimano 520 pedals and they are solid. The adjustable tension is great.

  8. #8
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    I bought those mt21 shoes because of the price, and I have absolutely no complaints as of yet

  9. #9
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    rule of shoes IMHO... spend as much as you can afford on a pair that fit well...

    stiffer soles rule as far as riding... when you walk they suck... but the most walking i do is down a hill or over an occasonal log or something... the stiff sole puts power to the pedal.

    back in the day i bought one of the least expensive shoes you could find (80$ at the time)... good shoe but it's fit was slightly off but worked also had laces and a single velcro strap at the top so i got a better fit then the more typical 3 strap systems (hate those things)... i still have them... had the sole glued on 3 times now and they're still running hard... but my toes would sometimes go numb on rides over an hr...

    just a month or so ago i picked up a pair of specilized S works mtb shoes from a friend... used but thats the only way i could afford a 300$ pair of shoes... he got em off ebay and they didn't fit quite right... they fit me spot on... i don't have the feet going numb anymore... kewlest part is the BOA retension system... twist a knob and it tightens the laces sole is noticably stiffer then the diadoras i have.

    that being said... i'd prefer to ride in cheap shoes that fit decently then expensive ones that fit poorly... if you're just looking into clipless i'd stick cheaper 1st time out... make sure you'll be sticking with the clipless thing before you drop big bucks
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by donalson
    rule of shoes IMHO... spend as much as you can afford on a pair that fit well...

    stiffer soles rule as far as riding... when you walk they suck... but the most walking i do is down a hill or over an occasonal log or something... the stiff sole puts power to the pedal.

    back in the day i bought one of the least expensive shoes you could find (80$ at the time)... good shoe but it's fit was slightly off but worked also had laces and a single velcro strap at the top so i got a better fit then the more typical 3 strap systems (hate those things)... i still have them... had the sole glued on 3 times now and they're still running hard... but my toes would sometimes go numb on rides over an hr...

    just a month or so ago i picked up a pair of specilized S works mtb shoes from a friend... used but thats the only way i could afford a 300$ pair of shoes... he got em off ebay and they didn't fit quite right... they fit me spot on... i don't have the feet going numb anymore... kewlest part is the BOA retension system... twist a knob and it tightens the laces sole is noticably stiffer then the diadoras i have.

    that being said... i'd prefer to ride in cheap shoes that fit decently then expensive ones that fit poorly... if you're just looking into clipless i'd stick cheaper 1st time out... make sure you'll be sticking with the clipless thing before you drop big bucks
    While I completely agree with you. For me it was like this:

    I had just gotten a pair of spd pedals for free (shimano 515 or 505s can't remember) and I needed a pair of shoes. This was going to be my very first clipless experience ever and since I didn't know if I would enjoy/achieve using the clipless I did not want to spend tons of money. I searched the internet and found the mt21 shoes show above and couldnt have asked for me. For walking around in all day they are ok at best, for pedaling they are great. Stiff soles and they work well with my candy sl pedals that I have now with a little trimming of the treads on the bottom

  11. #11
    what nice teeth you have
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    I think $80 is about right for a good pair of begginer shoes. I have problems with hot spots and recently picked up some specialized taho's ($80). My first set of shoes were cheap shimano's and they only lasted one summer. I have been riding some hard soled pearl izumi's but can't stand the hard soles (too many rocks when walking around here). I am hoping the Specialized Body Geometry works like it is supposed to and keeps the hotspots at bay.

    Number one rule for buying bike equipment is it has to be comfortable. If your not comfortable you are not riding.

  12. #12
    local trails rider
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    Shoes:
    a shoe has to fit: snug but not tight.

    a stiff shoe is good for power delivery and avoids fatigue in the arches, from extended pedaling. It is pretty awful for walking.

    some MTB shoes come with "plasticky" knobby bottoms that grip great if you have to walk on soft ground. They are pure misery on hard surfaces.

    a less stiff sole with fairly normal bottom can almost be used as regular shoes, but they are not as good if all you want to with them is ride.

    Pedals:
    I am a fan of Time pedals (Alium is cheap, ROC ATAC is the best I've used). Many are happy with 520 or 540, so I will not argue if you pick one of those. I have some doubts about the durability of the cheaper Crank Brothers pedals.

  13. #13
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    Thanks for all the replies. After some reading, I am probably going to try the Shimano 520 or 540 pedals, finding a deal online. For shoes, I think the smart move for me is to head to a LBS and try on a few pairs of shoes before buying.

  14. #14
    Fat boy Mod Moderator
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    i started with an older version of the 520... never had a problem with em... took 8 years off from cycling and lost them in one of my many moves... have a set of nashbar spd's that came on my bike now and i'm supprised with them... they are real good for the price... belive they are designed off the old ritchey pedals... but they'll be put up for road only duty here soon and i'll pick up a pair of 540's...
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  15. #15

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    I have been riding/racing a cheap pair of Diadora Gekos for quite a while. Recently I got a carbon soled, ratcheting clamp pair of road shoes, and now I want the same for mountain biking. The Gekos are durable and comfortable, but the stiff carbon sole and ratchet closure cannot be beat.

    Start with a cheaper pair. If you love them, it's always nice to have 2 pairs of shoes anyway.

  16. #16

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    i also got the MT21 shoes (on sale for 30 bucks though ). the laces are dumb long, and the insole is pretty thin.. besides that they've been great.

    theres kinda two sides to shoes.. especially if you're a beginner. you can go drop 300 bucks on some carbon soled really high end shoes that transfer every drop of power to your pedals... and you'll hate them when you hit that section that you have to hike..

    the MT21's are a little bit softer in the sole than other shoes, but thats part of why i got them. you can still reasonably walk in them.

  17. #17
    i also unicycle
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    shoes are definitely a try before you buy type item. i'd never buy shoes without trying them on. too many variables. if not the exact model, at least a similar one from the same brand. fit is crucial, stiffness is second. go to your lbs and try on everything they've got.
    mtbr says you should know: i work in a bike shop.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanDiegan420
    i just bought a bike that came equipped with the M520 pedals.

    I bought a $50 pair of shoes (shimano SH-MT21) from my local Performance Bike and i am very impressed with the system so far, its flawless.

    im new to clipless so i dont have much advice, but you asked if its worth buying shoes under $80. My reply: dont buy shoes over $80, you dont even know if you will like clipless (but you probably will). Plus, the shoes over $80 look like roadbike shoes. Why do they make them so shiny?

    What i got for $50:

    I just picked up the same set of shoes from my LBS along with some Crank Brothers pedals. These are my first set of clipless shoes/pedals and so far I really like them!

  19. #19
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    I was in the same boat recently and went down to the LBS to try some out. Didn't like the Shimano or Spec offerings, none of them fit my feet all that well and I knew they would be uncomfortable during a long ride. Tried on a pair of Pearl Izumi X-Alp Enduro's and couldn't believe how nice they were. I think they are definitely worth a look if you're shopping around.

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