Whether you are shredding DH trails, racing cross-country, or grinding dirt roads, a comfortable and high-performance shoe is vital for having a good time. The best shoes provide efficient power transfer to the pedals, are comfortable to walk in, and don’t have any weird pressure points.
We’ve collected three of our favorite women’s mountain bike shoes for use with flat pedals, and five of our favorite shoes for clipless pedals. If you’re not sure which you need, scroll to the bottom of the article for tips on choosing shoes. We’ve also included a comparison chart so you can sort by price and other features.
Women’s Mountain Bike Shoes for Flat Pedals
If you’re riding with flat pedals, a mountain bike specific shoe with nice grippy soles will make a world of difference compared to riding with tennis shoes. Here are some of our faves.
Adidas Five Ten Freerider Pro
The Five Ten Freerider is the shoe of choice for most gravity riders. The rubber sole offers superior grip, and the upper is weather-resistant which makes this a nice shoe for use in rainy climates or in areas with lots of river crossings.
We also like the non-bulky, low-profile so you won’t feel silly wearing these to the pub to grab a beer after your ride. They look good no matter what you’re doing!
They do run a little small, so order up a half size to get the perfect fit.
Specialized 2FO 1.0
The Specialized 2FO 1.0 is surprisingly thoughtful with lots of little extras like the front and rear pull tabs that make putting on and taking off the shoes easy. We also love the internal “bootie” that lines the Specialized 2FO. This sock-line liner helps keep the shoe from slipping around and keeps out gravel and sand.
The shoe does not provide as much protection or grippiness as a shoe like the FiveTen (above) or RideConcepts (below), so it’s a better choice for cross-country and trail riding than agressive freeriding. If that describes your riding, you’ll probably love it.
Ride Concepts Women’s Livewire
A relative newcomer to the scene, the Ride Concepts Livewire, has quickly become a favorite. It’s great for trail riding as well as some downhill or freeriding.
The shoe isn’t too rigid, so it’s comfortable for walking around, and it looks cool enough to wear for errands on the way home.
The grippy sole is as good (some might argue better) than the sole on the industry-leading FiveTen Freeriders. It’s plenty grippy for all but the very most agressive downhill racer types.
The toe and heel feature anti-abrasion material which offers lots of foot protection as well as long-term durability. You should be able to get quite a few seasons out of these shoes.
Women’s Mountain Bike Shoes for Clipless Pedals
Prefer to ride “clipless” pedals rather than flats? We’ve got several options for you here, including super-stiff shoes for maximum power transfer in cross-country races to more casual kicks intended for trail-riding and hike-a-biking.
Sidi makes my favorite mountain bike shoes. Their top-of-the-line shoe, the Sidi Drako, retails for an outrageous $500, but the Sidi Trace provides much of the performance of the Drako at a more reasonable price.
The Trace is incredibly comfortable, provides superior power transfer to the pedals, and will last forever. I wore my Sidi’s for 10 YEARS before they bit the bullet.
This is a great shoe for women who like to race.
Price: $124.99 (Last updated: 2020-09-18 at 10:00 – More Info)
The Giro Sica provides an ultra-stiff carbon fiber sole covered with Vibram rubber for good traction when hike-a-biking. We also appreciate that the shoe comes with several sets of arch inserts so that the shoe will be comfortable for you whether you have a flat foot or a high arch.
It comes in both a boa-fit version and more traditional ratchet closure. These shoes do run small so order a size up.
As of spring 2020, it looks like Giro is discontinuing these shoes, so get ’em while the gettings good.
Price: Price not available (Last updated: 2020-09-18 at 10:00 – More Info)
Pearl Izumi X-Alp Divide
The Pearl Izumi X-Alp Divide is a favorite of a lot of the ladies I ride with thanks to the superior traction on the sole and the breathable upper.
The shoe is designed to mimic the stiffness of Pearl Izumi’s popular X-Alp road shoe, but has a sole that’s better suited to hike-a-bikes. This makes it ideal for dirt road and gravel riding.
Five Ten Kestrel
If you prefer a skate-style shoe, but also like the ability to use clipless pedals, the Five Ten Kestrel is your shoe. This is my go-to shoe for days at the bike park or rides around town when I know I’m going to be doing a lot of walking off the bike.
The Kestrel comes in both velcro strap and lace versions.
Read Our Review: Five Ten Kestrel
The Shimano ME2 is our favorite entry-level women’s mountain bike shoe. It’s nothing too fancy but manages to do the job and comes with an attractive price tag.
The mesh panel on the toes helps keep feet from getting too sweaty, and three velcro straps assure you’ll get a nice tight fit.
Comparison Chart: Women’s MTB Shoes
|Specialized 2FO 1.0||No||Laces|
|Ride Concepts Livewire Women's||No||Laces|
|Pearl Izumi X-ALP Divide||Yes||Velcro|
|Five Ten Women's Kestrel Lace||Yes||Laces/velcro|
|Five Ten Women's Freerider Pro||No||Velcro|
Tips for Choosing a MTB Shoe
Not sure how to pick a mountain bike shoes? Here are a couple things to look for.
Stiffness is important in a mountain bike shoe (or any cycling shoe for that matter) because it allows an efficient transfer of power to the pedals. Many newbies to the sport choose comfort (or perceived comfort) over stiffness.
Of course, you don’t want your shoe too stiff–you still need to be able to walk and hike off the bike–but you certainly don’t want your shoe to feel like a tennis sneaker either.
Before choosing a shoe, you need to determine what kind of pedal you are going to be using. If you are using traditional platform pedals, look for a shoe without cleat holes and that has an ultra-sticky outersole.
If you are going to use clipless pedals, such as SPD or Crankbrothers, then make sure you buy a shoe with cleat holes. Most mountain bike shoes will have a 2-hole clip pattern.
If you know you have the kind of foot that needs a little extra arch support, make sure that you choose a shoe that has enough room for an insert. Unfortunately, this generally pushes you to the upper edge of the budget spectrum.
That said, many of the more expensive shoes will have swappable inserts that come with the shoe. (You can also consider getting custom inserts made).
If you live in a rainy climate (or spend a lot of time crossing creeks), look for a shoe that markets itself as being weather resistant. We’ve noticed that for some reason, the flat pedal shoes tend to do a better job of this.
Similarly, if you live in a hot climate, or have particularly hot feet, you’ll want to make sure you buy a shoe that is more breathable. Look for mesh sections on the uppers.
What sort of terrain are you generally riding? Do you spend a lot of time on the bike, or are you frequently on and off the bike hike-a-biking? The more time you spend off the bike, the more important it is to have a shoe with good traction. Carbon fiber soles, for instance, are great for stiffness but aren’t so great when you are slipping down the side of a rock face.
This goes closely hand-in-hand with the above point. But in addition to traction, notice how comfortable (and how silly you feel) walking around in your shoes inside the house. If you are trying on a pair of shoes at a local shop, walk a few laps around the store. If you order your shoes online, make sure you try walking around the house for a while before wearing them outside. That way, if the shoes aren’t “walkable,” you can return them before you’ve scuffed up the soles.
There are several different closure systems you’ll see on mountain bike shoes. For the most part which one is best is a matter of personal opinion.
Clipless-style pedals will generally have velcro or ratchet straps. Ratchets tend to do a better job of getting the shoe tight but can also get stuck in muddy conditions. Newer, more expensive shoes may also have a “boa” dial-type closure that does a good job of tightening the shoe without getting stuck.
Flat pedal and skate-style mountain bike shoes will have either velcro or lace closures. Velcro is great until it quits sticking; laces have a tendency to come untied. Pick your poison.