I’ve always been a cross-country kinda girl and dressed the part. You know: matching lycra kit and carbon-soled Sidi shoes.
Thanks to my husband and son, however, that’s slowly changing. They have me doing more downhill days and afternoons at the skills park.
I converted to baggy shorts a while ago, but just recently began wearing a pair of skate-style shoes. Still a fan of SPD pedals, I went with the Five Ten Kestrel Lace shoes.
These mountain bike shoes offer a bit of both worlds. The nylon soles are stiff and clipless-compatible, but they won’t have you looking like a weeny slipping around on carbon soles.
Since many of my rides nowadays are family rides, I also appreciate that they are comfortable for off-trail geocaching hikes and pitstops at the ice cream parlor. Indeed, if you are looking for clipless-compatible, skate-style shoes, that are comfortable and friendly for hiking, the Kestrel Lace should be high on your list.
May 2023: Updated with additional information on long-term durability as well as new competition.
Review in a Nutshell
* Looks like a normal shoe
* Easy to walk and hike in
* SPD compatible
* Long-term durability
* Tongue may cause awkward pressure point
* Shoelaces can be a hazard
Price & Where to Buy:
Five Ten Kestrel Lace Detailed Review
I was expecting a noticeable decline in performance when switching from cross-country style mountain bike shoes to the Kestrel. After all, there’s no way a lace-up skate-style shoe could offer transfer power efficiently, right?
Wrong. The sole is surprisingly stiff thanks to its molded nylon construction, and it feels more like a road shoe than a tennis shoe. I haven’t had any noticeable decline in power transfer when using the Kestrel even on a long trail ride.
Comfort On and Off the Bike
The best part of the Kestrel is the fact that its comfortable off the bike. This is key if you live in an area with lots of hike-a-bikes, or if you’re spending a lot of time on and off the bike.
As I already mentioned, I’ve been using these shoes when biking with my son. We spend a lot of time walking hills, looking for flowers, stopping at playgrounds, and climbing on rocks.
The Kestrel is comfortable and far less slippery than my other shoes for these off-the-bike activities. I also feel less dorky when we stop for ice cream or at the park.
In fact, even though the Kestrel is marketed as a MTB shoe, I think it is also the ideal urban shoe. If you want clipless-compatible shoes for biking around town, without it being obvious that you are wearing bike shoes, the Kestrel will do the job. They look like cool, if slightly bulky, skate shoes.
One thing I have noticed when walking for long distances is that the sole of the insole of the shoe is very flat and doesn’t offer much, if any, arch support. If you have high arches (I don’t), this might be a real problem. Even I thought they would be better with a shoe insert of some sort.
The other minor issue I had with the shoe is that on my left foot (and not my right) the tongue of the shoe digs into my ankle/top part of my foot. It isn’t enough to hurt, but it does cause a noticeable pressure point.
Clearly, my left foot has some sort of shape flaw that you may not have, but I also noticed this same complaint in a review in Bike magazine–so it is worth taking note of.
Update: the longer I’ve worn these shoes, the less of an issue it has become. Evidently, they needed time to break in.
I’ve been using the Five Ten Kestrel’s with SPD pedals, although any two-hole style pedal will work. The sole of the shoe has a fairly large recess for the cleat so that they aren’t noticeable when walking around. No tap-dancing in these shoes!
The laces on the Kestrel do a surprisingly good job of keeping the shoe tight. That said, the laces are long and I’ve had trouble keeping them tidy and tucked away.
The velcro strap is supposed to help with this, but in practice, I’ve still had laces escape. If, like me, you tend to struggle with keeping laces tidy, consider the Kestrel (non-lace) version instead.
The women’s Kestrel is the same design as the men’s–just in women’s sizes and different colors. The shoes are sized in US shoe sizes unlike many cycling shoes, and in my experience fit true to size.
Long Term Durability
I first reviewed these shoes in 2018 and I’m still wearing them five years later in 2023. Wild!
They are now pretty much ready to go in the trash, but I’ve put tens of thousands of miles on them. These shoes have been to Whistler bike park, my backyard trails, and I even wore them on the Smoke N Fire 400.
The only area where they’ve worn down are on the fabric on the inside of the heels. If it wasn’t for this, I’d be continuing to wear them for many more miles.
If you are looking for a clipless-compatible skate-style mountain bike shoes (in women’s sizes!), your options are pretty limited. That said, there are a few competitors.
First off, is the Ride Concepts Women’s Flume. I have the shoe in a flat version, but it also come’s in a clipless version. It is skinnier than the Kestrel, so is a better option for ladies with narrow feet.
The Fox Union* is also a new option in this arena. I had a chance to preview them at Sea Otter but haven’t tested them yet. The only bummer with these is that they are unisex and only come in pretty boring colors (black, brown, etc).
If you are looking for an MTB or urban shoe that doesn’t look like a cycling shoe, consider the Five Ten Kestrel Lace. It is comfortable both on and off the bike, and looks hip enough to pass as a regular shoe when walking around town.
More Stuff You Might Like
- 9 Best Women’s Mountain Bike Shoes (Flats and Clipless)
- 10 Best Women’s Mountain Bike Shorts
- How To Clip Into Bike Pedals: 5 Tips To Increase Your Confidence
About The Reviewer
Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.
An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.
Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life. Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son. If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.
Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.