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What Shoes Should You Wear Mountain Biking?

When you ride on the trails you have three major points of contact with your bike (handlebar grips, saddle, and pedals), and wearing the right equipment will ensure that you will have the maximum grip on those points.

The majority of mountain biking injuries occur by the rider’s foot slipping from the pedal, of course, they are minor injuries but still worth preventing by improving your grip on the pedal.

If you have flat pedals the best shoes are flat pedal mountain biking shoes, they have a stiff sole made of rubber that workers well with the pins on your pedal for optimal grip and power transmission. If you have clipless pedals you need to get MTB shoes specially designed for them.

In this article, I will tell you what shoes you should wear if you have flat or clipless pedals and we will analyze if you can use running or any kind of other shoes for mountain biking. So keep reading!

MTB Shoes for Flat Pedals

MTB shoes for flat pedal

Flat pedal MTB shoes are the best choice for riding mountain bikes that are equipped with flat pedals because they are designed to offer the maximum grip and power transmission by having a stiff sole made out of durable and at the same time soft rubber.

A bad pedal grip is one of the biggest risk factors that influence the injury rate in mountain biking, don’t overlook this, it is more important than you think.

A good pair of flat pedal MTB shoes will have a stiff sole for improved power transmission but will not be so stiff so that you can’t walk in them, but still walking more than 5 minutes in flat pedal MTB shoes will not be a pleasant experience.

When I both my first pair of mountain biking shoes I was amazed by how much they improve your power transmission and by the amount of grip they give you. At first, I wasn’t sure they make a difference but my God they do!

Flat pedals in combination with flat pedal MTB shoes are highly recommended for beginners because they give you greater grip with the pedals without locking your foot on them so you won’t be stuck on your bike if you make newbie mistakes.

Even after a couple of years of mountain biking I still ride my bike with flat pedals because I enjoy the freedom that comes with it.

MTB Shoes for Clipless Pedals

If you ride with clipless pedals then you got no choice but to buy MTB shoes made for them, you need to be able to clip your shoes into the pedals, normal shoes or flat pedal shoes don’t have this option.

Clipless pedals MTB shoes offer the maximum grip because they lock to the pedals and are unlocked by twisting your heel away from the bike. Riding with clipless pedals is an acquired taste and you need to develop the skill to do it, it is more intimidating at first but you get used to it.

After a while, it becomes second nature, but still, it is not for everyone.

The major benefit of using clipless pedals with MTB shoes is that you always will have your foot in the perfect pedaling position and you will have a highly reduced risk of injury because your foot will never slip off the pedal and you will never put force on it in an unnatural way.

One more option that you have here is to use mountain biking shoes designed to work with both types of pedals but be aware that they won’t be the best in either of the two worlds.

My first mountain biking shoes were like that and at first, I liked them because of the increased power transmission and the grip was ok. Then I tried a pair of dedicated flat pedal shoes and never went back, the grip on the dedicated flat pedal ones was unrivaled by the universal ones (on flat pedals off course).

So I recommend if you have clipless pedals to buy dedicated shoes that are designed only for clipless don’t waste your money on shoes that promise to work with both and don’t excel on either of them.

You Can Find MTB Shoes for Any Weather Conditions

The best thing about mountain biking is that you can do it in almost any weather condition. Regarding whether there are two types of mountain biking shoes:

  • warm-season MTB shoes
  • cold-season MTB shoes

Warm-season MTB Shoes

Warm-season mountain biking shoes are designed to offer your foot some breathability so your feet don’t get too sweaty and they are made from durable materials that will protect your feet when hitting tree branches in the forest. I found them to offer decent wind protection also.

Cold-season MTB Shoes

As their name suggests they are designed to keep your foot warm during rides in cold weather, but the most important things about them are that they are weatherproof and windproof.

You don’t need much readability in the cold season and wind protection becomes mandatory.

Because they are made from premium materials so that they perform well in harsh weather conditions like rain and snow they can have a hefty price tag and really having two pairs of mountain biking shoes, one for every season, is not a viable solution for every budget.

Here a good pair of overshoes come in place, they are inexpensive and you can use them with your warm-season MTB shoes, just put them over them, and now you have wind and water protection without needing to buy a second pair of shoes.

Is It Ok to Wear Running Shoes for Biking?

Yes, you can use running shoes for mountain biking but you won’t have the same power transmission as with mountain biking shoes because running soles have flexible soles that are designed to give maximum comfort when you run.

Running shoes can be used only with flat pedals but be aware that good pedals have metal spikes to improve grip and they will wear down your shoe much quicker because running shoes are designed for comfort and their soles are made from soft materials.

One time, just for fun, I took my mountain bike on a short ride after a running session and I didn’t change any gear so I had my running shoes on. I was blown away who big the difference was between my MTB shoes and my running shoes, I actually have forgotten how it is to ride with normal shoes, it was worst in every way.

I don’t want to try this experiment again, I will stick to my mountain biking shoes. But still, it was a fun experiment.

Can I Use Any Shoes for Mountain Biking?

You can use almost any type of shoes to ride your bike if it has flat pedals but you will lose the incredible grip and the improvement on power transfer that mountain biking shoes offer you.

Keep in mind that the amount of grip between your foot and the pedal is very important so don’t use shoes with slippery soles that won’t work well with the metal pins on your pedals and try to stay on less technical trails.

Riding your bike on the harshest of terrains without proper equipment is a recipe for disaster. I know that mountain biking shoes can be a little bit expensive but there is a valid reason for which people are buying them, and that is to increase their grip on the pedals.

My first crash was because my foot slipped from the pedal, I lost balance and was crushed. I did not suffer any major injury but because I was lucky this doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try to prevent it.

Conclusion

If you want a good mountain biking experience I strongly suggest you get a pair of proper mountain biking shoes it will make a night and day difference, but if you just want to full around you can use almost any shoes.

And do yourself a favor and don’t tackle the more difficult trails without having a good grip on your pedals, believe me, you will end up regretting it!

The reality is that you will not be able to enjoy all that mountain biking brings to the table without having the proper equipment, don’t try to convince yourself that equipment doesn’t matter. Because it does!

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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.