The main difference between an XC mountain bike and a trail bike is that the XC is lighter and meant for sustained rides, so you need durable and comfortable shoes to wear for a longer time.
Stiffer shoes and clippies are excellent for MTB riders but can become extremely uncomfortable after hours of riding. You need more versatility for cross country. What is the best XC MTB shoe?
The best XC MTB shoes are flexible, foot-friendly flat soles. It’s always best to choose seasonally appropriate footwear, but long rides also mean comfort is vital. When you have more wiggle room for your toes or a firmer padded ankle grip, it can make a huge difference by letting you move your feet, preventing cramps, and stopping blisters.
To see all of my up-to-date recommendations for bikes and cycling gear, check out this resource that I made for you!
Table of Contents
Top 3 Best XC MTB Shoes
The right MTB shoes for short rides or pedaling indoors on a Peleton are not the same as finding the best XC MTB shoes.
Most trail rides are less than an hour and even going from the top of a mountain down averages two hours or less.
A class at your gym or a ride on an indoor bike is even less time, but cross-country mountain biking takes hours or even days, depending on the route you choose.
You need XC shoes that offer your feet flexibility and the chance to stretch a little as you ride, with a toe box that is both protected and roomy.
Just as important, you need secure closures and a heel that keeps your ankle from rubbing. Unfortunately, there are thousands of pairs to choose from, and they can’t all be great, so where do you start?
No worries. I’ve collected the top three best XC MTB shoes so you can relax and enjoy the ride.
1 – Ride Concepts Men’s Wildcat Flat Pedal Mountain Bike Shoe – (Best XC MTB Flat Shoes)
My top recommendation to any XC MTB rider is the Ride Concepts Men’s Wildcat Flat Pedal Mountain Bike Shoe from Amazon.
This flexible flat-soled shoe comes in three excellent colorways to suit any style. The shoe upper is made from synthetic, anti-abrasion mesh to keep your shoes looking good even if you take a tumble.
Plus, they are low-tops with a laces-and-velcro strap combo for a tight fit without being uncomfortable.
After a few miles, you’ll appreciate the EVA midsole and the D3O High Impact Zone insoles. Moreover, the grippy rubber soles will keep your feet seated on the pedals without the need for clips.
Check out the fantastic flat MTB shoes by clicking here.
- Upper Material: synthetic, anti-abrasion mesh
- Lining: padded
- Closure: lace
- Footbed: D3O High Impact Zone Insoles
- Midsole: EVA
2 – Five Ten Freerider Pro Mountain Bike Shoes – (Best Clipless XC MTB Shoes)
My favorite clipless XC MTB shoes are the Five Ten Freerider Pro Mountain Bike Shoes from Amazon.
These outstanding shoes range from size five to fifteen to fit any foot. Plus, they come in nine different colorways, so you always look good no matter how long you ride.
Underneath, you’ll find a Stealth S1 dotty outsole for firm traction.
A removable Ortholite sock liner and lightweight synthetic upper keep your feet comfortable on the longest rides, and the impact-resistant toe box keeps your feet safer.
Best of all, Five Ten is from Adidas, a trusted name in sportswear with a long history of excellence. Have a set of Freeriders shipped to your door fast when you click here.
- Full S1 dotty outsole
- Synthetic and lightweight upper
- Impact resistant toe box
- Compression molded EVA midsole
- Removable Ortholite sock liner
3 – Bucklos Precise Buckle Strap Mountain Bike Shoes – (Best Value XC Mountain Bike Shoes)
Are you looking for a more cost-effective XC MTB shoe but don’t want to sacrifice the quality? Pick up a pair of Bucklos Precise Buckle Strap Mountain Bike Shoes.
They live up to their name with a velcro and buckle closure that fits precisely as snug as you want it.
A textured sole and light, breathable upper help you stay on your pedals while still letting your feet breathe.
Better still, you can upgrade to a clip-style bottom without changing the look of your shoes if you need to attach them to your pedals.
Get this pair of cost-effective, comfortable, and efficient MTB shoes by clicking right here.
- 【Fresh Riding】If you need to get off the bike at any time, if you are still new to locking pedals, this lock free cycling shoe is an excellent choice. It provides a safety guarantee for you to quickly cross the city fortresses and get started with a lock pedal. NOTE: Please refer to our detailed size information(7th picture) to make sure you choose the right size. Thank you for your understanding.
- 【Anti-slip&Strong Grip]】The sole of unlocked bike shoes has a non-slip rubber block specially designed for riding, which has stronger grip and adhesion than ordinary sports shoes.
- 【Double Guarantee】Adjustable buckle + double Velcro design, you can adjust the flat pedal MTB shoes without getting off the bike, and the buckle scale can be adjusted as needed, suitable for insteps of different heights and shapes.
- 【Light and Breathable】Breathable design, light and wear-resistant material, wear resistant rubber outsole provides comfort, suitable for long-term riding.
- 【Trustworthy Brand & Unbeatable Price & Great Christmas Gift】BUCKLOS is committed to meeting customer requirements by providing best product and professional service and and has provided assistance to more than 1,000,000+ users worldwide.ORDER NOW, You will find our price is Unbeatable.It is a great Christmas gift for cycling enthusiasts.
Complete Buyers Guide For The Best XC MTB Shoes
Unless you ride a touring bike and go on bikepacking vacations, there’s no longer ride than going XC (cross country).
Getting out and feeling the wind on your face for hours can be freeing and very zen, or it can be a painful nightmare that leaves your feet blistered and swollen and your ankles feeling abused.
The difference is all in the shoes. Bookmark this page as a reference to save yourself a lot of trial and error troubles.
Having the proper footwear makes more of a difference than most people credit. However, anyone who’s ever worn a pair of heels all day could tell you that leaving your foot in an unyielding shoe for hours really hurts.
There are a lot of parts of your shoe that add to the comfort of your ride, but I’ll cover all of them below.
Once you’re done with this complete buyer’s guide, you’ll know exactly what to look for in your next pair of XC MTB shoes.
1 – Flat vs Clips
Most XC riders opt for flat shoes these days. The difference is that clips can literally attach to clip-style pedals on a bike, and flats do not.
The clippies are harder to release if you need to stop suddenly. I recommend flat soles for beginners or those who don’t like the feel of being clipped to their pedals.
2 – Stiff vs Flexible
Clippie shoes and those made for indoor pedaling workouts tend to be stiffer than flats.
When you’re planning a whole day ride, a little more flexibility can help save your feet a lot of pain.
Stiff soles are great for short rides, but it’s best if you take a flexible shoe for cross country.
3 – Smooth vs Knobby
The texture on the bottom of your shoe can be a small or wide sole pattern. Some shoes have very little texture, but these are generally the staff clippies that attach to the pedal for indoor riding.
A small pattern should have an almost gummy soft rubber to grip well. Meanwhile, a broader pattern of dots or hexagons is typical because it offers good grip and excellent flexibility.
I suggest either of the latter, but textureless shoes are no good for riding long distances, and they’re uncomfortable if you dismount and walk.
4 – Ratchets vs Laces or Velcro
When it comes to the three closure styles, they all have advantages. A lace allows you to tighten the shoe over more individual points along the top of the shoe, leading to a superior fit.
Velcro is excellent, especially for young riders or those with mobility issues in their hands.
However, a velcro strap is adjustable as you ride, while laces are not.
Finally, the ratchets are great for bumpy or especially rough terrain. This style holds tighter than most and prevents shoes from ever coming loose, and like velcro, ratchet closures can be adjusted on the go.
5 – Do You Need Clip Compatibility
Unless you genuinely need clips, it’s a good idea to forgo them. The clippie shoes are best for super-experienced riders and those doing indoor stationary bike exercises. Stick to flats for XC MTB rides.
6 – Toe Box Protection
Hopefully, you won’t need toe box protection, and your toes will rarely or never touch down.
However, you should still pick XC shoes with a reinforced toe box. Ensure that you choose a shoe with a spacious toe box that fits well but lets you move your toes.
7 – Ankle Height
Everyone has their own taste in high or low top shoes. Most XC MTB shoes are a low-top style.
Fortunately, you can also find high tops with nicely reinforced ankles.
The high tops often come with better waterproofing and a warmer interior for the cold and rainy seasons, but I recommend starting with the more common low style unless you are used to higher ankles on your shoes or if you need them.
8 – Weather Concerns
There are three weather-related concerns with XC MTB shoes. First is always water resistance. You will eventually ride through a puddle or get caught out in a storm, so opting for a waterproof shoe during the rainiest season in your region is smart.
Hot and cold seasons both have their challenges. You’ll want a warm, less ventilated shoe when it’s cold or snowy outside.
Meanwhile, you need to be sure your feet get enough air to wick away moisture on long summer rides. Too much sweat can cause problems like bacterial overgrowth that ruins your shoes.
9 – Heel Cup Design
The design of your heel cup should always hold your foot secure. If your ankles slide up and down in your shoes, they will blister eventually, no matter how good your socks are.
Some shoe liners have a one-way fabric that bristles and helps hold your foot in place, but proper lacing and the right fit can do almost as well on their own.
11 – Upper Durability
A flimsy upper on your shoe will fall apart sooner, leaving you to buy XC MTB shoes more often than you should. Look for weather or waterproofing, abrasion resistance, and even UV protection.
You can also check the reviews to see if anyone had particular issues with the shoes ripping where they bend across the toes.
12 – Brand Quality & Reliability
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices on XC shoes, the last thing you should check is brand quality and reliability.
Getting a good overall idea of whether the company you plan to buy from has a warranty, top-tier reputation, and good customer service can help you make a wise final decision.
Although the brand isn’t everything because a new company can make superb products, a well-known and established business is an excellent place to start your shoe search and a good fallback if you’re not quite sure which pair to select.