Whether you’re looking to conquer a technical climb or hit your favorite flow trail, having the right pair of shoes is essential. But how do you choose? From flats to clipless, laces to boa fasteners, there are endless options to choose from. That’s why we made this handy guide featuring the 10 best women’s mountain bike shoes to help you find your perfect fit.
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Women’s Mountain Bike Shoes Buying Guide
Flat shoes are exactly what they sound like – shoes with a flat platform made for grip. Many beginning mountain bikers will start with flat shoes because it makes putting a foot down or bailing from a jump much easier. They aren’t as efficient for climbing, so many cross-country riders prefer to use clipless pedals.
Clipless (a.k.a. SPD, Clip-In)
It’s counterintuitive, but “clipless” shoes connect to the pedal. (Prior to clipless pedals, there were flat pedals with toe cages – or toe “clips” – hence the name clipless.) These types of pedals and shoes can take a bit of getting used to but allow you to transfer more power to the bike. Most types of clipless shoes and pedals will either use a 2-bolt or 3-bolt setup. The 2-bolt setup is also referred to as SPD, which stands for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics. It’s important to know which pedals you’ll be using so you can get the correct shoes.
Cross-country riders will want lightweight shoes that can handle the terrain they’ll be riding on. They also tend to prioritize efficiency, opting for shoes that will translate more power per pedal stroke. Most cross-country riders will opt for clipless shoes.
Trail or “all mountain” riding can include anything from technical singletrack to flowy descents. This is one of the more common forms of mountain biking, especially for those just looking to get out on the trail and have fun.
Enduro & Downhill
Enduro and downhill trails are for the gravity lovers out there. Shoes in this category will need to be extra durable and provide solid protection against the elements (namely rocks, dirt, and mud). Some downhill riders prefer the freedom of flat shoes, while others like the connection clipless shoes provide.
When searching for the perfect pair of women’s mountain bike shoes, you’ll want to prioritize comfort. Your shoes should feel just as comfortable and stable on the bike as they do off the bike. Pay attention to the sizing guides for each type of shoe to make sure you’re getting the proper fit.
If you’re opting for clipless shoes, make sure they’re compatible with the pedals you’ll be using. It’s usually easiest to choose a pair of shoes first and then get pedals to match. Flat shoes can work with any flat pedal, though they tend to work best with pedals that have pins to provide extra grip.
No pair of shoes will last forever, but you’ll at least want something to get you through a season or two. Durable shoes will last longer and usually provide more protection.
Looks aren’t the most important factor when choosing a pair of shoes, but they still matter. Choose a pair of shoes you wouldn’t be embarrassed to walk around in after a ride.
What To Avoid
There are a few things you’ll want to avoid when choosing which shoes to wear when mountain biking, including:
- Laces or straps that are too long
- Shoes that aren’t designed for mountain biking (i.e. Converse)
- Poorly fitting shoes
It’s best to know what kind of riding you’ll be doing so you can choose a pair of shoes that best fit your needs. You may be able to get away with a pair of cheap, flat shoes for a little while, but you may eventually want to upgrade to something that provides better grip and protection. If you’re on a limited budget, keep an eye out for sales, especially when a new season is about to start (that’s when brands tend to discount the previous season’s shoes).
Best Women’s Mountain Biking Shoe Brands
Brand can make a big difference when it comes to choosing a pair of women’s mountain bike shoes. Generally, brands that also create good bikes or bike components will also have good shoes. You can experiment with different brands until you find the shoes that fit your riding style and your budget. There are a few brands that reliably have good shoes, including:
- Ride Concepts
- Five Ten (Adidas)
Men’s vs Women’s Mountain Bike Shoes
Mountain bike shoes made for women tend to be narrower and have less volume in the toe and heel area. Some women find these shoes tend to fit the shape of their feet better, but others may be more comfortable in men’s or unisex styles. If you find that the shoes you buy are consistently too tight, it can be worth trying the equivalent style in the men’s or unisex option, if available.
Best Women’s Mountain Bike Shoes
Best Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe for Women
Crankbrothers Mallet Boa
- Wide range of cleat position options
- Great for gravity riding (trail, enduro, downhill)
- Can run slightly long and may be too bulky for cross-country riding
The Crankbrothers Mallet Boa has an innovative Match System that works with any clip-in system, whether it’s a Crankbrothers pedal or SPD. This is a great women’s mountain bike shoe for trail and enduro riding, but they can feel a bit too heavy for cross country riding. The BOA lacing system means no loose laces and the Velcro strap ensures a secure fit around the ankle.
Best Flat Mountain Bike Shoe for Women
Five Ten Freerider Pro
- Ultra grippy sole prevents slipping, but provides minimal grip off the bike
- Comfortable cushioning on and off the bike
- Weather resistant and easy to clean
You won’t look out of place on the trail rocking a pair of Five Tens. This iconic women’s mountain bike shoe has gotten an upgrade in the pro edition, with extra ventilation and impact-resistant toe box.
Best Budget Mountain Bike Shoe for Women
- Wide cleat pocket makes it easy for beginners to clip in
- Midsole flexibility provides comfort but is less efficient
- Substantial lugs provide grip on the trails
The Giro Berm is a women’s mountain bike shoe that has the option to be clipless or flat. You can opt to buy the shoe “with cover” which goes over the bolt system. At only $80 MSRP, this shoe provides incredible bang for your buck, making it a great option for those on a budget.
Best Cross-country Mountain Bike Shoe for Women
- Lightweight with great breathability
- Reinforced glass-fiber nylon sole provides efficient power transfer
- Only one color option
The Shimano XC1 is designed with durability and power transfer in mind, meaning no watts will be wasted on your ride. This women’s mountain bike shoe features a rubber outsole that promotes stable pedaling and a secure grip.
Best Trail Mountain Bike Shoe for Women
Ride Concepts Helion Clip
- Anti-abrasion toe and heel protection
- Clipless design with a flat, grippy platform makes for easy walking
- Can be a bit heavy
This women’s mountain bike shoe is the perfect option for those who want a clip but prefer the fit and aesthetic of a flat shoe. Made from lightweight microfiber material, there is a hook and loop strap for extra security. This shoe works just as well at the bike park as it does on technical singletrack.
Best Enduro & Downhill Mountain Bike Shoe for Women
Five Ten Hellcat – Women’s
- Gravity specific shoe for big hit riding
- Good power transfer
- Velcro strap is a bit long
It’s hard to go wrong with the Five Ten Hellcat Pro. This women’s mountain bike shoe is durable and grippy, making it a great option for aggressive downhill or enduro riding.
Other Good Women’s Mountain Bike Shoes
Ride Concepts Livewire
- Grippy soles and durable outer
- Rider-owned brand
- Laces can get chewed up by metal eyelets
The Ride Concepts Livewire are great women’s mountain bike shoes for flat pedals. They provide incredible grip on the pedals but are comfortable enough to wear out to a post-ride meal. The shoe’s tongue is fully gusseted which means less dirt and debris will get in.
Specialized 2FO Roost (Flat or Clip)
- One of the most stylish options on the market
- Easy to walk in
- Don’t provide a lot of protection
If you’re looking for Specialized women’s mountain bike shoes, the 2FO Roost may be your best option. The sizing is unisex, which can be a pro or a con depending on what you need. The Roost has both a flat and a clip option. Neither are particularly protective, so they aren’t the best option for more aggressive riding, but they’re a great everyday shoe that will feel just as comfortable on the bike as off.