Best XC Mountain Bike Shoes for Racing

The Secret to Purchasing the Best XC Mountain Bike Shoes

Making the right XC mountain bike shoe choice can mean the difference between winning or losing, and a day filled with fun or misery.

Here are our choices for the Best XC mountain bike shoes.

Below we have compiled our list of useful tips to assist you in making the right XC MTB shoe purchasing decisions.

Important Mountain Bike Shoe Requirements

  1. Fit & Comfort
  2. Breathability
  3. Material / Construction
  4. Waterproof
  5. Adjustability
  6. Quality
  7. Weight
  8. Price

XC MTB Shoe Fit & Comfort

If you have ever been in a cheap pair of ski boots for a weekend, its like being on a medieval torture rack.  XC Mountain bike shoes are no different, it is all about the fit.

Some shoes simply fit certain feet better than others.  Plus the manufacturer often changes the exact same model the following year.  For example my Salomon trail running shoes slightly increased the size of the toe box on a subsequent year.  This for me was a positive change, but it could have gone the other way as well.

Getting the right fit ensures a level of comfort that not only minimizes foot damage, but also allows for much greater XC mountain bike pedaling mileage to be put on in a day.  Finally the right shoes just make the whole ride / race day more fun.

Thus far in my 45+ years purchasing shoes on the planet Earth in the USA, every time I don’t buy the top of the line shoe, I am not only disappointed, I feel I get what I deserve.

There is no way to cut corners when it comes to XC mountain bike shoes.  Your whole connection to the bike is through your shoe, and nothing can destroy your ride more than shoe discomfort.  Always buy the best shoe you can.

This shoe generally costs a lot more, but if you buy top of the line MTB shoes that fit your feet well, it is worth every penny.

XC MTB Shoe Breathability

A shoe that breathes well is preferred.  Most shoe technology these days attempts to provide adequate air flow.  The downside is a more breathable shoe is often not as waterproof, and of course your climate is a factor.

If you live in a colder climate, you may prefer less airflow than a hotter climate.  So bear this in mind when shopping.

XC MTB Shoe Material / Construction

Hands down I prefer leather!  However it is getting harder and harder to get leather.  Every manufacture has their own buzz words to disguise the fact their so called ECO leather, is actually a crappy microfiber made of polyester, acrylic or other synthetic junk blends.

You don’t see animals in the wild wearing this garbage.

So get leather if you can, it will last many years, and look for quality stitching when available with good sole to upper construction.  Sole separation is very common as it is generally glued to the upper in lightweight MTB shoe construction.

XC MTB Shoe Waterproofing

I again prefer a well oiled leather mountain bike shoe, but most shoes these days have a gortex membrane and / or coating.  I find the exterior coatings work well for a very short period of time and then come off.  After this there is no way to regain the waterproofing functionality.  Inner Gortex linings seem to work real well, but definitely in hotter climates, there is a big difference in you internal shoe temperature.

XC MTB Shoe Adjustability

Most XC MTB shoes are using adjustable buckle systems common first on ski boots.  Make sure the buckles are in the right place on your foot when tightened.

Also, this is one area where spending more on quality counts.  Higher end shoes have lightweight, buckle systems that are very reliable, while lower quality systems often break and need to be replaced often.  Sometimes you can’t get the buckles anymore or the shoe breaks during your ride, that is really a drag.

XC MTB Shoe Quality

Leather is the best, but once you are in the synthetic game, you have to rely on brand names with higher end models.  If you buy cheap, that is what you are going to get.  It is OK to buy a high end model at a discount, but do not purchase a cheap XC mountain bike shoe.  You are wasting your money.

XC MTB Shoe Weight

Weight is key, since this is rotational mass movement, but some shoes are built so light they start sacrificing comfort, and their life span is greatly shortened due to their very lightweight construction.

Obviously if you have deep pockets, you just buy another set like your XC MTB racing tires and chalk it up to performance racing products need more frequent replacement.

XC MTB Shoe Price

There are definitely deals to be had on high end models.  But as far as discovering some new secret to the universe, sorry – the higher end shoes are better, and cost a lot more.

On the bright side, make a smart purchase on a high end set of XC racing mountain bike shoes, like from SIDI, SCOTT Bikes, Shimano, Giant, Mavic Pearl Izumi or Fizik and you will be a happy XC rider / racer.

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This page was last updated on 4/13/2018.