If you’re a clips convert then you’ll know that finding the right shoe for you is pretty important.
Pete’s been testing four of the best SPD shoes for enduro MTB to see which ones come out on top.
A good clip shoe will be tough, stiff, light, dry quickly, comfortable, good value and reliable.
In this test are the Specialized 2FO Cliplite, Shimano AM701, Pearl Izumi X-Alp and Giro Chamber. All of these have been tested with the HT Components X1 pedal as a baseline.
It’s worth saying: This isn’t an exhaustive list of all clip shoes on the market right now, it’s just what we’ve been able to test. If brands want to send us their shoes, we’ll happily include them when we re-run this feature. Get in touch here.
Specialized 2FO Cliplite.
- Body Geometry construction.
- Landing Strip cleat pocket.
- Double Boa S-2 closure.
- EVA foam midsole.
- 379g (pair, size 42).
- Size 39-49 Euro.
- £140.00 RRP.
Easily the raciest-looking shoe on test here, the 2FO Cliplites certainly seem slightly out of place when lined up against the other shoes in the test. Sporting a far more streamlined almost XC shoe shape, the 2FOs certainly aren’t the beefiest and not of the skate-style of the opposition.
What you get as a result is a very light pair of shoes, with a stiff, yet not uncomfortable shoe on the bike, leading to some amazing power transfer when on the gas. The trade-off here though is walking comfort.
A stiff sole on the bike will rarely transfer well to hike-a-bike comfort, and that certainly is the case here. They’re by no means awful, but look elsewhere if you sling your bike on your back of a weekend.
The double Boa closure is excellent and by far the best closure option on test. Rather than horsing up the laces across the bridge of your foot, you can far better evenly distribute the tightness of the closure across your foot, leading to better long distance comfort and even better power transfer.
The small Velcro strap on the toe seems superfluous as a result though, and is a faff should it get clogged with mud or snow.
Protection from such a light, minimalist MTB shoe isn’t going to be as good as, say, the Chamber IIs below, which are about 50% heavier, so you will need to bear that in mind when there’s rocks and stumps about.
They might well be the most expensive shoe here but they certainly are the best if comfort and speed are priorities.
Giro Chamber II.
- Water resistant, breathable upper.
- Flexible forefoot for walking.
- Vibram Megagrip sole.
- Moulded EVA midsole.
- Sizes 36-48 Euro.
- 510g (pair, size 43)
- £129.99 RRP
At the opposite end of the shoe scale in this test, compared to the Specialized slippers, are the Giro Chamber IIs. 510g per pair easily makes them the heaviest shoe on test, but again, that offers something in the way of increased protection and durability.
The sole, is unsurprisingly more forgiving, both on and off the bike, but without taking power transfer to sloppy lows. The Chamber IIs are a solid shoe for a hike-a-bike, but the stiff upper around the ankle does mean they can chaff where the Shimano and Pearl offerings don’t. That said, they are touted as a DH offering too, so this might be an unfair criticism.
Getting your foot in the Chambers seems like a tall order, with the stiff upper and small opening making tight work of getting ready. That said, once your trotters are inside, there’s plenty of room. The ample foot well and lace closure means your feet are afforded far more freedom compared to the 2FOs, but foot movement being offset by loss of power transferred.
Protection from the ample upper and solid sole is unsurprisingly the best on test and this is where most of the weight really shines. Kicking rocks seems to be no real issue for the Chambers.
If you race the odd bit of downhill and enduro, and are looking for a shoe to do both, then the Chamber IIs might well be the one.
Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch.
- Bonded seamless upper.
- Reinforced toe cap.
- EVA midsole.
- Vibram Megagrip outsole.
- Size 40 to 48.
- 412g (pair, size 42)
- £109.99 RRP.
Pearl Izumi might not be the first brand you’d think of when it comes to clip shoes, but the X-Alp Launch SPDs are certainly worthy of your attention. The X-Alps occupy somewhat of a middle ground size-wise between the 2FOs and the Chambers, but manage come in impressively light too.
While the X-Alps won’t win any power transfer awards, they certainly are comfy and do a solid job of getting the power from the pistons to the pedals. A far better all-day riding option when there’s a mix of pedalling and walking involved.
Getting the Pearl Izumi numbers on is no more difficult than any pair of normal shoes and the standard lace-up means there’s no faff. Without the cleats in, these could just be your everyday shoes.
The combination of comfort and the Vibram Megagrip sole means they’re easily the best here for walking comfort, so they’re by far the best if your weekends are spent more often in the less accessible parts of the country rather than in between the tape.
Protection sits in between the 2FOs and AM901s, but certainly isn’t the forte of the X-Alps. I haven’t had any real issues of catching them on trail obstacles, so it’s no really lose them any points.
By far the best shoe for everyday riding, where you can easily forget they’re on your feet when you’re in the pub after a long day riding in the mountains.
- Armoured lace shield.
- Moulded toe cap.
- Padded ankle collar.
- Pedal channel.
- Quick dry construction.
- Sizes 36 to 48 Euro.
- 400g (pair, size 42)
- £119.99 RRP.
Shimano’s clip shoes have long been the favourites of many a rider for being good value and the AM901s certainly continue that trend. Second cheapest on test only by a tenner and you get what could well be the winner.
Weight is low courtesy of the quick-drying foam upper. Shimano clips of old would hold the water and take forever to dry, but this new breed of shoe dries impressively fast and keep the weight down, coming in second only to the diminutive Specialized numbers.
Despite the low weight, the shoes are snug and comfortable, while offering a good level of stiffness to the sole and solid power transfer on the gas.
Hike-a-bike doesn’t seem to bother the AM901s, and the cuffed ankle means you’re not going to get any stones or other debris in there whether you’re on or off the pedals.
While not quite sporting the same snug fit that the Boa-shod 2FOs do, there’s no lack of comfort regardless of distance travelled. The tongue is comfy against the bridge of your foot even when horsed up to the hilt.
The low weight hasn’t detracted from the amount of protection on offer, and while they don’t feel as indestructible as the Chambers, you save 100g a pair without losing too much in the way of rock-kicking ability.
If there’s one shoe to rule them all, it’s most likely the AM901s.
And our favourite is…?
While there was no real loser in this test, and certainly no durability issues, some are better things than others. There was one shoe that out-performed the rest and was the best all-round SPD shoe.
The Shimano AM901s have the best combination of low weight, protection, comfort and power transfer.
While they were excellent in conjunction with the HT X1s used for this test, they really come into their own, quite unsurprisingly, with the Saint SPDs we also have on test just now.