Tested : Ben’s Flat Pedal Shoe Shootout.

Ben has put the flat pedal shoes, from Specialized, Ride Concepts and Etnies head to head to see which comes out on top.

A decent set of flat pedal shoes makes riding easier, whether it is sending DH laps, hitting chilled singletrack or bagging some big climbs. They need all day comfort, some degree of stiffness and efficiency, and of course, grip to keep you stuck to your pedals when things get wild.

Traditionally it is the grip department where, if it doesn’t say 5.10 on the side, a shoe will be lacking, especially in the cold. The Stealth rubber soles on a set of 5.10 have continually set the standard for flat pedal grip for as long as I can remember, even if they can wear out a little quicker than others.

So, with three new sets of shoes and a long, cold and wet winter of riding, I have been putting in plenty of miles to see if any of these fresh offerings can compare to my benchmark shoe, the 5.10 Freerider Pro.

Photos by Dave Price.

Specialized 2FO Roost

Key features:

  • SlipNot ST rubber sole
  • Cushioned EVA foam midsole
  • Leather and textile upper
  • Body Geometry sole to boost power and reduce injuries
  • £110.00 RRP
  • Specialized.com

Testing bikes and gear for nearly seven years now, this is my third set of Specialized 2FO shoes, having ridden every iteration of them in that time. They are a shoe that I get on well with, in terms of fit and comfort, but that lacked outright grip in the earlier iterations. I even still occasionally ride in a 5 year old set of 2FOs that I had re-soled with 5.10 Stealth Rubber.

The latest 2FO feel like they take most of the previous versions best bits and then take the sole to the next level, and, dare I say it, into the realms of 5.10’s secret rubber compound of F1 tyres mixed with unicorn tears. The new rubber compound is called SlipNot ST and it does what the name suggests, doing a great job of sticking you to the pedals, no matter how wet and cold it is.

The rubber feels soft and sticky, especially compared to the other shoes on test here and when you step onto a set of aggro pedals like the excellent Deity T-Mac you will feel secure and connected, no matter how rough things get.

As always, there is a trade off with shoes and pedals between outright grip and the ability to slightly adjust your foot position on the fly. I err on the side of outright grip and don’t mind riding a section with one foot a bit wonky or out of place if it means my feet won’t blow off. The Specialized 2FO’s excellent sole gives you the option to have max grip by running them with long pedal pins or you can have more movement by running shorter, less aggressive pins. A grippy soles gives you that choice where a less grippy one only gives you one option.

The 2FO Roost feels firm and quite sporty without being too stiff, although they do feel stiffer than the previous versions. The upper is a strange choice with a brushed leather toe and heel area that changes colour to darker green as soon as it gets wet. It also seems to hold onto dirt for longer than the smooth finish on the Etnies and on previous versions of the 2FO. Neither thing is a big deal, but I didn’t really like this aspect of the styling.

We Love:

  • Grippy sole
  • Comfort

Could Do Better:

  • Ditch the brushed leather sections

Etnies Camber Crank

Key features:

  • Skate styling
  • Michelin rubber soles
  • Pro Foam insole
  • Lace tuck pocket
  • £74.99 RRP
  • Etnies.com

Etnies are not the first name you think of when it comes to MTB shoes, but over the past few years the skate brand has been developing and releasing an ever-growing line up of MTB shoes, from freestyle and more casual models developed with Brandon Semenuk, to more trail-focused ones like the Camber Crank tested here.

The cheapest on test by about £35, the Etnies have plenty of great features, not least the fact that they are basically waterproof. Funnily enough, they don’t promote this as a feature, the Californian brand clearly not placing it high on their priority list. The upper is a tough, abrasion resistant PU Nubuck material that looks quite plasticy, although not in a bad way. It is this material, the lack of vent holes and then tongue gussets that made the Camber Cranks one of my go to winter riding shoes for short local blasts in the wet.

You may notice that I said, ‘short,’ local blasts, and that is because I found the toe box to be quite snug in the height department and if I rode for much over an hour, the tops of my toes would rub and eventually blister. This is not something I have ever encountered when testing MTB shoes for the last 7 years, so I would suggest trying them on in a local shop to see how they fit, especially if you have fat toes.

Sole grip is provided by Michelin. The tread is unusual for an MTB shoe as it is flat with grooves cut in it, just like a typical trainer or skate shoe, whereas most MTB shoes tend to have rubber lugs that stick out. The narrow channels do pack up with mud easily making them pretty slimy when you are off the bike on a wet trail, but this didn’t seem to affect the amount of gip on the pedals.

The Camber Cranks do need a pretty grippy pedal to really feel connected and secure, and if you run a pedal with worn or missing pins you will quickly find the limits of your traction when things get rough. Some riders will like the ability to twist and adjust the foot on the pedal, but as I said earlier, I am not one of them.

For chilled out riding these are a great shoe with enough grip and a pretty good pedal feel, but for full blown enduro or DH, they lack the outright grip of the Specialized or 5.10.

We Love:

  • Basically waterproof
  • Cool looks and gum sole

Could Do Better:

  • Rubbed my toes
  • Not as grippy as Specialized or 5.10

Ride Concepts Wildcat

Key features:

  • Mid top design to protect and support ankles
  • D30 High Impact Sole
  • Fully gusseted tongue
  • Synthetic upper with anti-abrasion mesh
  • £109.00 RRP
  • RideConcepts.com

The Wildcats are a bit different to any riding shoe I have tested before with their padded, mid-top design cradling my ankles and the large velcro strap securing the fit all combining to make me feel like Michael J Fox in Back To The Future each time I laced them up. They are big, chunky affairs and when you first put them on, you can feel the ankle padding around your ankle and I was expecting to feel restricted when I rode. In fact, after the first few minutes, you don’t even notice the padding and I never felt my ankle movement being limited when pedalling or descending.

As a result of the all-weather construction and increased ankle coverage, these are really warm and cosy winter riding shoes especially when worn with waterproof trousers which work with the mid top design to keep your feet dry for longer than with a lower cut shoe. Add a pair of waterproof socks and you are well set for the coldest and wildest days on the hill.

For years, it has annoyed me that shoe companies only seem to spec velcro straps on ‘high performance’ SPD type shoes and you rarely see them on flat pedal shoes, when in fact I want to ride and race hard on flats whilst keeping my laces and foot secure. Seeing the strap on the Ride Concepts made me very happy as it not only keeps the laces out the way, but it removes any extra movement from the foot that could be robbing you of Watts and therefore seconds. If you don’t want your foot cinched down, then just back it off.

Sole grip was similar to the Michelin rubber on the Etnies, although the general feel of the sole was somewhat stiffer. That stiffness does limit how much your foot wraps itself around the pedal, but it also feels pretty efficient on all day missions. Testing was limited somewhat due to COVID, so I didn’t get any long, rough laps of Bike Park Wales but I am going to speculate that the supportive design and stiff sole would make these comfy options for all day party laps, where a softer shoe can be tiring, leaving you with sore feet when the vertical metres descended gets into the 1500+ range.

We Love:

  • They look rad and you could wear them with jeans.
  • Super warm, comfy and dry.
  • Extra security from the Velcro strap

Could Do Better:

  • Take ages to dry out if they get soaked.
  • Not as grippy as Specialized or 5.10

What do we think?

All three shoes have been very durable over the winter of riding and testing and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses making them more suited to different riders. This is not so much of a test to see which is best, but a comparison to help you decide which is the type of shoe for you and your riding.

It is also worth noting that all testing was cold and wet and these have not been ridden in hot, summer conditions. Looking at the level of waterproofing and the amount of venting I would suggest that the 2FO Roost would be the coolest with the Etnies in the middle and then the big padded ,Ride Concepts being the warmest.

For outright grip and feel, the Specialized 2FO Roost wins hands down. For riders on a budget, the Etnies Camber Crank are a really decent shoe that also offers great weather proofing. For the nastiest weather or for riders who seek the extra ankle protection, the Wildcats are hard to beat.

Read all our other product grouptests on our Gear page here.