Do MTB Shoes Make a Difference? (5 Things to Know!)

Updated On:

Did you know that cycling footwear was invented in the 1940s? REW Reynolds, a bicycle frame company, developed the first biking shoes made from leather and steel fluted shanks.

Shoes for biking go a long way back, and many consider it an essential part of the sport. Whenever you see mountain bikers, chances are they’re wearing a pair of MTB shoes.

Is it necessary to wear these shoes when mountain biking, though? Do MTB shoes make a difference? Read on, and I’ll answer these questions below, along with five interesting facts about the benefits of MTB shoes.

5 Benefits of MTB Shoes

Mountain biking shoes are optimally designed for mountain biking. Using MTB footwear will provide more protection and prevent slipping while pedaling through rough terrain. These shoes also allow a seamless force transfer from your legs to the pedal.

So, if you’re still thinking about buying mountain biking shoes, here are five benefits of using MTB footwear while mountain biking:

1.   Pedal Control

While on the saddle, you constantly shift your weight from left to right to maneuver around obstacles. For this reason, excellent pedal control is indispensable to this sport.

If you’ve been using ordinary shoes, you may have noticed that your feet are more prone to slipping. This issue can easily make your time on the trail less enjoyable than you intended.

Have you ever experienced getting your shins hit a rotating pedal because of a slip? They’re extremely painful, but you can prevent this from happening with mountain biking shoes.

These shoes have features that prevent slipping and firmly plant your feet on the pedal. They provide exceptional grip and traction for different kinds of terrain.

There are two types of MTB footwear: shoes with flat, sticky soles and shoes with cleats that you attach to the bike pedal. Both varieties are great options, though you should pick the one you feel most comfortable with.

2.   Feet Protection

Damaged mountain bike shoe

While your ordinary sneakers feel comfortable for jogging and other light exercises, they won’t provide much protection when biking through rough roads.

While on the trail, you expose your feet to the many elements of mountain biking, such as branches, thorned grasses, and sharp rocks. It’s why a protective measure is a must.

That said, you don’t want something flimsy and thin to cover your feet while mountain biking. Ordinary shoes can easily tear if clipped by sharp branches or rock edges.

MTB shoes, on the other hand, provide the perfect protection for your feet while pedaling. They protect your toes and ankles from any impact you may experience throughout your ride.

3.   More Power

More grip and traction means more power to your pedaling. With these shoes, you can put your whole weight on the pedal without thinking about accidental slips.

You’ll also notice that the power transfer between your feet to the bike becomes smoother. The stiff soles of MTB shoes are the reason for this perk.

Soft, cushiony footwear, like tennis shoes, absorbs a considerable amount of your force before it reaches the pedal. It means you exert more power with ordinary shoes than with MTB shoes.

In addition, with your shoes securely fastened on the bike pedal, you can gain speed comfortably, especially on uphill terrains. After all, who doesn’t enjoy the feel of the air on your face while enjoying nature?

4.   Tough Build

Another reason to purchase MTB footwear is its durability. Manufacturers made this type of sports footwear to endure the extreme nature of mountain biking.

Whether you’re planning on mountain biking as a fitness routine or merely as a hobby, durable footwear always goes a long way—both for protection and performance.

Trail biking involves a lot of dust, dirt, water, and tension, which ordinary shoes won’t be able to handle. You don’t want to spend money on footwear that only lasts a few months on the trail.

Despite their toughness, most MTB shoes are also lightweight and flexible. So, as long as you get the right fit and size, you’re guaranteed a fun trail experience with MTB shoes.

5.   Practical Design

The deal-maker that made me choose MTB shoes over other footwear is their versatility. They provide a perfect balance between flexibility and durability for every terrain.

Mountain biking requires footwear you can use in every situation. You’ll need to jump, run, walk, and drop as you pedal across obstacles and hurdles of the trail.

So, you’ll need shoes that can efficiently absorb shock to lessen the toll on your legs, core, and feet. The shock-absorbing material of MTB shoes will minimize vibrations and impact from road shock, resulting in a more pleasant mountain biking experience.

If you’re on a muddy trail, you can find designs with waterproof and quick-drying materials. For rough, rocky terrains, you can choose MTB shoes with thick padding for added support.

Road Cycling Shoes Vs. MTB Shoes

People usually compare road cycling shoes and MTB shoes. However, it’s vital to keep in mind that although both sports involve bikes, the nature and risks between the two are different.

The primary difference between road shoes and MTB shoes is their cleats. The cleats of road shoes will fix your feet on the pedals so you won’t need to adjust them throughout the ride.

Manufacturers designed these cycling shoes for prolonged periods of pedaling on flat surfaces. You also can’t wear road shoes for running or walking because they have extremely rigid soles.

On the other hand, the soles of mountain biking are soft and flexible, with recessed cleats. This feature allows you to shift weight, perform maneuvers, and even run or walk on the trail.

MTB footwear is tougher and beefier, which offers more protection. They’re also better at withstanding constant shock and tension than road cycling shoes.

How to Choose Your MTB Shoes

Like all other sportswear, choosing the right MTB shoes will depend on your needs. If your bike has flat pedals, your best option is to use flat-soled MTB shoes for the rubber soles.

For a bike with clipless pedals, you’ll need mountain biking shoes with cleats to mount the pedals. In either case, pick the most comfortable size so you’ll have an easier time adjusting!

Photo of author


Paul Tuthill
Growing up in Scotland, Paul developed a love for the outdoors and a desire for adventure from an early age.