Like many other large brands, last year Five Ten finally caught up with the growing women's MTB market and released their first range of women's specific shoes.
Not sure what's for you? Read: Choosing between flat and clipless pedals for MTB
The women's MTB audience is constantly expanding, and brands are finally reacting by releasing more female specific kit. One of a host to bring out new women's fit gear in 2016, market leaders Five Ten brought out their first female specific shoes in 2015 - previous to this most wore men's or children's versions which weren't always up to the job.
The American based manufacturer answered our prayers in 2015 with the Women's Freerider trainer, and for 2016 the newer, slimmer and refined Freerider contact has been released with much anticipation.
The women's shoes are available in smaller sizes, and are designed around a 'last' (3D model) based on women's often narrower feet, specifically our slightly narrower ankles. We got our hands on a pair and took them out for a spin in the boggy January streams that were once MTB trails.
Out the Box
Straight out the box, I was impressed. These come in a brilliant shock green colour and are noticeably lighter in weight than previous models thanks to the super slim design. Unlike the previous model's canvas exterior, the newer version uses an abrasion resistant outer shell and synthetic material to save on those crucial grams.
Turning them over, it's notable that the traditional dotty sole pattern has been shaved to provide a smooth contact surface area between the shoe and the pedal.
Another striking feature of the 2016 Freerider's is the new Stealth Mi6 rubber sole which is tacky to the touch, and considerably softer that the previous version's Phantom rubber sole.
Arguably the most important element of a flat MTB shoe, the sole should create a strong bond between shoe and pedal and I was intrigued to see if the new rubber would have a notable effect.
I've been wearing the new Women's Contact Freeriders for a couple of months, and through some of the wettest and muddiest rides I've ever been on.
They feel a lot lighter to wear than any other MTB shoes I've tried, and the slimmer profile is noticeable around the ankle area. I'm a UK 5 in pretty much all shoes - from heels to flats and trainers - but I found these a smidge too small, meaning where my toes were flush at the ends and the heel was tight in the narrower casing. This slight discomfort was further enhanced when wearing thicker socks, such as SealSkinz.
The laces are quite long and they often got caught on my pedals, crank and even came undone a few times. As seen on other Five Ten models, I think a strap, or clip would be ideal for biking shoes because the last thing you need is getting tied up on your bike and having a nasty come off.
Despite the new, smooth synthetic shell, these Five Tens are most definitely not waterproof. I would have thought this would have been taken into consideration by now with MTB shoes. Wet mud, puddles and cycling in the rain doesn't put us off, so we need shoes that can withstand all the elements, just like us.
However, this new lighter model of Freerider does dry quicker than their heavier and bulkier predecessors. Being able to take out the in-soles to dry separately does help with the process also. Although it's still not a quick dry process.
For riding in, they are brilliant. The Stealth Mi6 rubber sole grips so well to my DMR V12 pedals that it actually became difficult to adjust my foot positioning if I needed to. The technology of this rubber is similar to that of a climbers shoe where the rubber is softer, tackier and deforms to obstacles. In this case, pedal pins.
As a flat contact MTB shoe, I think these are brilliant. They're super grippy with the pedals which ensures a reduced likelihood of a foot slipping off and the rider suffering with a hellish shinner. This is owing to the new Stealth rubber technology which I think proves itself to be a great success.
However, I know many riders also enjoy wearing their Five Ten's casually as an everyday trainer, and I don't believe this new style would be appropriate, as it would cause a quicker wear of the soft sole.
In terms of aesthetics - I really love the slimmed down profile, the colours, and the significant weight reduction which make them feel light on the feet.
I do believe that Five Ten need to think about offering greater waterproofing - this is especially important for those of us that live in places where it rains 11 months of the year. Further to that, I'm convinced the use of a lace guard or clip would be beneficial in ensuring the laces don't get in the way of riding, as well as keeping them somewhat clean from muddy splash backs.
Speaking personally, the sizing came up small - especially when wearing thicker socks. This may be something to consider when purchasing a pair, and ideally I'd recommend going to a dealer where you can try before you buy.
Amazing grip with the pedals
Tighter fit maybe too tight
Laces can be bothersome
Not suitable for casual wear
Available in Shock Green/Onix and Maroon/ Grey
Available in Sizes UK 2.5 - 8.5
Weight 665g (size UK 5)
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