Mountain Bike Shoe
(Photograph by Shana Novak)

Inside a Mountain-Bike Shoe

What's going on inside a top-level MTB cleat? We dissected this $380 model to find out.

Mountain Bike Shoe
Alicia Carr

1. FIT

Mountain Bike Shoe

Mountain Bike Shoe

To pull every watt of power out of your legs, your shoe needs to fit perfectly (slop = wasted energy). Four plastic pieces like this one (at the heel, instep, arch, and little toe) are heat-molded to your foot at the bike shop for a custom fit.

2. DURABILITY

It looks like a piece of your lunch bag, but this is actually a thin strip of fiberglass that maintains the shape of the heel. Unlike pre-formed heel cups, the fiberglass doesn’t stretch out—the main reason most shoes need replacement.

3. WEIGHT

The carbon-fiber outsole reduces weight over typical nylon outsoles by up to 25 percent, while stiffening the shoe for greater power. The drawback? The material is also twice the cost: about $152 per pair.

4. COMFORT

Most shoe tongues are just floppy fabric. These Band-Aid-like strips of PVC plastic give the M310’s tongue an arch that matches the shape of your foot, adding both comfort and a touch of power-enhancing rigidity.

5. CUSHION

Party mustache? Nope. This piece of high-density foam in the heel conforms to foot contours for a blister-free fit, but springs back to its original shape afterwards, losing only5 percent of its puff over the life of the shoe.

6. EFFICIENCY

The number-one way you lose power? Heel slip. This tacky, metal-infused polyester, placed at the back of the shoe, is textured like a cat’s tongue—smooth in one direction, grippy in the other—and helps lock your foot in place.

7. INSULATION

A wishbone-shaped piece of mesh wraps the pieces of thermomoldable plastic in the heel to keep the foam from being scorch­ed by the 200-degree temperatures it will be subjected to during a custom fitting.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021 Lead Photo: Photograph by Shana Novak
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