Whether you ride technical downhills or love gravel grinding, a good pair of mountain bike shoes can make a ride much better. On the flip side, an uncomfortable poorly-sized pair can make a ride a lot worse. So finding the pair that feels good for you is extremely important. Read on for our opinions on the best women’s MTB shoes.
Here, the women at Bikerumor—and a few of our friends who put in thousands of trail miles yearly—are sharing their favorite picks for any type of mountain biking you’re into. These MTB shoes have been tried and tested, typically for years, and have consistently been our favorites.
Want to learn more about picking the right shoe for you? Scroll down to read our MTB shoe buyer’s guide as well as Frequently Asked Questions.
A caveat about women’s MTB shoes before we dive in: You don’t need to use women’s MTB shoes if you’re a woman. In fact, you may find that unisex options fit better or that you prefer those styles.
BEST OVERALL CLIPLESS MTB SHOE: Giro Cylinder
Our favorite is the Giro Cylinder. The combination of Boa and Velcro for closure means your foot is firmly ensconced in the shoe no matter what happens on the ride. While it has a narrower fit, the upper isn’t unforgiving, making it a comfortable long ride shoe. And it’s racy enough for XC riders looking for performance but has enough give in the sole that it still feels beginner-friendly. In short, it’s a well-balanced shoe.
Its pricing falls in the mid-range as well: At $240, you’re getting most of the benefits of a higher-end shoe. It’s been around for a while, and while a basic black option is available, Giro also releases different colorways depending on what colors are trending. Cyclocrossers can rejoice, too: This shoe has spots to screw in toe spikes for muddy races.
- Type: Clipless
- Closure system: Boa and Velcro
- Sole: Nylon and rubber
- Sizes: 36 to 43 in whole sizes
- Price: $240
PROS: Comfortable while still being race-ready
CONS: Pricey for beginners
BEST HIGH-END WOMEN’S MTB SHOE: Sidi Drako 2 SRS
This shoe has incredible stiffness and power transfer on the bike. It mimics a carbon road shoe. The shoe fits closely to your foot, making it ideal for somebody with a narrow foot. The Boa adjustments provide the opportunity to get a great customized fit.
However, this shoe is not ideal for mountain bike riding, where you may need to hike a bike. It is ultra-stiff and thus not comfortable walking over rocks and non-rideable technical sections. It mimics ice skating on wet rocky trails if you have to come off the bike. Overall, this is a great shoe for fast, single-track riding—just less beginner-friendly.
We also appreciate that with Sidi, most of the pieces of the shoe that tend to break are replaceable. You can order replacement boas, plates for your cleats, and other attachments on Sidi’s website.
- Style: Clipless
- Closure system: Boa
- Sole: Carbon
- Sizes: 38-43
- Colors: White
- MSRP: $500
PROS: Superb power transfer
CONS: Walking is challenging, expensive
BEST WOMEN’S MTB SHOE FOR TIGHT BUDGETS: Northwave Genetix Plus 2
First, a caveat: Northwave doesn’t actually make women-specific shoes, so these are unisex. But we didn’t want to exclude a great budget option that works well for women just because of how it’s marketed. We were impressed with just how slick these shoes look and feel at first glance: Often, budget shoes have just velcro straps, but these have a velcro strap plus a Boa. The upper also looks higher quality than many bargain options.
The sole is much stiffer than many cheaper shoe options, thanks to the Northwave Speedlight 3D carbon composite that’s less pricey than a typical carbon sole but is significantly stiffer than other options. The fit is extremely comfortable, thanks to a Boa dial that makes micro-adjustments and stays in place. However, the sizing can be tricky, so you may want to order two and return one if you’re not positive about your size. (We found they ran slightly small.)
- Style: Clipless
- Closure system: Boa and velcro
- Sole: Speedlight 3D carbon composite
- Sizes: 36-50 Euro
- Colors: Black, highlighter yellow
- MSRP: $130
PROS: Look and feel more expensive than they are
CONS: Sizing can be tricky
BEST WOMEN’S MTB SHOE FOR NARROW FEET: Giro Empire VR90
Riders with narrow feet may prefer the Giro Empire VR90, thanks to its lace-up system that allows precision tightening. “I have very narrow feet, and the lace-up option is amazing for getting a snug fit,” one rider pointed out. They also look damn cool, if that’s a factor for you.
And while the laces may seem old-school, some riders see them as a huge benefit: because they sit flush to the shoe, no crash can cause them to come undone or broken. “No Boas or ratchet straps have worked well for XC MTB and cyclocross racing, as nothing can be set loose if it gets bumped or when you fall!” a racer explained.
- Style: Clipless
- Closure system: Laces
- Sole: Carbon/Rubber
- Sizes: 36-43
- Colors: Black, Berry
- MSRP: $300
PROS: Great aesthetic, easy to clean
CONS: Some may not love the laces, not ideal for wide feet
BEST WOMEN’S MTB SHOE FOR WIDE FEET: Lake MX 332 Women’s
For a racy shoe that won’t make your toes go numb, Lake’s MX 332 shoe is a great option. Whether you race XC or cyclocross or just want to go fast on the trails, these shoes are comfortable while still being race-worthy.
“My feet were tingling and hurt while riding. I used Lake’s online foot measurement tool and found I needed a wide size. Ordered them. Problem solved,” says one rider. For women with wide feet, often unisex shoes are the best option. But plenty of women have higher arches and a narrower heel with a slightly wider toe box, and Lake shoes take that into account.
Note: If you have wide feet, we recommend opting for the unisex version of this shoe or even the wide unisex option. The women’s wide fit is great for someone who wants a bit more wiggle room, but extra-wide feet may be more comfortable in other versions. Use their online measuring to get the right size!
- Style: Clipless
- Closure system: Boas
- Sole: Rubber
- Sizes: 37-43
- Colors: Black, blue camo
- MSRP: $450
PROS: Incredibly comfortable, wide sizes available
BEST WOMEN’S MTB SHOE STYLE: Fizik X5 Terra
“Technically, these are MTB shoes, but I like them so much I use them on all my bikes,” says retired pro Lauren Hall. The Fizik X5 Terra are ideal shoes for anyone from a beginner to a pro. Comfort-driven but still speedy looking and feeling, we love that these shoes come in a huge range of sizes and colors. And at $150, they’re one of the cheapest pairs on this list, but they don’t look like a budget shoe.
Fizik rubberized the sole for better running ability, so whether you’re on technical trails and hiking your bike or racing cyclocross, the X5 Terra will keep you firmly on the ground.
- Style: Clipless
- Closure system: Boas and Velcro
- Sole: Rubber
- Sizes: 36-48
- Colors: Navy blue, black, black and red, gray, olive
- MSRP: $150
PROS: Great price
CONS: None, really
BEST GRAVEL: Specialized S-Works Recon 3.0
Pro racer and gravel expert Alison Tetrick swears by her Specialized S-Works Recon 3.0s. As a rider with a slightly wider foot and the need to be comfortable for 10+ hours of racing, finding a shoe that was just right for her was critical. The Recon 3.0s have plenty of space, and the fit is easily and widely adjustable thanks to two Boas and a Velcro closure.
The heel and tongue area have great cushioning, and the toe box is the ideal width. There is enough room for your toes not to feel cramped, but your foot doesn’t swim around like some shoes with a wide toe box.
We like the shoe blend of stiffness—critical for good power output in long gravel grinders—and comfort. The soles are designed for great traction if you are off the bike and walking, and the shape of the shoe helps to avoid dreaded hot spots on your feet.
The only drawback is that the fabric covering the padding around the heel and ankle wore quickly, but this resulted from high usage. Overall, this is a great all-around mountain bike shoe for performance and comfort.
- Style: Clipless
- Closure system: Boas and velcro
- Sole: Carbon/rubber
- Sizes: 36-49 Euro
- Colors: Black, red, gray, olive, blue
- MSRP: $225
PROS: Comfortable for long gravel adventures
CONS: Not great for narrow feet
BEST FLAT PEDAL MTB SHOES: Specialized 2FO Roost
Very few brands make women-specific downhill or flat MTB shoes, and our team of women testers found that unisex models work great. For enduro or downhill riding, where you’re hiking the bike almost as much as you’re sending it, we like the Specialized 2FO Roost. They’re comfortable to walk in and provide a ton of traction between you and flat pedals.
(Read our full review here: Specialized 2FO Roost flat MTB shoes lock-in low rebound rubber)
- Style: Flat
- Closure system: Laces
- Sole: Rubber
- Sizes: 36-49
- Colors: Black, olive
- MSRP: $120
PROS: Comfortable for walking
CONS: Might be too wide for some women
Decide if you want women’s shoes. Typically, women’s cycling shoes run a bit narrower than men’s/unisex options and come in smaller sizes. So if you have a skinny foot or need a small size, you may need women’s MTB shoes. But you may want to consider men’s options if you don’t have a narrow foot since the fit is similar, but the pricing/colors/styles might be more to your liking.
Decide on how you want to ride. If you’re a downhill/enduro type of MTBer, flat shoes are for you. If you’re more into XC MTB, cyclocross, gravel riding, or even casual road riding or spin classes, shoes for clipless pedals are the right call.
Measure your feet carefully. Some brands have weird sizing, so it’s best to know the exact length of your foot to compare with their size charts. When in doubt, message the company and ask for advice. Or check that the company has free returns, and order the two pairs that you think might work.
Make sure you try the shoes on with the socks you’ll be riding in. It sounds minor, but cycling socks versus regular socks can make a difference in how shoes fit.
Walk and ride to test. Even if you’re not planning to spend a lot of your time hiking your bike, you likely will walk at some point. So find a shoe that feels relatively comfortable while walking as well as riding. This is especially important for cyclocrossers!
Frequently Asked Questions
What do I need MTB shoes for?
Other than the obvious—namely, mountain biking—MTB shoes have other uses. Clipless MTB shoes are often used for gravel riding and cyclocross racing, and if you use SPD cleats, you can even use your MTB shoes for spin classes.
Some people find that the best women’s MTB shoes are more comfortable and easier to walk in than road shoes, and will use MTB shoes rather than road shoes for all kinds of riding.
Flat shoes to use with regular pedals can also be used as skate shoes or shoes for dirt jumping or BMX riding.
When would I need clipless pedals versus riding with flat pedals?
If you’re serious about putting in big miles, clipless pedals allow you to be much more efficient with your pedal stroke. Gravel and cyclocross riders will typically use clipless MTB shoes, as will cross-country racers. More casual riders and those in gravity disciplines like downhill may prefer flat shoes.
Can I wear sneakers if using flat pedals?
You may find that regular sneakers work just fine as mountain bike shoes when used with flat pedals when you are getting started. But as you progress, you’ll likely want to swap to bike-specific flat shoes, which have a rubber sole that’s stickier than your average shoe to stay more firmly attached to the pedals. The rubber is also more durable, so the small pins in your pedals that help keep your feet in place won’t damage them.
How should the best women’s MTB shoes fit?
Think about a running shoe and aim for that kind of feeling: Snug enough that your foot isn’t sliding around at all, but not so tight that your toes are crunched, or you can’t wiggle them slightly. Because mountain biking typically includes spending time off the bike, a shoe that feels comfortable to walk (or run if you’re racing) is important. We like shoes like Sidi’s (above) that offer multiple ways to adjust sizing.
Do I need carbon soles?
It depends on the type of riding you’re hoping to do, but most recreational mountain bikers won’t need the added stiffness that carbon provides. If you are doing a lot of pedaling, though, that stiffness will help you waste less energy. Rubber will bend slightly with every pedal stroke, reducing the force transferred to the drivetrain.
Do I need women-specific shoes?
No. Some riders may find them more comfortable, though.
Can I use mountain bike shoes as road shoes?
Definitely. You may lose a bit of power in the transfer because they’re not as stiff. But most riders will be fine.
When should I replace my MTB cleats?
If you notice your foot wobbling around on the pedal, if you’re constantly coming unclipped from the pedal unintentionally, or you are having difficulty engaging the cleat when stepping into the pedal, it may be time to swap out your cleats.
What’s the best closure system for the best women’s MTB shoes?
For mountain biking you’re best served with a closure style that closes in two different ways, to give you backup in case something snaps in a crash. That means a Boa closure on top and velcro straps is a safer combination than a Boa alone.
Of course, plain shoelaces are great for flat shoes (and some brands like Giro make lace-up versions of their mountain bike shoes), and while they’re a bit old-school, they do a great job and are easy to adjust depending on your foot width and arch height.
Do I need insoles?
You don’t, but if you find that none fit comfortably despite trying a few types of shoes, insoles may change the fit enough to make something initially unusable ultimately comfortable.