When I decided to give flat pedals a try after 25 years of riding clipless, I knew that the right shoes would be a major factor in the flat pedals’ success. When it comes to shoes for flat pedal use, Five Ten pretty much wrote the book with their sticky-soled Freerider family of footwear (say that three times fast). I started with the company’s Freerider Contact model, and it’s served me well for several seasons. In the back of my mind, though, I found myself wishing for a slightly stiffer version with more traction on and off the bike. The folks at Five Ten must be psychic, because they developed the Freerider Pro ($150 MSRP) with exactly those features–and more.
Taking design cues from their Danny Macaskill and Kestrel Lace models, Five Ten’s Freerider Pro cuts a sleeker profile than the company’s more skate-inspired predecessors. That slim profile isn’t just for looks, either–the Pro fits better while offering even more protection against rocks and roots. The uppers’ minimal stitching means reduced likelihood of blown-out seams, and the Pros’ S1 rubber soles bond better than the Mi6 rubber found on the Contacts (which helps eliminate the delamination that was an issue with the latter). And despite weighing 401 grams (US men’s 11), the Pro feels downright sprightly compared to the regular Freerider model (441 grams for the same size).
One argument against flat pedals is that compatible shoes often lack the stiffness of their clipless counterparts. While the Freerider Pro may not be as stiff as, say, a full-carbon road shoe, the Five Tens are on par with similarly priced, walkable clipless shoes. The Pros’ midsoles are stiff enough to provide good power transfer, but they’re not so stiff that you lose the pedal feel that’s needed when navigating dicey terrain. Off the bike, the dotty S1 sole is a real improvement over the smooth sole found on the Freerider Contact–especially when it’s time for the inevitable hike-a-bike.
It’s obvious that even with the best shoes, flat pedals can’t offer the same level of foot retention as clipless setups. I’m happy to report, however, that I never slipped a pedal with the Freerider Pros during several months of testing. Having experimented with a variety of MTB-style flat pedals, I found that the dotty sole pattern worked best with pedals that utilized small-diameter pins (e.g RaceFace Aeffect, Spank Oozy, VP Vice). If you’re running toe clips or foot straps, though, you may find that the soft rubber tread elements make entry more difficult than smoother-soled shoes.
Balancing durability and comfort can be tricky, but Five Ten has hit the sweet spot with the Freerider Pro. Whether it’s an all-day ride on Colorado’s finest singletrack, commuting during triple-digit temps, or just walking around the local farmer’s market, the Pros have have taken it all in stride. After months of use, the shoes show very little wear; stitching remains intact, and there are no signs of delamination. Colorado’s summer riding season is known for late-afternoon rain storms, and my Freerider Pros have seen their fair share of wet weather use. Thankfully, the Pros dry quickly, and don’t have a tendency to stretch if ridden wet.
If you’re looking for a durable flat-pedal shoe that offers excellent grip and Goldilocks stiffness, it’s hard to beat Five Ten’s Freerider Pro. Cyclists with very wide feet may find the fit to be a little snug, but I was comfortable wearing the shoes with socks of varying thickness. My only gripe with the Freerider Pros is that they lack any sort of reflective trim. More than once I’ve had to ride home after sunset, and a little extra visibility would be a welcome addition to the Freerider Pro.
Disclosure: Five Ten provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.