It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of adidas | Five Ten’s cycling shoes. For several years, the company’s kicks have been my top choice for commuting, mixed-terrain, and off-road riding. Earlier this year, while checking out Five Ten’s new models at the annual Outdoor Retailer trade show, I had the opportunity to chat with Five Ten’s Luke Hontz, Senior Product Manager for Bike and Snow.
GRAVELBIKE: How long have you been with Five Ten?
Luke Hontz: I started with Five Ten as a US sales rep for the Northwest in 2006/7. During that time I managed three bike and snowboard shops in the Lake Tahoe area, and was a sales rep for several other brands. Around 2010 I accepted a position as Five Ten’s Action Sports Sales Director and began my journey as an in-house employee. In 2011, adidas bought Five Ten, and I began working on a more global level. At one point, I went from being a salesperson to mostly working with product and handling the marketing and sports marketing. Over the years my job has constantly evolved, and I have always just done what was needed at the time.
GRAVELBIKE: What are some of the benefits of being part of adidas compared to being an independent company?
Luke Hontz: We have so many more resources now that we are in the adidas family. We have access to better factories, better materials, and have way better quality control. It is great to be part of a company which has such integrity and also has an amazing sustainability program that we can leverage. You’ll see that sustainability plays a greater role in our 2021 bike apparel and footwear lineup where we use recycled plastics for the first time on our line (adidas Primeblue).
Back in the day, when Five Ten was independent, it was always more seat of the pants. Things were always exciting as we could be incredibly nimble. But while we were able to move quickly, we always had a shortage of resources. As part of the adidas family, we can bring in expertise from other parts of the company. And we are now a truly global brand.
GRAVELBIKE: How long does it take for a shoe to go from inception (basic napkin sketches) to production?
Luke Hontz: We are currently on a two-year calendar. But there are plenty of times when we are working on more technical shoes that two years is too short of a lead time. For example, when we were working on the Trailcross Gore-Tex it was supposed to come out for Fall Winter 2020, but we pushed it back to Spring Summer 2021 as we wanted to improve the ankle closure. In order to make the shoe completely waterproof (so water doesn’t seep in at the ankle), we pushed it back to Fall Winter ’21. That shoe will be a three-year project by the time it hits the market.
GRAVELBIKE: Sustainability and eco-friendliness were hot topics at the recent Outdoor Retailer show. What is adidas / Five Ten doing on those fronts when it comes to bike footwear?
Luke Hontz: 2021 will be the first time Five Ten offers a head-to-toe sustainability package. It will be the first in the cycling industry.
GRAVELBIKE: Speaking of the Trailcross… it’s a real departure from Five Ten’s skate-inspired models. What was the impetus behind the Trailcross?
Luke Hontz: We took a long look at the mountain bike community and saw that people want alternatives to skate-style shoes. I keep a close eye on what other brands are doing, and saw that many kept copying/remaking our Freerider and Freerider Pro. We saw an opportunity to do something cool and different. We’d seen the demand for a true adventure shoe that had the performance of both a bike and hike shoe. We’ve always led the industry in creating new products to fit the changing needs of athletes. It is nice to have created another first.
GRAVELBIKE: What type of new (footwear) technology can we look forward to from adidas / Five Ten?
Luke Hontz: For Spring Summer 2021 you’ll see sustainability and apparel are major pushes for the brand. Also we have always led the industry in gravity shoes and we are excited to raise the bar again in that category as well.
GRAVELBIKE: What are some common mistakes that riders make when choosing a cycling shoe?
Luke Hontz: The most common mistake is not getting the right shoe for the right application
GRAVELBIKE: I’m a big fan of flat pedals for gravel riding, but I really miss having BOA closures. Do you think we’ll see a BOA-equipped flat pedal shoe from Five Ten?
Luke Hontz: We have worked on prototypes with BOA and they are a great partner. That’s all I can say right now.
GRAVELBIKE: Do you think we’ll ever see a dedicated gravel shoe?
Luke Hontz: I think gravel riders will be impressed with the Trailcross it is such a versatile flat pedal shoe. Who knows, there could be clipless version in the future….
GRAVELBIKE: Which are bigger sellers, (Five Ten’s) clipless or flat-pedal shoes?
Luke Hontz: Flat pedal is the biggest seller, although our clipless category is growing.
GRAVELBIKE: What are your favorite adidas/ Five Ten shoes for riding?
Luke Hontz: It depends on what I’m riding. Right now I ride the Freerider Pro for bike-parks and longer rides. However for more of your classic mountain bike rides, or hike-a-bike type rides I wear the Trailcross LT.
GRAVELBIKE: It seems like everyone wants shoes that are stiffer and stickier, but can a shoe be too stiff or too sticky?
Luke Hontz: Yes a shoe can be too stiff or too sticky depending on how you are using it.
In my opinion pedal feel is the most important aspect of riding with flat pedals and pedal feel encompasses both stickiness and stiffness. When you ride flat pedals you use the pedal differently and you need to feel where your foot is on the pedal for balance and control. If you have too stiff of a shoe it will limit pedal feel and throw off your balance and control. If you have to soft a shoe you lose power and your foot gets fatigued. As for stickiness I love a super sticky shoe for riding. Some freestyle athletes prefer something less sticky for their no-footed tricks, so we use Marathon rubber for that.
GRAVELBIKE: What’s the best part of working in the footwear / outdoor industry?
Luke Hontz: There is nothing better than being out riding and seeing someone wearing one of our new shoes or hearing someone say you really need to get some Five Tens. It makes it all worth it.
Five Ten has taken me all around the globe and I have gotten to meet and become friends with many of my heroes.