Review: Five Ten Kestrel Boas Mountain Bike Shoes

First off, I never thought I’d be wearing clipless mountain bike shoes, let alone reviewing a pair. Nevertheless, here I am with a pair of FIVE TEN KESTREL PRO BOAs on my feet and couldn’t be more stoked about it! 

First off, I’ve been riding clipless on my road bike for 5 years now, so I’d say I’m super comfortable and used to the clipless setup.  I thought riding challenging terrain was just way to sketchy to be clipped in for, let alone downhill sections. So I used to swear by riding flats on my full suspension mountain bike. But after having some knee issues stemming from the push-only riding on my flats, as well as tired of getting smoked by my friends on the uphill, I needed to switch. So if you’re in the same camp as me, then you’ll definitely enjoy this review.

This review is going to be broken down into the following categories: Performance, comfort/fit, durability, detail, price, and weight.

Performance

The #1 thing you want out of a cycling shoe is to have as much force transferred from your pedal stroke, through the shoe, and into the pedal. So a good riding shoe has very, very stiff soles from heel-to-toe, as well as in the torsional direction if you were to twist the shoe. This is the reason why it’s not recommended to ride in hiking shoes or sneakers. The Kestrels have the stiffness compared to a high end road cycling shoe without the lack of protection and durability that road shoes lack. The soles are constructed from a stiff carbon-infused nylon shank. But stiffness is all for not if you the shoe doesn’t stay on your foot during the pedal stroke. This is where the Boa system comes into play.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Boa system, which is similarly used in snowboard boots, it’s a lace-less closure system that allows you to tighten the shoe by twisting a knob. This allows for the most precise adjustments before and during your ride. With that being said, it also has a consistent hold throughout your ride.

Throughout every climb, I have confidence, as my foot passes through the down stroke and begins to pull back into the backstroke, that 99% of the load is going to be transferred through the pedal. No extra room in my shoe for my shoe to slide around, no feeling of pulling off my foot in the upstroke, and no flex in the sole during any point to dissipate energy.

Comfort/Fit

Bouncing off my last point in the performance section, these shoes not only fit snug but also feel comfortable. There’s a balancing act that you play in this area. You can have a super-lightweight shoe that has minimal fastening points (laces/velcro/boas/buckles), but sacrifice the comfort resulting in pressure points and blood restriction. A heavier shoe can spare weight in the tung of the shoe to disperse the pressure applied onto the foot via the fastening method. Laces spread that applied pressure across the entire top of your foot, whereas velcro straps add specific pressure zones and can restrict blood flow. The Boas system is a compromise, dispersing the pressure across 4 cross-straps as well as an added velcro strap on over the toe-box. All of this to say, when you crank down on the boa knob to tighten the shoe, it does not create pressure points and fits comfortably snug.

The sole is rigid, for reasons described above, which means they’re not the most comfortable to walk in. But neither are most riding/cycling shoes. But as for comfort while riding, these puppies are fantastically comfortable. The OrthoLite sole does not feel like you’re standing on pieces of plastic like other insoles, yet still transfer load fantastically. They are comfortable to ride all day in, and still not want to take them off after the ride.

The Kestrel Boas fit is normal. I have a size 8.5 foot, chose to get a size 9 and am satisfied. I could have maybe gone down to an 8.5 to get the toe-box a little more snug, but have no complaints so far with the extra room that the 9 provides.

The shoe materials breath well and don’t feel stuffy or get too hot while riding. So far, I’ve ridden a few multi-hour rides in temps ranging from 70s-80s and have not felt my feet get too hot. The Kestrels fair far better than my go-to trail running shoes (Salomon Speedcross) in this department.

Durability

Granted, I don’t have a multi-year experience on this pair of shoes, so I can’t comment on their ability to go the distance. So in the absence of that data, I will comment on the preventative steps that went into the Kestrel construction. They come standard with the tried-and-true Five Ten Stealth C4 Rubber Soles. This is the same technology that goes into Five Tens climbing shoes, approach shoes, as well as all their other riding shoes. This rubber stands the test of time in all riding terrain. I personally have put these to the test in the sandstone/slickrock desert riding of Moab, as well as the technical, rocky terrain right here in the Wasatch of Park City.

The portion above the soles that attach to the toe and heel of the shoe add extra wear protection and blend seamlessly into the rest of the upper material. The uppers are made from a synthetic weather-resistant material so keep it performing well during all riding conditions.

Boas tend to break, or at least all the ones I’ve ever seen. Wether its the laces get stretched out or the boa twist knob breaks, something usually goes. This is a gamble, but repairable. There are plenty of YouTube videos and repair kits out there to get you back riding in no time. From initial impressions, it seems like the only weak point on these shoes.

Detail

First off, I wanted to point out how much detail went into this shoe. There’s a Non-slip heel cup that has material that is smooth in the direction you put your foot into the shoe, and rough in the direction you pull it out. This is some added measures to hold your heel into the shoe. Next, is the mesh perforations in the toe-box, instep, and tongue. These added features make the world a difference with how much your foot sweats after the end of the ride. Mountain biking shoes tend to be over-constructed to deal with wear and durability issues, unlike road biking shoes which consistently feature all-mesh construction. And lastly is the design. In collaboration with Troy Lee Designs, the shoes look great. They’ve veered away from the wide, skateboard-like shoes; and have moved towards a sleek, normal looking shoe that won’t look weird when you show up to the bar wearing them.

Price

The Five Ten Kestrel shoes cost $200. On the low end, MTB shoes like the Five Ten Freerider cost $75-100. On the high end, shoes from Sidi and Lake cost $299 and up. So the cost is definitely on the upper end of the spectrum and probably not recommended for your first pair of MTB shoes. 

To break it down, what do actually you get for $200? For starters, the construction quality associated with Five Ten (Adidas). You can be assured that the soles won’t wear away after a year of use. Additionally, you get the additional wear protection on the forward portion of the shoe. Overall, minimal pieces needing to be stitched together, reducing the part count on the shoe and likelihood of things failing. Lastly, you get the “fancy” boa system. After riding on shoes of worse quality, resulting in needing to get new riding shoes after a year, the cost makes sense.

Weight

At 16.4 oz (each), it falls in line within a few ounces of the most common riding shoes. The popular Five Ten Freerider Contact shoe is 13.7oz. For comparison, an Asic Running shoe is around 10oz. On the low end weight, the Sidi Shot road cycling shoes are 10.12oz. So are the Kestrels a great XC shoe, no. But for an All-mountain, enduro shoe for the common MTB rider, it’s a great shoe. The weight comes from the construction of the sole. It’s stiff, sort-of bulky, due to the rubber sole made from Stealth C4 Rubber which is beneficial to have in technical terrain when you need to bail or hike-a-bike. 

Overall

In the end, its an awesome shoe! It rides super well and honestly, feels like I have 2 more gears than before on flat shoes with flat pedals. Maybe that’s just the effect of clipless pedals, but lately I’ve barely ridden in my 1st & 2nd gear. My setup on my 2015 Giant Trance 1 is a 1×10, with 24t up front, and a 36t in the back. This is equivalent 30t up front and a 45t in the back. With that being said, I’ve been climbing 1,000′-1,500′ rides in my 3rd gear. These Kestrel Boas have made riding more fun than ever, giving me more energy on the climbs and flatter riding conditions that I could ever hope in my flat Five Ten Freeriders. Would I recommend this shoe, yes. Hands down!

All photos provided by https://www.adidasoutdoor.com

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