Five Ten Freerider Elements 18 Month Review

Freshening up the MTB shoes!

Freshening up the MTB shoes!

This is an 18 month review of my Five Ten Freerider Elements mountain bike shoes. Read my 6 month review here to get my initial thoughts as I won’t repeat them in this post.

Since getting these shoes I haven’t worn my previous 5.10 Impact Low shoes one time. Having said that on my last bikepacking trip my feet were getting sore and I felt like I just wasn’t getting the support I was used to from the Elements. I had bought a replacement pair on sale so I pulled them out and they were noticeably stiffer and more comfortable. So I put them into service and put the older pair in the closest as back up.

My Impact Lows withstood years of hard use and are still as good as they were on Day 1. So the Elements are definitely not as robust. I guess that’s reasonable from a much lighter more compact shoe. I ride year round and I bikepacked in these shoes so 18 months of use isn’t nothing. My old Elements are still in fine shape for light duty use. They are soft and very comfortable for wearing socially or cruising around town. Although they look a little rough! Where they start to let me down is 4-5hrs into a ride.

So shiny...

So shiny…

A couple other downsides to the Elements are:

  • not quite as grippy as the Impact Lows
  • not as much foot protection either

I tagged a rock at speed recently wearing the Elements and thought I had broken my toe. The Impact Lows would have shrugged that hit off with far less damage to my foot.

I’m really enjoying the stiffer feel of the new pair of Elements and I expect to get another 18 months of use from them before I need to think about new shoes. The trade off in service life and protection is reasonable in exchange for a lighter more versatile shoe.

If you are wondering the Elements are just a more weatherproof version of the straight up Freeriders. They do repel moisture well, but a low shoe can only keep you so dry in the wet. They dry faster than the Impact Lows and they are not particularly hot in the summer so I wear the Elements year round. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy the normal Freeriders if I got a good deal on a pair. I don’t think the weatherproofness of the Elements is a big deal.

I’m not sure I’ll buy a 3rd pair. I might, but 3yrs is also enough time to spend wearing one shoe that I will probably be ready to see what’s new or go back to the Impact Lows for a while and feel all retro.

If you want a lighter mountain bike flats shoe that bikepacks well and can go out to a club dancing without looking too weird the Elements or there Freerider cousins are worth a look.

Five Ten Freerider Elements Review

Worn, but still rocking and rolling...

Worn, but still rocking and rolling…

I’ve owned and loved Five Ten Impact Low shoes for well over 5yrs now. They have served me well, but I had a hankering for some lighter, less bulky and faster drying foot wear. So I tried some Five Ten Freerider VXI shoes which fell apart on me after a few rides as well as some Five Ten Ascent approach shoes which had some very ungrippy soles that were downright dangerous on wet surfaces.

Both pairs got returned to the store pronto. 😦

Still having had such good experiences with the Impact Lows I gave Five Ten another shot and tried some Freerider Elements out. Well after 6 months of use I’m glad I did. They meet all of my requirements and are very comfy on and off the bike.

This old school version of the Freerider model has a slimmer classic look that’s at home on the bike or at the pub. It’s lighter and less burly than my Impact Lows and as a plus it dries much faster when it gets wet.

Stealth rubber sole for good pedal and walking traction...

Stealth rubber sole for good pedal and walking traction…

The shoe doesn’t protect my feet quite as well as the Impact Lows nor are they as grippy, but they are reasonable on both counts.

I’ve done dozens of hours of hike-a-bike in the Elements and come away smiling.

For use on and off the bike I’d give the nod to the Elements for their versatility. Looking at just bike use I think the Impact Lows are still a better shoe.

Ultimately since I got the Elements I haven’t worn the Impact Lows once so that should tell you how I am feeling about them.

Mine used to look bling like this...

Mine used to look bling like this…

Five Ten Freerider VXi Review

Five Ten Freeriders...

Five Ten Freeriders…

What are they?

These Five Ten Freerider VXi shoes are mountain bike shoes designed to be used with grippy flat pedals. Their main claim to fame is having a smooth section of sticky climbing rubber under the ball of the foot where you put them on the pins of a flat pedal. This is supposed to do two things: 1) provide a great connection between the pedal and the shoe plus 2) allow you to more easily adjust position on the pedals since there is no tread to hang up on the pins.

My main MTB shoes for the last 5 years have been a pair of Five Ten Impact Lows. They have been superb in comfort, performance and durability. But, I was ready for a change and liked the lower profile and better looks of the Freerider. I also have found it a bit tough to reposition my feet on the pedals with the Impact Lows because the grip so well and they have a tread over the whole sole. I figured the Freeriders would be a positive change in this area.

MEC Marketing Spew

I bought these shoes at MEC.ca here is what they have to say about them:

Shifty shoes for dirt jumpers and all-mountain riders. The outsoles are tread-free under the balls of your feet for unobstructed float, and the Stealth® rubber grips the pedals solidly when you need to lock in. FiveTen famous dotted tread at the heels and toes keeps you upright when you have to cross slick slopes.

  • Uppers are leather and mesh for high breathability and abrasion resistance.
  • Midsoles are thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) that dampens shock during hard impacts and jumps.
  • Medial instep supports in the arch reduce strain and slippage.
  • Welts are high on the crank-side for durability.
  • Outsoles are 5mm thick for extra dampening, shock absorption and durability while allowing excellent foot-to-pedal feel.
  • Asymmetric grooves in the soles allow a natural stride when walking.
  • Treadless flat surface at pedal contact area allows pedal pins to sink deep into the rubber.
Smooth sole under ball of foot...

Smooth sole under ball of foot…

How were they tested?

I put my old pair of Five Tens away and started wearing the Freeriders for all my rides. I used them for BC cross country type rides which might be called All Mountain Riding in other parts of the world. I have a set of Kona Wah Wah flat pedals on my Santa Cruz Nomad which have worked well with the Impact Lows in the past.

These shoes only lasted 5 rides before I noticed the toe rand was separating from the body of the shoe where they flex when I walk. That was the end of the testing.

Not good...

Not good…

How did they perform?

First off they looked great. A lot less bulky and gnarly than the Impact Lows I normally wear. I’d be far more inclined to use these for rides into town or off the bike as general footwear than the Impact Lows. The fit was similar, but not exactly the same as the Impact Lows. They were true to size and fit me fine, but my feet were not as happy as in the older Five Tens. I have fussy feet and I figured that might just be a matter of getting used to them so I was willing to just roll with it.

On the bike they were great. The Stealth rubber soles were very grippy on my pedals. The shoes were stiff enough to provide good support while pedalling and they were a bit easier to reposition on the pedals. Not a ton easier, but a bit easier. They offered good protection from smacking into roots and rocks on the trail. Breathability for this type of shoe was average – they would be fine for hot weather use.

Walking they were plenty comfortable and the lower profile design was nice. I felt more like I had a normal pair of shoes on than the almost boot like feeling of the Impact Lows. On dry dirt or rocks I had lots of traction when hike-a-biking. I have read reviews that noted the smooth Freerider sole was treacherous walking on trails in the wet. I had planned on going back to my old Five Tens for the winter and keeping the new shoes clean for summer use.

So all was going good. I recycled the shoe box and tossed the receipt because I was confident these shoes were keepers. To my surprise I pulled them out of my gear box on a road trip and noticed the toe rand on one sole was coming apart right where the shoes flexed when I walked. The glue in that spot was either missing or had failed.

I was bummed because Five Ten bike shoes were in that category of uber robust totally reliable gear in my mind and now here I was faced with repairing a new pair of shoes on ride #5. Not good. 😦

Heel view...

Heel view…

Value

I don’t mind paying $130 for a pair of shoes if they perform well, are comfortable and last a long time. However, As soon as they don’t do those 3 things I have to doubt the wisdom of my purchase.

I liked the style of these Freeriders and they performed well, but they didn’t really offer anything significant over my Impact Lows. The ease of repositioning my foot wasn’t different enough to make me really interested in the smooth sole design feature. The downside of not being able to use them in winter made the benefit an overall loss in functionality.

To be fair to Five Ten the issue I had was minor and could have been repaired with Shoe Goo in 5 mins. MEC would also have given me a new pair if I wanted. I just didn’t want to deal with repairing these shoes on ride #5 and not knowing if that lots more hassles to come.

Life is too short for using gear you don’t love or trust.

Another view...

Another view…

Back to the Future

I’m still stoked on Five Ten shoes. I’ll just keep riding in a pair of Impact Lows since they’ve been solid for me for 5yrs.

My old Five Ten Impact Low shoes...

My old Five Ten Impact Low shoes…