BONTRAGER WOMEN’S FLATLINE SHOE REVIEW
Review by Marissa Krawczak
In an atmosphere where comfort, power transfer, hiking, quick foot reactions and the ever-important ride-to-chill ratio are evaluated when buying the next pair of mountain bike shoes, brands have a lot of work cut out for them. For women who thrive in these elements, Bontrager provides a flat shoe with the same “no compromise” spirit they were founded upon. For a while, I may have compromised myself, trying to depend on several different hand-me-down men’s mountain bike shoes that left me slipping around with insufficient grip, not always recovering. So, when the box marked Women’s Flatline showed up at my door from Bontrager, I was stoked and more than ready to try some brand-new women’s mountain bike shoes. Right out of the box they were laced and ready to wear, so I hopped in hit the trails.
In the mindset that women ride the same trails, hike the same lines and hang out in the same after-ride parking lots as men, the women’s version of the Bontrager Flatline is constructed in the same quality as the men’s. Some brands totally rename their women’s model but since they are the same construction, it made sense for Bontrager to keep the model name the same as well. The biggest difference between the models is the color, the women’s Flatline shoes are offered in two colors – grey with teal blue laces and black with pink laces. The upper is made from synthetic leather and features a strip of rough rubber coating on the toe and heel. The tongue is a softer mesh material that features a holding elastic for the traditional lace closures. There is an additional eyelet to lace by the ankle for a little bit more closure and support if needed.
The Vibram rubber outsoles are used to offer excellent and reliable grip. The grip pattern is uniform squares on the majority of the bottom, with directional tread made from a softer compound on the toe and heel for more grip when hiking up or down. The outsoles are constructed a bit thinner under the ball of the foot to make it more flexible and for better pedal feel. The shoes are cushioned with EVA midsoles for shock absorption. Overall, they are a bit softer than other flat mountain biking shoes I’ve ridden in from Fiveten or Ride Concepts but offered some of the best shoe to pedal feel and grip.
As this was the first pair of brand-new mountain biking shoes I have ever worn, I was stoked on them regardless of whether they were made for males or females. Although I would rather have had the black and pink color, I was happy to test out the grey pair. Luckily, we can assume the color probably had zero impact on the performance of the shoes.
I found the women’s Flatline shoe comfortable and despite the relatively low ankle cutout, I felt they were pretty supportive too. I opted to use that additional lacing eyelet to get as much ankle support as I could. The toe had nice flex and broke in pretty quickly, leaving a crease on the upper after the first ride. I was surprised this happened right out of the box, but they didn’t lose any integrity beyond this and the synthetic leather held up quite well after a long-term riding test.
My favorite aspect of the Bontrager Flatline shoe was the hard Vibram outsole that provided awesome grip on the pedals. They stayed gripped in rough riding terrain, while hitting jumps and when pedal strokes were necessary on technical climbs. I appreciated being able to feel the pedal under the ball of my foot and having a nice flex in the toe for pedaling and hiking. One area of critique however is the toe box. It would be nice to feel a little bit more protected in the toe box, since other shoes are sturdier in this area. Even though they are a bit softer than some mountain bike shoes, they showed very little signs of wear after my long-term testing and they worked well with a variety of different platform pedals.
Obviously, no matter who you are, staying on the pedals while mountain biking is critically important. The incorporation of Vibram soles makes the Bontrager Flatline shoes a super dependable choice for staying on the pedals in all conditions. Along with durable construction, it’s nice to have some colorful women’s specific color choices that are aesthetically different from the dude selection. So, if you are like me, a girl out on the trails focused on riding your bike down some memorable trails while constantly trying to get better and develop skills and have fun, then the Flatlines would be a great addition to your bike kit.