FIVE TEN TRAILCROSS XT SHOE REVIEW
Review by Robert Johnston / Photos by Adam Lievesley
When it comes to mountain bike shoes, Five Ten need no introduction. Having set the benchmark for bike-specific footwear performance years ago, Five Ten has since battled durability and longevity issues and a buy-out by footwear giant, Adidas. Since then Five Ten’s shoes have certainly changed in appearance with some shoes looking more like hiking shoes than riding shoes due to the style influence of the Adidas TERREX trail running shoe silhouette. Flip the shoes over however and the tried and true Five Ten Stealth rubber sole and dot pattern will be found. The Five Ten Trailcross line is aimed at the adventure rider, who could encounter any sort of terrain on their ride. Equally at home on a set of flat pedals or hike-a-biking, Five Ten claims the Trailcross shoe is designed to provide comfort and grip no matter the surface below the sole.
In many ways, the Trailcross XT’s construction is much like a heavy-duty running shoe, utilizing a mixture of some mesh and solid fabric panels that produces a light unit, weighing in at just 890g for the pair of US 11.5’s on test. The drainage ports in between the sole and the upper add to the purposeful looks and further indicate the shoes intended purpose as a rugged all-weather mountain shoe. The Five Ten LT was designed to be the lightweight, highly breathable offering whereas the XT blends breathability with a slightly more rugged and robust build. The XT shoes use a closed-off mesh cuff, giving an extra bit of defense from the elements that are likely to be encountered during your typical adventure ride. The high-abrasion areas are reinforced with rubber portions, which Five Ten says should keep the XT’s looking and performing like new for mile after mile. Something that message boards and forums have no doubt been criticizing about Five Ten shoes over the last few years. Of course, the classic Stealth Phantom rubber outsole continues on the Five Ten tradition of traction on the pedals while a drainage port in the midsole allows water to evacuate on wet days.
First impressions of the Five Ten Trailcross XT’s, as they were pulled out the box, were of a trainer that would be better matched to a puffer jacket in a London shopping center hangout than hitting the trails. Sliding the 11.5’s on o my feet for the first time, the same size as many pairs of Five Tens I’ve abused in the past, I was a little concerned – they feel very narrow, with an especially tight spot on the outer edge of the fifth metatarsal (the bone that connects to the little toe). Thankfully, the fit issues were resolved after a little trail time and the looks, while still polarizing, slightly grew on me. The Trailcross XT’s bedded in nicely and looked much less out of place once they got a little weathered. The neoprene sleeve was a little looser than I’d like, allowing for a small gap regardless of what I did with the laces, somewhat defeating the point of it being there. Perhaps I’ve got disproportionately skinny ankles, but my intuition suggests it may be the case for the majority of riders.
The grip on the Trailcross XT’s is nothing short of incredible, with the usual Five Ten grip thanks to the industry leading Stealth Phantom rubber combining with a lower stiffness under-foot feel to conform better to the profile of the pedal and keep your foot in place no matter what. The reduced stiffness is a very deliberate move by Five Ten to maintain the walking or running abilities of the Terrex, for the moments when the terrain doesn’t allow for pedaling. The feel is every bit trail-running when off the bike, with the sticky rubber and specially arranged, almost paddle like rubber.
This reduced stiffness under foot did lead to a bit of fatigue on the longest and roughest descents, but this is not really what the XT’s are designed for. On the less rough, longer days in the saddle, there were no complaints to be had regarding undue foot pain or fatigue. The reduced weight of the XT’s give a more pleasant platform from which to crush miles, with the drainage ports and reduced quantity of material doing a fantastic job of limiting the water that they hold, keeping them feeling light for the duration of even the wettest rides. This was surprisingly paired with a reasonable amount of heat retention. In temperatures down to the low 40’s I didn’t struggle with cold toes, even with a saturated sock. In slightly warmer rides, the XT’s didn’t feel like they were keeping in too much heat, though they weren’t tested in anything above 58F in the UK’s Fall, so it’s hard to gauge how they would perform in a sweltering summer. The lack of water retention during riding is matched with an incredibly fast drying time; a big departure from the need to stuff shoes full of newspaper and leave them by the fire for two days post ride.
Unfortunately, the somewhat limited features of the shoe also includes the lack of any real protection for your toes. Sadly, this led to the painful demise of a couple toe nails as my foot met a hidden stump on the trailside. Those looking for a shoe to suit aggressive riding in technical terrain would be better suited by some of the burlier shoes in the lineup. The rubber is showing some signs of wear after fifteen or so aggressive rides, though this is only superficial and doesn’t pose any major long-term durability concerns yet. Otherwise, the shoes aren’t showing any signs of premature wear and tear, with the strategically placed abrasion patches doing their bit in keeping things together. We’ve heard lots of horror stories about shoes falling apart very quickly and it appears that based on this pair, we should have a reasonable life span ahead.
If you are looking for a stiff, protective aggressive enduro or DH mountain bike shoe, these are not going to be the shoe for you. They are polarizing in the looks department but if that’s not an issue for you, they’ve got some impressive traits as well. Combining ridiculous grip both on and off the bike, with the ability to shed water easily and remain lightweight for the duration of the wettest of rides, the Adidas / Five Ten Trailcross XT’s are a very unique and solid offering for an all-terrain; spring to fall adventure mountain bike shoe, provided you can get behind the looks and aren’t looking for a burly, aggressive riding shoe.