Drawing on 3 decades worth of experience in the climbing shoe market, Five Ten has honed the their sticky rubber knowledge into a line of high performance mountain bike shoes, and secured a solid foothold (see what I did there) as the best flat shoes in the industry.  Not content with the status quo, Five Ten continues to refine their shoe lineup with ride-specific rubber, lighter and tougher upper lasts, improved styling and comfort, and clip(less) shoe options.  I’ve spent the last 6 months punishing a pair of their Freerider Contacts.  Read on to see how they have performed.

Employee Rating:

4.5star

It’s probably best to start with a little background about me to give context for this review.  I love mountain biking more than any other type of riding. However, I split my ride time up over everything from BMX (not super well, but I’m trying) to gravel to road, as well.  I used to ride a lot of gravity, but have recently been stranded in a pretty flat state. I intentionally split up my riding between flats and clip(less) pedals to keep things spicy.  With that background, I can confidently say that I have tested the Freerider Contact shoes in most every type of terrain that I can think of.  They have seen sessions at the skate park, cruiser rides down the bike path, trail rides on our local dirt, dig sessions, and even some DH runs during some of my “work” trips.  Five Ten calls these an “all mountain” shoe, and that is probably the perfect descriptor for them.  If you had to choose just one shoe to have in your lineup this should be your choice.  This may not be the perfect shoe in every situation, but, as a jack-of-all-trades, it is about as close as you’ll get.

Jason models the Freerider Contact’s SPD-style cousin, the Kestrel.

Shoe Design and Build Quality

The Freerider series of shoes is not new to Five Ten, and the Contact draws on this history of innovation.  They have sold the standard Freerider, a BMX-inspired MTB shoe, for several years.  From there, Five Ten improved on the standard shoe to produce the Freerider VXI which evolved into the Contact version that we have today.  For this version several changes were made to further cement the Freerider Contact as a true all mountain shoe.

A bit of side-by-side comparison of the Freerider VXI vs the Contact.

If you are familiar with Five Ten shoes of the past, you will likely remember shoes with amazing grip, but that were bulky and heavy.  Luckily, those days seem to be well behind them.  These new shoes have shaved some serious weight, yet feel plenty sturdy on the pedal and provide a comfortable amount of protection.  Five Ten has accomplished this using several key innovations.

It’s not a huge weight loss, but every gram counts.

Starting with the Freerider VXI, Five Ten updated the outsoles with their Stealth Mi6 rubber.  Based on it’s stellar performance, this feature rolled over into the new Contact version of the Freerider. This rubber is Five Ten’s stickiest (high friction with less pressure) compound which helps to keep you firmly planted to the pins of your pedal.  Beyond just being grippy, it also provides a high level of vibration damping.  Sticky equates to soft, and this does make these shoes prone to a bit more wear if you’re walking around off the bike a lot.  But, while you can see some pin marks in the sole, the Contacts have held up handsomely to many rides and plenty of trail work.  Five Ten has further improved the soles for riding by creating a smooth surface where your shoes and pedals meet.  This allows for ultimate grip while letting you more easily adjust your feet to find the sweet spot on your pedals.  The rest of the sole has their signature dot pattern which helps to add a touch of extra grip while hiking a trail.  The final sole enhancement was to add a stiff midsole, ensuring that there is good power transfer and a comfortable performance for long rides.

Dirty and a bit beat up, but this Mi6 rubber still has many miles of riding left in it.

Other refinements were focused on the upper half of the shoe.  Five Ten reduced the profile for a more sneaker-like appeal and that significant weight loss I mentioned earlier.  For me, this was huge improvement for their shoe lineup.  It made for a shoe that was both more subtly stylish and more comfortable to wear.  Lastly, they reinforced the toe cap to ensure that you can face the gnarliest terrain with confidence that your toes will be safe.

Brett Tippie gives his quick rundown on the Freerider Contact.

Freerider Contacts are the absolute best Five Ten bike shoes I have ever used.

 

Performance and Ride Impressions

I’ve spent a lot of time in Five Ten shoes whether hiking, climbing, or biking.  I’ve also ridden several versions of the Freerider line.  With that context, I feel confident in stating that the Freerider Contacts are the absolute best Five Ten bike shoes I have ever used.  The Mi6 rubber provides unbelievable grip, and they feel almost as engaged as when riding with SPD pedals, but with the freedom to get a little more “western” in your riding style (interpretation; rowdy).  Further, I found the additional stiffness of the midsole not only more efficient, but confidence inspiring.  I felt that I could read and translate the trail features through my pedals more precisely.  I can also attest that the reinforced toe box has dutifully protected my little piggies against the random stump or rock that my skilled riding failed to avoid.  Additionally, these shoes are incredibly comfortable with lofty feeling upper and ample room without feeling floppy or creating hot spots.

I haven’t been kind to these shoes, but they have been so nice to me.

Now, it wouldn’t be a fair review to say these shoes are perfect.  So, what are the downfalls?  Well, there aren’t a ton, but here’s what I’d love to see improved.  First, is sizing.  As stated earlier, I have owned many pairs of 5.10 shoes, and I based my sizing on the current run of shoes I have from them.  But, they are still a touch too big.  It seems that each of their shoes styles run somewhat differently on the standardized scale(s).  Interestingly, the Freeriders fit near perfectly when I first got them, but it only took a few rides for the padding to break in and for the looseness to set in.  Luckily, it is only about a half-size too big and the improved lacing pattern helps to alleviate most movement of my foot within the shoes.

On this note, I thought I would hate having a lace shoe (I’m a Vans slip-on kind of guy), but I found that I loved the amount of precision of pressure that the redesigned lacing pattern allowed.  This, I believe, is made even better by the fact that the laces don’t move very easily through the eyelets.  I might even say that they seem to get compressed into place by the overlapping pieces of fabrics that makeup the lacing area and eyelets. This makes for a bit of hassle when taking the shoe off, but it also means that you can tension each segment of your foot differently for precise support and comfort.

Maiden voyage testing the fit, comfort, and performance.  Forgive the ankle socks.  I was traveling, and failed to pack normal socks.

My second quibble is that these shoes are quite warm.  These shoes have a bit of moisture ingress protection to keep water out, but that also limits how much cool air gets in.   I’ve been riding these since the turn of winter to spring and through the summer.  They perform fairly well at keeping light dew or rain out, but a good puddle splash or downpour will breach the protection and find its way in.  Once moisture is in the shoe, whether rain or sweat, it has a hard time drying out.  As such, my feet do get rather sweaty in these, but our hot, humid summer has not helped.  Also, this was actually quite nice during the much cooler rides earlier in the season.  It would be nice to see 2 versions of this shoe; one for hot and dry, and the other for cool and damp conditions.

The last challenge with these shoes is the price.  I can’t say that this is a problem, but I know $150 can be a hard pill to swallow when thinking about shoes that you will beat the crap out of on the trail.  But, Five Ten has put a lot of R&D into these shoes, and they truly are worth their price tag.  I’ve had several friends that resisted buying 5.10 shoes due to the price, only to become die-hard fans once I let them try a pair out.  The grip, comfort, and control just can’t be beat.

These are the only issues I’ve had with these shoes; 1 shovel smoosh, a tiny delam, and a small tear in one eyelet.  Hasn’t affected my rides at all, so far.

I also don’t see my Freeriders needing replacing any time soon as they are still in great shape despite repeated and significant abuse on and off the bike.  There are a few blemishes along the soles from driving a shovel into dirt, and a small spot of rubber is pulling away from the toe, but it is in a stitched area so I’m not worried about a full delamination.  Lastly, while shooting photos for this review I spotted a small tear in one of the lace eyelets, but I have not noticed any performance issues related to this.  Further, Five Ten has stellar customer service and stand fully behind their products should you have an issue beyond normal wear and tear.

These images are interactive. Just click on the image, let it load for just a second, then use your mouse, finger or move your phone to see different angles of these shoes.

Specs:

  • Innovative Contact Outsole™ with Stealth® Mi6™ rubber
  • Lightest Freerider model
  • Added toe cap protection
  • Abrasion resistant textile & synthetic upper
  • Stiff, compression-molded EVA midsole
  • Low-profile, performance fit

Features

  • Innovative Contact Outsole™ with Stealth® Mi6™ rubber
  • Lightest Freerider model
  • Added toe cap protection
  • Abrasion resistant textile & synthetic upper
  • Stiff, compression-molded EVA midsole
  • Low-profile, performance fit

The Final Spin

How does it stack up against the competition?

While the competition is increasing, Five Ten still remains the pinnacle of performance for grippy platform shoes. Their sticky rubbers provide the best-in-class grip, and their shoes continue to evolve in style, performance, and features. Further, they continually add more options for women and children, and additional colorways to match your personal style. It’s no wonder that so many of the World’s best riders choose to wear 5.10 shoes, even riders with different shoe sponsors.

Absolutely unbelievable grip on a good set of platform pedals.  Here they are engaging with pretty set of HT pedals.

Recommended rider:

This shoe is aimed at the all mountain rider, but will hold up to some light DH.  It’s probably not quite as stiff or light as a true XC rider would want, nor as protective as DH rider might need. However, I would recommend this for any rider that lands in between those two extremes and wants the feel and freedom of flats without sacrificing grip or power transfer.

What we loved:

  • Unrivaled grip from the Mi6 rubber
  • Solid midsole without being too stiff to walk around
  • Comfortable fit and supportive lacing
  • Several cool colorways to match your style
  • Lighter and sleeker than past 5.10 shoes

What we didn’t like:

  • A bit warm
  • Could breathe a bit better or be more waterproof
  • Price is a bit steeper than the competition
  • Smooth sole segment is not ideal if hiking in muddy terrain

Five Ten: Brand of the Brave