Five Ten Vs Specialized: Women’s flat shoes head to head

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Specialized women’s 2FO flat MTB shoe   RRP £90


Five Ten women’s Freerider MTB shoe RRP £90


Flats or clipless? – A difficult call. A creature of habit, I have ridden clipped seemingly forever, but with a first trip to Colorado pending, I thought it might be a good time to hang up the faithful old Mavic Alpine XL’s and see what a season in flats would bring to my riding experience.

If you want a women specific shoe, choice is still fairly limited for flat pedal riders. Looking around at what was available, the obvious choices were either the classic Five Ten Freerider or the Specialized 2FO flat MTB shoe. At around the same retail price and both claiming to be an all-mountain shoe, I thought that there was an interesting head to head comparison to be made.


Many of us have worn men’s/unisex bike shoes when women’s equivalents were unavailable (take my Mavics for example) so what’s the difference? In 2014, when Five Ten launched the women’s Freeriders, they were keen to point out that the shoe was designed on a narrower last than the men’s version, giving a closer fit in the toe box and the heel casing. The other major difference was that the shoe had a lower cut out for the ankle bone, more suited to the female foot.  In the first instance the Specialized women’s 2FO was different to the men’s version only in colour ways and size range availability, but adaptations have been incorporated into the latest models in order to accommodate the narrower foot.


Firstly; neither of these shoes profess to be waterproof, or winter shoes; both had air mesh designed into the top of the shoe for ventilation – and though they were surprisingly water resistant they both let in some water.

Secondly, I noticed little difference in capability in terms of grip when walking over different types of terrain in wet and dry conditions. Both models were equally slippy on wet grass and mud, but surprisingly capable on rocky surfaces.

Thirdly, both models have a solid moulded rubber toe cover, which successfully protected my toes from painful rock strikes on numerous occasions.



Sizing and fit:

Though I was happy to wear my usual size in both makes, the Five Tens came up slightly more generous in fit than the Specialized, which were perhaps half a size smaller.  I was riding with the standard insole in the 2FOs and it suited me well, however medium and high insole options are available from Specialized dealers for a customised Body Geometry fit.

The fit of the Freeriders is relaxed with pedal hugging flexibility; they softened up the more I wore them until comfort levels were on a par with slipping on my favourite trainers.  On the other hand, (or should I say foot!) the 2FO’s seem to give much firmer, encased support to the whole foot.  Personal preference is likely to depend on the type of riding you do, but I actually liked the stiffer shoe and the snugness around the mid foot in the 2FO’s; I felt that it really helped to transfer power to the pedals when climbing, and also providing a really sturdy, shock absorbing platform when descending with no heel lift when hiking or pedalling.  The downside of being so securely laced in was that it wasn’t possible to slip them on and off without loosening them properly and it took a little time to avoid having to force the foot in, risking damage to the heel padding.



The breathable Action leather and polyester mesh upper of the Five Tens has a robust feel and is clearly built to withstand a real battering. This shoe looks good both on the bike and with jeans down the pub. I love the skate shoe styling with real suede leather and highlight stitching, scoring it high on the functionality and street savvy stakes.  The 2FO’s have a smooth thermo bonded upper made from anti-tear PU coated mesh, this gives them a lightweight durability and a smooth snag free profile.

Having medium to large feet, I liked the compact look of these shoes and I was impressed with their water shedding and quick drying capabilities. They cleaned up easily by simply wiping with a damp cloth and though I haven’t tried it, I know some riders put them in the washing machine. The Five Tens felt quite heavy when wet and the materials seemed to retain moisture for longer;  thicker padding within the body and tongue of the Freeriders could account for this; the 2FO’s did seem to have less insulation in cold weather.  Concerned about riding with unsecured laces, I was quite taken with the little lace truck loop on the tongue of the 2FO’s; a simple idea that works well and replaces the need for a Velcro strap.


As committed Five Ten users already know, the legendary Stealth S1 high friction sole is super grippy. My foot stayed solidly in place on the rockiest, bumpiest descents, although I had to lift my foot off the pedal if I needed to reposition it and this took a bit of getting used to. Specialized have come up with a proprietary rubber compound called “SlipNot”;  It doesn’t have the same tackiness as Five Ten’s, but this did make it easier to reposition my foot and the directional pattern of angled hexagonal nubs, did boost pin to sole traction when descending in the dropped heel position.


In conclusion, which one would I choose?

As always these decisions come down to personal choice and everyone is different, but based on the kind of riding I do, mostly trail/enduro, my particular preference for on the bike would be to go for the Specialized 2FOs. For long days in the saddle, climbing and descending, I felt that the extra support in the mid-shoe gave me the control, all day comfort and protection that I am looking for.  For a rider with a more bike park/downhill focus, I think that the Five Tens would probably offer the best option as they are built for a battering and live up to their reputation as the ultimate go anywhere, do anything shoe – perfect for pushing, carrying, uplift and leisure wear.



Review Info

Brand:Specialized, Five Ten
Product:Freerider & 2FO
From:Specialized & Five Ten
Price:£90 per pair
Tested:by Sharon Anderson for

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