Singletrack Magazine Issue 122: In My Shoes

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It’s not a review… it’s a relationship.

Products aren’t just for testing – they can find their way into our lives, our stories and our hearts. In the first of a new series, called Still Going, Hannah tells us about life in her shoes.

When it comes to shoes, I’ve discovered it’s not as simple as ‘clips or flats?’. As if that question is simple anyway. But let’s not go there. On the whole, I’m a flats fan. I want to say that’s because I like to stick a foot out and carve a corner, but, truth be told, I like to be able to dab or bail. I’m also quite keen on being as far away from my bike as possible when I meet the ground – I bruise quite easily enough and don’t feel the need to imprint bike component-shaped reds and blues into my soft tissues. Generally, flats give me that escape route – but, of course, the trade-off is being just a touch less attached to my bike in the first place.

Which brings me to my shoes. For the last year I’ve been wearing two different pairs of flat shoes: Five Ten Freerider Pros and Giro Jackets. I got them both about the same time, and I figured I would just wear one when the other was wet or drying. However, I’ve found that both have quite different characteristics and, consequently, quite different applications.

The first time I wore the Five Tens was for a skills practice and drops session at a local trail centre. Ride down, drop, push back up, repeat. I figured that the super-sticky rubber would be ideal for the task, and make sure my feet stayed in contact with my pedals as I smashed and bashed my landings. I was wrong. The super-sticky rubber stuck to my DMR Vault pedals, wherever I put my feet. I’m no master of corner carving, and I’m no queen of track standing, so sessioning inevitably has me needing a decent run-up, or a quick reshuffle of feet to get them where I want them on the pedals. The Five Tens were so sticky that rearrangement wasn’t possible, so I found myself heading over drop-offs with my feet in some strange and unbalanced positions. The shoes were also super stiff, on both the soles and the uppers. While the soles proved no problem, the uppers actually bruised the tops of my feet where the toe folded as I walked. Not an auspicious start.

The Giros got off to a similarly unpromising start. I was wearing them for a photo shoot, and so had to wear those specific shoes. Whether familiar shoes would have helped is entirely debatable, but combined with being underbiked on a new-to-me test bike with new pedals and immensely technical trails… well. I confess I found myself having a bit of a trailside weep.

Having realised that walking in the Five Tens wasn’t a great plan, I stuck to pedalling in them. In fact, taking on my first Enduro race, these shoes helped me hold my nerve through sections where I might otherwise have bailed. Sticky enough to keep me attached as I found my internal spirit level tipping through angles only previously experienced on rollercoasters, I was free to focus on the trail and on just… keeping… going… Hands steering, weight shifting, thumbs operating controls, fingers feathering brakes, heart pumping, pores sweating – but never having to think about where my feet were.

Having found myself exceeding my expectations in the Five Tens, I tended to reach for them most rides. After all, most of the time I’m pretty pedally, and these shoes give a great balance of grip and stiffness without the full-on attachment of being clipped in. But then I found myself getting up to some new tricks, or at least trying to learn some. Knowing I’d be sessioning and walking, I reached for the softer Giro Jackets.

Now, I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but I have taken a few leaps in my riding over the last twelve months, and more so in the last six. I’ve got, dare I say, just a little bit rad. I can get air, I can do some silly things into a foam pit, and I can make kids in the skatepark wonder why their mum isn’t like me. The Giros have been with me through this – their softness means they’re forgiving if you’re walking up a jump line to ride back down it, again and again. They’re sticky enough that my feet feel attached, but not so sticky that I can’t give my feet a quick tweak if there’s a short run-up to what I’m tackling (no, I still can’t track stand). I can feel the bike under me and use the flex in my feet to move the bike around.

I discovered early on in my riding that there’s a huge benefit to be had in having actual bike-specific flat shoes over general trainers, and now I’ve discovered that there’s a benefit to having specific flat shoes for specific types of riding. Which leaves me with just one question: what shoes for no footer tricks?

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