Vans were first released in the mid-sixties and have been a hit with teenagers, skateboarders, and everybody in between ever since. The always-trendy sneakers are great for riding on a board or running errands, but how well do they work as mountain bike shoes?
While you technically can go mountain biking with Vans, they don’t offer the support your feet need to go the extra mile on bikes. However, many people still bike in Vans and seem to get away with it.
Here’s what you need to know about using Vans as mountain bike shoes, along with some alternative footwear options and why you’re probably better off leaving the Vans at home when hitting the trails.
Are Vans Good Mountain Bike Shoes?
When looking for good mountain bike shoes, your eyes should first be drawn to the soles of the shoes.
You want the soles to be thick, sturdy, and difficult to bend so you don’t experience any discomfort while pedaling. Vans have relatively thin soles that are quite flexible so they will bend when pressed against the pedals.
If you have a pair of Vans, go grab them and see how easy it is to bend them. That flexibility is great for walking around or even running a little, but it won’t work for mountain biking.
Vans also don’t have the traction you need to keep your feet securely cemented onto the pedals. The soles are smooth and won’t “stick” like professional mountain bike shoes will, so your foot might slip off and you might end up hurting yourself.
Are Vans Good for MTB Flat Pedals?
No, Vans do not work well for mountain bike flat pedals. They don’t have the proper grip or sole construction to keep you attached to the pedal and continually moving.
If you’re riding on flat pedals with Vans, you will probably struggle to go across bumpy terrain, up hills, or maneuvering around tricky corners.
You can also expect the sole of the shoe to be torn up significantly quicker since it’s not designed to handle the high impact and friction of mountain biking. You might end up wasting your well-earned money on a pair of Vans if you plan on using them for mountain biking—so think twice before purchasing them!
What Kind of Shoes Work for MTB?
If you’re on the hunt for a good pair of mountain bike shoes, there are a few things to look out for.
To start, you need to decide what kind of pedals you want to use. This will determine the kind of shoe to buy.
Flat pedals look like standard bike pedals with no extra attachments and clipless pedals (despite their name) require you to clip your shoes into them.
If you’re using a clipless pedal bike, your options are going to be much more limited so finding the right shoes will be easier. Finding shoes for flat pedals can be more daunting, so we’ll walk you through how to do it.
The soles should have texture and be able to grip onto the pedal well. Good mountain bike shoes will advertise this feature. The toes should be impact-resistant so you don’t stub your toe and injure yourself.
Other Things to Take Into Consideration
The structure of the shoe is very important, but there are a few other factors to consider as well.
1/ The Weather: Think about the weather where you ride. Is it often cold and damp or is it sunny and dry? Most mountain bike shoes have vents in them to keep your feet dry and cool, although if you live in a cold environment, that may not be the best option for you.
2/ Laces: Most mountain bike shoes come with laces which makes sense considering they are sneakers. However, you will need to tuck them into your shoes before riding to avoid any mishaps. If you don’t want to risk getting tied up during a ride, go for velcro or Boa laces instead.
3/ Sizing: Finding the right size and fit for mountain bike shoes can be tricky. There are several great brands out there with their own ways of sizing and building their shoes. If you can, you should try shoes on before buying them or at least know you’ll be able to return the shoes if they don’t fit properly.
Better MTB Shoe Alternatives
1/ Adidas Five Ten Freerider Pro
- Flat pedal mountain bike shoes with an impact resistant toe box
- Pedal-gripping rubber: Stealth S1 Dotty rubber outsole is size-specific for maximum grip on and off the pedal.
- Impact-resistant toe box: Three-layer reinforced toe box adds impact resistance.
Every mountain biker knows about these shoes, and for good reason. They are some of the best in the business. They’ve got rigid and supportive soles, are made from breathable material so your feet don’t get too sweaty, and as a bonus, are made from recycled material so you can help out the environment while you pedal.
Adidas has high top and low top Five Ten mountain bike shoes to choose from. You may want to opt for the high top shoes if you’re concerned about getting debris in your sock or shoe while riding.
2/ Northwave Clan MTB Shoes
- Upper Material: Abrasion-resistant synthetic with large breathable mesh inserts
- Closure: Lace
- Midsole: EVA
Upon first glance, the Northwave Clan MTB shoes may just look like normal sneakers. It’s only when you look closer that you begin to appreciate the engineering and quality of the sports performance footwear.
These flat pedal shoes do an impressive job at gripping to the mountain bike pedals so you can focus on the ride, not keeping your feet on the pedals. The soles are sturdy and abrasion-resistant which means they won’t fall apart as quickly as Vans might.
The last thing you want is your laces to come undone while riding. Luckily, Northwave Clan has taken care of that issue. The laces don’t stretch, so you know that when you tie your shoes, they’re going to stay tied the entire time.
They also work well for different weather conditions. You can ride whenever, come rain or shine!
3/ Ride Concepts Livewire Mountain Bike Shoe
- RIDE EVERY DAY: Ride Concepts provides progressive dirt riding footwear with a focus on superior fit and function, providing a versatile, adaptable, and comfort-first fit on the mountain without...
- ULTIMATE GRIP: Improve control and increase your confidence when riding with Rubber Kinetics DST 6.0 HIGH GRIP Rubber Outsole and custom molded toe and heel guards.
- ADVANCED PROTECTION: Don't sacrifice comfort for safety on the trail. Nothing protects better than D3O High Impact Zone Insole Technology. EVA midsole provides support and shock absorption for when...
These mountain bike shoes provide everything you need when biking. They’re shock absorbent, have tacky soles, and are very comfortable and durable.
What’s great about the Ride Concepts shoes is that they aren’t just for riding. Their comfort and quality mean that they can be worn practically anywhere, not just while sitting on top of a bike.
They’re also relatively affordable, which is perfect for customers on the fence about investing in mountain bike shoes. We like how casual and easy-going they look and all the positive reviews they’ve received.
Are MTB Shoes Worth it?
Mountain biking shoes may be slightly more expensive than your average pair of sneakers, but you shouldn’t be riding in average sneakers!
We think investing in a pair of mountain bike shoes is absolutely worth it. They protect your feet, enhance your performance, and last much longer than a random pair of Vans or hiking boots.
Riding a mountain bike is no place to feel unbalanced or unstable in your footwear. Mountain bike shoes are specifically designed to give you the support you need.
Besides, if you decide mountain biking isn’t for you, you’ll still have some awesome shoes to wear while doing other activities. Mountain bike shoes just look like super-durable skateboard shoes, so no one will be able to tell anyway!
You can technically wear Vans while riding mountain bikes, although you may be doing more harm than good. A few tests run on a mountain bike with Vans are harmless, but if you’re looking to progress and bike regularly, you should invest in a proper pair of shoes.
There are several great shoe options on the market that customers and critics have deemed “worth it”. If you’re looking to get into the mountain biking world, you’re doing yourself a disservice by biking without the proper footwear.
Do you bike in Vans? How’s that working out for you? Are you thinking of investing in mountain bike shoes now that you know why skater shoes aren’t a great long-term option? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!