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There’s long been a stereotype among serious mountain bikers that if you aren’t riding clipless pedals, then you aren’t really riding. While there’s no denying that clipless pedals definitely have some advantages, I’ve seen far too many good riders go down hard simply because they couldn’t get unclipped in time to avoid an accident. On the other hand, I’ve also had my feet slide off my flats far too many times during critical moments of the ride to not seriously consider the wisdom of becoming a clipless convert myself. Turns out, though, that I didn’t need to switch pedals, I just needed the right shoes.

Five Ten’s Freerider mountain biking shoes keep your feet securely stuck to your pedals when you need them to be, but also give you the freedom to reach the ground in an instant without having to worry about unclipping quickly enough. The secret to this versatility is the sole (or soul depending on how deep into philosophy you’re willing to delve) of the Freerider itself.

“What makes our shoes stand out from all the others is the rubber we use,” said Luke Hontz Bike Category Marketing Manager for Five Ten shoes. “We use different kinds of rubber for different kinds of uses and each one has a very specific purpose.”

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The Freerider Contact uses Five Ten’s Stealth Mi6 rubber that is designed to be incredibly soft as a way to create increased grip on the pedals.

“It’s designed to swallow the pins and grab hold like nothing else can,” Hontz said. “It feels incredibly sticky but allows you to reposition your foot easily when you need to.”

Available for $150, the Contact comes in a wide range of colors that all feature a stiff midsole to allow you to push more power into the pedals and a tough exterior that helps protect your feet from unexpected scrapes with rocks sticking out into the singletrack.

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The Freerider ELC includes the Stealth Phantom sole made from a non-marking and high friction rubber that provides a harder surface for the kind of power transfer you need on longer rides. The ELC ($140) is designed for wet riding and features a leather and synthetic upper with a lace cover that helps keep your feet dry in rough conditions.

Not only do the Freerider shoes give you a better grip on your flats, they also provide unmatched traction on large rocks and steep terrain, which is an especially attractive benefit for those of us who might end up walking beside our bikes more often than we care to admit.

It’s unlikely that anything will ever completely erase the debate between flats and clipless pedals, but there’s no doubt that Five Ten’s Freeriders are helping shatter stereotypes and allowing mountain bikers of all levels to find the fun in riding flats again. Now that’s some serious sole.

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