Anyone who rides flats will admit that finding summer shoes is a doddle. Up until a few years ago it was almost too easy. FiveTens. Done.
The choice over the last few years has gotten better and better with serious competition coming from the likes of Specialized, Leatt, Giro, Ion and, more recently, some really excellent offerings from Ride Concepts and Unparallel.
Ask those same flat pedal riders what their biggest gripe is and I guarantee you that one of the things that kicks them into a moan or rant is finding really good quality winter shoes. They’re just not out there!!
For the last few years I’ve been donning heavily gaffer taped Five Ten Impact Pro’s (you know, wrapping the aperture where the laces are to keep water out) but the reality is that cold, dirty, water gets in and they take a week to dry out, stinking half of the house out in the process. At one point I think I had three pairs on constant rotation.
Now I’m an adventurous chap and I’ll admit to dabbling with a half flat, half SPD pedal (see my review of the Funn Mamba) just so I could start wearing the venerable Shimano MW7 Gore Tex winter boots, which are without a doubt amazing when things get cold and sloppy. They have a flap that closes off the face of the shoe and a neoprene ankle collar that stops pretty much anything you don’t want in, getting in. The only downside being that they are clipless.
I wish I’d had these on last week when I broke my toes. True story.
Sympatex. Quite fancy material thats good at keeping things dry whilst allowing breathing.
A nice big loop to pull them up with gloves on.
So….Imagine my joy when my attention was brought to these rather attractive Vaude AM Mid STX boots. The AM stands for All Mountain and they are rather spiffing looking.
At first glance, the boots are reminiscent of the 90’s Reebok Dominator basketball shoes that I could never afford as a kid. 1 -0 Vaude for getting my attention. Vaude describe their products as the sustainable choice for those who are passionate about the planet and there’s no harm in doing it in style is there!
Something you immediately notice is that the shoes are well made. Really well made. But they’re not overly heavy with it. There is ample toe protection in the form of a rubberised toe cap and the upper is really nicely padded. Taking advice from the world wide web, I sized up half a size which turned out to be excellent advice. Especially taking in to consideration that you’re likely to be wearing a thicker sock in the winter months.
The overall fit is excellent though. I have slightly wider than average feet and MTB shoes often fall foul of being too narrow so this is another point to Vaude. The wider fit is comfortable and as well as the “tried and tested” lacing system there is a velcro fastening ankle strap that allows a firmer fit when required. I was hugely impressed with the feeling of support and protection that the boots give when fully done up. The tongue is also well padded and provides extra comfort and is neatly sewn into the upper of the boot meaning that water cannot ingress into the shoe, passed the laces, like it does with so many offerings from rival brands.
All good thus far, leaving two big questions that I know you want answering……….
Are they or aren’t they as good as….you know….
A little extra traction for when the loam gets mushy.
Are the soles as good as Five Tens?
This is a huge factor for anyone looking at ANY MTB flat shoes. Five Ten have set the bar high over the years and are without a doubt the standard by which most flats are measured.
In this case, the honest answer is “They’re pretty damn close !!!”.
When you’re hurtling down the kind of terrain we get here in the Peak District its all too easy to get bumped off your pedals. The mantra “Heels down” can often be little more than wishful thinking. Vaude have done a sterling job with these. The soles are just the right side of stiff to get power transfer down when you need it but just the right side of soft to keep you firmly sticking to your pedals. I have been pairing these up with DMR Vaults and they are nothing short of confidence inspiring. Especially travelling through rock gardens where I have taken several decent rock hits on the toe and they’ve been excellent.
Second question……. Do they keep your feet dry?
Sadly, the short answer to this is no.
Being as lucky as I am to live in the North West of England, I can usually find rain and mud during the hottest of spells. We get proper rain here and I’m still not aware of one MTB company that has ever sent it’s shoe designers on a reconnaissance mission from sunny California, or the balmier reaches of Europe, to these parts. If I recall correctly, Singletrack magazine have tried on several occasions to invite said designers and only once did someone take them up on the offer. That person wasn’t a shoe designer but was utterly ruined after riding with wet feet and gear for two solid days.
I had to wait one single day after taking ownership of these boots before I had an opportunity to truly put them through their paces. It was a Sunday, a big ride was planned and it was horrendous out in the Peaks. Think the “50 year storm” in Point Break (the original!!). By the time I returned my feet were squelching with every turn of the crank and garden gnomes were queuing to try their luck fishing in the ponds that were my, now not so shiny, new boots. In all honesty, I was happy, comfortable and my feet were warm due to the fantastic insulation but, seriously wet. For a boot that sells itself on being waterproof, that’s a major fail in my book. To make things slightly worse, only part of the liner is Sympatex and the remainder, as comfortable and supportive as it is, is like a giant sponge and took an entire week to dry out. Things maybe looking worse for next winter.
Leaving it like that would be massively unfair to Vaude. There are absolutely no other flat shoes currently on the market that can do a better job of tackling what I put these through in terms of the weather I rode in. None, period!
When I first tried these on I went and stood in a small stream near my house and they are indeed 100% waterproof. The major weak point with these, as with every other MTB shoe barring the (SPD) winter offerings from NorthWave, Specialized and Shimano, is the bloody big hole in the top where your foot goes in. Until a manufacturer steps up and replicates what the aforementioned brands have done with their SPD winter boots then nothing will change.
So have Vaude produced a Lemon and what could be done better?
I don’t think so. In all honesty, I’m going to wear these through next winter. As fallible as they are, paired with a waterproof sock they will be very warm and will offer the support I like in a boot. They also grip so well and I won’t find anything better, as things stand. Paired with a decent pair of long DWR MTB trousers, fitted correctly, less water will get in.
In terms of what Vaude could do better? Well, that’s the same as what every MTB shoe manufacturer could do better. And that is simply to copy the successful designs of the better SPD Winter boots. It really is that simple. I’m already fashioning a pair of short neoprene gaiters that I intend to wrap around these boots at the ankle. If this simple design works then these boots really will be invincible. That’s how close Vaude are with these. Dealing with that one weak spot could truly revolutionise these shoes and give them the edge over every other player in the winter flats market. A simple neoprene and velcro gaiter, sewn into the top of the shoe stands between Vaude (or whoever gets there first) and greatness.
That and inners that don’t take a week to dry out.
Make: Vaude – www.vaude.com
Model: Moab AM STX Mid
Size tested: 10.5 (UK)
Weight: 840g (Pair)
Pro’s: Amazingly comfortable, well made, great support, light, almost FiveTen rivalling soles.
Con’s: Too easy for water to get in over the top spoiling all of their hard design work elsewhere. Materials take too long to dry
Score 7/10 (could easily be a perfect 10 with a small alteration to the design)