Ben Horan is a freelance writer and sometimes-guide based in Missoula, Montana, and blogs at thegentlemanatlarge.com (instagram: @thegentlemanatlarge).
The Five Ten Kestrel Lace mountain bike shoe is a comfortable, do-it-all lace-up that’s equally at home on alpine climbs, bike park doubles, and unwinding at the brewery after a huge ride. It doesn’t handle moisture well, but in cool and dry conditions it’s about as comfortable as it gets.
You could be forgiven for picking up a pair of Five Ten Kestrels and and thinking that it’s a skateboard shoe. Its wide toe box, plush uppers, and retro styling screams “Vans.” When I pulled them out of the box, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for falling down greasy concrete stairways at the middle school in my hometown. But flashbacks of skateboard dismounts and head trauma is where the comparison ends.
The Five Ten Kestrel Lace is a mountain bike shoe through and through. A ¾ length nylon shank gives the shoe a significantly more substantial feel than any skate shoe of your youth, and the thick velcro strap ensures heel retention on challenging climbs. A rubberized coating is designed to keep any morning dew out of your socks, although it’s not substantial enough to hold up to a real soaking. More on that later.
The way a shoe fits is classically subjective, but there is room for insight here. The Kestrel Lace fits wider feet well. I wear a size 12 in most shoes, and these seemed to run just barely large. My feet are wide in the toes and fore-foot, and reasonably narrow at the heel. The Five Ten’s wide toe box was extremely comfortable, and fits loosely in the rear of the foot. The velcro strap does a good job of heel retention, but my foot does move around slightly on high-torque climbs. The shoe also seemed to run a touch long, so riders with narrow feet may want to consider sizing down a half size.
Once riders find the right size, they should plan on being comfortable. The Kestrel Lace excels in this. Slipping into these things is a pleasure, and the laces allow for a reasonably customizable fit.
The Five Ten Kestrel Lace is not a featherweight XC race shoe, nor does it pretend to be. It weighs significantly more (463g in a size 9) than its plastic-and-carbon counterparts. Cotton laces, soft uppers, and a design team that valued style over ergonomics conspire to make this shoe feel somewhat less secure under hard pedalling than stiffer, racier counterparts. With that said, they are extremely comfortable under casual pedalling, and while the ¾ shank is not designed for optimal power transfer they pedal reasonably well for a free-ride oriented shoe.
Shimano, TIME, and Crank Brothers mountain bike cleats mount easily to sliding plates on the sole. They offer both fore/aft and side-to-side adjustment, and I had no problem dialing in perfect cleat placement.
The softer sole does open the door for hot spots when using the shoes with clipless pedals, although I didn’t notice any issues with a break-in period.
To a recovering racer, it seems a bit odd for a riding shoe to walk as well as it rides. But after a season on the Five Ten Kestrel Lace I’ve come to appreciate a shoe that’s as comfortable off the bike as it is on the pedals. This has become my go-to shoe for alpine adventure rides where hike-a-bike is part of the game, and it’s essentially a perfect shoe for backcountry trail work. Five Ten employs their legendary Stealth (C4) Rubber to the outsole which met my (high) expectations for traction across slippery moss covered trees and wet rocks.
It’s well-optimized combination of riding performance, walking performance, and style make it a great option for a bikepacking shoe, as well.
The Weather Variable
The Kestrel’s main shortcoming comes with weather. The rubberized coating on the uppers do a fair job keeping light moisture out, but even riding through dew-covered bushes quickly soaks the shoes through. And once these things are wet, they’re wet. The weather proofing succeeds in keeping the moisture in, and even hot weather failed to dry the shoes as long as my feet were in them.
Similarly, my feet tended to run quite warm on hot days, and the ventilation leaves something to be desired. On hot days I sweat through these things quickly, and spend the rest of the day with squishy socks.
The flipside of this coin is that on alpine mornings and autumn trail rides, my feet stay warm. The Kestrel Lace is by no means an insulated shoe, but riders with perpetually cold feet will see a benefit in the added plush.
I put these things through the wringer for a couple of months this summer. After lots of pedalling, hiking, and hopping on sharp, pointy, granite, the Kestrel Lace is holding up like a champ. Where the rubberized upper doesn’t quite seal moisture out, it does a great job with abrasion resistance. There’s not a single rip, scuff, or frayed thread, and I expect that these shoes will be with me for years of alpine ridge rides, early season trail work, and laps at the park.
At the end of the day, the Five Ten Kestrel Lace is a great call for folks who value all-day comfort and spend any appreciable time off the bike. The shoe doesn’t sing in very hot or wet conditions, but it’s a great option for all day trail rides, fulfilling your civic duty, and enjoying a cold one between runs.
- Extremely comfortable
- Laces allow for reasonably customizable fit
- Fits wide feet (a pro if you have wide feet)
- Not breathable
- Sponge-like tendencies