Five Ten Freerider Contact Review: Pair Down

In our search for the perfect ‘one pair’ shoe for extended bikepacking trips, we put the super-comfy and ultra-sticky Freerider Contact to a 800 mile test in southern Spain.

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On previous bikepacking trips, I’ve always alternated between running clipless pedals and aggressive platform pedals, generally giving preference to the former. But in an ongoing quest to pair down the pack list (no pun intended), I’m striving to carry just one set of shoes for longer journeys: ones that work equally well for both riding and everyday use.

Although there are clipless shoes that are relatively comfortable for hiking and “pushwacking”, if you plan on spending extended periods off the bike, a relatively flexible non cycling-specific shoe often works better as a one-pair solution. This said, bikepacking is a broad term that can refer to all kinds of of trips, ranging from overnighters to a six month overseas odysseys to a hike-a-bike laden ‘bad ideas’. Each adds variables that effect what this ‘one pair’ of shoes needs to accomplish, and how long they need to last.

Five Ten Freerider Contact Review

  • Five Ten Freerider Contact Review
  • Five Ten Freerider Contact Review

Sticky Rubber

For most flat pedal mountain bikers, the most important factor to consider is how well the shoes stick to the pedals. For optimum performance from a flat pedal, it should be paired with a sticky rubber sole. That’s Five Ten’s specialty. In an ever-evolving lineup, Five Ten has a broad range of rubber compounds which they apply to different products for specific activities, such as cycling, rock climbing, and approach (pre-climbing). The stickier compounds are pretty amazing in combination with aggressive pedals, such as the Specialized Boomslang. The hawkish studs meld with the rubber and create an effect that can at times feel like being locked into a clipless system. This not only ensures that your feet stay on the pedals in the rough stuff, but also improves power transfer on part of the pedal upstroke.

  • Five Ten Freerider Contact Review - Bikepacking Shoes
  • Five Ten Freerider Contact Review - Bikepacking Shoes

For our one month trip in Spain, which we knew would involve a substantial amount of rocky and technical sections, Virginia and I opted to try the new Freerider Contact. The Freerider Contact uses the Mi6 rubber compound, described by Five Ten as having, “superior cushioning properties combined with unparalleled friction … the most sensitive rubber we make”. The softer rubber is not only used to ensure that it sticks to the pedal, but for its damping quality, which lessens trail chatter and foot fatigue. So we were very curious as to how the Stealth Mi6 rubber compound would fare when used for big days of riding, rocky hike-a-bikes, and general walking about.

Five Ten Freerider Contact Review - Bikepacking Shoes

On the trail the Mi6 rubber performed as, or better than, expected. The Freeriders kept my feet glued to the pedals over rough and technical descents. And, just as importantly, the sticky rubber provided leverage well through the 4 o’clock position of the pedal stroke. The treadless pedal contact area on the sole proved its purpose, enabling foot positions to be fine-tuned throughout the ride. The flat patch had me slightly concerned at first, thinking that they would turn hikes into slip n’ slides. It was a bit sloppy when walking down steep pea-gravel surfaces (which only came to be on a couple of occasions), but in general, when hiking up, I had no issues.

Five Ten Freerider Contact Review

  • Five Ten Freerider Contact Review
  • Five Ten Freerider Contact Review

Fit & Finish

The new Freerider Contact is the latest offspring in Five Ten’s ever-evolving Freerider line, its closest sibling being the VXi, introduced just 2 years ago. The Contact is aimed at the ‘all-mountain’ or trail segment of mountain biking, but when perusing the shelves at Interbike, we saw it as a good candidate for bikepacking. It has a stiff sole to ensure comfort and efficiency when pedaling all day, but it’s also somewhat plush, which means comfort off the bike. Its also fairly lightweight, at around 390g per shoe.

First and foremost, this is the most comfortable cycling specific shoe I’ve tried to date, for both pedaling hours on end and walking city streets. Granted, everyone’s feet are different; for me, the Contacts fit like a glove. On extended and steep hike-a-bikes, there was absolutely no heel slippage thanks to the plush and well formed rear upper. Virginia has lower back issues and was concerned that the Contacts wouldn’t provide enough support for her, but she found them to be as comfortable as any walking or hiking specific shoes she’s tried. The tongue of the shoes is well padded, although not too big, and has a lace keeper that helps it maintain a center position.

Five Ten Freerider Contact Review - Bikepacking Shoes

The Freerider Contacts aren’t waterproof. Given that most of our riding was in a dry and dusty environment, this wasn’t an issue for us. But if wet mud is commonplace, you’ll probably appreciate that Five Ten have added a rubberized toe coating to the Freerider. As a result, they do seem to shed water and dry very quickly, based on the few occasions that we gave them a solid dousing in creek-crossings.

The one issue we did have is that the sole on one of the four shoes started to delaminate after two weeks of use. After speaking to Five Ten about the issue, they assured me that this manufacturing flaw was only present in an early pre-production batch, and the problem has since been resolved. Five Ten happily sent a new pair.

  • Model (as tested): Five Ten (size 9.5)
  • Weight: 390 grams per shoe
  • Price: $150
  • Place of Manufacture: TBD
  • Contact:

Wrap Up

Five Ten has a corner on the market for good sticky rubber, so that’s a no-brainer. And visually, the Contact has a far more streamlined and substantially lighter design than that of its predecessors. But even without the extra material and bulk, the Freerider Contact is sturdy and stiff enough for hard riding. Some might complain that it’s slightly low cut, but I had no quarrel with this.

Gin and I both wore them and agree that they are amazingly comfortable both on and off the bike. If you are looking for a flat shoe to use for fairly aggressive bikepacking, the Freerider Contacts are the ‘one-pair’ to beat.

Five Ten Freerider Contact Review

Here’s how the sole looked after 800+ miles and a lot of rugged use. They are still in relatively good shape. But, if you are looking for a pair for an extra long trip, check out Five Ten’s guide Tennies with a slightly harder rubber.
  • Rob Grey

    my pair of the original freeriders are the best cycling shoes (for flat pedals) i’ve ever owned, and are still going strong after three years. when they finally give up, i’ll be looking at these fairly closely. i’m still not sure about that smooth patch, though; i tend to find lots of mud around here, even in the summer.

  • Joe Newton

    Great ‘mountain biking’ shoes, and a step in the right direction from my older Impacts, Maltese Falcons and Freeriders, but I still think Five Tens have too much padding. This hinders drying time on longer journeys, especially up here in in the cold, wet North. I think Five Ten could have the perfect one-shoe bikepacking shoe in them, but is there a big enough market, yet?!

  • Travis Boss

    I have a set of the aescents with the MI6 rubber and the tackyness of the rubber is so much the shoe seems to actually lock on to the pedal. I have a old school set of Sun Ringle Octane Mag pedals.

  • Great shoes, got a set myself! But yeah, that soft rubber does wear quick.

  • Jason

    The smooth patch is no big deal. I have the VXI’s and they also have the smooth patch. Been riding them a couple years and no problems. Still have some original Freeriders as well. Awesome shoes.

  • GPaudler

    Thanks for all the great reviews! The smooth patch is a good idea – my Guide Tennies have worn smooth in about the same pattern, might as well start with a little more rubber.

  • teamcinzano

    I’ve been using Aescents as my daily cycling shoe for close to a year. Absolutely love them with one exception– they do not dry when they get wet. I even put them in the dryer once after a few days, which did finally dry them, but since they were just in with a tub of clothes the soft rubber ended up marring the dryer drum. I was thinking about getting some Water Tennies for my next shoe– same rubber, fast drying. The way the rubber sticks to VP platforms pedals is so impressive.

  • Al Cowan

    I’ve been riding five ten spitfires for the last 6 months as my only shoes backpacking across Europe. They’ve been great. Not too much padding (they dry fastish), lightweight, relatively streamlined (compared to others their line up).
    The only 2 issues I have is one; the styling is a bit naff, something more like an adidas campus would be great. The other problem is that the suede seems to be the weak point and has torn around the toe box so although still ride fine they look pretty thrashed and won’t be remotely weather proof.

  • Wm Coe

    Help, I bought these and have a question about sizing. They seem tight to lace up, but when I walk around they feel great. A little numbness on the top of the foot??? Loosened the laces and it went away. How much do these break in over time, because if they do, the 11 I got will work fine, I think the tongue is just a little thick so it feels tight to lace up, any thoughts?

  • Another great option is the La Sportiva Boulder X approach shoes. They have similarly sticky rubber and feel really secure on flat pedals. They do not have the flat patch which makes them a bit better for hiking.

    I mention this mostly because I’ve tried on Five Ten shoes and they just didn’t fit me well at all. Everyone’s feet are different, so if you don’t like the Five Tens you could try La Sportiva instead. Always good to have different options.

  • Dynapar

    My rock climbing shoes use the same Mi6 rubber, which has an interesting back story. It was designed for one of the Mission Impossible movies to be sticky enough to work on glass. I am excited to see how these perform on an MTB shoe. Curious about the longevity though, as the softer rubber tends to wear faster and be more prone to punctures.

  • Andrew Woodall

    I loved my Freerider Contacts (have the ones as pictured in the article) but the durability is the worst I’ve ever seen from Five Ten. Mine expired in less than three months of Summer UK use.

    A word of warning, the ‘early pre-production’ batch explanation is bollocks, I’ve had some replacements over a year since their launch and the M16 rubber delaminated in exactly the same way. My advice, stick to the Stealth rubber soles, they are far far more durable.

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