Five Ten Guide Tennies Review: Bike Traveling Shoes

This pair of Five Ten Guide Tennies has seen almost 4,000 miles of walking, pedaling, and hike-a-biking. They’ve been through muddy, rocky, wet, and bone-dry conditions in Cuba, Uganda, Rwanda, and the southeastern US… and they’re still going. Are Guide Tennies the best bike travel shoes available? Find out in this ultra-long-term review…

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To acknowledge all that these Five Ten Guide Tennies have accomplished, a proper Curriculum Vitae is in order: Purchased in mid-2014, these brick-red Tennies were subsequently shaken down on a few trail rides around Pisgah National Forest. Later that year, they flew into Entebbe International Airport, from which they embarked on the 1,300 mile hot and dusty—and rainy and muddy—Trans Uganda bikepacking route. During their time in the Pearl of Africa, they also took many long walks and hikes, including a rugged jaunt into the Mountains of the Moon where they caught a glimpse of the world’s only equatorial glaciated peaks. Next, they racked up few hundred more miles through Rwanda, where they ultimately tackled the Congo Nile Trail and a hearty bushwhack through Nyungwe National Park. After Africa, the pair flew back to the US and went on a few more bike outings. They were also worn for months during a major house remodel. After that, they set sail to Cuba to take on the 860-mile La Ruta Mala, climbing and pushing over the three mountain ranges on the island. Since then, these faded—now pinkish—Guide Tennies have been ridden a couple dozen more times, loaned to a friend for a few rides, worn to dinner on occasion, taken on photo shoots and to the local pub, etc. After all that, they’re still comfortable, supportive, and have plenty of sticky tread. Need I write more?

Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10

  • Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10
  • Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10

First, let me adress the debate that inevitably ensues whenever we post about flat pedals or non-SPD shoes for bikepacking. I get it. I’m a recovering clipless addict. I still run SPD pedals on my mountain bike and drop-bar bike, sometimes. However, I find myself reaching for platform pedals more and more. I even slapped a pair of flats on a gravel bike for an 80-mile, 10,000’ overnighter the other weekend, something I would have considered ludicrous just a couple years ago. I used to swear by clipless for pedaling efficiency and performance, but the more I ride good flats with quality shoes, the more the merits of clipless fade into obscurity.

  • Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10
  • Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10

When it comes to big bike trips, I’m a hardline flats convert. It’s hard to dispute the virtues of a comfortable pair of shoes when your trip includes everything from long hike-a-bikes, to exploring city streets by foot, to scrambling up mountainsides for photos, to 12-hour days spent pedaling. And while there are a few clipless shoes that are tolerable in these situations, they are never as comfortable as shoes without cleats. When companies claim an SPD shoe is good for “walking around,” that’s a relative statement. For the most part, SPD shoes simply can’t compete with flats in any category other than pedaling, and they often fall short in comfort there, too. By and large, if you pick quality shoes and good flat pedals, your pedaling efficiency won’t suffer significantly either.

In that matter, quality is the operative word. Good, grippy pedals are an integral component, as are good shoes. Most people can make do with any old pair of hiking shoes or boots, or even sandals, but if you’re concerned with performance, support, and durability, there seem to be just a few options that can maximize pedaling productivity and hold up to the rigors of a long bike trip. Much of this hinges on having the right rubber sole – one that grips the pedals, provides just the right amount of stiffness, and features a rubber compound that won’t wear out. This is a tall order, but one that’s key to taking on a big bikepacking trip. The Five Ten Guide Tennies definitely tick those boxes.

Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10

Rubber Meets The Road

While Five Ten (now under the Adidas brand) makes cycling footwear, the Guide Tennies actually aren’t bike shoes. They probably should be, but they’re technically classified as approach shoes, meaning they are in a category of hybrid footwear that have some characteristics in common with hiking boots, and others with rock climbing shoes. In essence, they are designed for hiking and scrambling to go rock climbing, as well as light rock climbing. These activities are a far cry from bikepacking, but the magical rubber used on the soles of the Guide Tennies make them a great crossover shoe. There are quite a few purpose-built flat shoes for mountain biking these days, but many, such as the Five Ten Freerider Contact, have soft, ultra-sticky rubber that simply won’t last. The sole and exterior toe box on the Guide Tennies are constructed from Stealth C4, one of several proprietary rubber compounds in Five Ten’s lineup. According to their marketing, “C4 allows climbers to stick to barely there edges, lock into smears on microscopic nubbins, and cruise up technical terrain with unparalleled confidence.” It is sticky; not as sticky as the S1, but it’s definitely grippy enough to keep your feet glued to the pedals during the mid-stroke, which is where most non-cycling shoes fall short.

  • Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10
  • Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10
  • Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10
  • Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10
  • Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10
The only flaw on these after so much use is the rubber is splitting on one of them. It doesn’t seem to be threatening the shoe and could probably be fixed with some glue, I presume.

Stealth C4 is also harder than the compounds that Five Ten uses on their enduro-focused flat shoes, which helps account for the superior durability that I’ve experienced. Unlike the S1 rubber on the Contacts, the C4 doesn’t get chewed up by aggressive pedal pins. In fact, after all the miles on this pair, there is very little evidence of bite marks.

I assumed that the stickiness of the C4 rubber would start to degrade over time, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I rode these just a few weeks ago and they still stick to the pedals—perhaps not quite like when they were new, but still surprisingly well. Five Ten uses their iconic “Dotty” pattern on the Guide Tennies, which I’ve found to be just enough tread for most hike-a-bike situations, although they can get a little slippery on muddy or really loose surfaces, especially limestone “kitty-litter” hiking situations.

Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10

Under Construction

The Five Ten Guide Tennie actually started the approach shoe category some 30 years ago. Since then, Five Ten has applied a few changes to the shoe, including big performance upgrades as well as small tweaks to shave off grams. Since I purchased this pair, they have undergone a few design changes. They still have the same general design, featuring a compression-molded midsole, but they also added extended lacing and a pass-through woven eyelet on the tongue that should help keep it from sliding to the side, one issue I had with the older version. Another change is that Five Ten seems to have done away with the fabric version, offering the Guide Tennie exclusively with a Suede/Synthetic upper.

As for changes, Five Ten was purchased by Adidas in 2012. There’s nothing wrong with that, really, but I do get nervous when good things change. Hopefully, the Guide Tennies don’t get over-tweaked for the worse, or, gasp, discontinued.

Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10

Men’s and Women’s Fit and Sizing

From what I can tell, the sizing of the Guide Tennies is pretty straightforward. I almost always wear a 9.5 US, and that’s what size my Guide Tennies are. Also, Virginia consistently wears a women’s 8.5 US, and the Guide Tennies in that size fit her perfectly. I have seen a couple complaints that folks with very wide feet have sizing issues, but that’s unconfirmed.

The Five Ten Guide Tennie used to come in a multitude of colors, but it appears that Adidas has cut the lineup to four color variations in men’s (Tent Green, Gun/Metal, Navy/Orange, and Twine). These come in sizes 4 and up, including half sizes. For women’s they now only offer it in two color schemes (Gray/Fuschia and Stone) in sizes 5-11, including half sizes.

Five Ten used to offer a mid-top version of the shoe (shown below, which I wore in Kyrgyzstan), but, unfortunately, Adidas/Five Ten have apparently discontinued it from the Guide Tennie lineup. There’s no information available as to if or when they’ll be releasing these again.

  • Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10
  • Five Ten Guide Tennies Review, 5.10

Pros

  • C4 rubber is sticky, but not too soft, and lasts forever
  • Sole provides the perfect amount of stiffness that’s comfortable off the bike and still provides solid support while pedaling
  • Comes in a nice variety of colors and sizes in both men’s and women’s

Cons

  • The Dotty rubber pattern is great on rocks and harder surfaces, but can get a little slippery in wet or loose terrain; definitely not a deal-breaker though
  • No lace keeper for cycling
  • Lack of gusseted tongue allows dirt and gravel into the shoes
  • Weight (Men’s 9.5, as tested) 808g (28.5oz) per pair
  • Size Tested Men’s 9.5, Women’s 8.5
  • Place of Manufacture China
  • Price $120
  • Manufacturer’s Details Link

Support your LBS and buy from them. If they don’t carry 5.10, you can check Amazon

Wrap Up

In closing, let me state why I am writing a review of a four-year-old product. I’ll use your favorite T-shirt as analogy. You know, that old T-shirt that you’ve been wearing so long it’s taken on a sentimental quality. As it started to get holes in the shoulders, you wore it less and less because you wanted it to last forever. Really, though, you just wish you could buy the same shirt again and again. That sums up my relationship with Five Ten’s Guide Tennies. That is, I don’t want them to go away.

That said, as mentioned in the cons, these shoes aren’t without their faults. All we can hope is that Adidas keeps the Guide Tennie going and only refines it slightly, without messing up a nearly perfect product. Ideally, Adidas would make the Guide Tennie a cycling shoe and make just a few minor changes, such as a gusseted tongue and a lace-keeper. Otherwise, for bike travel, Five Ten Guide Tennies are next to perfect as they are, in their comfort, support, and stiffness, which says a lot.

  • Dr J

    One thing missing in this review is to test their waterproofing (or lack thereof). How do they perform when soaked? Do they dry quickly? How permeable are they to water?

  • They aren’t waterproof, at all. However, the rubberized toe and heel do seem to seem to keep them from getting wet too quickly during short stream crossings. As far as drying time, they are average.

  • Keep in mind that they changed the upper materials on the ones available now, so they might be a little different… which is one reason I didn’t mention it.

  • Dan Ransom

    I have used the leather (newest model) shoes on multiple trips, and they are great. Unfortunately, they don’t breathe at all. Canvas uppers were amazing, but Adidas doesn’t seem interested in maintaining the same number of SKUs that 5.10 did. A real bummer.

  • “Worn to dinner on occasion…,” tsk. ;-)

  • Agreed, the newest models get my dogs warmed up way too quick and are totally unbearable on hot days. I’ve gone back to my Scarpa Crux’s.

  • Not NYC dinner… more like meat and three (we do live in the South) ;)

  • FWIW, the mid-tops I took to Kyrgyzstan have the leather upper and they are warm, but that was appropriate for most of that trip. I’ve worn them in some Appalachian excursions since, and I agree, they’re a little much. But, the rubber soles are worth the trade off, IMO. Not sure how the Scarpa soles work…

  • I’ve been wondering about these since I first saw them … somewhere. I have a pair of Chrome 202 Mid boots that are good, once I switched out the mushy, thick insole. They’re good, but not exact.

    I have a pair of Blundstone 500 (black leather, blue paid elastic) that are almost perfect, except there is a seam on the top that cuts off circulation, so I limit how much I wear them. On the bike they’re perfect, off the bike they’re good as long as I’m standing.

    I’m a fan of Adidas Samba both in toe clips and flats, but the tongue grinds skin off my ankle if there is any trace of grit and sweat.

    Any one of the three pair of shoes would be just fine if I were to leave for a trip right now, but while I generally forget about the bike and gear once I’m pedaling, it’s tough to forget about the shoes. Actually, good shoes are basically the key to happiness, or something.

    These 5.10s look pretty good (maybe I can wear them with cuffed 5.11 trousers?). I was curious about tread life and function, but that seems beyond expectation in your review.

    I read elsewhere some reviews on these and it seems like they re-solable or at least repairable should they come apart. (I plan to get my Chrome boots resoled — the original outsoles are way too soft).

    About the lack of waterproofness, I found that can be remedied by waterproof socks. I have some Showers Pass socks that make anything waterproof.

    I’ll give these shoes a try.

    [Sorry my comments are always long and rambling]

  • craig kerwien

    Long time lurker, first time poster, big fan of the site. And of course my first contribution is about footwear, as I’m in the extra wide duck foot category.

    Confirmed: Five-Tens do not fit wide footed adventurers. I’ve tried a couple of sizes up to see if I could make these work, and nada. I’m traditionally a 4E wide in New Balance parlance, wide Merrills fit me fine, and the Tennies were just too narrow. So for clipless footwear, I’ll wear light hikers like Merrill low MOABs or even Keen sandals for trucking on. I do add a firm insert like Superfeet to distribute power on the pedal cycle downstroke,

    @@bikepackingcom:disqus – honestly, you could write up a review of 4yr old handlebar tape and I would read it. You folks have more miles of experience using a variety of stuff that most long term wear insights would make the grade and be interesting,

    Good stuff.

  • Did the price went up? If I’m not mistaken the tennie was about $70 when it first appeared here.

  • Mark Troup

    They just announced at the summer outdoor retailer show that they’re bringing back an updated version of the FiveTennies, their OG approach shoe. Might be another option for bikepacking. Gonna have to wait til February 2019 to find out though.

  • Barron_Park

    True that. Fellow wide-footer here, rolling 2E or 4E depending. I’d like to try Five-Tens but they just don’t accommodate my flippers. I can’t believe we’re really so rare for them to build to our spec?

    I buy Giro Jacket MTB shoes. They don’t make “wide” shoes either, but their standard size is more accommodating, and breaks in nicely to wrap around my big feet.

  • Stephen Poole

    Sadly, 5:10 shoes don’t fit those with low volume feet or narrow ankles and heels either. I tried on numerous models at Fort William in 2015 and the back of my foot just wouldn’t stay inside. I’m sure they’re great if they fit you… :-(

  • Thanks for lurking, Craig! And thanks for the confirmation and insight…

  • Interesting…

  • Not sure; perhaps they were on sale at the time?

  • Interesting. I have very narrow feet, and usually have some folding in the uppers as a result. But, they do fit me…

  • Bruce Lafone

    +1 on the Giro Jacket, bought a pair on sale from BackCountry and love them. I also have wide feet and they work really well. Not as grippy as the Stealth rubber from Five Ten but definitely have good Vibram Sole and a nice rigid platform for pedaling. Paired with my Race Face Atlas pedals they work well.

  • Israel Magalit

    This is all well and good for a 2014 model. The big question is, how is the build quality and durability of the newer versions?
    Like with so many things these days, “they sure don’t make them like they used to” often rings true.
    Having been bought out by a big company (Adidas) has its pros and cons. On the one hand, FiveTen now enjoys the financial and R&D backing of one of the biggest (if not the biggest) sportswear companies in the world. On the other, one could view FiveTen as having sold their soul to the devil (so to speak) and lost the quality and focus that they used to have, resulting in overall inferior products.
    Just my thoughts…

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