Five Ten Kestrel Review: A clipless bikepacking option?

What are the requirements for a good clipless bikepacking shoe? It needs to be stiff enough to pedal efficiently, have a form fit to maintain comfort over long rides, possess a hike-a-bike friendly sole, and remain fairly comfortable off the bike. Does Five Ten’s Kestral tick all the boxes?

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Five Ten Kestrel Shoes - Review

After riding the Maltese Falcon Race, Five Ten’s new-ish clipless all-mountain shoe, for over a year now (two pairs to be exact) I found a couple of flaws. The first is that when using the Falcon on routes with extended hike-a-bikes, it takes a toll on cleats. The soft rubber that forms the shallow pedal contact area around the cleat bed wears out and allows the cleats to be exposed. In turn, rocky terrain grinds away at the soft metal. The other issue is float. The pedal contact area is soft and wears quickly which allows the shoe to move around a little too much on the pedals. In short, the pedal recess isn’t quite cozy enough after being broken in by miles of use. All that being said, I am a huge fan of Five Ten shoes. I found the Aescent to be a great option on overseas trips using flat pedals, and the Guide Tennies are even better. Fortunately, Five Ten released the Kestrel, a clipless option that fixed my two major gripes with the Maltese Falcon Race.

Five Ten Kestrel Shoes - Review

The Kestrel is aimed at the trail and enduro segments of mountain biking, but I thought it might be a solid option for bikepacking trips in the typical 3-5 day range. After several rides on them I can’t yet vouch for their long-term durability, but I can give them a good rundown.

Five Ten Kestrel Shoes - Review

Built around carbon infused shank, the Kestrel is Five Ten’s stiffest shoe to date. It’s also quite a departure from the rest of their lineup; it doesn’t have the characteristic skate shoe look. It’s fairly sleek and light weight at about 425 grams per shoe (size 9.5). The dual-compound outsole is split between two types of rubber. The hard C4 rubber at the pedal contact area allows the pedal to firmly lock in place. In tandem with the overall stiffness of the shoe this provides exceptional power transfer. A softer and stickier Mi6 rubber makes up the remainder of the tread which provides optimal traction off the bike. The relatively wide and grippy platform seems to do well both trudging up steeps and simply walking around, post-ride.

Five Ten Kestrel Shoes - Review

The crown jewel of the Kestrel is its ratcheting BOA IP1 dial which controls the coated stainless steel cable closure. It turns clockwise to tighten and can be microadjusted by several clicks counter. The dial also pops out to loosen completely, a nice feature which allows for a quick escape after a long day riding. Compared to the Falcon, the Freeride, and other Five Tens, the Kestrel is a form-fitting shoe. However, I found them to have some uncomfortable pressure points at the top of the foot, at first. This seemed to be a result of over tightening. With my narrowish feet, if was difficult to get the front tight enough without over tightening the top/back. This has improved as they have broken in, but after the first couple of rides there was a bit of soreness and foot fatigue. I definitely wouldn’t recommend setting out on a long bikepack with a fresh pair.

Five Ten Kestrel Shoes - Review

Again, I can’t fully speak to their long-term durability, but the Kestrel seems to be well constructed and reinforced in all the right places. There are a few features to mention. The reinforced toe bed adds a bit of protection against rocks, sticks, rattlesnakes, or whatever trail hazard comes your way. The toe box is touted as being weather-proof with a layer of sealed material added to keep out water from random puddle splashes or damp foliage. There are also rubber reinforcements on the sides and rear of the shoe.

Five Ten Kestrel Shoes - Review

  • Five Ten Kestrel Shoes - Review
  • Five Ten Kestrel Shoes - Review
  • Five Ten Kestrel Shoes - Review

For bikepackers looking for the weight and pedal-efficient stiffness of an XC shoe, optimal traction for hiking, and a rugged build for protection and durability, the Kestrel just might be the answer. Find it at your local bike shop for around $180 per pair.

Five Ten Kestrel Shoes - Review

  • Andrew Luter

    I find mine very stiff for hike-a-bike. I quickly developed hot spots on the heel, where they would pull away due to the stiffness of the shank. Do they get better with break-in?

  • Tony Tapp

    Can’t help but think that the “closure” system is over-complicating a job that used to be done by something as simple (and reliable – or at least in-the-field-repairable) as a pair of laces..

  • I like laces as well, but the Boa system is pretty cool. Check out the Specialized Recons we previewed on Saturday

  • Tough to say, I’ve only got a handful of rides on them and no ‘extended’ hikeabikes. They don’t bother my heel though, which I’ve had a problem with in the past. I’ll definitely update this down the road…

  • Tony Tapp

    Saw the review . . . but also saw the price @ $225 (which with taxes and duties equates to a likely price in the UK of around £200 !!) – very difficult to justify on a value-for-money basis unless you get a free replacement pair when you wear them out.

  • Wow, I haven’t seen them that high. Check out five ten’s shop on their site.

  • Checked em out at MEC when they first came out. Seemed too stiff for hike-a-bike and I was surprised at how heavy they were. Nice looking shoe and I have had great luck with other 510s.

  • I ended up walking around in them for 2 full days at the Interbike Outdoor Demo (as well as to and from the shuttle and my room). I didn’t think they are too stiff. My one complaint in the walking department is that if they are not tightened down, they can cause a little heel rub.

  • davew

    I obliterated a pair of these on the Tour Divide this year (2015). The boa system proved ineffective after rainy days and a couple of creek crossings. I had to sleep with them on one night as I could not get them off and then near the end I had to ride a full day with them undone as the ratchet would not lock off. I ordered a size larger than I normally wear to cope with extra layers of socks but found pressure on the small toe extremely uncomfortable at times but this eased near the end of the three weeks of riding. While packing the bike and gear to go home I discovered why the pressure had eased off, I had worn the rubber our on the toe and the shank was coming away from the shoe. Walking in them was fine, not too still at all. Traction was average. The one and only aspect of the shoe i fully appreciated was the lack of ventilation in the leather(?) over the toes. My feet did not freeze on some of the long descending rides in the cold after have had the feet submerged in a crossing. There are better shoes out there.

  • Thanks for sharing, Dave. The Divide is definitely a much more thorough test. Interesting to hear that the Boa system locked up in wet conditions…

  • Donnieboy

    There is something to be appreciated with dependable laces when in a natural environment.

  • BS

    Another similar type shoe to consider is the Specialized 2fo Cliplite. I’ve been using them a few months and love them so far for hiking and biking. Hell, half the time I wear them off the bike they are so comfortable. No overnights yet, but so far don’t see any reason to not use them next year on the CTR.

  • I’ve heard a lot about those lately… I’ll have to check them out. Specialized makes solid shoes.

  • David Carey

    Hi! I was just wondering how warm these shoes are compared to a traditionally vented XC MTB shoe? On the days when shoe covers would be necessary but a normal casual shoe would suffice, how do you think these shoes would fare?

  • I have found that most five ten shoes (newer models) are warmer than typical xc shoes. I think it has something to do with the water resistant rubberized coat they put in the toe. I have very ‘cold natured’ feet and have worn my newer Freeride Contacts in temps near freezing with no issues.

  • David Carey

    Great! Thanks!

  • Steve Dekker

    Five Ten shoes do not last long! But if you need the sticky they perform great!

  • Donnieboy

    Great review, thank you for sharing your experience.

  • Alan Weatherford

    what MTB shoe would you recommend for the Tour Divide?

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