As a fan of 5.10 shoes, I’ve been looking at trying a pair of their SPD compatible shoes since they released the Hellcat. Sticky rubber soles plus SPD sounds like a winning combination. However, after checking out the Hellcat, I elected to hold off: the DH/BMX/ skate style clip-in shoe was simply too heavy. Not as much an issue for shuttle runs or days at the bike park, but that added weight on your feet adds up at the end of a long day when you pedal up to earn your turns.
I prefer the aesthetic of skate-styled clip in shoes, and have been rolling on a pair of Shimano DX shoes for the last season or so; however, for fast paced rides go back to my racer-boi style Specialized SPD Shoes since they weigh a lot less. When FiveTen released the Maltese Falcon, a lighter weight trail shoe, I was intrigued. When an opportunity to pro-form a pair presented itself, I took advantage of the opportunity.
First impressions of the Maltese Falcons were these babies were legit trail riding shoes. Although cutting out the cleat cover was a bit of a pain, once I was set up, they felt great on the walking around test. The first take on the bike was equally good, although I did have to return to the house to cut a bit more material away in order to get the cleats to engage and release cleanly.
How Stiff Are the Soles?
Unfortunately I happen to be one of those folks that experience issues with foot numbness after a few hours of pedaling. It’s been a problem I’ve had for as long as I can remember, and have to avoid running extremely stiff shoes as a result. This issue was compounded again a few years ago when I shattered the ball of my foot over-jumping a gap for the camera. It was so bad that I decided to run platform pedals with 5.10 sticky rubber shoes exclusively; a decision that lasted almost a season before returning to SPDs for trail riding. These days I’m fine clipped in, provided I’m wearing the right shoe—which is why I decided to give the Maltese Falcon a shot.
If you’re a fellow sufferer of foot numbness, you just might dig this shoe for that reason alone.
This is the question that comes up the most. The shoes aren’t as stiff as XC race oriented shoes. They’re also a lot heavier than xc specific type shoes, and if you’re looking for the lightest and stiffest shoe, you’re better off sticking with that style.
That said, for trail riders that want to be able to walk around mid ride, these are pretty damn amazing. And they’re stiff. But stiff without putting weird pressure into the ball of my foot like a lot of other shoes do. In fact, they’re one of the most comfortable riding shoes I’ve ever owned. I’ve left them on at work, and only taken them off when I realized I was still wearing them. The sticky rubber sole really shines off the bike as well- anytime I’ve climbed up and over rocks or into trees for a mid-ride photo shoot I’ve appreciated the extra security of the grip.
Shoe stiffness is a topic that comes up quite a bit when it comes to this style of trail shoe. I never found myself wanting, and I like them exactly as they are. I’m not a fan of extremely rigid soles, and if you want a stiff shoe, there are plenty of racing slippers out there. Good luck walking around in them though. FiveTen hit the mark in regards to stiffness and retaining walkability.
Stealth rubber plus an SPD interface= pure awesome. However, I’ll be the first to go right out and say it, I’m not crazy about the aesthetic of these shoes. While they resemble the Five Ten Impact with a strap added to them, and I can’t say I think they look that great. That said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and like my favorite pair of shorts from Endura (the Humvee) these shoes are all about utility and function. Not that they look bad; I’m just not crazy about them in that way, and if I had my preferences I would have gone with a murdered out black option. (plus changing laces is a quick and easy way to add flavor to any black lace up shoe anyway)
When it comes to every day wear like shoes and helmets, it is nice to have an color neutral option that matches all my bikes, and goes with all my jerseys and shorts.
With this shoe I decided to take a different approach with cleat placement. Because I often experience foot numbness, I tried running the cleats as far back as I possibly could. With a lot of SPD style shoes a custom drilling is required to try a more rearward cleat position; the Maltese Falcon has a much more reward facing drilling than most shoes. If you’ve been looking for a shoe with this sort of option, you owe it to yourself to try a pair out.
Why go further back? A few reasons:
1. For someone that often runs platform pedals and conventional FiveTens, the rearward position feels a lot like riding on flats. While you give some up in power, you gain a ton in comfort, and for someone that has issues with foot numbness— this is huge.
2. For more aggressive riding, a more rearward cleat position is better on your ankles. Try launching off a loading dock with XC racing shoes with the cleat mounted on the ball of your foot— better land smoothly though. If you don’t, your ankle is going to bend in ways you don’t want, and you could be looking at a sprained ankle, or worse. Mountain biking and road riding are two very different disciplines, and call for different set ups. And this is most definitely a shoe for mountain biking.
I did experience a few issues trying to run the cleat all the way back. The first time pedaling around the block cleat engagement felt horrible. Heading back in and cutting a bit away thankfully resolved that though, and once I had the cleats coming in and out with that clear and defined snap sound I knew I was good to go. The other issue with running the cleat slammed to the rear was that is effects your saddle height and spin. At the very least, you’ll need to lower your seat a bit. I’m running my saddle about a centimeter lower. As I’m now running a frame sized larger than I used to, getting my saddle low enough with 5″ dropper post is proving to be an issue, so I may end up having to adjust the cleat slightly more forward to split the difference. The more rearward cleat position also felt a bit weird at first.
On the trail the issue was forgotten. After a short time on the bike, I became accustomed to the more rearward cleat position and didn’t have issues clipping in. In fact, the experience was much more inline with how I ride on a platform pedal in the Impact and Freerider shoes. I could tell I lost a bit of power in my stroke, but it wasn’t that noticeable and it is a trade off I’m willing to make for the trail experience I want to have wearing these shoes. The comfort level is high, and since I have my Blur TRc set up to be extremely playful on the trail the experience with the shoes has been inline with riding my regular FiveTen shoes, but with the additional power and connectivity one gets riding clipped in.
One thing I did notice was a bit of heel lift from the get-go while walking around. I attributed this primarily to a sizing issue. Although I chose the same size 5.10 shoe as I run for platforms, it might not have been the best choice for the SPD model. However, I hate the feeling of an enclosed toe box on my feet, and after tying the shoes tighter the heel lift wasn’t that bad. That said, if I had the luxury of trying these on in a shop before hand I might have elected to size down a half size.
I’ve been riding on the shoes for a few months now, and my initial thoughts regarding sizing are a bit different from how I currently feel. In the end, I was really happy I chose the same size as the shoes I wear for flats. (size 9) They feel great, and it’s been hard to want to wear other shoes for riding. These shoes will help you shred.
Pedals used in testing, and recommended for maximum radness factor: Shimano PD-M785 Trail Pedals
Buy them on Amazon.com: FiveTen Men’s Maltese Falcon Cycling Shoe
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