Five Ten started as a leader in the climbing industry back in the 1980’s, making innovative climbing shoes and creating stealth rubber, a sticky like rubber that gave climbers advantages by trusting their foot holds. After nearly 15 years in the climbing industry, Five Ten launched their bike program in 2001 with the Impact flat pedal shoe, where it performed quite well in UCI Downhill World Cups. In 2010 the Maltese Falcon was Five Ten’s first clipless compatible shoe. Now, Five Ten has a large lineup of mountain bike shoes, including the Kestrel, which was launched last year.

Like I mentioned in my Specialized Rime review last year, everyone has different shaped feet, and because of that everyone fits into shoes differently. I have found significant differences between shoe companies and their sizing too, which tends to complicate shoe purchasing even more. On top of that, bikepackers have needs outside of a normal cyclist, like durability, hike-ability, and ease of use. So finding the perfect shoe for bikepacking and your specific needs can be a difficult task.

During the first few rides I was not all that impressed with the Five Ten Kestrel shoes. They were a stiff, brick-like shoe that hurt when I put them on, while I rode, and when I took them off. As I broke them in, and wore them more and more, I started to enjoy them a lot, more on that later.

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The Five Ten Kestrel shoes comes in at $180 and is considered an All Mountain/ Enduro Shoe on their website. The shoe comes with Five Ten’s Stealth Rubber, along with a clipless compatible cutout to place your cleats. The closure system is comprised of a weaved Boa closure system.

  • Performance-enhancing Body Geometry features in the outsole and footbed
  • Dual-compound rubber outsole with Stealth® C4™ & Mi6™
  • Boa IP1 closure system
  • Compatible with all SPD pedals
  • Stiff, carbon-infused shank
  • Synthetic, weather-resistant toe box with micro-perforation
  • Non-slip heel cup to reduce torsional flex
  • Compression molded EVA midsole
  • Breathable mesh tongue and synthetic upper
  • Ortholite anti-microbial sock liner
  • Sleek, low-profile design


The first thing I learned was that these shoes have a long break in period, this is in part due to the synthetic toe box. I wore this shoe for two months before it eventually molded to my foot. Because of the thick synthetic waterproof toe box, my wide feet had nowhere to flex into the side of the shoe, causing foot pain especially around my bunionette (outside of my pinky toe). After a few bikepacking trips and long days in the shoes, they eventually molded but not before going through some pain.

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While it took some time, I found the toe box to be great at keeping moisture out, I had great results in keeping my toes dry when dipping into shallow water. On the other end of that, they certainly hold water when it does enter because of the not-so-breathable material. The middle part of the shoe comes with a mesh fabric that certainly breathes like you would expect. Towards the rear and tongue of the shoe is similar breathable fabrics on the exterior, but sewn inside the shoe is what seems to be another non-breathable fabric. It’s hard to say if this actually keeps water out, but it certainly helps retain moisture.

The sole of the shoe comes with Five Ten’s Priority Stealth Rubber, and it is better than any sole I have used. The pattern comes with a bunch of protruded rubber circle treads throughout the sole along with a raised heel. And while it may not look special, while hiking, I noticed extreme grip which allowed me to gain confidence in walking up steep rock faces, and hike-a-bikes. The rubber has held up pretty good too, with roughed up but still intact treads.

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The inner sole is infused with a carbon shank, which is very noticeable when cranking down on the pedals. It has to be difficult to develop a hike-a-bike shoe that still remains efficient. The Kestrel sole is extremely stiff, and it shows with solid power transfer. The shoe is designed well and contours well with the ground which helps with walking while remaining so stiff. The cleat box is deep enough to never notice my cleat touch while hiking, even with them installed as far back as they can go.

Like I mentioned above the shoe’s closure system is made up of a Boa closure system, cable, and cable guides. I found it a bit difficult to tighten down the shoe just after putting it on. After pedaling a mile or so, I found that the Boa would loosen up and I could continue to crank the closure down a bit more. This proved to be easy on the fly, but something to be conscious of.

Day Rides and Bikepacking 

These have turned into my everyday shoe because of the stiffness and durability. Yes they are heavy, and yes they hold in moisture more so than other shoes I have used, but it doesn’t matter since they can dry or breath overnight. I even used these shoes this over the past few weekends in shorter mountain bike races. They have worked very with with my Shimano XT and XTR pedals.

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I am a bit more hesitant to use these shoes for bikepacking. For one, they are an extreme pain to take on and off. While the heel does stay grounded and snug more than any shoe I have used, because of this, I have found it really difficult to put them on and off. It’s a shoe where you really need to use the heal loop to tug the shoe in place. The boa also makes it a bit difficult to loosen up. I found that the cable becomes stuck and it’s tough to pull on the thin cable with your hands. I say this stuff because it’s important to me during bikepacking trips to keep the same bike shoes as camp shoes. And when I get to camp, I like to loosen up the shoe as much as possible and walk around comfortably.

One truly noticeable feature the Kestrel provides is warmth. The shoe is great in the rain, mud and cold conditions. It certainly keeps wind and moisture out which proved to be super nice in early or late day rides in the mountains, or spring or fall riding.

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There are some good and bad that come with this shoe, but like I said everyone has different feet and different needs in a shoe. You can understand that Five Ten developed an efficient trail shoe, and while it may not be intended for bikepacking, it’s walkability and stiffness will pair for a great performing shoe. If your not into Boa, they do make a lace version with a velcro strap in two different colors. The sleek black and red shoe is the only color option, and you can count on normal shoe sizes, as my 11.5 fit me perfectly. If you are looking for a shoe with swelling in mind, you might want to purchase a half size up.

We thank Five Ten for providing this shoe for review. 

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