How important are shoes for mountain biking? An almost rhetorical question; Everyone who has ever done any MTB riding on knows how important it is. Fundamental to power transfer on your pedals, key to balance on your bike and decisive for the feeling of comfort on long and / or wet rides.
My introduction to the Vaude AM MOAB syn MTB shoes was in Belgium during three days’ intensive bike packing trip. With a lot of rain and fairly low temperatures. After that I used the shoes regularly on MTB rides in the Netherlands. Dry and wet, warm and nippy weather.
The first thing you notice is of course the sneaker look. Nice and casual, in line with my preference for the baggy style and clearly aimed at that segment of MTB riders who would rather go down a mountain than ride up. Enduro, bike parks, freestyle.
The AM MOAB syn is the entry level version of the AM Moab line. With a textile upper that is hydrophobic but not waterproof, (more on that later), and the AM Flat outsole that characterizes the entire series. The outsole should be stiff for good power transfer from your legs to the pedals. But not so stiff that you can’t walk or have too little grip on passages in the mountains that cannot be cycled, where you sometimes even have to carry your bike. Grip is also delivered through the sole profile and rubber compound. On the one hand it helps with the grip on the ground but also and especially with the grip on your pedals.
Other shoes from the AM MOAB line offer even more robust and watertight solutions are the AM Moab MID STX with Sympatex Membrane (€ 189,95), the AM Moab Tech with Boa closure (€ 169,95) and the AM Moab with a water-repellent outer layer of Terracare leather (€ 149,95).
The AM Moab MTB shoes are positioned as summer shoes, but they are also great to use in the fall and winter as far as I am concerned.
In terms of comfort, this shoe really delivers on just that. Size 44 (that’s my regular size) fits me very well. The sole and upper are, respectively, stiff and reinforced, but it still doesn’t feel like a hard shoe. The reinforcement of the upper, in particular toes and heel part, is to protect you against rocks and roots that you can hit while riding, but it also benefits the total stiffness of the shoe.
This stiffness works towards efficient power transfer from your legs to the pedals. If your sole dampens too much and / or flexes too much, you lose strength in every pedal stroke. Now there are soles of bicycle shoes that are many times stiffer than this, and therefore much less comfortable. But you have to keep in mind that this is also an enduro shoe, and not made for a riding style that emphasizes climbing. But you can climb well with it and you can feel how the shoe helps with your pedaling efficiency.
The stiffness of the sole also helps with grip on the pedals. You want to be able to put all your weight, in balance on your forefoot, and the sole helps focus your weight to that point.
Flat pedals have small sharp metal studs that have to grip your sole as much as possible to prevent your foot from sliding around on your pedal. Rubber compound (not too hard rubber) and sole profile are key to that. The sole profile is made up of hexagons in which the studs of the pedals hook to te hexagons like barbs. I really felt that effect, especially with very steep parts in Houffalize in wet and muddy conditions. My foot was held securely by the combination of the studs, profile and rubber compound. So the grip is excellent.
The waterproofness of a shoe is not only dependent on the shoe itself. Total water proofness is often made impossible because water can leak into your shoes from your legs. Only if you wear waterproof trousers that fall over the shoes in combination with waterproof shoes, do you really have a more or less complete waterproof combination.
During our bike packing in Belgium, we had prolonged rain on the second day in particular, and I regularly got boged down in the swampy terrain of the High Fens. Wet feet were the very logical result. I can’t blame the shoes for that. Since then I have also had milder rainy days on rides and cycled through several deep puddles where the shoe with the hydrophobic canvas of the upper really handles water well.
In combination with good socks (I often wear thicker merino or recently Gore Windstopper socks) you can handle a lot. Certainly with merino, if your shoes and feet get wet(ter), your feet will not immediately get super cold.
A comfortable, well made functional shoe, with great grip, a good stiff sole, which performs well under dry and wet conditions. Definitely a very good choice as an entry shoe.