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Can You Wear Sneakers Mountain Biking?

person on a mountain bike with a helmet on

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Mountain biking is a healthy and exciting activity, but most people normally wear shoes while riding. But what if you could wear sneakers with which you could enjoy the ride? Mountain biking in sneakers is easy and safe with this new trend.

The trick to getting the most mileage out of your trail riding or mountain bike shoes is knowing what kind of terrain you’re going to be riding on. If it’s loose, rocky, muddy, or sandy, you’ll want an aggressive shoe with enough traction. For everything else including urban riding, slacks/shorts/skirt mode, and leisurely strolls in the park, normal sneakers will work fine.

The Benefits Of Mountain Biking In Sneakers

Real, purpose-made mtb shoes can provide a lot of benefits that may not be immediately obvious. I mean, they are just footwear right?

Well, biking shoes are made just for biking and keeping your feet on the pedals, and they are made to take on the rigors of riding and handle it very well.

For starters, the soles of your shoes will be protected from any potential rocks or objects that may find their way into your path. It will also prevent your shoes from getting damaged which can be a costly mistake. Additionally, wearing these types of footwear means that less shoe-cleaning equipment is required for after the ride as they’re designed to be washed easily.

So there are some advantages to wearing sneakers over choosing mtb shoes or sometimes even choosing sneakers for road biking.

3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Wear Sneakers On A Mountain Bike

As a mountain biker, you probably know that wearing sneakers when biking is the worst idea ever. Here are 3 reasons why you should not wear sneakers on a mountain bike:

  1. Your shoes can get caught in the bike chain, slowing down your pace.
  2. Your shoes could get caught underneath the bike’s pedals and wreck your day
  3. The soles of your shoes can collect dirt and debris which will then get packed into your socks.

Mountain bikes are purpose-made, so generally the rule of thumb is to wear mtb shoes unless you have a good reason not to. I will admit that not all bike riding needs mtb footwear to do.  Many of the more leisurely XC trails for instance you could probably even ride in flip-flops. If you’re just starting out, I can also see instead using the money to ensure safety gear like a sturdy helmet is a far higher priority. As you progress though, you’ll want to make sure you feet can stay on the pedals and not slip off and cause a crash. That’s just one of the many reasons why choosing real bike shoes is a good thing.

A possible exception to this might be that some skateboarding footwear is actually pretty good at being the equivalent of a flat pedal shoe since they are made to stay on the board pretty well. They’re not exactly sneakers since they are purpose-made but for a different sport.

Are Sneakers Durable Enough for Mountain Biking?

Sneakers are a popular choice for casual riders and beginners, but when it comes to serious mountain biking, durability is key. Let’s take a closer look at whether sneakers are durable enough for mountain biking.

The short answer is no, sneakers are generally not durable enough for mountain biking. Sneakers are designed with soft and flexible materials that are meant for everyday use, not the rigorous demands of mountain biking. The constant wear and tear of riding can cause sneakers to break down quickly, leading to holes, tears, and other damage.

In addition to wear and tear, sneakers may not provide the necessary protection for your feet on the trails. They lack features like reinforced toe boxes and ankle support that protect your feet from impacts and hazards. This can lead to injuries and discomfort on longer or more challenging rides.

Furthermore, sneakers are not designed with the same level of grip and traction as specialized mountain biking shoes. This can make it difficult to stay in control on rough or slippery trails, increasing your risk of accidents and falls.

In summary, while sneakers may seem like a convenient and cost-effective option for mountain biking, they are generally not durable enough to withstand the demands of the sport. For serious riders, investing in a pair of specialized mountain biking shoes is recommended for optimal performance, protection, and durability on the trails.

Can Sneakers Provide Enough Traction for Mountain Biking?

Traction is an essential component of safe and successful mountain biking. It helps you maintain control and stability on the trails, reducing your risk of slips and falls. But can sneakers provide enough traction for mountain biking? Let’s take a closer look.

While sneakers may have decent grip on some surfaces, they are not designed with the same level of specialized features as mountain biking shoes. Mountain biking shoes are designed with specialized rubber soles that provide excellent grip and traction on a variety of surfaces, including wet and slippery trails.

Sneakers, on the other hand, are generally designed with soft and flexible soles that may not provide the necessary grip and traction for mountain biking. They can slip and slide on loose or rough terrain, making it difficult to maintain control of your bike.

In addition, sneakers are not designed with the same level of support as mountain biking shoes. This can cause your feet to slide around inside the shoe, further reducing your grip and traction on the trails.

Overall, while sneakers may provide some level of traction for casual or beginner riders, they are not recommended for serious mountain biking. Investing in a pair of specialized mountain biking shoes with specialized rubber soles and better grip is the safer and more effective choice for optimal traction and performance on the trails.

Traction is an essential component of safe and successful mountain biking

Tips for Wearing Sneakers for Mountain Biking

While specialized mountain biking shoes are recommended for serious riders, some casual or beginner riders may still prefer to wear sneakers for mountain biking. Here are some tips for wearing sneakers for mountain biking.

  1. Choose the right sneakers: Not all sneakers are created equal, so choose a pair that provides good support, grip, and durability. Look for sneakers with a stiff sole and good traction to help improve your control on the trails.
  2. Consider adding inserts: If your sneakers lack support or cushioning, consider adding inserts or insoles for extra comfort and protection.
  3. Use flat pedals: Flat pedals can provide better grip and control for sneakers than clipless pedals. Look for pedals with pins or spikes that grip the soles of your sneakers for improved performance on the trails.
  4. Wear protective gear: While sneakers may not offer the same level of protection as mountain biking shoes, wearing protective gear like knee pads and elbow pads can help reduce your risk of injury.
  5. Start with easier trails: If you’re new to mountain biking or wearing sneakers for the first time, start with easier trails to get a feel for your footwear and improve your skills gradually.

In summary, while specialized mountain biking shoes are the recommended option for serious riders, wearing sneakers for mountain biking can be a suitable choice for casual or beginner riders. By choosing the right sneakers, using flat pedals, wearing protective gear, and starting with easier trails, you can improve your performance and safety on the trails while wearing sneakers.

Is It Recommended To Wear Sneakers Or Mtb Shoes When Biking?

The type of shoe you wear when biking is a personal preference. Which one you choose will depend on what type of terrain and conditions you plan to ride over.

If you’re biking in the city, sneakers might be a better choice as they may be more appropriate for walking on paved surfaces. On the other hand, choosing budget mtb shoes would be recommended over sneakers for riding over bumpy terrain or mud due to the protection it offers and the additional grip you get from purpose-made shoes. When you compare excellent sneakers even to the best mtb shoes, you can easily see that if you are doing some serious biking paths or downhill runs, you’ll want to step up to more capable footwear.

Regardless of whether you are wearing sneakers or mountain bike footwear, I highly recommend that the footwear you do choose fits like a glove and fits properly.

About the Author

Tony K

Senior Technical Writer, MountainBikeExperience.com

Tony K is a technical editor at MountainBikeExperience.com. He has a focus on downhill bike riding but still loves xc bikes too.

With more than ten years of mountain biking experience and more than 5 years testing mountain bikes, Tony has ridden and tested hundreds of different bikes and products, everything from XC to enduro bikes. Tony regularly competes in mountain bike races while seeing how long those compontents can hold up which gives me a lot of insight.

When he isn't shredding down a mountain or camping out, he is writing reviews for Mountain Bike Experience.

Rides: Surly Lowside, Canyon Exceed