Flats vs. clips. The debate is seemingly never ending, but to be honest, it shouldn't even be a debate. Some riders simply prefer the security and extra efficiency of a clipped-in ride, while others–like myself–prefer the freedom of flats. The women's Five Ten Freerider Contact is a flat-soled shoe through and through, but with Five Ten's signature Stealth Rubber underfoot, it brings you about as close as you can get to the locked-in feel of a clipless pedal without actually clipping in.
But shoes are way more than just the sole, and over the course of a long, sodden Bellingham winter I put the women's version of Five Ten’s Freerider Contact through the ringer. Through rain, snow, shale fields, slippery root gardens and annoyingly monstrous climbs–well, we've seen it all. The quick and dirty? It's a really comfortable all-day trail-riding shoe with very few flaws.
The Freerider Contact features the MI6 version of Five Ten’s Stealth Rubber, which is designed not only for friction, but also for trail-chatter damping cushion. The Contact's sole features a smooth section where the pedal meets the shoe, which allows the rider to easily adjust the shoe’s position on the pedal.
The sole does what Five Ten says it will. The traction for the majority of my riding was superior, but I also had no issues repositioning my feet when necessary. Compared to the the S1 compound found on the regular Freerider model, I noticed a bit more wear on the contact portion of the sole on this shoe. Five Ten markets this as a softer rubber, and considering these shoes have been worn almost daily for four straight months, the wear didn't come as a surprise.
This women's-specific model is a lower-volume shoe, and it's designed to fit relatively narrower in the heel and wider in the ball. The fit on this shoe compared to Five Ten’s unisex models is noticeably tighter, which is a good thing–or at least it is for my feet. Both in terms of weight and fit, the Freerider Contact feels more like a running shoe than a typical bulky flat-pedal kick.
The Freerider Contacts boast excellent breathability, which is a good thing in a trail shoe–unless you’re trying to get miles in during a cold, wet, Pacific Northwest winter. They also are far from waterproof, which is another downer for riders in wetter climates. Five Ten does offer a more waterproof shoe in the Freerider Elements, but it doesn't have the same extra vibration damping that is built into the Contacts. Finally, members of the Bike staff have reported delamination issues around the perimeter of the outsole. I didn’t run into this, but the normal Freerider might be a better option if durability is your priority–the stitched-on outsole used on those is bombproof.
At $150, the Freerider Contact is on the higher end of the pricing spectrum of Five Ten's offerings, so you may need to skip a few lattes, but these shoes will prove well worth it if you’re after fit, lightweight and vibration damping.