Scott All Mountain Shoes // $95
The first pair of clipless shoes I ever owned were Scotts: Tan, synthetic, nubuck, lace-up high-tops, and I loved the them right up until the sole plate cracked at the cleat after a few months of use. That was 10 years ago, and Scott has since left and returned to the U.S. market. When I saw its new All Mountain shoe, I knew it was time for a grudge match.
In the dead heat of summer the shoes got warm but never too toasty. When I switched to a super-vented pair of lightweight shoes, I soon discovered the joy of wild artichoke spiking through that gossamer venting. Riding those same trails with Scott's All Mountain shoes, I found I could boot cactus heads like soccer balls. Plus they're good in the cold.
Hockey skates these are not; there is less ankle support than you might expect from a shoe resembling a hightop. But the main purpose of the high inside cuff is for protection, and I was happy to trade torn-out chunks of padding for chunks of ankle.
The shoes are a bit on the heavy side, and their ample padding got even heavier when wet. But the grip was all-time, finding purchase on both wet and mossy East Coast rocks and dry SoCal sandstone, and after a summer and fall of hard riding, these combat boots have yet to cry uncle. The sharp edges of the shoes' tread have rounded a bit, but most riders ought to be able to eke a few seasons out of a pair.
The shoes don't have the stiffest sole, and if they did they wouldn't be as good for hiking. If you find yourself bushwacking or frequently shouldering your bike, then odds are you'll dig these shoes.