Five Ten doesn't have a monopoly on the flat-pedal shoe market, but the brand's rubber technologies have given it a clear advantage over what few competitors it faces. The Freerider Pro is the latest addition to the brand's flat-pedal-shoe line.
I think of the Freerider Pro as an amalgamation of three shoes. By name, it's a descendant of the popular Freerider, with which it shares its Stealth S1 rubber in the dotty pattern that helped Five Ten carve out its place in mountain biking. Its low-profile silhouette and upper construction seem to take cues from the clipless Kestrel Lace, while its outsole construction and midsole construction resembles the Freerider Contact.
I've experienced delamination between the outsole and midsole on several pairs of Contacts, a shortfall that’s remedied with the Pro. "Delamination is something that we were very mindful about when making this shoe," said Five Ten's Tyler Browder. "We stitched the toe where previous models had delimitation issues. The S1 rubber bonds much better than the Mi6 rubber that was on the Contacts, so that eliminated the delamination issue that we had seen previously."
On the Trail
The shoe's low-cut heel took some getting used to after wearing the Freerider Contact, which feels more cushioned and protective in this zone. I didn't have any trouble with heel lift, though, and the Freerider Pro gets more protection than the Contact where it really matters: around the toe box, where errant rocks are apt to strike.
Beyond the low-cut heel, the Freerider Pro's fit is average, if not slightly slim. My feet are somewhere between 10 and 10.5, and I've been comfortable in a pair of size 10 Freerider Pros.
Within Five Ten's flat-pedal selection, only the Impacts are stiffer than the Freerider Pros reviewed here. That’s not necessarily a good thing. A stiffer shoe means better power transfer, more support and ostensibly less foot fatigue, but the softer-soled Contacts conform better to the pedal and have a more cushioned feel overall. If your rides involve frequent hike-a-bikes, the more flexible Contacts are a better choice. The Pros don't have that you-can-do-no-wrong level of pedal grip that the Contacts offer, but they're close.
Durability wise, the Freerider Pros are a return to form for Five Ten. Our test pair shows no signs of delamination around the outsole after 5 months of riding. There is wear at the pin contact points on the outsole, but much less than there would be on a pair of Contacts after nearly half a year of riding.
Given the improved durability and first-rate performance of the Freerider Pros, I'm hard pressed to come up with a reason other than hiking comfort why the average rider shouldn't choose them over the faster-wearing and only marginally grippier Contacts.