As long as you don’t mind the rain, you can ride year-round in the Pacific Northwest. Entering this past winter I set out to find the perfect puddle-splashing attire. Fox’s Ranger Water lineup supplied the waterproof pants, gloves, and jacket. This kept me dry from the ankles up, leaving my shoes as the weakest link in my defense against the elements. I initially tried pairing my Five-Ten Kestrel clipless shoes with waterproof socks. While that offered some reprieve from wet toes, they weren’t warm enough for colder temperatures and left my shoes a waterlogged mess for days after a ride.
Cue the Five Ten Trailcross Gore-Tex shoe. Straying from the typical skate profile of the beloved Freerider lineup, the Trailcross strikes a visual comparison to that of a hi-top running shoe or hiking boot. Utilizing a Gore-Tex membrane and neoprene collar, the Trailcross Gore-Tex was designed with the intention of setting the bar for what a waterproof mountain biking shoe should be. Using Five Ten’s coveted Stealth rubber, the center of the sole maintains the usual dotted texture, with the addition of ridges on the toe and heel for increased traction while walking. To add further comfort both on and off the bike, the EVA midsole has been slimmed down slightly, creating a balance between flexibility and support.
The fit and feel of the Trailcross are alluded to by its appearance. With a similar fitment to that of a hi-top sneaker, the shoe's neoprene cuff secures snugly around the ankle. Sizing-wise, these shoes do run slightly larger, and I found myself going a half-size down from my typical size. While the neoprene hook-and-loop runs quite far up the ankle, it doesn’t offer the all-out rigid ankle support one might expect. Instead, the ankle portion is malleable enough to allow fluid motion. It conforms with each pedal stroke and footstep while maintaining a seal at the mid-ankle to keep out debris. Even on rides approaching the four-hour mark, I never experienced any discomfort.
The Trailcross Gore-Tex shoes are far more comfortable to walk in than my Five-Ten Kestrel clipless shoes. The midsole of this shoe has nailed the balance between flexibility off the bike and rigidity pedaling. The midsole paired with a flexible toe-box made for walking comfort that was most noticeable on a particularly steep hike-a-bike that I frequent. During prolonged hiking, my clipless shoes would painfully pinch across the center of the toe box—a feeling I never encountered with the Trailcross Gore-Tex.
These shoes run warmer than other Five Ten models. That said, they aren’t overly warm to the point of sweating, since the Gore-Tex microporous membrane keeps fresh air circulating while keeping moisture out. On the coldest days of winter, these shoes were the crown jewel of my multi-layered winter riding kit. With knee-high wool socks and thermals tucked into the ankle cuff, I remained warm and dry long after the puddles had turned to pits of ice and frozen dirt.
As a longtime clipless rider, my time on flats in recent years has been irregular at best. With flat pedals typically not staying on my bike longer than a few rides at a time, it was only out of atmospheric river-induced necessity that I returned to flats and the Trailcross Gore-Tex shoes. On my first ride, I realized by the third or fourth puddle that trying to manual through them was unnecessary. The pairing of Trailcross Gore-Tex shoes with waterproof pants creates a nice overlap at the ankle that is nearly impenetrable by water. I was able to charge through nearly bottom-bracket deep puddles without getting my feet wet. Off the bike, the waterproof properties of these shoes really show, allowing me to walk through mud and low-standing water without issue.
I used DMR’s Vault pedals throughout my time testing these shoes. With eleven pins per side and an aggressively concave surface, these pedals are known for their grip. Coupled with this shoe’s Stealth rubber outsole, the pins bite in nicely as weight is distributed into the concave profile. This pedal and shoe combination creates a “connected” feeling with the bike, to the point that it is difficult to make adjustments on the fly unless I consciously pick my foot straight up. With my clipless background, this level of connection to the bike was a welcome familiarity. Even in the sloppiest conditions, my feet would stay in position from top to bottom. Through a winter’s worth of riding, I never slipped a pedal, as my scarless shins can attest.
As someone who is a clipless rider through and through, the waterproof performance of the Trailcross Gore-Tex was so practical that I used them continuously for four months. While I have since switched back to my SPDs for fair weather, all it takes is a heavy rainstorm for me to opt back to the Trailcross Gore-Tex. After a prolonged stint on clipless pedals, I am eager for the next opportunity to channel my humblest impression of Reece Wilson on flats. They perform exactly as advertised and have kept my feet dry and on the pedals, even in the wettest of riding conditions.