As of today, crankbrothers just announced their foray into footwear for the mountain bike world, and they certainly are coming out swinging. There are two lines of Clipless shoes: The Mallet and Mallet E, with multiple lacing options including standard laces, velcro, BOA, etc. The brand is also offering flat pedal shoes dubbed the Stamp with the same varied lacing options. Since crankbrothers are a popular manufacturer of pedals, it should come as no surprise that they’ve designed the new shoe line to play extra nice with their own pedals, but don’t worry – they get along just fine with SPD’s, Times, and others as well. For the past couple of wintry weeks I’ve been cruising along in the Mallet lace clipless shoe, which, like all of the clipless offerings ship with a set of CB cleats and shims. Read on to hear how they’ve been performing…
- US sizing from men’s size 5-14 / half sizes from 6-13
- crankbrothers cleats pre-installed
- Ramped cleat pocket for easy entry / release
- EVA mid sole
- Heel dots for improved hold
- Black/Red/Black and Navy/Silver/Gum
- MC1 mid-friction compound
- Extra long cleat slots
While there are BOA and Velcro closures also available, I found the lacing of the Mallets to be quite slick. The round laces and their vertical tabs were designed to provide even distribution so I never felt any hot spots. They’re also nicely tucked away so they didn’t get packed with mud.
Another nice feature was the silicone gripper dots that line the heel cup. It’s a minor detail but the first I’ve seen it implemented and it was effective in keeping my heels from slipping.
The cleat slots are super long. The furthest rearward “race zone” setting will likely appeal to DH and Enduro racers who are looking to drop their heels as much as possible.
Toward the front and the rear rear of the cleat pocket is a ramped entry to help encourage effortless entry and release.
The toe bumper is quite sturdy, but didn’t feel bulky or overdone. The wraparound cap seamlessly integrates and melts right into the rest of the top sole so you won’t have to worry about deliminating.
Lastly, crankbrothers came up with one of the better lace captures I’ve seen to date. It’s a simple mesh pouch that flies under the radar both when it’s being used and when it isn’t.
On the trail
I tested a US size 11 / EU 44.5 and found the fit to be true to size. Although I normally use Time pedals, I decided to start out with a set of Mallet E pedals since crankbrothers included cleats. After all, I wanted to see how the shoes and pedals meshed with one another – turns out I got along with the CB pedals better than I had prior. It’s worth noting that they also played nice with my Times as well. Right away I was extremely impressed with the fit and comfort. So much so that when I checked in with my contact at crankbrothers I said “how the hell did you guys get it so right with your very first mountain bike shoes”? He reminded me that the Fizik – famous for their high end offerings – is under the same family of brands as crankbrothers. Ahh….right.
Anyhow, the padding in the tongue and all around the cuff is remarkably comfortable while the fabric in the lining is soft and plush. I had no hot spots anywhere and honestly rate the Mallets as 10/10 in terms of comfort. Something that’s often overlooked in MTB shoes is the insole – these however are really nicely shaped in terms of arch support and overall contour, while also offering just the right amount of padding. Regarding fit, the heel is slightly snug and narrow as it should be, and the toe box is roomy enough, but not boxy. The shoes should accommodate a wide variety of feet without much of a problem.
I loved the stiffness of the shank and thus, power transfer was excellent, yet there was some give at the front and rear, making the for very practical walkability. The Mallet’s toe curves up nicely at the sole so that when your feet are out on and off the bike, you don’t stub your toes or snag on things accidentally. It seemed like this also made entry a bit less fussy as well. On the topic of walkability, I have yet to try the surely grippier flat pedal shoe, but the outsole on this clipless version ran a touch on the firm side. Given the current Winter conditions, I didn’t find myself slipping and sliding around to a frustrating point, but I do feel that they could be ever so slightly grabbier. That said, I’m sure during the normal riding season, I’d have no complaints whatsoever.
In terms of entry and release, regardless of the pedals which I was using, I found it very natural and effortless to lock in and unlock, even at the last second. For me, the comfortable cleat position was roughly 5-10 millimeters forward in relation to the “race zone”, and as a rule of thumb I tend to run my cleats quite a bit rearward. This indicates that the range is quite massive and you won’t need to be taking the dremel tool to these shoes. As far as protection goes, while I didn’t have any crashes or slam into any obstacles, the toe bumper is nicely integrated and isn’t too bulky. I’m confident it will do a fine job of protecting all 10 of my little piggies.
My take here is that crankbrothers have really started out with a bang. With some minor exceptions, FiveTen and Specialized seem to have had this segment of the market pretty well cinched up, but that may no longer be the case. While I’m curious about the BOA and velcro options, I found the base model lace up shoes exceeded expectations. My only minor quip would be that I think the outsole could be have just a touch more grab, but it is a fine line between traction and durability. In terms of fit, power transfer and pedal interplay, the Mallets are fantastic. Perhaps what I like most of all is that crankbrothers managed to bring in some unique features like the heel gripper, their excellent lacing system and a sneaky lace capture. To put it bluntly, I won’t be taking the Mallets off any time soon.