For the last several months I’ve been riding the crankbrothers Mallet Boa clipless shoes. The Mallet lineup is optimized for crankbrothers Mallet pedals – and they even come with a pair of fresh crankbrothers clipless cleats. However, being a diehard Time pedal guy who’s unwilling to put himself through a bunch of awkward crashes and tipovers for the sake of testing, I just rode them my Time cleats/pedals. On that note, these shoes do work seamlessly with any clipless MTB system – SPD or otherwise. Read on to see how they’ve been working out…
- US sizes 5-13 (with half sizes), 14
- 916 grams – no cleats, our scale, size 11
- BOA L6 dial and Velcro closure
- Extended cleat pocket
- $199.99 USD
Obviously BOA lacing is a big part of the story here. If you haven’t ridden with BOA shoes, I personally think you’re missing out. They’re quick and easy to use, plus you can cinch them up throughout your ride effortlessly. Perhaps the best benefit is the way that they do a better job at evening out pressure distribution compared to standard laces. Put it this way, after I first tested BOA on MTB shoes, I bought a set of BOA snowboard boots right after my first few rides.
There is an additional sturdy velcro closure toward the top of the shoe that’s about an inch wide and has loads of room to accommodate varying foot profiles.
One of the sneakier features in these shoes are the silicone dots in the heel cup. These unique little grabbers do a great job of preventing heel lift on and off the bike, while going largely unnoticed. It’s worth pointing out that the more affordable versions of the Mallet shoes also have this feature.
The upper of the shoe is made from highly durable materials that are rated for Enduro and DH, however I’d personally opt for a shoe of this weight for just about everything but XC riding.
One of the features I appreciate most about these shoes – and all of the Mallet lineup for that matter – is the highly protective toe box.
Another brilliant aspect is that these shoes feature thick, plush padding throughout…more so than most shoes on the market anyway. The padding is abundant not just around the cuff, as shown above, but also in the tongue and heel cup. Read: no hot spots.
The cleat pocket is massive as you can see above. This leaves loads of room for fore/aft as well as side to side adjustability. Note the angled sections at the front and back to help the pedals slide in and find the cleats.
At 458 grams per shoe for our size 11, the Mallet BOAs are fairly lightweight. Not stunningly light, but right about what you’d expect from a shoe in this category.
On the trail
Starting with fit, these shoes run roughly a half size small. Perhaps it could be a matter of converting EU sizing to US sizing but I’m almost always a US 10.5, yet I was most comfortable with a US 11 in the Mallet BOAs. Anyhow, as far as the general feel is concerned I found the toe box roomy, but not overly so, and the heel cup snug, but not narrow. The contour and generous padding throughout the heel cup is beneficial in this regard as these shoes really hug your feet. As mentioned earlier I am a big fan of BOA and it was no exception with this shoe. It’s fast and easy to use, plus allows for fine tuning of tension while you’re riding. It’s worth noting that CB sells spare dial kits for $20, which is nice. Regarding breathability, I found the Mallet BOAs to be better than expected, given how much of their real estate is covered by a rugged, non-porous material. However, there are a few perforations above the toes and a great deal in the tongue.
One aspect that I wanted to touch on is how the toe area tapered and curled up as it moved towards the very front of the shoe. I found that this helped walkability off bike – which was excellent for a clipless shoe – but also made them a little less apt to come into contact with trailside obstacles while riding (a good thing!). The padding in the midsole and softer rubber outsole made for all day comfort when my time was more mixed on and off the bike, and traction was quite good when rambling around off trail. As far as the ease of entry and exit, the Mallets are the best shoes that I’ve used to date – even with non-crankbrothers pedals/cleats. The shoes and pedals find one another perfectly upon entry and the exit is as easy as it gets. There was such little resistance that I actually added some additional pedal spring tension to prevent accidental release. Lastly, as far as the shank stiffness and power transfer was concerned, I’d rate the Mallet BOAs as fairly middle of the road – not too stiff and not too flexible. Due to how the contour of the outsole makes these shoes such a breeze to walk in, I actually think that crankbrothers could stand to stiffen up the shank just a touch and gain a little more power transfer without making them feel like walking on 2X4 boards off the bike. That right there is my only minor gripe with these shoes in a sea of compliments, so take it with a grain of salt.
All told these are the best clipless shoes I’ve used to date and I won’t stop wearing them any time soon. The durability has been excellent with no signs of premature wear or any glaring design flaws that could lead to peeling or delamination – particularly in the toe area. They’re fast and easy to get on and off, freakishly comfortable both while riding and off the bike, plus they look great. As far as value is concerned, ~$200 is a bit on the high side for an MTB shoe, but this is their highest end model and they are worth the extra money in my opinion. That said, you can get most of the features and the same fit/feel from the Mallet Speed Lace or Mallet Lace for $30 or $50 less respectively. All in all, the Mallet BOAs are very much worth a look if you’re in the market for a new clipless shoe.