At long last – a skate shoe brand has finally designed mountain bike specific shoes. Available in a Mid and Regular top, etnies expanded their Marana line with shoes that use the same outline, but have features like a fused rubber toe cap, a Michelin rubber outsole, and best of all – the stiffest mid sole shank the brand makes. That last detail likely does most to differentiate its on trail feel compared to an off the shelf skate shoe as it helps provide support on the pedals. Read along to see how they’ve been working out…
- Fused on, injected rubber toe cap
- Midtop construction for ankle support
- Asymmetrical collar for medial ankle protection
- Tongue pouch to tuck laces
- 3M Thinsulate and Scotchguard protection
- Michelin outsole
- Half sizes in 5-12,13,14
Starting up front, the inclusion of proper toe protection is clutch – and it’s not just for looks…The material is definitely effective and the bumper is quite sturdy.
Michelin outsoles aren’t an uncommon sight in the MTB shoe world – Northwave, Shimano and a few others utilize their expertise in rubber for a reason. In anything case, it’s good to have a trusted brand handling things where the traction pins meet the outsoles.
The padding in the tongue is quite dense, but crushes down quite nicely under pressure from the laces, without the feel of laces digging in. Also, not shown in the tongue is the lace stash pouch on the front. It’s not all that necessary as they (fortunately) aren’t overly long, unless you skip the upper eyelet, but it’s still a nice touch.
There is a wrap around panel of high durability, abrasion resistant material capping the heel, which is good as it’s an area that tends to get beat up over time. It also benefits from sturdy, supportive materials.
There are a pair of gussets connecting the tongue to the upper – they help keep debris out of the inside of the shoe and flew under the radar, hardly feeling noticeable.
The lining is made of 3M Thinsulate. It’s soft to the touch, but fairly tough and abrasion resistant. Overall there is nice padding, particularly at the ankle – with just the right density where there isn’t any bulk. Lastly, the material(s) dried out pretty quickly after wet rides.
Out back – another look at the heel cups and a small touch of branding from Michelin.
On the trail
Since Rampage, where the etnies guys were nice enough to send me home with these, I’ve been riding the Marana Mid Crank for all of my flat pedal excursions. That includes rowdier riding on longer travel bikes, photo and digging missions. While I’ve yet to ride them on a DH bike, I’ve also spent a good bit of time romping the hell out of them on my E-Bike, and feel its chassis weight definitely demands at least as much control as a DH bike.
In any case, my prayers have been answered. Most MTB specific shoes from MTB specific brands look, and feel like miniature snowboard boots. Every time I’m wearing a pair of flat pedal shoes, I’m constantly wishing they were more like skate shoes. In fairness, every time I venture out in actual skate shoes on the bike – usually Vans Half Cabs or Kyle Warners – I’m wishing they had more structure. The Marana Mid Crank managed to bring that critical design element into the fold and their feel is just right due to their stiff shank in the mid-sole. They’re not bulky like a run of the mill MTB shoe, but they have do have the necessary, added support on the pedal. They also hold up better – back when I rode in skate shoes, I would usually blow through a pair in a matter of weeks.
The other ultra important factor is traction. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that these are on par with a Five.Ten’s sticky rubber, I personally think that ultra soft rubber is sometimes too grabby for my liking. In any case, after 2-3 rides, the shoes broke in nicely and offered just the right amount of surface traction on my pedals’ pins, without being so sticky that small adjustments to foot placement became difficult.
Lastly, the protection is superior to a skate shoe and about on par with a normal MTB shoe. The big factor is the toe bumper, but I also appreciated the padding in the ankles and the tongue as well as the heel cup support. The uppers are made from material far bit tougher and more rigid than the average skate shoe as well, so the durability has been excellent, and I also feel that these materials are a factor in the Marana Mid Cranks’ more secure, supportive feeling on trail. They hug your foot nicely and definitely feel safer than a skate shoe, while looking much better than your average flat pedal MTB shoe. Lastly, if I had one small thing to nit pick perhaps it would be the insole. The padding was actually pretty good as were the materials in general…However, I have rather high arches and after a few rides due to the less than pronounced arch, I opted to slap some Superfeet insoles in. Take that with a grain of salt though: I do that with most of my shoes – riding or otherwise.
Personally, I’m thrilled to see etnies dive into the MTB shoe game – it’s good to see someone breaking some glass. This type of shoe has been a hole in the market since the last of the Vans Warners and Gravels sold out 10+ years ago. I’ve begged a friend at Vans to take the dive into MTB for years, to no avail. At the moment, the Marana Mid Crank is doing so well that they’re virtually impossible to get ahold of and sold out in most sizes. That’s okay, because etnies is well stocked in the standard Marana Crank as well as Brandon Semenuk’s Jameson shoe. The former being an ideal trail riding shoe for flat pedal riders. At the end of the day, these shoes are for a niche customer – a very loud niche customer who’s been begging for a shoe like this for some time now. For freeride, casual DH, dig days and big-bike romps that call for a bit more ankle protection, they’re a great option.