Not all that long ago, Etnies released a new flat pedal mountain bike shoe – Brandon Semenuk’s signature trail shoe, which accompanies his more dirt jump/slopestyle oriented “Jameson Mid-Crank” model. It’s interesting to see a skate shoe company dive headlong into the MTB game, but Etnies is pointedly serious about this endeavor and it’s unquestionably a good thing to see another player in the game. For the last few months I’ve been wearing the “Semenuk Pro” on my trail rides with flat pedals, so read on to dive into how they’ve been working out…
- Black/Red (tested) or Dark Grey/Grey
- 3M Thinsulate™ lining
- Lace pocket
- Tongue gussets
- 5-12 in half sizes, 13, 14
The “ankle shield” as Etnies calls it, is a broad spanning guard that’s thick and tough, but still somewhat pliable. It protects the inside of your foot and ankle from the crankarms, chainrings, chain etc. Using a rugged material in this high wear area is a smart design choice that improves durability.
Above is the triangular waffle style outsole. Unlike the harder durometer Jameson, this shoe uses a tackier rubber compound for increased grip at the pedals.
A section of perforation is featured at the bottom of the tongue to help keep the air moving while improving breathability.
It’s a little difficult to see, but beneath the black mesh on the tongue is a section of thick, but airy red padding. It packs down well and conforms to the lace tension very nicely, so as not to leave any hot spots on the arch. Also note the round braided laces in red/black are accompanied by a spare black pair.
Tongue gussets are a nice touch for keeping debris out where possible.
The toe bumper is substantial and beefed up more internally, for a more low profile look. With that in mind, the Semenuk Pro doesn’t have DH race levels of toe protection – rather in lands roughly in between a skate shoe and a beefier Five.Ten style of shoe, in terms of duty.
The cuffs play nice with ankle braces all the way around, as the Semenuk Pros were very much designed with them in mind.
On the trail
Starting with fit, I opted for a size 11 US as I typically do with Etnies. I tend to bounce between 10.5 and 11 US sizes, so the fit was pretty accurate overall. I personally almost never wear ankle braces as I haven’t sustained any serious ankle injuries over the years (just knocked on wood), but for good measure I tried these with a pair for a couple of rides and they played nice to say the least. As far as walkability is concerned, it should be no surprise, given their looks, that these shoes were easy on the feet when bushwhacking around off trail. In fact they’ve become my go to for scouting and shooting photos.
Anyhow, getting down to brass tacks, what I was most happy with was the traction and trail feel. The Semenuk Pros use a moderately sticky rubber. They aren’t so grabby that you can’t move your feet around on the pedal when you need to. I never found my feet stuck in odd positions on the pedals and always had an easy time of shifting and adjusting their positioning as needed – even when ripping down rough sections of trail. All in all, they strike the perfect balance of grip and ease of movement. As far as power transfer is concerned, the shank is on the more flexible side of things. They aren’t as flexy as a skate shoe that isn’t really designed for bikes, but they aren’t as stiff as some other options on the market. This aspect is part of what gives them such a great trail feel, but on big, long days in the saddle with around 4-5k feet+ of climbing, my arches would start to get a little sore.
As far as the insole is concerned, it is moderately contoured and pretty well padded – a good, safe choice overall, but they aren’t that heavy duty. However, if you’re used to a bunch of support and padding like I am, you may want to opt for custom footbeds along the lines of Superfeet. For what it’s worth, I put insoles like that in everything from my running shoes to my hiking boots and I found them to add a touch more pedal power and comfort. Aside from that, touching on some other features and aspects, I quite liked the lacing – it’s simple, durable and provides even tension. These shoes are super easy to clean up and thereby tidy up nicely after a dusty or muddy ride – although you wouldn’t know from the photos. They also dried out fairly quickly as well. The Semenuk Pros score high marks both in breathability and resistance to getting too wet. They aren’t designed to be an extreme weather shoe by any means, but the upshot of the upper being well covered in synthetic materials and devoid of any fabric sections was that they kept light moisture out nicely.
All in all, these shoes will answer the prayers of many, many people. There is a decent sized chunk of the market that’s not quite satisfied by riding with skate shoes, but also has an aversion to heavy duty MTB specific shoes which they may find overbuilt. The Semenuk Pros answer that call nicely with middle of the road duty packaged into a silhouette that could pass for a skate shoe. The traction and trail feel is excellent, they work well with ankle braces, and the features are well thought out. If you find that you’re looking for a hair more structure out of them, a custom insole would likely do the trick. At the end of the day, this shoe nicely fills a decade plus hole left in the market by the discontinuation of the Vans Gravel. And in the event that anyone reading this is old enough to remember the Gravels, the Semenuk Pros are a marked improvement over them in many ways for that matter.