Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe

Noah Bodman reviews the Five Ten Kestrel for Blister Gear Review
Five Ten Kestrel

Five Ten Kestrel


  • Upper: Polyester Synthetic / Textile
  • Closure: Boa Closure System IP1
  • Footbed: Ortholite

Size Tested: 9.5

Blister’s Measured Weight: 942 grams /pair

MSRP: $180

Pedals: Time MX6

Reviewer: 5’9” 155 lbs

Test Duration: ~ 15 days

Test Location: western Montana


Five Ten released the Kestrel last year, and it marked a fairly significant departure in their shoe lineup. While it wasn’t their first clipless shoe, it was their first shoe that really seemed to put pedaling efficiency as the top priority.

Noah Bodman reviews the Five Ten Kestrel for Blister Gear Review
Noah Bodman in the Five Ten Kestrel, Whitefish, MT.

In case it wasn’t fairly apparent from the pictures, the Kestrel is cut much lower than most other Five Ten shoes—it has more in common with XC-oriented shoes than it does with the skate-style stalwarts of the Five Ten lineup, like the Freerider.

BOA Lacing System

The most noteworthy feature of the Kestrel is the BOA lacing system. BOA lacing systems are popping up on a lot of gear these days, but for those unfamiliar, the shoe is cinched up via a single, very thin metal cable that’s tightened via a ratcheting knob. Turn the knob one way to incrementally tighten, turn it the other way to incrementally loosen, and pull the knob out to quickly loosen the cable all the way so you can take the shoe off.

I have something of a love / hate relationship with the BOA system. First, the reason I like it: it does a good job of tightening up the whole shoe, rather than just snugging up one little part of it. It’s also really quick and easy to dial in the tightness, even while riding. I find that I can reach down and add a click or two to the tightness more efficiently than I can with the ratcheting buckles found on lots of other shoes. The BOA system also comes with a lifetime warranty, which is good. And a good segue…

Things that aren’t so great about the BOA system: On my first pair of Kestrels, one of the BOA laces broke literally the first time I put the shoe on. To be fair, I think the shoe came with a lace that was too short, so that even when the BOA lace was “released,” it was still really tight to get my foot in and out of the shoe, and I overstressed it. Still, that sort of problem is unique to the BOA system. I’ve never encountered that kind of issue with any other sort of shoe-tightening apparatus.

Noah Bodman reviews the Five Ten Kestrel for Blister Gear Review
Five Ten Kestrel BOA system

I should also note that even with the replacement shoe that has a longer lace, it’s still pretty tight getting my foot in and out. You can’t fully release the BOA lace, you can only make it looser. But even at its loosest setting, it’s still pretty snug to cram my foot in there.

And even after I got the initial breakage taken care of, the BOA system is still a bit fussy sometimes. Particularly when the system gets dirty (as will happen with a mountain bike shoe), the ratcheting dial became noticeably less smooth, and the single metal lace seems to get a bit gummed up in the “eyelets.” When tightening the shoe, the lace wouldn’t immediately distribute tension evenly; the lace would get tight in the area of the dial (at the top of the foot), but the lower ends of the lace would still be pretty loose. The tension would eventually even itself out, but dirt in the system seemed to keep everything from snugging up instantaneously.

Other Features and Construction

Elsewhere on the shoe, the Kestrel has a well thought out set of features. It has super sticky Mi6 Stealth Rubber on the toe and heel (to help with walking on steep stuff), and the much harder C4 Stealth Rubber around the cleat (to keep it from hanging up on the pedal).

The Kestrel gets a weather resistant toe box to help keep water out, and a mesh upper to aid with breathability. That toe box is also relatively stiff to help ward off the occasional toe breaking rock.

The Kestrel also gets pretty long 33mm slots for cleat attachment, meaning that it’s easy to get the cleats positioned where you like them. Those slots are ~8mm longer than most other shoes out there, so particularly if you like to run your cleats more rearward, the Kestrel has you covered. The recessed cleat area is also nice and big, which means I didn’t have any issues with the sole interfering with my pedals. The recess is also deep enough that the cleats don’t hit the ground while walking.


The Kestrel has a “carbon infused shank,” and while that term is a bit ambiguous, the end result is a pretty stiff shoe. In the bike shoe stiffness spectrum, I’d put the Kestrel at the stiff end of “trail” shoes—it’s not quite as stiff as an XC race shoe, but it’s significantly stiffer than, for example, the Giro Terraduro.

NEXT: Fit, Performance and Ride Impressions, Etc.

2 comments on “Five Ten Kestrel Clipless Shoe”

  1. I used these for a month long road trip to the UT/NV desert in the spring, wanted to like them but came away disappointed.
    – Soles on both shoes started to peel off after about 2 weeks, one much more so and other just starting to around cleat area, ultimately returned them for this reason.
    – I found the covered forefoot area to trap too much heat, always hot, especially climbing Grafton on a 35C day (ok, bad example;)).
    – Great grip on rock but no purchase in climbing muddy sections, a few aggressive toe lugs could have helped in this respect.
    – I found the fit a touch narrow but doable, I’m happiest with Specialized fit and have been rocking the S-Works Trail for the last two seasons.
    – I had trouble with one shoe engaging/disengaging XT Trail pedal for whatever reason. I loosened and repositioned cleat but did not alleviate issue, maybe should of tried a shim.
    – As mentioned, BOA doesn’t open up enough. Specialized has a hook for the cables and its quick & easy to unhook the top cable to remove/put on shoes, no issues with BOA.
    – Heel hold was great.
    – Stiff enough for most, although I’ll admit I do tend to like the ultra stiffness of my S-Works, just feels that much better and lighter pedalling and deal with it on long hike-a-bikes. I’d probably be happy enough with the Kestrels though in this respect.

    While I know a lot of peeps aren’t fans of Spec (I was especially disgruntled after the Cafe Roubaix fiasco, he’s local to me), I’m looking forward to trying out their new Cliplite for this genre of shoe.

  2. I went through two pairs during a race season. Both toes, the rubber pealed back and the boa lace snapped. I will be looking elsewhere for 2016

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