Gear Closet: Five Ten Kestrel Pro Boa Cycling Shoes Review

Kestrel Pro Boa Cycling shoes

If you’re like me, one of the activities that you look forward to the most with the spring return is the chance to go mountain biking again. Sure, there are plenty of other things to do in the winter, but the snow, wind, and cold aren’t always the best for a bike ride. Thankfully, warm weather is just around the corner, and Five Ten has some new mountain biking shoes just in time for our return to the trail.

One of the signature new shoes for the season is the Five Ten Kestrel Pro Boa. Priced at $200, it is on the higher end of the company’s bike shoe options, although it brings a lot to the table. Is it enough to justify the price?

In my opinion, the answer is yes, although more casual riders may have not agreed. This shoe is most definitely aimed at the serious mountain biker looking for comfort, style, and performance from their footwear.

As the name implies, the Kestrel Pro Boa uses the Boa Lacing System, which I’m a big fan of. For those unfamiliar with Boa, the system uses a built-in dial connected to a series of thin but incredibly durable cables that are interwoven throughout the top of the shoe, replacing more traditional laces.

By pushing down on the dial and locking it into place, you activate the lacing mechanism. By turning the dial, you can dial in the exact fit you want, making it as snug or loose as you prefer.

Once set, you never really have to touch the dial again, and when you’re ready to take the shoes off, you simply pull up on the dial to loosen the laces. It is also effortless and intuitive while providing the ability to set the exact level of comfort you need.

In previous versions of the Kestrel, Pro riders complained about the fit based on the location and settings of the Boa laces. This time out, the system has been repositioned someone to allow for better adjustments.

The Boa system is actually slightly higher on the shoe, so to compensate, a good-old velcro strap has been placed across the middle of the shoe just above the toe box. This actually provides you with a surprising amount of flexibility and helps add a bit of extra grip where you might need it most. As a result, at least from this reviewer’s perspective, it an all-around better design.

The Kestrel Pro’s upper is made from a synthetic material that somewhat resembles a soft leather. It feels good to the touch and resists scuffs and abrasions quite well. While my test versions have gotten a bit muddy, the fabrics themselves have remained unmarked and like new, which bodes well for long-term durability.

Those same materials offer solid protection from moisture and mud, although they aren’t completely waterproof. That’s good because full waterproofing generally means less breathability, and the Kestrels are already a bit warm and steamy to wear. In the springtime temperatures that I’ve tested them in so far, they’ve performed quite well. But in the summer heat, they may be overly warm on your feet.

Comfort is always a bit subjective when it comes to any shoes, but perhaps even more so when cycling footwear. That said, I found the new Kestrel Pro Boa to feel great on my feet, both while riding and off the bike.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a shoe that I’m going to wear while I’m out on the town, but it does look and feel good when grabbing a post-ride drink with friends. You also won’t necessarily be rushing to take them off either.

I’ve seen a few reviews online complain that the shoe was too narrow or ran a bit on the larger side. Again, those kinds of issues tend to be subjective, but I found the shoe to fit close to the expected size.

I’d suggest trying a pair on first before buying, just to be on the safe side, but then again, I recommend that with any pair of shoes your purchase. If that isn’t possible, I’d say just order a pair of Kestrel Pros in your usual size, and chances are you’ll find that they work just fine.

As you would expect from Five Ten, the Kestrel rubber soles are very high quality and provide a good grip. Using the company’s signature Stealth C4 rubber, these shoes are not only surprisingly durable, they feel quite stick when walking around in them.

This is a nod to Five Ten’s heritage as a climbing shoe company, of course, but it comes in handy when riding on flats. Obviously, the Kestrel is designed to be worn on clipless pedals, but I had no issues transitioning to flats as needed.

All of this brings us back to the $200 price point, which I already noted is a bit on the higher side. The Boa Lacing System always adds a bit more to the price, but it has been my experience that it is well worth it.

These shoes also feel very durable and comfortable to wear, which isn’t always something you get in a bike shoe. As I mentioned above, a more casual rider may not see the value in all of the features and functionality that the Kestrel Pro brings to the table.

Still, the more serious rider is probably going to love them. On top of that, if you’re an intermediate-level rider looking to take his or her skills to the next level, these shoes can help in that area. The performance level is top-notch, and they’ll allow you to ride with more confidence as a result.

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Kraig Becker