Unicycling Shoes

I think I should invest in some decent shoes for unicycling.

I checked some of the therads, which seemds to be at least 2 years old. Sam Hill 5.10’s seemed to be the best out there. I have read that Kris Holm likes and uses them, so they must be pretty good.

I am most likely to go towards Muni as I progress. Should one spend the going rate for these, or is there another alternative that gives you a better bang for the buck?

What would AL do?

I go to a giant thrift store that sells second-hand Converse sneakers by the pound, and I feed them to my unicycle, which devours them pretty quickly. Converses are good because they are thin-soled, so you know what your foot is doing, whether it’s on a pedal, on the tire or on the crown of your fork.

For muni, you might want something more solid, but for basic learning, as well as for more advanced freestyle skills, thin-soled sneakers are best. I also use Converses for distance riding (though I’ve never gone more than 50km in one day), hopping and drops up to 30cm, and rarely, a bit of muni. I have never tried 5-10s, but they are very expensive, and to me they also look terribly clunky for unicycling.

I have the FiveTen Impact High and Freeride High, and like them a lot. I use them when muni’ing and they really grip the pedals well. also have the Shimano AM41, which I use when I practice in the basement. I prefer to ride muni using the high cut shoes for added protection? (maybe?).

have tried using high top basketball sneakers with flat soles, but they just don’t grip as well as FiveTens, so I am sold on the FT brand. only regret is I should have bought more during their closeout before Adidas took over the site.

Five Ten are great for muni or agressive riding. Song is spot on: you want to feel where your feet are, especially in the beginning. When you go to a unicycle convention, it’s striking how all the freestyle riders, distance riders, track riders and indoor riders almost ALL wear Adidas Sambas. Only thing with those is they are not protecting the ankles.

Flat soles are the only important thing for unicycling in my eyes. I personally use Adidas Sambas, because they last a decent amount of time, are reasonably priced, and easily available. I use them for everything, Trial, Street, Flat, Muni, Freestyle.

I’m a big fan of skate shoes like Vans. Not much ankle support though.

Everything about unicycling is subjective and everyone has their own personal tastes. That includes shoes. Here’s what I found.
When I first started, I just wore whatever shoes were handy. After a while I noticed that softer soled shoes tend to flex around the pedals. As noted above, some riders really like this, especially the freestylers. You really have a good “feel” for what’s going on with your feet and the pedals. Then later on I noticed that over time I could feel the pins in the pedals through the soles. I began to think a more solid sole would be a good idea. I also noticed that one source of UPDs (particularly when riding muni) was my feet slipping off the pedals on rough terrain. So I began to think that a grippier sole would be nice. Somewhere along the line I also read that for any kind of pedaling the stiffer the shoe, the more power is directed into the pedal. So I bought a pair of 5-10s (Impact).
Big difference from what I was wearing before! The first thing you notice is how big and clunky they feel. I felt like Herman Munster! (For those not old enough to remember that TV show, he had huge feet.) The second was that my feet stuck to the floor as I walked across the kitchen. The sole rubber is really sticky! (Not that noticeable after wearing them around for a while.) When I went riding it took a while to get used to the feeling of being kind of disconnected from my pedals, but in a short time I really liked riding in them. I couldn’t feel the pedal pins anymore, and my feet didn’t come off the pedals as easily. With the added stiffness, I felt like I could apply more force to the pedals when going through tough uphills. Some time later I also purchased a pair of 5-10 Line Kings, which are lighter weight, for road riding. Again, I really like them. (Caveat – they seem to run on the small side, so buy a size that’s slightly larger than you normally wear.)
They are kind of expensive, but if you watch their website they sometimes have clearance sales and you can get a deal. I’ve heard that the company was bought by Adidas a while ago, so I’m not sure how that will affect the cost, quality, or availability.
Just my personal opinion, as always – “Your mileage may vary.” :slight_smile:

When i started Unicycling approx 12 months ago i just wore any flat soled shoes. After a few months i bought a pair of Five ten freerider contacts and i love them. They are about as close to feeling clipped in as you can get without actually being clipped in. In fact if there is a bad point with them it is that it is very difficult to readjust your feet on the pedals. I have used them pretty much daily for a good few months and they are still in great condition. Unigeezer did a review not that long ago on the latest version that look slightly easier to readjust your feet.

Regards Phil

Five Ten are amazing, once you can ride! Before that I would never recommend them, they are too sticky. I have too pairs (bought on their outlet section on their website), I’ve had a couple of UPDs because I was just stuck to the pedals and couldn’t get my feet of them quick enough! You don’t want that when you’re in the learning phase where you have to be able to jump off the uni before you hit the ground!

You may want to consider the angle that your cranks make with the Uni when selecting shoes, especially when considering the fairly wide and sticky 5.10s.

If your cranks do not “angle out” from the Uni very much, then the inside of a wide shoe like the 5.10 will more likely rub against the crank. And with the stickiness of the 5.10s, it will be harder to re-position your feet on the pedals to avoid the rubbing.

You can always move your feet more outboard on the pedals when free-mounting, but it does take additional practice, and it may seem unnatural at first, if you are used to a more narrow footing on the pedals.

I use 5.10 “Lows” with Profile cranks for Muni and it works great since they angle out a lot, but it does not work well on cranks that angle out less.

BTW the 5.10 Lows are on sale.

I’ve got a pair of Shimano AM7’s, I really like them but they are wearing down seriously quick. I’m curious to know how long you folks with your fancy 5.10 shoes expect them to last, because it seems like a softer, stickier sole would last an even shorter length of time!

Before I got my Shimanos I wore Salomon trail running shoes, which are amazingly comfy for long days but due to the very flexible soles, I found they caused my toes to cramp up fiercely when doing long rides due to my toes curling over the end of the pedals (Or, if I dragged my feet back a bit, due to my toes bending when I push them into the pedal).

There really doesn’t seem to be a lot in the way of a solid, flat cycling shoe - something like a road clipless shoe, but without the clip. 5.10’s are all well and good but they are very overbuilt if you’re not a muni rider! I’d prefer something slim and lightweight if possible.

LanceB, You bring up a question I have. Maybe you or anyone can answer. When your feet slide off the pedals, do they always slip of in the same direction?

Off hand I’d guess that if your shoes or pedals are not grippy enough that your feet are way more likely to slip off the front of the pedal then slipping in any other direction. This leads me to an old recommendation of wearing shoes with a good heel to prevent your foot from slipping off the front of the pedal. With a good heel the foot would be more secure then the grippiest shoe or the wickedest pined pedal. I learned to ride on rubber peddles and if I remember right, rubber barn boots (with heels). I never had any problem with my feet slipping off pedals.

One problem with using heeled shoes is that normally the heel is too far back to hold the ball of your foot near the center of the pedal. Maybe some kind of “heel extension” could be used to properly position your foot.

My thinking right now it to find some shoes with heels and/or add a heel or heel extension to provide a near clipless pedal security. This could eliminate the need for wicked spiked pedals and shin-guards.


Of course any useful answer to that question would require knowing what type of riding you will do most. It matters a lot!

Kris and many others (Nathan Hoover, me) love them for Muni! As mentioned above, they have a crazy amount of grip, which helps keep them on the pedals when the going gets bumpy. Of course this can make it hard to adjust your feet on the pedals, but this is just a skill you will learn with more experience. It helps to learn to ride one-footed, but I don’t do that to adjust my feet.

I also depend on a really secure grip for riding my geared 36 at high speeds. I don’t go that fast, but anything approaching running speed is “high” (and dangerous). A poorly placed bump in the road could bounce one’s foot into a position where you might auto-shif – which would be bad. I never worry about this with my 5.10s.

I’d spend the bucks. Any with the button-pattern soles will have the grip. For Muni, it’s also good to have a stiff sole, to transmit maximum power to the pedals without flexing and reflecting it back to your foot.

That was always my impression of Converse shoes (expendable), but they’re so much less expensive! Not good for Muni or Road due to the soft sole, but good for Freestyle and other types of riding where you move your feet around a lot.

I’ve seen those but not tried them. Clearly a good grip, light shoe, and good feel for the pedal. For Track, possibly the most important feature of a shoe is weight (long as the grip isn’t terrible).

Yup. You never really know what works for you until you’ve tried a few different things.

Like Lance, I started out riding with whatever shoes were available (I was 17). Later I wanted more grip, and for many years wore artificial turf shoes. For a while in the 80s they were pretty mainstream, but in recent years I haven’t seen soles like them. I’ll attach a picture that shows what gliding did to them (in 1987 or so). The turf shoes were great for Track and tricks, but when I got into Muni, not so good. I started using sharper pedals for grip, and I could feel the pedals distorting my feet as I ground my way up the hills. Stiffer soles were needed! Many years later, the 5.10s filled the bill better than anything else I’ve encountered.

I got my original pair around 2005 I think, and only “retired” them a couple of years ago. The soles were still in near-perfect condition, while the rest of the shoe was starting to fall apart. Lots of miles on those, including Ride The Lobster!


I’m with Jim on this one. I like heels as a safety for muni.
I have monkey feet so Keens are my hikers of choice for riding.

My routine is to buy a quality pair of hiking boots and use them for a year or two for hiking then switch them to your riding boots and use them for two years of muni while your new hikers are broken in for riding.

I think I have several Vans and Converse court shoes I have not even worn yet. I might start to use them, instead of whatever happens to be on my feet the days I go out to practice.

Going by what I am reading here, the Sam Hills once I am better at this and hitting the trails look like the right investment. Big and clunky is Ok, as I am big and clunky, so the shoe should be a good match. If I get into trials practice the Sambas for those days I suppose?

Great info, thanks everybody!

I use Shimano BMX shoes. Fat grippy soles which can cope with pinned pedals and which are thick enough to protect my foot from the pressure. They have a Velcro flap that covers the laces to stop them dangling and tangling.

I don’t think the brand is as important as the comfort and secure grip.

True for the big ones like the Sam Hill model or its sisters.

Not true for some of their other ones, they have a “dirt” series which are more human looking. I have a pair of Spitfire and they look like skateboard shoes. They’re pretty sturdy as I still have them. They grip marginally less than the bulky MTB ones.

They even do a casual series for the fashion conscious BMX riders.

That is what I have been doing until now. I was quite happy using walking boots (with ankle coverage) but lately I have been trying more daring tricks/riding with my Unis and because of the really wet weather (and probably my lack of skills) I missed the pedal quite a few times. I’ve got the standard Nimbus plastic pedals with metal pins on them, but even so when it gets wet (and muddy if doing Muni) the sole of my walking boots doesn’t quite grip enough.

Anyway, after reading so many good things about the 5.10s, I bought my self I pair of Impact High for Christmas (I always wear ‘high’ boots with ankle coverage). They are so grippy is actually a bit scary (it takes you a few rides to get used to it!). I am happy to confirm what everybody says in the forum: they are chunky and robust, excellent at absorbing the shock of drops,rough terrain etc… The sole of my feet don’t feel achy after riding with them. They are really comfortable once you get used to the tight fit (which I think is normal in cycling shoes and actually I can see the point now that I am using them). They are expensive shoes so I hope they last long enough.

I am quickly getting really used to them and now I find the walking shoes not as good for riding as I used to think they were.

As already mentioned before there is a difference between Muni and trick related needs. For tricks too much grip is not wanted.

Beside this the shoe is just one part of the story. The other part of the grip is coming from the pedal. Here you will also find a big difference in grip. In other words: You won´t be happy with a 5´10 shoe in Muni if you ride a freestyle pedal.

Just random examples of 2 different worlds:


I had this problem a lot (sliding off forwards) when I switched to flat shoes. Like you I used to ride in boots that have a bit of a heel, but it does plant your foot a bit too far forward on the pedal. I would generally ride more towards my toes but then let the heel ‘lock on’ if I felt myself sliding forward.

As an alternative, give half toe clips a try. I ran them on my 36er for ages and really got along with them! Mounting with them is a bit tricky, but if you do a fairly forceful rollback the pedal will flip round as your second feet joins it. Otherwise it’s easy enough to learn to flip them round while in motion. The only tricky part was learning to always dismount off the back, rather than the un-graceful off the front and grab saddle between your legs method :smiley:

I know this forum is generally against any sort of foot retention, but half clips are easy to learn, at least easier than SPD’s (for me at least) and allow you to shove your feet forward!