Suggestions for mountain/gravel shoes

This is a suggestion call for mountain (cross country)/gravel shoes with a roomier toebox. I’ve owned Specialized and Shimano shoes in the past. About a year ago I joined the Lake club and bought a pair of the CX332s for road. These have been the best road shoes I’ve ever owned. The wider toebox area clearly serves my anatomy.

Now I’m looking to do the same for my mountain shoes. My problem is with the majority of mountain shoes still using the BOA IP1 dials. I’ve had a horrible time with these dials on my current “gravel” shoes (not going to bash anyone here). The dust and grit seems to get into the sewed on ratchet body of the shoe. Early on, the dials bound and jammed. And replacing the dial doesn’t solve the problem, apparently because the teeth inside the sewed on mechanism get damaged, so the part that mates to them simply suffers the friction.

Any good recommendations (from experience) for shoes that have a wider toebox that come with the new BOA Li2 dials, or even the L6? Both appear to be the cartridge style that can be replaced as a whole.

P.S. those IP1 dials are a pain to replace, anyhow.

Bont Riot MTB+. Currently on sale in their webstore. I’m a minimalist shoe runner and Bont’s are great for my spread-out toes. I’ve had a pair for 2 years and just bought another for backup.

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Bont. Hmmm. Thanks.

I’ve found Northwave MTB shoes to be excellent for width in the toe box and better made than Lake shoes I’ve had (did love the lake fit). Most of them use their proprietary slw dial which costs $15 to replace but doesn’t seem to get gunked up very easily or break despite me bashing into rocks quite a few times. I replaced mine a couple years ago because the rubber overmolding finally peeled off. Always thought it was kind of weird for an Italian brand to make shoes that seem to be fit for North American feet since most Italian brands seem to think everyone has tiny ballerina feet or something.

I second the Bont recommendation. Nice roomy toe box. I have the Riot for gravel and use the Vaypor for road and the are great.

Hey, thanks for the suggestions to those who chimed in. I have a couple more good leads. Much appreciated.

Second the Northwave MTB shoe recommendation - I’m not sure if I have ‘wide toes’ or not, but I tried several shoes years ago when replacing an old pair and the Northwave Origin Plus fit the best.
The proprietary Boa-like dial generally works well, although I do find I need to spray some lithium grease into the mech from time to time as it starts to bind up a bit (presumably from trail dust) when holding the lever open to undo them; doing them up with the dial still works fine.
They suit pretty well for light/medium gravel, wouldn’t want to do extended hike-a-bike with them as the soles are quite stiff but they are fine for the odd steep pitch that needs to be walked.


If you’re happy with the Lake last and fit, the MX1 uses the same last as the other models but is lace-up. It worked great for gravel and touring, nice fabric and leather surface and an easy-walking sole. My son uses the Bont Riots with Velcro straps and says they are really good also. We are both members of the ultra-wide feet club and find these two brands work really well.

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Here’s my take on the toe box room (and other characteristics like heel hold, arch support, forefoot width, etc.) along with performance and comfort assessments of a cross-section of gravel and MTB shoes. THE BEST GRAVEL SHOES - In The Know Cycling


Awesome work! Thank you.

@steve1 That is a bomber resource on gravel/mountain bike shoes. Well done. And thanks for adding it here.

On the other hand, I can’t resist commenting on the Shimano RX8. This is the shoe I’m parting ways with. When I first purchased these, the standard width seemed fine (in the living room). In hindsight, I should have gone wide - it was the first iteration of this shoe, and I’m not sure it was offered in a wide at that point. But it’s clear to me now that they’re too narrow for my foot.
As we all know, shoes are a subjective thing. And aside from the narrow fit, I feel that the material used for the upper is no better than wrapping your foot in sheet metal. It doesn’t break in. It doesn’t give. At least it hasn’t for me.

And the single BOA IP1 dial just doesn’t distribute pressure well. Given the reach of the lace, it’s just too much to ask for one dial. In fact, I’ve felt the same with other shoes with one dial. As a feature of design, using one dial comes up as an inferior approach to cinching a shoe around a foot.

And as I said before, I don’t think this particular dial works well for this application. I have dual BOA IP1 dials on my road shoes, and they’re fine. But the one dial on my RX8 shoes jammed up pretty fast for off-road use. A rep with BOA once told me that it could have been the way Shimano sewed the permanent outer ratcheting assembly onto the shoe. Who knows. Anyway, it’s just full of friction now. And on a given day, I can sometimes release the dial and get enough slack to get my feet in and out. Other days, I have to tug with a Herculean effort to open them up. I’ve also replaced them, to no effect. Just a bad design.

Still, this doesn’t take anything away from your review. Again, a great job there. I’ll give it some more attention as I land on a final decision. Thanks again for offering it up here.

Kinda shows how subjective shoes are, I bloody love my RX8’s.
Wore them today and appreciated how much ventilation they have.
The standard width ones fit me wonderfully and I find them a really comfy shoe.

Never had a problem with the Boa dial either.

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Agreed. Shows it perfectly.

Just chiming in to say I have (and really like) the Shimano S-Phyre XC9 shoes, but I agree that the boas get jammed up from dust when riding gravel. I physically pull the wire (not the knob, the actual wire) to full distance once in a while to try to free things up, but I have one in particular that is always feeling overly tight.

I have Bontrager GR2s and really like them. Roomy toe box. The only thing I do not like is the fact that all of the lace holes are not grommeted. But so far they are holding up well. I have the “yellow” ones but they are not yellow, they are light tan.