Review: Five Ten Maltese Falcons: The good and the bad

My wife and I recently moved to Western North Carolina where we now get to call the rugged mountains surrounding Brevard home.  We moved from Alabama, so relocating to Brevard was a big change that required some big adjustments in our mountain bike gear. The trails in Alabama tend to be fast and relatively smooth compared to the rocks and roots of Pisgah National Forest.  

One need for change that became apparent right away was my riding shoes. My well used carbon soled XC slippers were not quite the right tool for the rocky and rooty hike-a-bikes and downhills that are the norm around Western North Carolina.  So I began my search for something more appropriate, a shoe that would be comfortable for an all day rides, keep me from sliding all over the mountain on the hike-a-bike sections, and looked decent while grabbing a post-ride beer.  

After much research, I decided to give the newly updated 2016 Five Ten Maltese Falcons a shot.  They looked fantastic and the price point ($129.95) was easy enough to stomach, especially with a bank account that was a bit short on savings after the move.  

From Fiveten.com:

PRODUCT DETAILS

The Maltese Falcon was designed for comfort and speed. This shoe has a Stealth® S1™ rubber outsole for all-around high-performance on any terrain with a perfect blend of durability and stickiness.

KEY FEATURES

  • Stealth® S1™ rubber outsole
  • Velcro lace strap
  • Midflex plate – stiff on the bike, flexes when hiking
  • Compression-molded EVA midsole
  • Poly-urethane (PU) coated leather upper

GOOD FOR

The Maltese Falcon is an all-around shoe focused on comfort, designed to meet the needs of any rider. Our most versatile rubber compound, Stealth® S1™ rubber outsoles reduce vibration and provide the durability and pedal contact needed for winning World Championships or scouting new lines.”

The Positives:
Setting up my cleats proved easy enough. (Although it did require cutting away the rubber covering the mounting area. It is a little unnerving taking a box cutter to a brand new pair of shoes…definitely no turning back).  I dialed in my cleat position and went with a slightly rearward position.  I have been using my Five Ten Maltese Falcons exclusively with Shimano XT trail pedals, and clipping in and out has been a breeze.  The grippy stealth rubber soles are really nice especially when you are trying to clip back in and don’t quite get it on the first try. There is no awkward sliding around on the pedal like you get with a typical XC style shoe.  The rubber sole will keep your feet on the pedal until you get your cleat where it needs to be.   I will say I have experienced some crank rub on the inside of the shoes.  Nothing excessive, but worth noting.  

My Maltese Falcons are super comfortable (now that I have broken them in.) I have to admit, straight out of the box, these were not the most comfortable shoes.  The uppers definitely took some time to soften up and really get through the break in period.  My first few long rides necessitated a detour back to the car and a quick swap back to my old shoes mid-ride.  Once broken in, however, they are now quite comfortable even on 3+ hour rides.   

Five Ten Maltese Falcons

The Five Tens provide great off the bike traction.  Hike a bikes sections don’t make me cringe like before, and I find myself hiking back up more often to re-ride sections of trail to really dial in my lines.  The laces are a different approach to any previous cycling shoe I have owned, a design that makes it easy to get a snug fit.  The lack of a ratchet to make on-the-fly adjustments has taken some getting used to, but the velcro strap does a good job of tightening up the fit when needed.  The shoes have held up fairly well too.  Five Ten’s Stealth Rubber soles are definitely a major selling point and they have been great treading on rocks and roots.  I have been riding exclusively in my Maltese Falcons for 3 months now and the only noticeable wear is on the inside of the shoes from rubbing the cranks. (But that won’t have me worried anytime soon!).  

The Negatives:

Efficiency is not a strong suit of the Five Ten Maltese Falcons.  The Maltese Falcons are heavy and flexible, therefore sacrificing efficiency by giving you more comfort.  Five Ten does makes the Kestral if you are looking for a stiffer and more efficient riding shoe, but comfort on and off the bike, without breaking the bank, is certainly the name of the game with the Maltese Falcon.   

The sizing tends to run small.  I ordered my shoes based off Five Ten sizing charts, which put me at a size 42, the same as my old Shimano shoes.  I immediately started experiencing some odd pain on the outside of my left foot that occurred more on the aggressive downhills, when my tires would leave the ground more often.  (It’s possible my not so smooth landings could have had something to do with it…) The good news is the discomfort has improved as the shoes have molded to my foot.  I honestly think a half size larger and I would not have had the same issues.  

The Maltese are also not the most breathable shoes.  On the plus side, they do shed water fairly well, so splashing through puddles will not necessarily get your feet wet.  But once the shoes are soaked it takes them a while to dry.  Let’s just say, they are not the kind of shoes you should leave sitting wet in the trunk, expecting them to be dry for a ride the following day.  I have had to get in the habit of being intentional about setting them out to dry.  Another plus I will add: the toe box has done an admirable job of protecting my feet from flying rocks and my often poor pedal placement. (Which is a definite advantage when navigating the many rocks of Pisgah!).   

PROS:
– Comfortable (once broken in)
– Cool looking

– Great off the bike traction

CONS:

– Lengthy break in period

– Sacrifice efficiency for comfort

– Slow to dry out

If you are looking for a comfortable and affordable trail shoe, that you will not hate walking around in off the bike, then I would not hesitate to recommend the Five Ten Maltese Falcons.  However do be weary of the fit and the break in period.  If you are looking for an efficient shoe that transfers every watt to the pedals and keeps your feet cool then I would look elsewhere.

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