A few years ago, I rode the Kokopelli trail with some friends. I decided to take a single pair of shoes to lighten my load on my Knolly Endorphin (which is decidedly not a “bikepacking” bike). That pair of shoes was the 5.10 Kestrel Boa. I spent a few years riding in those shoes. They were stiff, durable, stylish, and sleek. More recently, I’ve given up the power of clipless shoes for the comfort and nuanced control of flat pedals. After a long term review of a carbon hardtail with very large, very sharp flat pedals (the Kona Wah Wah 2), I took a long, hard look at my shins. They are covered in scars and the tops of my socks stained with blood. It was time to see how the skills that flat pedals have shown me translated to clipless riding. I dug around my parts bin and found my old pedals, and then began to look for my old Kestrels. They were gone. I racked my brain and realized I had left them in Mammoth last summer. A week later, I got an email asking me to review the new version of the shoe. I was stoked, to say the least.
On the note of getting emails about reviews: sometimes, this happens through the Radavist, and that’s sweet. Sometimes, this happens through Outdoor ProLink, a site that gives a discount to outdoor professionals. Years of raft guiding and MTB guiding are what got me an account with them. Not too long ago, they started a program where they would choose “pros” to review certain products that their partner companies (5.10, Rocky Mounts, etc.) were coming out with. Generally a pretty sweet situation for everyone. If you’re an outdoor professional and need gear for your job, it’s definitely worth applying for an account with these folks. If your passion is also your profession, you sort of need a pro-deal, especially considering that often times you take a pay cut for doing what you love. Also, if you have a penchant for writing, it’s worth applying to their review program as well.
Disclaimer: this review will focus on the changes I’ve noticed between the old Kestrel and the new ones, not clips vs. flats. We are just talking shoes here, people.
Fit & Adjustability
Fit is first in any pair of shoes, and that has changed in the new Kestrel. I’m a little dude, with equally little feet. I’m a solid 7.5 in nearly every shoe. My old Kestrels were 7.5, and they fit like a performance MTB shoe: tightly. The new Kestrels are a bit bigger, mostly longer, with a bit more flexibility in the heel cup and lateral room in the toe box. Some people might think this is a bad thing, and when I first slipped these shoes on, I did too. Then I noticed the velcro strap in the toe box, cinched it down, and my worries went away. Fast forward to a couple hours into a ride and that changes. My feet swell significantly during rides. Part of why I started riding flat pedals and more flexible shoes was severe discomfort and toe numbness that would happen after an hour of riding. With the new Kestrel design, the Boa is responsible for the upper part of the shoe while the velcro allows adjustment for the toe box, unlike the last iteration that depended on the Boa for all adjustability. If you wanted to give your toes some room, the rest of the shoe would feel loose.
My feet were becoming numb. I rested my pedals in a descending stance and loosened my velcro straps. A few minutes later, my toes were wiggling again and blood was circulating. This is huge. The ability to adjust the shoe in specific areas to accommodate toe numbness is the single greatest improvement on these shoes, and shouldn’t be overlooked. Balancing endurance comfort and descending capability is something that bike designers have been doing for the past few years to great success, and it’s nice to see shoe companies finally follow suit. The Kestrel is an All Mountain shoe at heart, and on those types of rides, this on the fly adjustability is a huge benefit.
Breathability vs. Waterproofness
I’m always skeptical of any shoe that claims it’s waterproof, especially low top shoes. Your shoe is only as waterproof as the depth and direction of water, and generally, if I’m going to get wet, I get wet. That’s part of being outside. What I think about with shoes is how well they will allow my wet feet to breathe and dry. This was a problem with the old Kestrels. They were a waterproof plastic shell of a shoe, and while that was a nice selling point, it was moot once you found yourself portaging through an unrideable active wash or flying at mach chicken through a creek. My feet would get wet, and then stay wet. Those shoes ended up smelling like a high schoolers gym bag, and on the Kokopelli, my feet ended up very unhappy. During my review of the new Kestrels, I’ve been lucky enough to experience a very unusually wet spring here in northern Arizona. My feet have gotten wet. The difference is, they dried off again. The new Kestrel has some ventilation holes in the toe box, and they work at the cost of being a totally waterproof armor.
I wreck stuff. That’s why I’m a gear tester: I have a tendency to put things through the ringer. My old Kestrels magically held up for a few years, even after I broke the Boa and jerry rigged it to still sort of work. Perhaps I haven’t had the new shoes long enough to wreck them, but that’s a good thing, isn’t it? The normal signs of wear and tear are there for sure. The toes are scrapped up from foot out corners, the inside arch area is scuffed and stained by my cranks, and a few bits of thread have torn at the ankles. A big complaint from friends about the new 5.10 climbing shoes is that they don’t hold up like they used to. The new Kestrel feels just as bombproof as the old ones.
Off the Bike
These shoes are stiff and hard. They are meant to give you a solid platform to attack the pedals and transfer power when pedaling and jumping efficiently. They do that very well. What they aren’t good for is hiking, pushing your bike up stuff, or scrambling on boulders. In the end, that’s probably fine. They are bike shoes, and the sort of rides I take them on, I’m barely walking if ever. But, this means that I wouldn’t grab them for multi-day bikepacking trips where I might be pushing/carrying my bike through some unrideable nonsense. The Stealth rubber is still there, but these ain’t’ approach shoes, kids. A bit more flexibility would help in this department, but then they wouldn’t be a performance all-mountain shoe.
I’m not much for flashy colors. My favorite MTB shoe to date is the 5.10 Dirtbag, a blue suede chukka with stealth rubber soles. They look great and don’t scream “endurBro” to the world. The shoes I received were one of the available colorways, and have bright orange/red accents. I’m not a huge fan of this and would prefer the all black version. Other than bright colors, these shoes look sleek and functional. If you’re a boring person who dreams in earth tones like me, buy black shoes. The Adidas logo is front and center on the tongue, with the classic 5.10 logo on the side. The collaboration is clear here, and that might be weird for some. Personally, if I were a designer at Adidas Outdoor, I would want my logo on a flagship shoe like this. Take branding for what it’s worth, but it’s here to stay. I’m fine with it.
Final Word and Review Scorecard
The new Kestrel Pro takes a tried and true performance All Mountain shoe from a trusted company and makes it better with added adjustability and thoughtful ventilation placement. The new shoes are different from the last iteration, but still keep the sleek aesthetics and industry-leading stiffness and performance. They are high-end clipless shoes that I don’t mind wearing for most of my rides, and that’s coming from a former flat pedal devotee. Sure they could hike better, but honestly, if you’re walking up or down something while wearing these shoes, you have bigger things to worry about than the grip of the shoe on dirt.
A hair large, which seems to be a trend for all the new 5.10 products. Size down a half size if you like your shoes to be super fitted. I would purchase the 7.5 again due to my foot swell.
Aesthetics on some very flashy and branded
Could maybe hike better
Price is high, but this is the bike industry folks
Quality: 5 out of 5
Special thanks to Liam Kelly for the photos!
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