Five Ten have owned the mountain bike shoe market for years, especially when it comes to flat pedal shoes. Unparallel is a new player to the market, with the aim to take a slice of the pie from Five Ten - and if anyone’s going to do it, they stand the best shot, with their founder being in charge of Five Ten’s production before Adidas took over the company.
When Teva exited the mountain bike game, Unparallel bought the design and tooling for Teva’s sole, so if you feel like you’ve seen these shoes before, that’s probably why. The key difference here is the rubber. Unparallel have used their own rubber compounds. In the middle of the shoe, a 3.5mm 40-50 durometer rubber has been used, and is actually softer than Stealth rubber. The remainder of the sole is a 4mm 75-80 durometer rubber for more durability. The upper is synthetic, with laces and a Velcro pull-tab. Realistically, the Velcro just keeps the laces tidy, rather than helping cinch the shoe down.
We’ll start with what you care about most: grip. These shoes at least match Five Ten in terms of grip. Controversial statement, but it’s true. There’s not been a single time - wet or dry - that I’ve felt short-sold on grip. I say at least match because they grip differently, too. The UPs aren’t as stiff as Five Tens, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some other shoes I’ve tried feel almost too stiff, in the sense it feels like you’re standing on a board on top of the pedals. With the UPs, you feel more ‘in the bike’ - but that’s not to say it’s for everyone. The sole of the UPs conform to the pedals and offers quite a bit more pedal feedback. The extra suppleness could be interpreted as ‘squirmy’ by some, but the reason I’m loving flats at the moment is for the pedal feedback, versus having the safety buffer of being able to drop a foot; and the UPs satisfy that.
The upper and overall fit, of the shoe is comfy, straight out of the box. I have freakishly high arches and semi-wide feet, so I typically run a size up for most of my riding shoes, however, in the case of the UPs I forgot to clarify whether the sizing was US or UK and ended up ordering a size up in US, which converts to being my true-shoe size in UK (i.e. a size smaller than what I’d usually get). I was pretty surprised at how well they fit and how comfy they were when I tried them on, and even more surprised when I didn’t get any new-shoe-pain on my first ride in them. What I will say, though, is that they’re roomy. Not in length, but in width and height. In my case they fit perfectly, but if you have narrow feet (which most Kiwis don’t - being Hobbits and that) you might find them a touch roomy. They do offer protection, but not quite as much as Five Tens, however, that’s not a bad thing, helping keep weight and overall bulk down.
The UPs have been incredibly impressive, and they’ve replaced my Five Tens as my go-to riding shoes. Their slightly smaller profile and pedal feel have won me over, as well as their straight-up comfort. However, I wouldn’t go as far as saying they’ve replaced them outright; if I was riding shuttles all day, or somewhere loose and rocky, I’d probably reach for the Five Tens simply for the little bit of added protection. What I will say though, is that these shoes are comparable with Five Tens and equally as grippy.
Words: Cam Baker
Image: Cameron Mackenzie