Before Five Ten's 'Stealth rubber' shoes showed up some fifteen years ago, the flat pedal shoe market was nonexistent. Five Ten changed all of that, and their shoes certainly helped a group of DH racers in the mid-'00s, many of whom would go on to win some of the most memorable World Cup and world championship victories to date. While the shoes they wore may have long since left the shelves, that iconic sole is back...
The original bike shoe from Five Ten was the Impact Low and while it went through a series of refinements over the course of its long life - who can forget the rad Intense Cycles editions and the widely hated suede model, which quickly turned brown at the first sign of mud - the sole design (pattern, compound, and shape) remained the same throughout. Its over-built and somewhat marmite aesthetics combined with its portly weight and ability to soak up a wet trail in seconds were often overlooked by many as they represented the only viable option for aggressive riding and downhill racing.
Five Ten Sam Hill 3 Details:
• Stealth S1 rubber outsole
• Slingshot heel for a secure fit
• Stitched and reinforced toe cap protection
• Waterproof polypropylene insole board for increased longevity
• Compression-molded polyurethane midsole
• Fast-drying synthetic upper
• Weight: 1192g (Size 10US)
• Sizes: 5 - 14US
• MSRP: $160
After a two-year hiatus from Five Ten's portfolio, they're back and sporting a host of refinements to bring them up to date, not to mention remedying many of the negatives associated with their predecessor.
At first glance, they're a familiar sight, but look closer and you're looking at a completely new shoe.
The new Sam Hill 3 is based on the original and aforementioned, Impact Low, but for 2016 it's packing a host of updates. A faster drying synthetic upper is a welcome update, and thankfully the days of drying that were previously required now been reduced to a few hours somewhere dry and warm. But the best thing is that uppers repel a good dose of water and rarely became soaked through, even on days smashing through puddles. The new toe box is similar to the Impact VXi and is a nice addition as well, but just make sure you find the right size as a reinforced toe box can be painful if you're half a size out.
The Sam Hill 3's feel resoundingly tougher than the VXi's.
One of the most proven products still in use today: the Stealth S1 sole.
Sam Hill 3 vs. Impact VXi
After a long stint in their catalogue, the team at Five Ten turned their attention to a successor for the tried and trusted Impact. That shoe was the Impact VXi. Launched in 2014, the VXi promised to pick up the baton left by the original Impact and run with it, which they did for many riders who welcomed their lightweight build, quick drying credentials, modern materials, super sticky sole and heightened bike feel. But not everyone felt the same way, most notably, a professional downhill racer called Sam Hill...
Two very different designs and two different rubber compounds with the VXi (bottom) sporting the softer Mi6 sole.
Of all the riders synonymous with flat pedals, it is, of course, Sam Hill - the rider whose riding style and subsequent victories influenced a host of riders to adopt flat pedals in a bid to emulate his wild style. But for Sam, a rider who's spent his entire professional career on the same shoe sole, the VXi didn't quite cut it. At high speeds, the level of grip, even though the rubber is softer on the new VXi, simply wasn't enough. Sam stuck with the older and at this stage, out-of-production, Impact, throughout the '14 season, all the while the team at Five Ten were busy creating the shoes Sam, and indeed a few others, like Brendan Fairclough and Joe Smith, always wanted. That same old iconic Stealth Rubber sole was to make a return to the fold, but this time mated to a new upper boasting a host of modern upgrades with a view to breath fresh life into this iconic product.
The lighter VXi's weigh 796g for a pair, size 10 US and...
the Sam Hill 3's, a staggering 396g more at 1192g for a pair.
While both shoes nod their caps to the gravity slayers out there and effectively do the same job, jumping between the Sam Hill 3s and the VXis on the same pedals and on the same trails, shows just how contrasting these two shoes are side by side. The VXi's are noticeably lighter and offer an unrivaled connection to your pedals thanks to their super soft Mi6 compound rubber used on the sole and a more compliant sole shank. That does, however, come at the cost of increased rates of wear and tear as anyone who's owned a pair can attest to. I found that the VXi's shone on a variety of gravity fed trails and particularly, those of a bike park nature, especially ones with lots of jumps where 'feeling' your pedals was an advantage. But on fast, rough-and-ready DH style trails littered with rocks and roots, I struggled in places to keep my feet planted on the VXi's. The Sam Hill's on the other hand, are stiffer, heavier and took a few rides to get into, not to mention break-in. While I felt they were more comfortable out of the box than the VXi and better sized - the VXi's do come up a touch on the big side - the stiff sole was especially noticeable when hiking up sections of trail. Thankfully this didn't last long.
The Sam Hill 3's are a thoroughbred gravity racing shoe.
Impact VXi's are light enough for trail bikes and days in the park.
The marginally harder compound Stealth S1 compound outer sole and stiffer shank found on the Sam Hill 3's did come into play on fast and loose DH trails, but only on pedals with aggressive platforms loaded with large pins. Teamed up with some suitably grippy pedals such as Burgtec's inimitable MK4 Penthouse Flats, Nukeproof's deadly Horizons and Deity's monstrous TMACs, which I used throughout testing, the Sam Hill 3's unique sole shape and pattern could retain contact even on rough trails where losing a foot was an inevitability, but less of an issue. The trick with the Sam Hill 3 shoes is to not think about what your feet are doing, which can be hard on flats sometimes, and to just focus on the trail as the unique shape of the sole does a fantastic job of finding grip across the various points of your pedal. And because they are made from a marginally harder compound, repositioning your feet after a dab or a wobble is much easier. Pinkbike's Take
|Given their credentials, the VXi is perhaps more suitable for a larger proportion of riders out there looking for a gravity orientated flat pedal shoe. They're significantly lighter, grippier and work well in a variety of scenarios and conditions. But for riders who charge hard, ride by the seat of their pants, and care little about where their feet are on their pedals the Sam Hill 3's trump the VXi's on all counts. It's no surprise that the likes of Sam Hill and the other flat pedal fans on the World Cup circuit prefer this iconic sole over the newer VXi offering. Thanks to some fresh upgrades, Five Ten have brought these classic shoes back to the fore. - Olly Forster|
Visit the feature gallery for high resolution and additional images