I've been lucky enough to get my mitts on a sample pair of Five Ten's latest offering, the Impact VXi (Five Ten Innovations) clipless shoe. In the past, Five Ten's clipless shoes have divided wearers; while some liked them, most complained about their heavy weight and incompatibility with some pedal systems. Basically the Minnaar Clipless of old and the Maltese Falcon looked the part and worked reasonably well, but for the price they underperformed. A few internal changes at Five Ten, some solid R&D time and an open ear to what previous customers have to say has led Five Ten to launch the Impact VXi range, available in either clipless or flat style. Lighter, faster & stronger.
Although the Impact VXi clipless isn't out in the market yet, after a handful of rides wearing the sample pair, I think it's fair to say when it finally makes it to stores, it will be a hit.
First and foremost, the new Impact doesn't share many of the traits of the original non-clip Impact version; the outer sole is about the only thing which is similar, and even that's been changed and improved. The overall look is a lot slimmer and feels less like a heavy boot once on.
Lightweight: Without actually putting these on scales it's safe to say they're easily as light as most 'all-mountain' style shoes, and certainly lighter than similar 'DH' shoes. Five Ten claim 30% lighter weight than their previous clipless models (I'm pretty sure this is comparing to the previous Minnaar model). In the past I've tried the old Maltese Falcon but quickly shelved them due to their heavy weight and cumbersome feel. (The new Maltese Falcon LT is a completely redesigned shoe and worth a look if you want something a little more XC than the Impacts.)
Walkable: Coming from a pair of 'enduro' shoes designed as much for walking as riding, I was concerned these wouldn't be ideal for walking. I was wrong. With a soft EVA mid-sole and raised arches, these are comfortable and supportive enough for any walking you might need to do; think something along the lines of a comfy trainer kind of feel. Couple this fit with the Stealth Rubber sole and this shoe can go everywhere without the slipping around of its XC styled cousins or lesser soled 'all-mountain' options.
Stiff Enough: A common concern with shoes you can actually walk in (i.e. many all-mountain / enduro shoes) is how much power may be lost when pedalling due to a flexi sole. While the Impact's sole doesn't have 'XC carbon sole' stiffness, Five Ten have struck a great balance of pedalling stiffness and walkability. I'm not sure how a sole of this stiffness is fine to walk in; it's certain that the midsole helps, but they've obviously worked some magic to make this happen, and you won't be disappointed in the pedalling stiffness unless you're used to an XC shoe at the stiffer end of the scale.
Solid: With a reinforced toe-box, heel cup and arch support these shoes are solid, and when I slammed my big toe into a dirty big native tree root during the recent 2W Enduro, I didn't feel a thing. The shoe upper appears mostly seamless so there's no stitching to come undone or wear out. The ankle strap is a nice touch and while it's a good cover for the laces, it's really good if you want a bit of extra tension on the shoe, helping secure your foot back into the heel cup even more than the laces can. The 'inside' of the shoe is reinforced and has a raised cuff, protecting from 'crank rash'.
Quick drying: With closed cell foam padding internally and DWR treatment externally, the Impacts absorb less moisture than most shoes and out dry quickly once wet, as they simply don't retain the moisture.
Better Cleat Positioning: One complaint I've had for every clipless shoe I've ever owned, especially for riding DH, is that the cleat mounting positions aren't far enough back on the sole, meaning brand new shoes were having to be attacked with Stanley knives, grinders and even chisels! No longer. Five Ten listened to rider feedback and for the first time ever I haven't have to slam my cleats right to the back of the supplied slots, or butcher my shoes to make them right; actually I found slamming the cleat all the way back was too much for me. The other nice change from previous Five Ten models is a shallower cleat mounting, meaning no more trimming of the sole to get it to work with some pedals. As well as a what they're calling a 'Clip Dish' which basically tapers the sole inwards to where the cleat is mounted, helping 'feed' the pedal to the cleat when clipping in.
Looks: Personally I like the look of the Impacts; one part skate shoe, one part MTB shoe, but I'm sure not everyone will be into them. One thing I certainly like is that they don't look like anything else on the market, and are about as far away as you could get from a traditional XC style look without being too hardcore downhill style.
So, there's the good stuff, but how about the bad? Well there's not really much. In fact for their intended purpose (DH/FR) they're perfect. That's a big call, I know! As an all-mountain or enduro shoe, they're almost perfect. I'd say if you're riding in temps 30 degrees celsius or over then you might want something a bit more breathable but other than that you can't go wrong with a pair of the Five Ten Impact VXis on your feet!
New Zealand Five Ten agents 'Level ' should have the Impacts in stock in a few weeks. Contact your LBS for more info.