Pros: – Very comfortable and offer loads of protection from trail hazards. – Combination of Velcro strap and BOA dial offer a very secure fit. Cons: – Run warmer than other options. – Small outsole lugs don’t offer much traction on loose trails.
The Bottom Line
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Crankbrothers Mallet BOA shoes. In fact, I consider them to be one of the best mountain bike shoes for enduro and downhill use at the moment. They’re comfortable right out of the box, the combination of Velcro strap and BOA dial is very secure, and they strike a nice balance of on-bike performance and off-bike feel. Furthermore, they offer plenty of padding and protection for gnarly descents and inspire tons of confidence in the process. Overall, the Crankbrothers Mallet BOA shoes stand out as a top-notch option, delivering exceptional performance, comfort, durability and support.
From the beginning, the Crankbrothers Mallet BOA shoes impressed me with their exceptional comfort, which can be boiled down to three main features. Firstly, the soft padding around the back of the shoe does an excellent job of cradling each heel. Secondly, the gusseted tongue wraps around the entire foot and provides a very secure fit (like the shoes are giving your feet a nice big hug). Lastly, the tongue has plenty of cushioning, which allows me to really cinch down the BOA dials without any discomfort from the laces. However, it’s worth noting that the sticky dots intended to aid heel retention did cause slight discomfort on the fifth or sixth ride. After some investigating, I realized this anomaly was due to my extremely worn (read transparent) socks, and it was the only time I noticed the problem.
In terms of fit, I find my standard size 42 EU (U.S. men’s 9) to be spot on for my very average feet. They aren’t too narrow, and I don’t find them to be overly spacious either. Additionally, I have yet to experience any pinch points or fit-related discomfort with the shoes (other than the one mentioned above). Overall, the Mallet BOAs provide a nice neutral fit and I have no issues with their sizing.
When it comes to power transfer, the Crankbrothers Mallet BOAs offer a really nice balance between stiffness and comfort. The shoes are great at transferring power to the pedals on enduro-style race stages, yet they’re considerably more comfortable to wear and walk around in than carbon-soled cross-country slippers. Furthermore, I never felt the pedals underneath my foot, even when hammering down on the pedals or during major compressions on gnarly trails. All in all, I think Crankbrothers did a really nice job of balancing the stiffness and power transfer characteristics of the Mallet BOA.
Stability and Support
The Crankbrothers Mallet BOA does a really nice job of providing plenty of stability and support on the bike. The synthetic upper is quite stiff and uses very little soft, flexible mesh, resulting in increased support. Furthermore, the Velcro strap closure really locks the heel down and effectively connects the two sides of the shoe, providing an extremely stable and cohesive feel. Despite this stability, I still find there to be plenty of flexibility and freedom to make the bike dance underneath me when I want it to. Crankbrothers really hit the nail on the head in terms of stability and support with the Mallet BOA, making them a great match for downhill and enduro use.
In terms of breathability, the Crankbrothers Mallet BOA is not a standout performer. However, it’s not all bad news either. The shoes provide plenty of airflow for shoulder-season riding in the Pacific Northwest and are a great match for downhill shuttle laps. I also find the Mallet BOAs to be excellent e-bike shoes where uphill effort is considerably less and I don’t work up as much of a sweat. However, when temperatures hit the low 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the shoes tend to feel noticeably warmer than better ventilated options, like the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch SPD. The same design features that provide a ton of support and protection, like the thick tongue and lack of mesh, contribute to the shoes feeling warmer. Given their intended purpose of downhill runs and enduro racing, I think the Mallet BOAs do an adequate job in terms of breathability.
Despite their downhill-oriented design, the Crankbrothers Mallet BOAs are quite comfortable to walk in. The shoes feature a slightly rockered sole for easy walking, the Velcro strap does a nice job of holding my heels down, and they aren’t overlay stiff like carbon-soled XC models. Furthermore, the grippy rubber outsole sticks well to rocks and dry logs. That said, the small lugs do struggle to find traction on particularly steep and loose trails. So while they can’t match the walkability of adventure-oriented models like the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Summit, the Mallet BOAs provide just enough maneuverability for scoping lines and sessioning trail features.
Durability and Build Quality
To be candid, Crankbrothers and I don’t have a great track record. Years ago, a pair of their 5050 flat pedals seized mid ride, catapulting me over the bars. Not long after that, their first generation Highline Dropper seatpost failed in short order. However, that’s water under the bridge and I’m very happy to report that the Mallet BOAs have been completely drama free. In fact, after 5 months of heavy use I’m very impressed with the build quality and durability of the shoes. The soles don’t show signs of separation, I don’t see a stitch out of place, and the BOA dials are still super smooth. There is a little bit of wear on the outsole, but that’s to be expected with all the granite boulder hopping they’re been subjected to. At this point I feel quite confident in the build quality and durability of the Crankbrothers Mallet BOA shoes.
Crankbrothers Mallet BOA Weight
Despite their burly build and somewhat bulky appearance, the Crankbrothers Mallet BOA shoes manage to maintain a reasonably light weight. On my scale, the size 42 EU (9 US men’s) shoes weighed in at 1 pound 13.3 ounces, placing them right about in the middle of similar offerings from other brands. For comparison, the Mallet BOAs are slightly heavier than the more trail-oriented Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch SPD (1 pound 11.3 ounces) and just under the similarly focused Five Ten Hellcat Pro (1 pound 15 ounces). Crankbrothers did a great job of keeping the Mallet BOA’s weight in check.
Key Features of the Mallet BOA
Crankbrothers Match Outsole
The Match outsole of the Mallet BOA shoe utilizes Crankbrothers’ middle-of-the-road MC1 rubber compound, which offers a nice balance between durability and traction. Off the bike, the relatively small rubber lugs provide decent grip on trail surfaces, but are easily out of their element on especially loose or steep sections. However, the rubber does an excellent job of sticking to granite boulders and rocks during hike-a-bike parts of the trail. On the bike, the rubber soles only come into contact with my Shimano XTR Trail pedals when I accidentally unclip, but they provide just enough traction until I can get clipped back in.
Crankbrothers Match Cleat Box
A standout feature of the Crankbrothers Mallet BOA is its generous amount of cleat adjustment, offering approximately 30 millimeters of range (based on my measurement). This provides a ton of room to move cleats front and back, and allows for optimal placement. For reference, I generally aim to position the cleat about 20 millimeters behind the ball of my foot, which offers a nice balance of descending prowess and a snappy response when mashing on the pedals. Crankbrothers was smart to include hash marks on the Mallet BOAs, which make it extremely easy to align cleats properly and replicate the position on the opposite shoe. It’s a tidy feature I wish more companies would incorporate into their designs. In terms of clipping and unclipping, the generous space and ramping at the front and back of the cleat box made for a seamless experience. Well done Crankbrothers, well done.
BOA L6 Dial
The L6 BOA dial found on the Crankbrothers Mallet BOA is one of the better is one of the better implementations I’ve come across. It’s conveniently located and easy to reach while on the bike, and the action is extremely smooth, which isn’t always the case (I’m looking at you Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch SPD). Additionally, the laces do a great job of holding my feet secure and in place, while the plush tongue prevents unwanted pressure on the top of my feet, even when they’re really cranked down. Overall, the Mallet BOAs and the BOA dials are a great match.
I’ve really been loving the Mallet BOAs over the past few months, and I think a lot of that comes down to the Velcro closure. The position of the strap allows it to tighten directly over the instep of my foot, effectively holding my heel in place. This creates a secure and stable feel by connecting both sides of the shoe together, which is discussed in more detail above. Additionally, I find the length to be just about right–sometimes they are too short or too long–and I haven’t encountered any durability issues with the Velcro. This may be the first time I’ve used the Velcro and BOA dial closure combination, and I have to say, it has quickly become my favorite.
Issues with the Mallet BOAs
So far, the Crankbrothers Mallet BOAs have been flawless. I haven’t experienced any issues with fit, function, or durability, and I don’t really expect that to change as I continue to thrash on them. However, I do need to mention one thing about the shoes, and that’s stack height. Perhaps I’m imagining things but it feels as though the Mallet BOAs are taller than other shoes I’ve been testing as of late. They feel a bit thicker underfoot, like my feet are sitting a bit higher off the pedals. I don’t consider this to be a dealbreaker in any way, but rather something I’ve noticed when swapping between models from other brands.
Crankbrothers Shoe Warranty
Crankbrothers offers a one year warranty on their shoes, which begins on the original date of purchase. This falls in line with most other mountain bike shoe brands like Shimano (one year), Giro (one year), and Five Ten (six months). That said, there are other companies that offer significantly better warranties. For example, Pearl Izumi has a lifetime warranty on their products, which certainly ups the value for the brand. Having said that, the Mallet BOAs have been super durable and I’m not too worried about the warranty at this point.
Crankbrothers Mallet BOA vs Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch SPD
The Crankbrothers Mallet BOA and Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch SPD (in-depth review here) are two of my favorite mountain bike shoes at the moment. Each model is exceptionally comfortable, has proven to be durable, and works well on and off the bike. However, there are a few differences that make each best suited for different riders. With more padding and protection, as well as a stiffer sole, the Crankbrothers Mallet BOA is the better choice for enduro racing and downhill trails. However, if you’re looking for something that’s a bit more of an all-arounder, then the slightly lighter and more breathable Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch SPD is the way to go. In the end, both are excellent shoes and it will simply come down to your personal preference.
Crankbrothers Mallet BOA vs Fox Union BOA
The Fox Union BOA, a new player in the footwear game, is a direct competitor to the Crankbrothers Mallet BOA. Both models target the downhill, enduro, and aggressive trail riding crowds and check all the required boxes for a modern mountain bike shoe. On the Fox, two BOA Li2 dials take care of closure duties, the stiff nylon shank does an excellent job of transferring power to the pedals, and there’s just plenty of toe protection to ward off rock strikes. I also like that Fox includes two sets of arch supports (low and high), which help customize the fit. Compared to the Mallet BOAs, the Union BOAs are slightly stiffer underfoot and feature less padding throughout, especially in the heel. For me, it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. I prefer the more streamline look of the Union BOAs, but the Velcro strap on the Mallet BOAs does a better job of holding my heel in place.
Crankbrothers Mallet BOA vs Five Ten Hellcat Pro
The Crankbrothers Mallet BOA and Five Ten Hellcat Pro are two popular options for downhill-focused mountain bikers. Both do a great job of transferring power to the pedals, with the Hellcat Pros being the slightly stiffer option. Additionally, both models offer plenty of protection from rock strikes and other trail hazards. Personally, I prefer the BOA dial on the Crankbrothers over the laces on the Hellcat Pros, but both shoes feature a Velcro strap over the instep, offering a secure fit. However, one area where the Hellcat Pro falls short is durability, mainly with the sole delaminating from the rest of the shoe–something that hasn’t cropped up after several months of heavy use with the Crankbrothers. Ultimately, I prefer the Crankbrothers Mallet BOA over the Five Ten Hellcat Pro due its BOA dial and more durable build.
Crankbrothers Mallet BOA vs Crankbrothers Mallet E BOA
One final consideration is Crankbrothers own Mallet E BOA. As you may have guessed given how similar the names are, the Mallet BOA (reviewed here) and the Mallet E BOA share a lot of the same features. For instance, both models use a Velcro strap and BOA dial for closure duties, have a highly protective and padded build, and use the same durable material for the upper and lower. However, there are a number of subtle differences. Compared to the Mallet BOAs, the Mallet E BOAs feature a stiffer sole for improved power transfer, have slightly larger lugs for more grip when walking, and don’t offer quite as much adjustment available for cleat position (the Mallet BOA cleats can be moved 5mm more rearward and are more focused on downhill use). If you really like the sound of the Mallet BOA but are looking for something a little stiffer then the Mallet E BOA could be your ticket.
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Erik Nilson, founder of Cascade Gear Reviews, boasts a decade-long journey in the outdoor industry. He began his career at REI, excelling in marketing, merchandising, and product development. Later, at Switchback Travel, Erik managed cycling content. With multiple Pro podium finishes in mountain biking, he’s not just an industry expert; he’s an active participant. Whether testing gear, capturing photos, or crafting reviews, Erik’s hands-on approach defines his dedication. Based in Winthrop, WA, he brings experience, expertise, and passion to outdoor gear reviews.
Erik Nilson, founder of Cascade Gear Reviews, boasts a decade-long journey in the outdoor industry. He began his career at REI, excelling in marketing, merchandising, and product development. Later, at Switchback Travel, Erik managed cycling content. With multiple Pro podium finishes in mountain biking, he's not just an industry expert; he's an active participant. Whether testing gear, capturing photos, or crafting reviews, Erik's hands-on approach defines his dedication. Based in Winthrop, WA, he brings experience, expertise, and passion to outdoor gear reviews.
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