Entry level doesn't have to mean basic, and the M5 Mountain Bike shoe from Fi'zi:k is a great example of how high-end technology can trickle-down to a more affordable price point. Wiggle's Tim Wiggins was given the task of testing this latest offering from Fi'zi:k.
The Italian brand Fi'zi:k, produces a spectrum of products that is quite unique in its line up and diversity. A few months ago, I reviewed the Fi'zi:k Cyrano Bars, Stem and Seatpost: products that impressed with both their performance and appearance. In this review, it's another key contact point - your cycling shoes, and the M5 MTB shoe is certainly the good stuff.
The M5 represents the lowest touch point in the Fi'zi:k range, but it benefits significantly from the 'trickle-down' effect, which provides it with features and looks not that dissimilar from the top of the range M1 carbon soled race shoes.
A strong and stiff nylon sole
The heart of any cycling shoe is the sole, and the M5 features a carbon reinforced nylon sole, with an aggressive rubber tread. The stiffer the sole of a riding shoe, the greater the power transfer through your pedal stroke, yet the harder the shoe becomes to walk in. The M5 is towards the stiffer end of the spectrum, despite it not having a full carbon sole. Push on the pedals, and the sole has very little give, providing a great feel of direct power transfer. It's a shoe with a race heritage, and that certainly shines through, although dismount and run up an incline and the tread and sole also work well to provide good traction and flexibility.
Durable yet lightweight uppers
The upper of the M5 is not dissimilar to the top-end M1; it doesn't use genuine Kangaroo leather like the M1, but it uses a synthetic and durable non-scratch leather with mesh areas and sail cloth material straps. The result is an impressively light, yet durable material combination.
The uppers feel comfortable, and they conform well to individual foot shapes and widths. The sailcloth straps feel strong and offer plenty of adjust-ability, whilst the ratchet strap secures the foot firmly in place.
Mountain bike shoes are always a compromise between protection (from trail debris, mud and water) and breathability; the M5 (and other shoes within the Fi'zi:k line-up seem to draw a good balance. The leather shields from water and dirt, whilst the mesh sections allow your feet to breathe and stay comfortable.
The all important fit
Of course, one of the main thing that people are concerned with when it comes to cycling shoes, is fit. I've already mentioned how the supple uppers and multitude of highly adjustable straps means that the Fi'zi:k M5 shoes should have a fairly universal width fit (I have quite narrow feet and they fit me well).
The sizing length is good too though - I opted for a size 45 (my size in DMT, dhb and Suplest too), and the fit is snug and "race-orientated". If you prefer more freedom of movement or you'll be wearing thick socks with your shoes, then you may consider sizing up very slightly (maybe a 0.5 size - as is reflected in our size chart), but otherwise these are spot on.
Overall, the Fi'zi:k M5s are an impressive pair of shoes. For under $200, you get a set of shoes that feel and look like something with a far higher price tag. They're comfortable, they've got a stiff race-orientated sole and they're made of materials that should stand the test of trail conditions and weather. They might be "entry level" but they're far better than "entry" performance.