Despite the new Kestrel's fresh look, there is still lots of Five Ten DNA in these shoes. Two compounds of their famous Stealth rubber are used on the outer sole. A harder compound around the cleat area assists the rider with the cleating action while a softer grippier compound is used for traction while walking. The toe box is reinforced for protection against trail features and also promises good waterproofing while the quarter panel is much softer for breathability on hot days. Functionally and stylistically, the single dial BOA closure system is the most obvious break from Five Ten traditions.
On the bike, the Kestrel performs superbly. The carbon shank makes a stiff yet comfortable platform for pedalling and descending. The Kestrel proved to be a good companion for all day bike adventures. The stiffness of the shoe caused no hotspots and the relief of being able to walk about without obstruction was welcome.
The softer Stealth rubber compound provides excellent grip off the bike and helps to keep you upright while scouting tricky sections of trail. Fit is unique to each wearer, so this could just be a problem I experienced, but the stiff sole has absolutely no give when walking on your forefoot uphills. This resulted in the rear of my foot lifting in the shoe and rubbing aggressively with the cupped heel, turning the Kestrel into a flesh eater in hike-a-bike situations.
The overall build of the Kestrel is excellent. Our test pair held up well to abuse out on the trails. The front toe box provides the protection Five Ten customers have come to expect from the brand, allowing the safety to bash the odd rock or tree. The mid-foot region has little to no padding which is only a problem on the rare occasion that an object is kicked up into the side of your foot. As the mid-foot area is breathable it allows for water to penetrate the shoe fairly easily but once the water is in, the Kestrel does a good job at remaining comfortable.
Getting the tension right on the BOA closure system takes some practice. When tightening the BOA system, the wires tend to get caught where they intersect, preventing the next loop in the system from tightening. I developed two methods for dealing with this: 1) simply pulling on the stuck wires while tightening the dial to allow the tension to travel through the system or 2) allow the wires to loosen up while riding and simple re-tighten when needed. I usually opted tighten while riding option which took about 5 to 10 minutes of pedalling to achieve a good fit. Once correctly set, the lacing system holds the foot in place securely without any discomfort. It is worth noting that Five Ten have since released a laced version of Kestrel.
There is decent range for cleat placement on the Kestrel. The depression for the cleat, and the harder rubber compound, work well to guide the pedal and cleat together. There were a number of times where I did not get clipped back in straight away but the Kestrel provide sufficient grip to bumble through rough sections while unclipped. For reference, I used the Kestrel shoes exclusively with Shimano pedals.
The claimed weight for a size 8 Kestrel shoe is 403 grams. Our test size 11 shoes with cleats and some dirt/sweat weighed in at 580 grams each.
The Five Ten Kestrel recommended retail price is set at R3,295 in South Africa which is a sizeable commitment for a shoe. However, considering the technology and the riding experience with the Kestrel, and depending on your needs, I don't considered it be too far off the mark.
In the end
The Five Ten Kestrel is a good shoe for any rider from cross-country to all-mountain looking for a clipless shoe with great pedalling performance while offering proper mobility off the bike and some sturdy protection in the front of the shoe. Other than a few niggles with lacing and fit on uphill hikes, the Kestrel have proved to be a reliable shoe that strikes a balance between performance and practicality.