The Sidi Dust MTB is a sparkly rust-coloured lightweight shoe for mountain biking and gravel adventures. The sole is nylon and offers enough stiffness for racing and long-distance gravel rides while still being comfortable on- and off the bike with plenty of grip from the classic Sidi-lugged sole. The single Tecno-3 adjuster is not as intuitive as some of the more popular retention systems but works well as long it’s kept free of debris. Is it a genuine contender in the highly competitive best mountain bike shoes category? Read on to find out.
- Fizik Vento Ferox Carbon shoes review
- Best mountain bike shoes 2023 - top-rated flat and clipless kicks
- Gravel race tips: Five tricks for tackling your first long event
Sidi Dust MTB shoes - Technical Details
The Dust MTB shoe in the Rust Black colourway is quite flashy and typical of Sidi. Once covered with dirt and stained from use I must admit I rather like the colour; it’s a good fit for an off-road environment. The design is very much classic Sidi with lots of exposed stitching around all the cable anchor points, and toe and heel sections. Anywhere that the material changes, you’ll find very neat stitching lines. It’s a very different look from many other brands on the market with single-section moulded upper designs. I’m pretty happy with smart and modern visuals, especially in this colourway.
The Dust MTB shoes have an SR17 nylon sole with polyurethane moulded studs for grip on the forefoot and the heel area. Sidi doesn’t give us a stiffness factor number but rather states the SR17 is the ‘ultimate stiffness’ for pedalling while providing comfort when walking. Sidi makes good use of its own textured logo in the centre of the shoe for grip when standing on the pedals unclipped and for walking around. There are also mounts for metal studs for extra grip for more technical and muddy conditions.
The upper is made from a three-layer material called Politex and is matte metallic in colour and slightly soft in texture. There is a toe reinforcement section made of a rubberised material to help protect and provide grip when needed and behind that there are two sections of breathable mesh for ventilation. The sides of the politex upper are heavily perforated for breathability and the outer has Sidi negatively embossed for extra brand awareness without too much shouting.
The heel area has further embossing; this time in a honeycomb design that matches the heel cup detailing and the inner lining and footbed. The heel is rubberised at the top and the cup itself is made of anatomically moulded polyurethane for structural stability. There are also two little spots of reflectivity for safety.
The closure mechanism is Sidi’s own design and is called Tecno-3 and is mounted on the top right of the upper. It tightens the shoe by flipping the top up and winding the exposed flap and loosens the tension via the two buttons top and bottom of the dial. The single dial pulls the wire from the front of the shoe through five anchor points to achieve the best fit. The wire passes under a branded pull strap on the tongue which aids the release of the wire when the two buttons are pressed.
The inner sole of the MTB Dust is perforated and very lightly shaped but without arch support or padding.
Sidi Dust MTB shoes - Performance
Straight out of the box, the setup with cleats was simple and at no time during the test has the cleat moved or needed readjustment. Using Sidi’s Tecno-3 dial was my first experience with Sidi’s proprietary rotary adjustment system and I have not found it as intuitive as other dials. The fact that you have to lift the flap to tighten the dial is not hard to remember – it just seems odd that it needs to be done at all. I’m no racer, so the time taken for this extra step is not an issue for me, it's just less ergonomic for my fingers.
Releasing the tension needs the press of two buttons top and bottom of the dial which works well, and very small levels of tension release can be achieved by alternatively pressing the buttons on the dial. Doing this allows you to release tension more precisely for an improved feel. You do have to start with them as tight as possible first though. Pulling the Sidi branded tongue helps with the release and opens the shoe wider for easier removal and access.
During my testing period of July and August, I did have a few issues with the dials on both shoes getting clogged with grass seeds which made release very difficult and sometimes pretty darn frustrating. Winding them up was not an issue. Most of my riding has been biased to gravel riding on byways and bridleways around Salisbury Plain and the Quantocks with a little bit of good old-fashioned XC trail riding at trail centres.
Upon closer inspection, it appears that the hole where the wire enters the dial has collected a lot of grass seeds and I’ve had to use tweezers to pull them from the mechanism. In fact, as I type this, I have just found another in the right-hand shoe as shown in the picture. As a shoe aimed at off-road riding, I am somewhat surprised the design cannot cope with this very common trail vegetation. The only way I have found to remove the seeds is to tighten and loosen the dial repeatedly and hope that the rotation of the mechanism spits out the seeds.
I’m sure that on an XC circuit or at a trail centre this is unlikely to be an issue, so many readers might be asking what exactly am I talking about. The Tecno-3 dial adjuster works very smoothly indeed in these environments but not all XC riding is on groomed trails and a lot of gravel riding and old-school mountain biking includes a bit of overgrown bridle and byways in the UK. It’s also worth noting that no other shoes have had an issue on the 50km loop over the same time period.
The Dust MTB shoes are not cheap at £260 so they do need to be pretty light, stiff and comfortable to live up to that price and I’m pleased to report that they sit at the lighter end of the market weighing in at 682g for a pair of 44.5. That makes them lighter than the Fizik Vento Ferrox’s at 696g I recently reviewed and Quocs GT 2’s at 782g, but heavier than Shimano RX6’s 646g. You certainly don’t notice them at the end of a long ride.
As for stiffness, they are most definitely stiff enough for me regardless of their lack of carbon soles, providing ample power transfer from their nylon sole when I stamp in pedals, and yet remain comfortable to walk and stand around in at a cafe stop.
On their first outing, I found them uncomfortably stiff and was convinced that it must be the lack of foam padding under the footbed above the pedal cleat causing the issue. Sidi’s stock footbed can only be described as very basic without shape; other higher-performance inserts are available from Sidi at an extra cost which stings.
They are not as stiff as the Ferox Vento shoes when really attaching to the trail but they stay comfortable for hours of gravel riding. The more I’ve used the Sidi Dust MTB shoes, the more comfortable they have become and although they look narrow, they have enough front foot width to deliver a pinch-free ride which is another big plus for me. Either my foot has moulded to the shoe the vice versa but the result is a very comfortable shoe. Quite a transformation from that first ride.
The Dust’s breathe pretty well, although not as well as the fully air-vented upper on Fizik’s Vento Ferox. The payoff on cooler days or wetter days is that you do not get chilly, wet feet quite as quickly. The upper of the Dust is reasonably water resistant aside from the perforations and so helps protect your foot in heavy morning dew, and as a bonus, it is also a very easy shoe to wipe clean.
The heal-cup doesn’t have any specific grippy material on the inside but I didn't suffer any lift when the Dusts were tightened correctly. I did find that actually getting them tight was a multiple-step adjustment. Put on and wind dial, walk around a bit, wind dial again and then finally on bike wind dial once more as you see fit and release tension via buttons. I think this is simply because the dial has to pull the cable from the front of the shoe through all 5 anchor points to the top and it struggles a little. I have found this before with other single-dial shoes; you need a little more adjustment/time to get it right.
Sidi Dust MTB shoes - Verdict
Sidi MTB Dust shoes are a high ticket item and that puts them up against some pretty impressive competitors not least the £300 Fizik Vento Ferox Carbon which I was very impressed with – both for their comfort and stiffness and the Boa and Powerstrap combination. Liam liked the £240 Quoc's Gran Tourer XC shoe for gravel events although it does come in at over 810g for a half size smaller. Stu liked the older Shimano RX8 for gravel racing and comfort which was a lot lighter than the Quoc and the Sidi. The RX8 has now been replaced by the RX801 which we have not tested but claims to be even lighter still. It's worth noting that if you are reading this in 2023 then there are some impressive deals on most of the shoes listed here.
Sidi MTB Dust shoe is a comfortable, stiff, good-looking shoe ideal for medium-length rides either on a gravel or mountain bike. The dial system may not suit long summer grasses but it has no problem on well-used mountain bike trails. The Dust has a decent grippy sole and the outer sheds the worst of the splash and muck from the trail. The insert is super basic and I would prefer some arch support but these can be easily swapped out. A good shoe especially if you only ride mtb trails.