Review: Teva Links Mid
January 3rd, 2013
For a long time, footwear specifically designed for those who prefer to not “clip-in” was pretty much limited to two shoes from one brand, but roll on a few years and the market is brim with quality purpose built kicks to keep your feet from bouncing off your pedals… We’ve tested a variety of ‘sticky rubber’ soled shoes from Five Ten, Vans and Sombrio here at FJ, leaving only one contender from the mix; Teva. With the release of the Links Mid late last year and with its sleek all black design with cyan accents, we were keen to get these on the trail and to see if they worked as well as they looked…
Words: Olly Forster | Photos: Olly Forster & Carl Cording
There’s no getting away from the fact these are some of the best looking ‘bike’ shoes currently available, but there’s far more to these than looks alone – packed with features, the Links Mid is one serious shoe!
Here’s a little video from the designers…
Starting at the back, the heel features what Teva refer to as the ‘ShocPad’, adding a little spring to your step and providing some much needed absorption properties for a shoe designed for riding – especially over a non supported heel. Teva have also included a soft material they’ve aptly called ‘Mush’ into the insole, keeping things nice and comfy while helping to maintain some balance through the shoe as the sole itself is incredibly stiff…
As well as the ShocPad, the heel also contains a stabiliser that helps keep your foot centred in the shoe adding to the Links’ overall support, which I have to say is so good, that it’s perhaps a bit too good. To say these are a tight fit is a bit of an understatement and after a few rides, with the laces so loose they were barely done up, they finally began to break in – I do have wide feet, but not wide to the point where other brands have caused concerns and trust me, I’ve been referred to as Imelda Marcos on a few occasions, so I know my footwear… At first this was very frustrating and it certainly detracted from the ride and even though the stability is a good thing on paper, there needs to be an acceptable middle ground for comfort and an ability to move your foot within the shoes without it being clamped in there.
Apart from the obvious protection qualities from utilising a ‘mid-top’ design, the extra material used on the Links Mid is also waterproofed and they certainly kept the worst of the wet out and in some of the worst conditions we’ve seen for a long time too, but what really separated these from the market leader, was their ability to not retain moisture allowing them to dry quickly.
The inside of the Links Mid has been designed to be as minimal as possible to help avoid any unwanted interactions with your chain-stays or cranks arms. While this design is to be commended, the stiffness of the shoe made it initially quite hard to position your feet between climbs, setting up for descents and leaning for corners and I’d quite oftenly find myself physically looking at my foot position as it was sometimes hard to tell anything other than something wasn’t right…
For the majority of riders looking for new riding shoes, the level of grip in the sole seems to be the leading factor and although I agree with this, it’s not always advantagious to go for the shoes with the most grip. There are two factors to consider and the first one being your pedals as no two are the same and since they are already bolted to your bike…. If you run pedals like the Moove Torque’s, with a shorter broader pin, shoes with a softer, stickier sole like that used by Five Ten, will provide enough grip without compromising the ability to move your feet while on the go – remember, riding with flat pedals is all about freedom of movement.
More tech? You bet! The sole is made up of two main sections: the cyan blue parts are designed to engage with the pins on your pedals and the black parts by the toe and heel areas, are intended to add traction for hiking and scoping lines on the hillside. Teva’s rubber of choice is called Spider 365 and while not as sticky as Stealth Rubber or that used in the Vans Gravel, it is certainly no slouch, although I found they worked best with a more aggressive pedal like the Burgtec Penthouse with it’s broader platform and longer pins. At the end of the day, you have to find a shoe and pedal combo that best suits you and the way you like to ride.
Gnarlier, grippier pedals like the already mentioned Burgtec’s, when combined with softer shoes will provide a level of grip only really necessary on the roughest, steepest race tracks out there and not your local hill. Back to the Teva’s, which although don’t have the grippiest sole of the ‘sticky rubber’ specialists, do have a pretty awesome platform when mated to the right pedals and allow riders to re-adjust their position without too much drama or getting bounced off on the rough stuff.
Spare bright cyan-blue laces included! The laces are actually awesome, awesome for laces anyway… Made from a tough stretchy material they really are a testament to the amount of work and effort the designers have put into these shoes – the devil’s in the detail hey! Towards the front of the shoe, Teva have designed the Links to have a toe bumper and have also included a rubberised grid over the toes to allow the foot to breath without compromising the shoes robustness. This helps to prevent any puncturing or ripping of the show body in a traditionally weak area and upon inspection has certainly been doing a commendable job.
Some things just happen to be down right bloody subjective and flat pedal specific shoes certainly fall into that category. Personally, I don’t like to be glued to my pedals, but I do like to know where my feet are and when I might find myself struggling for grip on the rough stuff. While the level of grip on the Teva’s is pretty good on the bigger, more aggressive pedals, it was pretty poor on just about every other pedal we have in for testing right now, but then how much grip do you want? These are excellent shoes, but I’d also say they’ll suit some more than others…
I can’t help but think all the development Teva have done with “freeriders” has resulted in a sole and indeed a shoe, that I can really see being spot on for lighter, trick based riding and not for hours shredding wild singletrack or pounding down breaking bump riddled DH tracks. Why? It’s stiffer and less maleable over the pedal than other shoes on the market, and being less sticky as well, allows for a greater sense of movement that might not suit everyone. Like I said, this is subjective and what works for you, might not work for me.
With a price tag of £90, they aren’t cheap, but for the money you are certainly getting a pair of shoes with more tech, looks and with an overall build quality I’m more than confident, will see them through the seasons. The Links Mid’s are without a doubt a well put together shoe and could certainly put a few other flat pedal specific shoes to shame. Another thing that’s worth mentioning and something I’ve already brushed on, is the fit. If your feet are of the wider variety, you might want to try before you buy and I would’ve liked to have maybe gone up half a size just to see if there was any benefit as these took way too long to break in.
The Teva Links are probably the best ‘all weather’ flat pedal show on the market, certainly one of the toughest and easily one of the best looking. The only real criticism would be that there a tad tight and I’d recommend looking at what pedals you use and how you ride – light or heavy, loose or precise.
Overall the Teva Links Mid represent a great shoe designed to survive the rigours of life in the woods while looking good in the process. If I had to pigeon hole who these would ideally suit, I’d say someone who doesn’t have wide feet, is light on their bike with a thing for pretty, well made products. Not for everyone, but for the right person these could well be the best shoes you ever buy.
For more on the Links Mid and everything Teva, tap the logo. Happy trails, Olly.