Just to clear up any confusion: there are two models in the Kestrel range. The pedalling focussed Kestrel (read our review here) with the carbon shanked, BOA closure system that was released in 2015 while the Kestrel Lace (the subject of this review) featuring a traditional lacing system hit stores early this year.
On my feet, the Kestrel Lace is supremely comfortable. The classic laces apply pressure gently and evenly over the forefoot, an improvement on the finicky single BOA system used on the original Kestrel. For the best fit, it is ideal to retie the laces each time. But, if like me, you’re a bit lazy, simply undoing the velcro strap and sliding the foot in can save you having to fiddle with the laces at all.
My biggest gripe with the Kestrel was the unforgiving carbon shank, which mutilated my feet after a few minutes of walking up a climb. The nylon shank in the Kestrel Lace however, has just enough compliance to prevent the heel cup from rubbing the flesh off. As a result, the Kestrel Lace is a pleasure to wear off the bike.
On the bike, the Kestrel Lace is a fit and forget affair. There were no niggles or hotspots, even after six hours of riding and hike-a-biking rugged Lesotho trails. On long descents, the shoe helps to absorb the impacts, and does well preventing cramping or fatigue.
Five Ten use perforated panels and a mesh tongue to make the Kestrel Lace breathable. The shoes are decent at keeping feet cool, not being the best nor the worst on the market. They are designed for the European and North American markets so super hot days in South Africa can get a bit warmer than skinny cross-country race shoes but still more pleasant than my pair of Five Ten Freeride.
Full submersion in water does flood the shoe. This results in a dam in the toe box, but it only takes a few minutes for the sloshing feeling, while the water escapes, to pass. On a handful of rides, I did experience sand making it’s way into the shoe through the ankle area which caused a bit of rub through the sock.
I know there are race snakes out there that will not ride anything but a carbon sole but I found the nylon shank to provide a good pedalling platform. There was not a single occasion that I longed for the stiffer carbon shank of the racier Kestrel.
Five Ten’s bulkier shoes are renowned for the protection they provide against collisions with the trail and loose objects. The Kestrel Lace’s manage to carry this over to the streamlined format. The toe box is sturdy and able to deflect and absorb even the hardest strikes. The heel and ankle area is also padded with the most vulnerable area being the midfoot region. That being said, I did not experience any significant impacts to that area.
The grip off the bike from the Stealth C4 rubber outsole is excellent over both loose and hardpack surfaces, especially useful on steep portage sections. Like the Kestrel, the Kestrel Lace remains easy to attach and remove from a pedal.
The Kestrel Lace claim to weight 463 grams per shoe in a size 9. My size 11 pair (including dust, gunk from multiple river crossing, and loads of sweat) tipped the scale at 570 grams for each shoe. Not exactly race whippet light but considering the burly nature and function of the shoe, you can't expect it to be feather-light.
Many of the early Kestrel shoes were plagued with a delaminating sole defect. On the Kestrel and Kestrel Lace shoes I have tested, Five Ten appear to have put this problem to bed.
I’ve dealt out some harsh punishment to the Kestrel Lace shoes over the past 4 months with no sign of unwarranted wear or tear. There are some cosmetic scuffs around the cleat box on the sole as well as the softer red layer around the heel but these are expected. Considering the amount of scrambling and hike-a-bike I've done in these shoes, I am thoroughly impressed. The Kestel Lace are solid.
With the lacing and velcro strap, the Kestrel Lace is easily recognisable as a Five Ten product. While the Kestrel looks good when fully clad in racing lycra, the more traditional look of the Kestrel Lace feels a bit clown-like in skin tight clothing. Throw on some baggies, and even a loose fitting shirt, and the Kestrel Lace is a perfect fit amongst even the most fashion conscious enduro bros.
The Kestrel Lace retail in South Africa for around R2,900. It is fair to argue that it's a lot of cash for a shoe that lacks the flashy features we've come to expect in this price bracket. The lack of these features however, is exactly why the Kestrel is such a good shoe. The price will put the Kestrel Lace out of the reach of many rider's budgets but, if you can afford it, I feel that the price is justified by how well the shoes work, and they work damn well.
In the end
The Kestrel Lace is a true all mountain shoe in that it gives you access to the whole mountain, and it does it comfortably. Be it a week long stage race or a day scrabbling to the top of a remote peak, the Kestrel Lace will not let you down in terms of performance or practicality.