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Tested: Five Ten Freerider EPS

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Shoulder season is fleeting, so let's make this quick. These are insulated Five Ten Freeriders. They keep your feet warm and dry in conditions that would normally make them cold and wet. There you have it. That's all you need to know. But if you're the type who wants to know more than you need to about shoes, then keep reading. I'll tell you all about them.

It's easy to imagine what the Freerider EPS feels like if you've ever worn a Freerider. Everything underfoot is the same. Thin, grippy, good. Above the foot is where the Adidas-made shoe earns its stripes. The upper still feels Freerider-esque, just a little bulkier because it's packed with PrimaLoft insulation from the instep forward. That includes the tongue, which is fleece-pajama plush.

Five Ten Freerider EPS

A lace loop is on my wishlist for the next iteration of the Freerider EPS.

The insulation might be what you notice when you first pull on the EPS, but its waterproofing is what you'll notice on the trail. Five Ten made it more difficult for water to find its way to your toes by removing almost all of the exposed seams. Then, they treated the leather upper with DWR so that liquid won't soak through. None of that matters if there are openings around the tongue, though, which is why it’s gusseted to the uppers.

Five Ten Freerider EPS

The high-top version of the EPS would be a wise choice if you're primarily looking for waterproofing. The low-tops are lighter, but one step in an ankle-deep puddle and you'll be wearing cinderblocks of soaked insulation.

My poor circulation makes me a good bellwether for cold-weather gear: If it keeps me warm, it'll probably do the same for you. The Freerider EPS did just that, so long as they started out warm. It seems that they're so well-sealed that if I put them on cold, my toes would quickly become cold, too. After that, not even the hot air from the floor vents in my car could penetrate what felt like icy graves strapped to my feet.

Five Ten Freerider EPS

Like a poured foundation, fewer seams means fewer places for water to get in.

Five Ten says that the footboard (which I thought was a bed-frame component) is insulated and heat-reflective. Honestly, though, the bottoms of the shoes feel just as thin and uninsulated as the Bontrager Flatlines I just tested. That's not a problem if you're running composite pedals (which I would recommend in the winter), but you're gonna feel the chill if you're on metal flats or standing around on snow.

Five Ten Freerider EPS

There’s not much between you and the outsole. That’s both a pro and a con.

The upside of the EPS's thin underside is that there's no bulk to interfere with pedal sensations. Your connection to the bike feels as direct as it normally does with a pair of Freeriders, which is to say, very direct. It also feels just as grippy as Stealth S1 outsoles normally do, because it is a Stealth S1 outsole. Turns out, cold and wet don't cause any backsliding from Five Ten's illustrious compound.

Five Ten Freerider EPS

Five Ten’s basic stitched outsoles also seem to be their most durable.

I haven't spent enough time in the Freerider EPS to write confidently about durability, but I have reason to believe that these will hold up. That's because, first, there aren't many seams to blow out. Second, the Freerider's outsoles tend to last a while. Longer, even, than Five Ten's more expensive shoes, since delamination isn't a concern thanks to the fully stitched construction.

So, if the mud is deep, if the snow is piled high, if the air is frigid, then these Five Ten Freerider EPS shoes will help you ride comfortably. And that's what winter and shoulder-season gear is all about.