The casual performance sector of the shoe market is a huge but tricky one. Straddling the two camps of trainer-like flat pedal shoes and mountain bike style two-bolt clipless pedal shoes, the Bontrager SSR Women's Multisport Bike Shoes do an unusually good job, offering grip and reasonable levels of stiffness, and they are easy to walk in.
Available in both men's and women's versions (it's unclear if this is just a change of colour or more), these come in a commute-friendly black and grey option (men's – sizes EU39-48) and a brighter navy blue and turquoise option (women's – size EU36-43) so there's a fairly generous area of crossover for a bit of colour choice. The size EU39 I tried were fairly standard for a 'normal shoe' 39.
Styled like a casual trainer, with a lace-up fastening, these aren't a bad-looking shoe, although they do look a bit on the blocky side. The contrast coloured aggressively lugged rubber outsole has a recessed cleat plate for optional two-bolt cleat attachment. You can buy a pair of aftermarket filler plates (designed to suit this shoe) to fill in this recess for extra flat pedal functionality for £6.99.
The fit of the SSR Multisport is intended to be more roomy than standard, and there's certainly plenty of space for slightly thicker socks than is usually the case in a cycling shoe. If you have wider than average feet you'll enjoy the extra space, but if you don't, they aren't voluminous – my fairly standard width feet weren't wallowing. I enjoyed having toe-wiggling room, and the upper extra holes in the lacing system are a handy way of really anchoring the foot down into the shoe for both riding and walking.
On the bike, the outsole is stiff enough to allow for easy and competent pedalling; these would make a great introduction to the benefits of dedicated cycling shoes for those just starting down that route.
What surprised me was how genuinely grippy the rubber outsoles are. It's often a compromise with a more casual cleat-compatible shoe, meaning that without the cleats fitted, a shoe can easily slide off flat pedals. Not so with the SSR Multisports, which coped admirably with commutes, and even with a bit of impromptu off-road riding.
While they aren't quite as sticky as the likes of a dedicated flat pedal shoe like the Five Ten Freerider, they are a lot grippier on flat pedals than most cleat-compatible shoes I've tried.
With the cleats fitted, they do their job just fine, allowing for a comfortable but effective ride. These are not designed for performance riding, but they are more than up to the job in terms of stiffness for commuting, leisure riding, touring, mountain biking or gravel riding.
The upper is a tough fabric mesh with PU panels in high wear areas. They aren't fully waterproof but they kept my feet warm and pretty dry in some showers. For prolonged rain you might want to consider waterproof socks – or just put up with it and take a change of socks.
Off the bike, I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable these were to walk in. Many casual cycling shoes are marketed as good for walking, but in my experience few deliver much more than a hard-soled shoe that slaps down on the ground and ricochets through the knees with every step. These genuinely feel like you can achieve a normal walking gait, and give decent grip on pretty much all surfaces other than slippery metal gratings (but what DOES cope with those?). They even coped well when poor route selection on one ride led to walking a particularly muddy off-road section.
The £94.99 price tag puts them in the ballpark of other casual and beginner-orientated shoes, if a little more than some. They deliver similar features and performance – with more warmth – to the slightly cheaper Giro Gauge MTB Cycling shoes at £79.99 and seem tougher and with more casual styling than the FLR Rexston Active Touring/Trail Shoe at £69.99.
If you're looking for a more performance-focused shoe but along similar lines, the Bontrager GR2 Gravel Bike Shoes are a pricier option at £129.99, but the stiffer sole means they're more riding than walking focused.
For me, the SSR Multisports deliver a good balance of on- and off-bike functionality, and as long as the trainer style looks suit, they're a sound buy.
They're competent, casual-styled shoes with a stiff enough sole to enhance cycling but remain comfortable for decent spells off the bike too. A great option for those who like to do a bit of everything with their bike.
Casual multisport shoes that live up to the hype better than most for walking and riding comfort
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager SSR Women's Multisport Bike Shoes
Size tested: 39
Tell us what the product is for
Bontrager says: 'A versatile, SPD-compatible women's riding shoe built for comfort while pedalling, walking and adventuring.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
100% rubber outsole
60.9% polyester/37.1% PU/2% TPU uppers
2 bolt cleat compatible
Available in sizes 36-43
Solidly put together and well made with good finish and componentry.
Much better both on and off the bike than I expected. Comfortable to walk in but effective on the bike too.
Early days, but I can't see these going anywhere in a hurry...
Designed to have a roomier than average fit, these are nonetheless not too voluminous and the fit can be fine-tuned with the lacing system.
Full sizes only mean that any finer tuning needs to be done with lacing and sock selection.
Pretty beefy shoes but don't feel heavy on.
Very comfortable both on and off the bike.
On a par with others in this sector of the market.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy to look after. Most grot simply brushes off but a damp cloth sorts the worst.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performed very well as an all-purpose multi-activity adventure shoe. They handle commutes, recreational, gravel and off-road rides with aplomb.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfort on and off bike, easy to walk in, grippy on the pedals.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The colour and style won't appeal to everyone, but there's nothing really wrong with the shoe.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They're more expensive than the Giro Gauge MTB Cycling shoes at £79.99 and the FLR Rexston Active Touring/Trail Shoe at £69.99, but cheaper than the more performance-focused Bontrager GR2 Gravel Bike Shoes at £129.99.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, very much.
Would you consider buying the product? Probably. Especially for something like a touring holiday.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes. Particularly one looking for a first pair of casual cycling shoes.
Use this box to explain your overall score
They're very good; they deliver a good mix of on-bike ride efficiency and grip with decent walking comfort when off the bike too.
About the tester
I usually ride: Liv Invite My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.