Well heck this is a first! A reader question....
Hey dude, I've been riding clips since I was a kid, but I experimented with flats this summer some and rode some DH in flats too and definitely enjoy it. So, after getting Lee's book and reading his site (ps, thanks for turning me onto that, it's excellent), I think I'm going to invest in some better flats equipment. So far I've been riding plastic BMX flats w/ Vans. It's been fine for getting an idea and DJing, but I think a better grip would be nice for when it gets bumpy on the trail. I don't want to jump all in right away since that would be pretty expensive, so my question is if I'm only going to invest in nice flats or 510s/Tevas, which do you think makes a bigger impact?
So the basic question is good shoes or good pedals if you can only choose one?
Well I would say both if you can and both if you can't... wait what? Yeah that's right get both if you can afford it but if you can't both would do well.
Allen for you, keeping the plastics and getting 5.10's probably wouldn't be the best but if you have some lower end metal pedals like this Wellgo and a few others make some good pedals for a low price. I would recommend replicable pins and sealed bearings but if you are trying to go super cheep just get some magnesium one piece pedals, they will work for a few months to maybe a whole season depending on how much you ride and how many pedal hits you have.
I figured I better go into what else I would look at if you do decide to go for high end pedals. The first thing high end pedals will all have replace able pins and sealed bearings but look fro pins that screw in from the top, they are easier to remove with damaged. Next look for a large, wide plat form for you foot to sit on. This will negate the need for a stiff shoe like the roadies want for power transfer. They need them since they are focusing a lot of power onto a little area and the foot would wrap around the pedal but with a large platform your foot wont wrap and all the power can be transferred through your ankle like it should be. The next nice feature and one you will see emphasized a lot is pedal thickness, pedals like straightline, twenty6 and spank will be thinner this will help with pedal roll. It does happen but a larger thinner pedal will help a lot with that and a concave pedal will also help a lot. Most pedals these days are concave but some cheaper ones are not. Finally the last thing comes down to if you are a weight weeny or not. Cromoly or Titanium spindle? That's up to you but the price will jump $50-100 depending on the pedal if you go Ti. Pin set up will also help a lot with grip. I recommend 4-6 long pins per side put on the out side corners appose to the stander 10 medium pins that you see on the majority of pedals. This was suggest to me by some guy on a forum and I didn't try it till I bashed some pins up and didn't have the right amount to fill them all back in but it really works and you get less of a bit when you do slip a pedal!
Ok that said, if you have a decent metal pedal and are thinking of either up grading your pedal or getting a new shoe and that $100-120 is your magic number (the price of 5.10's) I would go with 5.10's those muthas stick to damn near anything. You could have the worlds best pedal but if you have some old worn out skate shoe, you will slip a pedal more often then if you have a decent pedal with 5.10's. This is a killer deal on price point and this is what I'm riding right now!
I would say go support your LBS but I've never been to a LBS anywhere but in CO that carries 5.10's and heck most of the LBS around here don't even carry flats but you can go talk to yours. They might be able to hook you up with a special order but I doubt you'll get that price and if money is tight, we all understand!
Hope this helps!
Keep it real!