What’s the most important part of your cycling equipment?
You might think it’s your bike.
While that is a good answer, that’s not the one I was looking for.
After your bike, the most important piece of cycling equipment is bike shoes.Your hands, pelvic bones, and feet are the three contact points between your bike and yourself. Of the three mentioned, your feet are the most pivotal.
Your feet transfer all your power from your legs to the pedals so the bike can move.
Therefore, choosing the right shoe for your cycling needs and foot type is important!
Best Road Cycling Shoes in 2020
Best Value for Money
|Fizik R5 Overcurve|
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|Fizik R1 Infinito|
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For this piece, I’ll provide a review of cycling shoes and then buyer’s guide to buying shoes. I’ll break down the product review into different sections: “For Beginners”, “Value for Money”, and “Best Performance”.
Best Road Cycling Shoes for Beginners
1. Fizik R5 Tempo Overcurve
The Fizik R5 Overcurve are positioned as all-rounder road cycling shoes with the ‘Overcurve’ explaining asymmetrical upper and construction that ergonomically adapts the foot. The throat of the shoe is created with more cushioning around the ankle (in addition to silicon gripper dots), and it’s designed that way in order to fit nicely around your ankle bones. It provides you a super-comfortable fit without slippage or too much motion.
The shoe is closed by a Boa closure and a velcro strap at the forefront, the style of the tongue and Boa lacing on the Overcurve R5’s is asymmetrical. Rather than a more standard style where the laces draw the outside and inside sides with each other, on the Tempo’s it is countered.
Microtex, with the look of leather, is the material used for the upper and the perforated dot pattern looks spectacular and also helps breathability. The accuracy placement of the dots, neat sewing and debossed Fizik logo design give the Overcurve R5’s the feel of a handcrafted shoe. A drawback of Microtex nevertheless is that it scuffs and wrinkles much more easily than other artificial materials.
Instead of having a carbon fiber sole, they’ve got a nylon sole which means it’s a little bit heavier perhaps, and also ever so slightly more flexible, which to be fair on the flip side some people feel it gives a shoe more comfortable.
I did the twist-test to see whether I could bend or misshape the sole and found extremely little flex which is a good indicator. Occasionally a rigid sole can affect comfort for the cyclist nonetheless I use a custom insole so can get comfort and efficiency.
It is additionally worth keeping in mind that the top model Infinito R1 with the complete carbon sole has great deals of air vents and features an exchangeable skid plate on the heel. Inside the Fizik R5’s I found that my feet do get warm although this likewise affected by the relatively thick custom insoles which I utilize. If you need even more breathability, think about the Fizik Tempo R4 Overcurve which has air vents in the sole and a mesh-like Polyurethane (PU) material for the upper rather than the Microtex.
Fit and Comfort
My experience with Fizik cycling shoes is that the brand has often tended to comply with a narrow Italian design. Narrow shoes look fantastic but for bikers with broader feet, like myself, it can be more challenging to get a comfortable fit. The microtex upper for the Tempo is neither also rigid neither too soft and I had a snug and comfy fit. My feeling is that the shoes have actually become somewhat broader as there was no pinching or pressure on the sides of my feet.
The Fizik Overcurve R5’s use the 3-bolt cleat system only. As opposed to the Fizik Infinito R1’s in which the 3-bolt screw provide a little bit of forward/ back movement to obtain the right setting, on the Fizik R5’s the screw openings are taken care of so you are limited to the variety of adjustment from your cleats. As a suggestion, there are cleat adapters that can offer you much more liberty and variation for cleat positioning if you need it.
The Fizik Overcurve R5 road cycling shoes integrate design and functionality. The design is fine-tuned and the convenient boa dial allows you conveniently micro-adjust on the ride. For all-round riders, convenience is secured on short distances and kept for long courses.
Breathability might be a problem for some bikers and the Microtex upper material is not as immune to scratches and scuffs as other synthetic materials.
For competitive cyclists, I have no type of worries regarding the integrity though pro riders might tend in the direction of a shoe with stiffer upper and a lighter full-carbon sole.
2. Giro Savix
The shoe is designed with a Boa Dial with a single dial and one “set and forget” strap to make getting in and out of the shoe easy. Of course, the dial comes with a macro-release function to help you get out of the shoe fast.
The outsole is made with injected nylon with a universal cleat mount that supports 2 or 3 holes. This means that if you want to change cleats to mountain bike, you can easily do so. And, then switch back when you do more road cycling.
Be warned that these shoes are really snug, so if you regularly bike with socks, you might want to get either a half or full size up.
Cyclists who have bought these shoes say that the shoes are lightweight like a high-performance shoe but have the comforts of a beginner one. The mesh provides good breathability during the summer months.
I recommend this shoe to a beginner because you’ll definitely get your money’s worth and the shoes are versatile. If you switch between mountain and road cycling, this might be a good shoe for you. You won’t need to buy two types of shoes, just switch the cleats.
Just be aware, that if you use the shoes a lot, they won’t last as long, but you’ll get a couple of light to medium riding seasons out of them.
3. Mavic Cosmic Elite
The shoes have a BOA Dial closure system, normally found on high-performance shoes, to help you obtain a strong tightening with a quick release. And, the shoe is designed with two aramid straps for even more easy and precise adjustments.
What makes this a beginner shoe are the different comfort designs so you can enjoy biking with clip in pedals.
For example, the Mavic design team created an Endofit tongue which helps hug the foot to the sole of the shoe in the right spots. This helps optimize power transfer and comfort on the foot.
The design team also created an Ergo Fit 3D with dual-density Ortholite Foam. This feature provides excellent foot and arch support. It might help you as you adjust to going on long rides.
The shoes are comfortable and lightweight on your feet and come in bright colors so you can be seen on the road.
I’d recommend these to any beginner cyclist who wants to begin riding longer distances. You can be assured that your feet will stay comfortable the entire ride. The price is reasonable since you’re also getting a couple of features of higher-end shoes such as BOA Dials and a carbon and plastic mix on the sole.
4. Scott Road Comp Boa
The Scott Road Comp Boa Shoe has a mid-grade stiffness rating of 6, BOA closure system to make it seem like a high-performance shoe. Along with ErgoLogic insole and Anatomic fit straps to make the shoe more beginner-friendly.
The design team created ErgoLogic Insole to ergonomically pre-shape the shoe to perfectly fit any cyclist’s foot shape and size. You’ll easily adjust to bike shoes since your feet will have a solid foundation.
The Wrap Fit, another design intended for comfort, incorporates a layer of synthetic leather that fits like a second skin. This design offers a supportive structure that is comfortable on your feet and won’t bother your pressure points.
The Anatomic Centering Strap aligns with the instep and arch of your foot so you get the most support from it. The strap has a low-profile adjustment for a high to low volume feet.
Last feature worth mentioning is Scott’s Sport Fit. This design is supposed to feel relaxed on your foot and is able to support a wide volume.
I’d recommend these shoes to beginner road cyclists, who are just starting out and haven’t considered racing just yet. It will get your feet wet into the sport without sacrificing comfort. These shoes are sturdy and durable so you can use them for the first couple of years you’re on the road.
5. Pearl iZumi V5
The sole of the shoe is mainly made of nylon with a carbon insole to help you transfer as much power from your legs to your pedals.
The shoe also has these other features:
- Advanced 3-Layer Seamless Composite Upper Sole to give you breathability and support where your foot needs it the most. This upper sole also adapts to your specific foot shape to give you the most comfort
- Zero Distraction Upper Fit alleviates foot discomfort by avoiding the soft tissue found along the top of your foot
- Bi-Directional Closure encloses the foot that customizes the fit and secures foot retention
- Composite Power Plate is a carbon fiber forefoot insert that gives your foot lightness and stiffness (rating 8 of 12)
- EVA Foam lets you comfortably walk around in the shoe without damaging the cleat
- 3 Bolt road cleat and SPD compatible
You can use these shoes for spinning class, road cycling, commuting, and even mountain biking, they really are great for the price you pay.
Many people who have bought it love that the toe box is wide and can accommodate wide feet or socks while biking. They are comfortable when riding and can be used with different types of pedals.
I’d recommend these shoes if you need a “forever” shoe that you can use for road cycling, racing and commuting. You won’t need two pairs if you just buy this one. You can feel comfortable no matter what cycling you decide to do on any given day.
6. Louis Garneau Carbo LS-100 3
The biggest addition to this shoe is the X-Comfort Zone technology, which allows your foot to swell up during your ride without experiencing hot spots or discomfort. This also eliminates the problem of developing bunions over time since the shoe allows your foot to swell up to 5mm. This technology also gives your feet great arch support.
If you have big feet, this could also work for you.
The outsole has LG’s patented Carbon Composite so you can get the most power transfer and output each time you push and pull on the pedals.
The shoes also have LG’s patented CoolMax insole to help cool your feet down during the summer and the Power Zone gives the most power efficiency for these types of shoes.
Lastly, the shoes have a BOA closure system that is easy to adjust and has a quick release for a fast transition off the bike.
A lot of people who have bought these shoes like them because they are comfortable and durable. You can use these for both recreational cycling and racing if you wish. They are versatile and can fit whatever pedal you already have.
I’d recommend these shoes if you’re starting out with cyclinig and want a beginner friendly shoe with some of the technologies of a high-performance one. You’ll be able to become accustomed to biking and how your feet react to the shoes since they can accommodate a lot of swelling.
7. Shimano RC7
The shoe’s sole was made with carbon fiber so you can have the most rigid and lightweight shoe. It also gives you more power transfer between your legs and pedals.
The outside of the shoe is made from supple perforated synthetic leather with a venting system in the upper 1/3 of the shoe for the best for a beginner triathlete.
The shoe is designed so that you have the best air flow between the upper, insole, and outsole of the shoe. That way your feet can stay cool during the warm summer months.
Shimano’s PowerZone wire guide, along with the front strap, hold your foot secure in place so you won’t have to worry about getting blisters while biking
Lastly, Shimano has a wide cleat adjustment, which means it can mount almost any type of cleat. This also saves you money on buying a new set of pedals for yourself.
I recommend this shoe if you’re about to start your first “serious” cycling season, but don’t want to get a high-performance shoe just yet. This has a high stiffness rating so there might be an adjustment period if you’re used to plastic soles. This will suffice and may even last you for more than a season. You’re getting nearly everything a high-performance shoe has in terms of technologies, but with a lower cost.
Best Value for Money Road Cycling Shoes
1. Fizik R4B UOMO
You can’t beat that combination especially from a well-respected company such as Fizik.
The shoe has a BOA Dial closure system which is the most efficient and most used by the top elite triathletes and even comes with two micro-adjustable straps.
The shoe’s outsole is made from carbon fiber, which gives you the most stiffness for a strong power transfer and helps keep you aerodynamic.
The insole is made from Fizik’s cycling insole that has sculpted foot beds that supports your feet from heel to toe. If you get sore feet from long-distance cycling, these shoes might help with that.
The upper shoe is made from microfiber that is durable, yet light and flexible so that your feet will be comfortable until the last mile you use these shoes.
The shoes have diamond-shaped laser-cut perforations that help ventilate the shoe and keep your feet cool during the hot summer rides and races.
I’d recommend these shoes to anyone who is serious about cycling and looking for a “forever shoe”. If you’ve been through a few seasons, you already know what you need and this shoe might be your best option. It comes true to its size and is very stiff so you can get the most each time you pedal.
Be warned, these are very stiff shoes, possibly the stiffest you’ve ever had, so you might have a break-in period with these guys. Many people have reported soreness in the toe box for the first few rides.
2. Lake CX237
Unlike other shoes, this one has two BOA dials that act independently from each other. If you’ve ever had problems with your dials locking in your heel, but constricting your forefoot, then this might be the best solution.
You can adjust the heel so it feels secure and allow the shoe’s toe box to breath but support you as you pedal away.
The shoe’s upper is made of leather, which means your shoes will only get better with time. The full-grain leather molds to your unique foot shape so you’ll be sure that every ride will be comfortable no matter the distance.
The sole of the shoe is made of Lake Race Carbon, patented by the company, which is supposed to funnel all your leg and foot power to the ball of your foot. But, there is still a little bit of wiggle room so your feet can comfortably swell up.
Be warned that since these shoes have leather, they do feel heavier than if you were wearing an all-carbon shoe. Just ask yourself how much you need comfort on your rides over a fully stiff shoe.
The shoe always doesn’t have much padding, which might make your feet cold during the winter months if you don’t have booties.
Overall, I’d recommend this shoe to those who want a comfortable shoe that will last a long time. Just be sure that you wear the shoe many times before you go on a bike tour! You want your shoes to fit your feet well and have broken them in a bit.
If you often have problems with BOA Dials because it strangles your forefoot, this shoe could help that. You can tighten the shoe on the heel and forefoot separately so you have the best comfort on your rides.
If your feet get cold during winter rides, be sure you have booties or shoe covers you can use! These will help keep your feet warm since the shoe has full-grain leather components.
3. Giro Empire ACC
The design team made sure that the shoe the comfort and adjustability matched the shoe’s breathability and flexibility.
To ensure that your foot stays comfortable in the shoe, the design team used a supernatural fit kit with adjustable arch support. If you’re a truly dedicated road cyclist, who rides at least 50 miles, then you might not have to worry about getting sore feet the next day.
Giro worked with Easton to create carbon fiber outsole so it offers the most direct and strong connection between your legs, feet, and pedals. And, to do this without compromising your feet’s comfort. The design team made sure that there’s stiffness in the toe, arch, and heel of your foot without being too heavy.
The shoe’s upper is made from Evofiber that keeps your feet dry in the rain and cool in the summer’s heat. Since this material is low-maintenance and doesn’t have extra seams, it is more durable, comfortable, and lighter than other shoes in the market.
Over time, the shoe’s sole will mold to your unique foot shape, which makes will help make this shoe last for years to come.
Although the laces might be a turn off for some, be assured that they are still precise and don’t come loose during the ride. If you’re worried about the laces getting tangled in the crank, no worries, there’s a small loop on the tongue. There, you can tuck the laces into.
I recommend these shoes to any road cyclist who put hundreds of miles on their bike every weekend. They are comfortable to wear and keep your feet cool and comfortable. The fit is tight like a racing shoe, but comfortable for the avid road cyclist and his or her friends.
4. Mavic Pro Cycling Shoes
To start, the shoes have the Dual Mavic Ergo Dial QR closure system. This helps give you a quick tightening and release when you need it. The dual dials work independently so you can “lock” your heel into the shoe without squeezing your forefoot.
The outsole is made from Mavic’s Energy Carbon Outsole, which is light, thin, and stiff carbon. This helps give you the most power transfer from your legs to your pedals.
The tongue’s design is called Endo Tongue, which is an internal sleeve that is meant to hug your foot in all the right places to give you the most support and comfort on your rides. Even if you bike without socks.
The shoes have an Ortholite insole that is high-quality and was created to ensure that comfort and performance never compromised. Especially, if you use these shoes for seasons to come.
Many people who have bought these shoes says that while the outside is stiff, the inside is comfortable even if taken on a long ride. The tongue isn’t harsh on the top of the foot and the dual dials really make a difference.
The only drawback is that the shoes run narrow so you might have trouble fitting in them if you have wide feet.
I’d recommend these shoes if you’re looking for a very stiff shoe with a comfortable inside to keep your feet comfortable even on the one-hundredth mile. The Boa Dial closure system has two dials to help you get an even more precise fit. This is great if you tend to compromise your forefront’s comfort when you secure your heel into the shoe.
5. Pearl iZumi PRO Leader V4
Want to feel like a racing triathlete without the obligation to compete?
These shoes pack nearly all the technologies of a high-quality racing shoe for enthusiastic road cyclist that enjoy taking long rides in the summer and even year-round.
Overall, you’ll find that these shoes are stiff yet comfortable and have a Boa Dial closure system to help give you a secure fit for those long rides.
Unlike other shoes, the Pearl iZumi team placed the Boa Dial reels slightly off center from the tongue so that it avoids putting pressure on sensitive spots on the foot.
The Unibody construction erases traditional lasting board so that you get a low 5mm stack height for the best pedal efficiency.
The insole system lets the shoe adjust to your feet even if your right and left foot are different from each other.
Pearl iZumi’s patented Advanced 3-Layer Seamless Composite Upper gives your foot unbeatable breathability and reduces hot spots during the summer since the material adapts to your foot shape.
Finally, these shoes are colorful from top to bottom. The electroplating adds a dash of color to the bottom of this high-performance shoe. It makes the shoes seem more special and you can definitely pick them out in a pile!
Overall, I’d recommend these shoes as a top pick for this category. You get a shoe that is very light, stiff, and comfortable with some features of a racing shoe. And, the added splash of color on the bottom of the shoe doesn’t hurt either!
6. Northwave Extreme GT
Northwave is designed to be stiff and light on your feet as you climb your way through the cycling season this year. And, the shoes come with a dash of European style that will complete your kit and might even put a smile on your face.
The shoe’s upper is made from Northwave’s patented Xframe technique combined with ultralight materials to make a snug and even fit on your foot. This also helps your foot avoid hot spots and sore pressure points.
The Boa Dial closure system gives you the most precise adjustment on your feet and with a quick-release, you can get out of your shoes whenever you need to.
In the shoe, there is an integrated heel system that mimics a cat’s tongue so that your heel stays in place and you can avoid getting blisters.
Northwave’s Performance Regular foot bed complements the intake so it helps keep your feet cool and dry even on the hottest days on the road. And, the Anatomical Arch support (Northwave technology) adjusts to your unique foot shape and helps make this shoe last for years.
The soles are made of carbon which makes it a 12/15 stiffness on Northwave’s rating.
I recommend these shoes to those who want a road cycling shoe that is light and will look durable to withstand any weather and terrain.
Best Performance Road Cycling Shoes
1. Specialized S-Works 7
To start, the design team created the Powerline carbon sole, which is the company’s lightest and stiffest carbon outsole. You can feel as though all your leg muscles are being used every time you pedal without being weighed down.
For this model, Specialized decided to update its Padlock Heel so that you still get the same outstanding heel hold from older models, but with more comfort with this one.
The patented Dyneema Mesh, used in the shoe’s upper, doesn’t stretch-no matter how much pull force- so your foot will surely stay put in the shoe.
Of course, this shoe comes with other specific Specialized features such as Longitudinal Arch, Varus Wedge, and Metatarsal Button, all of which are ergonomically designed. And, has been tested to help increase power and efficiency while decreasing injuries.
Finally, the shoes come with a Boa Dial closure system so you can get a precise and comfortable fit and a quick release.
I’d recommend this shoe over its previous model especially if you have wider feet. The toe box is wider and the heel cup is softer than its predecessor. This small but monumental change might make a big difference if you’re riding hundreds of miles each time you take your bike out.
Even though the shoes are very stiff, nearly every user has reported no issue with comfort and the break-in period was relatively short.
2. Bont Vaypor S Road Cycling Shoe
The base of this shoe is made from carbon fiber that allows it to bear the strain you’ll put on it and keep your feet comfortable.
If you know that your feet over pronate, then this shoe might make all your feet problems go away. The Medial Longitudinal Arch Support stops your feet from rolling in and thus causing your legs and sometimes back strains.
Continuing to support your feet, Bont designed its toe box so that your toes are in the most efficient and anatomically correct position. This means the toe box is wider so that your toes are spread out and can relax as you pedal.
Bont’s Anatomical Heel Cup provides exceptional support as you pull up while you pedal. If your heel often gets blisters or slides around, this might prevent that from happening.
Bont’s ventilation system includes not just the toe box of the shoe but also the tongue and the front bumper and arch areas. With the hope that your feet will have an even cooling feel as you cycle.
The retention system makes the shoe wrap and pulls the foot rearward whenever you tighten with the Boa Dials. Yet, this retention system doesn’t put any more pressure on your feet.
I highly recommend these shoes to any serious road cyclist out there. The design put all the technologies of a high-performance race shoe into a road shoe. And, if you want to start racing, these shoes can definitely be used there as well!
3. Fizik Infinito R1
The shoe is designed with the Infinito Closure System that uses two Boa Dials with steel-coated nylon laces. The neat laces pattern is actually in the shape of an infinity symbol, which is pretty unique to the shoe model.
The textile guide on top of the shoe reduces pressure point and increases comfort on your rides. This means you can keep going on mile 100 with the same power and intensity as mile one.
To make the shoe breathable, flexible, and have good ventilation, the shoe’s upper is made with Laser Perforated Microtex. This material and the upper’s design complements the mesh foot bed insole for even more ventilation and comfort while you’re riding during the summer months.
To make the shoe stiff and light the outsole is made from Uni Direction Full Carbon which gives you the most power transfer and temperature control, no matter what your riding style is.
I recommend this cycling shoe to any road cyclist who wants a very stiff yet supportive shoe to take with you on any adventure you find on the road.
Since this shoe has two Boa Dials, you can adjust each dial separately. This might help you if you often secure your heel and then constrict the rest of your foot.
4. SIDI Shot Cycling Shoes
SIDI did not design its shoe with the BOA Dials on the side, like other companies, and instead opted to put it on the center of the shoe. This was to make things look and feel more symmetrical.
The symmetrical design actually pulls evenly on both sides of the shoe and hugs your feet with Microfibra Techpro. Instead of pulling the material over the top from your foot insteps, if the boa dial was placed on the side of the shoe.
The closure system makes it look both aesthetically and aerodynamically clean since there are fewer protrusions to catch the air and slow you down while you’re racing down a hill.
Instead of a Velcro strap, SIDI uses its own Tecno-3 Push buckles, which are well-made and have a good reputation for staying in place.
Although these shoes look bulky, they are stiff and light since their sole is made from Vent Carbon. This keeps the shoe light on your feet and gives you the best power transfer yet.
I recommend these shoes to those who need an “equal” support shoe. The symmetrical design doesn’t make your feet feel lopsided and you can feel more comfortable on your longer rides.
5. Louis Garneau Course Air Lite 2
In the Air Lite 2, there is increased arch support and power transfer, ventilated expandable zone so that both wide and narrow feet and fit into the shoes. This helps reduce the numbness effect you might get. The shoe has an under lace woven system that increases aerodynamics.
The upper shoe is made from high-density microfiber so you have the optimal power transfer, comfort, and breathability.
The shoe’s outsole is made from Carbon Lite with titanium inserts. This makes the shoe very light and stiff for power transfer and better ventilation throughout the entire shoe.
The insole comes with Ergo Air Transfo 3D Insole, which includes three adjustable arches, so you can get the best fit.
I recommend this shoe if you’re looking for a sleek shoe that will fit any type of foot. If your feet are on either extreme (very narrow or wide). This shoe might be a good option for you. The ventilation system was designed to accommodate different foot widths. So, you can rely on these shoes no matter what distance you decide to ride on the weekends.
6. Scott Road RC SL
If you look at a row of cycling shoes, these will stand out. Not just for the technologies, it comes with, but it will literally standout because the color is so vibrant and bright. It is light and stiff to go along with its loud color.
The outsole is made from HMX Carbon and Sticki Rubber, which gives the shoe a 10 on the stiffness index rating. The HMX carbon is designed in linear high modulus in a 10-ply lay-up to give you the best stiffness for the optimal power transfer. This stiffness is felt from heel to the cleat area but is still light on your feet.
The outsole design also allows some flexibility from your arch to your heel so you can feel comfortable as your power your way through each ride.
The upper is made from Carbitex fabric and 3D Airmesh. Carbitex is a type of carbon fiber that has the highest tensile strength and of carbon fiber on the market right now. This makes the shoe very light.
I recommend this shoe to anyone who wants a bright color to complete their biking kit! You’ll be seen on the road with these shoes on! And, the shoe’s technology matches its flashy color. You’ll feel supported in your shoes yet be able to breathe and let your feet swell without feeling constricted.
Road Bikes Shoes – Buyer’s Guide
While anyone can ride a bike wearing regular athletic shoes, achieving desired results and improving performance requires bicycling shoes that are compatible with the type of activity being done.
First, a lesson in bike pedals: not only are there specific shoes for certain activities, but there are special pedals as well!
Platform pedals are wide, flat pedals that do not attach to your shoe. These pedals don’t typically require special biking shoes, although a stiffer, rubber outsole may help maintain control. With platform pedals, the rider can only push down on the pedal and cannot pull up. A toe cage can be attached to enhance control.
Clipless pedals are used to attach the shoe and pedal and are typically a 3-hole or 2-hole style. This system involves screwing a cleat directly onto the bottom of the bicycling shoe. Adding this cleat allows the rider to push down and pull up during the pedal stroke, increasing power and maximizing the energy transferred between the shoe and the pedal, making each stroke much more efficient.
Shoes used for road cycling have a rigid sole and less flexibility than most shoes, allowing for maximal energy transfer and a powerful pedal stroke. Due to the stiffness of the sole and lack of flexibility, road biking shoes aren’t suitable for walking more than a short distance. Typically road cyclists use a 3-hole style of clipless pedals with a cleat that protrudes from the sole of the shoe.
Less expensive road cycling shoes are made with plastic, and mid-range shoes are made with a combination of different materials. This makes them heavier and a little more flexible. Velcro straps are generally used to secure the foot, with a ratchet buckle being added in mid-range priced shoes. Higher priced road cycling shoes are typically more durable, have increased ventilation, and are made with lighter materials like carbon fiber. Carbon fiber by design makes the sole of the shoe very stiff, allowing maximum power transfer and in turn, potential performance improvement. Additionally, higher priced versions offer a more intricate fit and more secure fastening systems through the use of buckles and straps.
Fit and Comfort
Fit and comfort are the most important factors when it comes to picking out cycling shoes.
Keep in mind, you might be in these shoes for up to 15 hours, especially if you regularly race Ironman, go on bike tours, or bike long distances recreationally.
Nearly every cycling shoe brand uses standard sizing, but you’ll also see the letter E behind it. For example, 39E.
The “E” is to indicate the width of the shoe.
This is to accommodate the different shapes and widths of feet out there. Don’t get too hung up on this detail; just make sure your shoe fits!
The closure system indicates how you can tighten and loosen the shoe. What closure system you choose may depend on your cycling needs.
For example, if you race in triathlons, you would need an easy closure system to make transitions faster. While someone who cycles for fun, may not care how fast he can put on the shoe.
There are four types of closure systems (BOA dials, ratchet buckles, Velcro straps, and laces) that each has its own pros and cons, but all function well and are reliable.
- BOA Dials were manufactured by BOA and are meant to give you a very precise fit. Each time you turn the dial, the wires are tightened or loosened by 1mm at a time.
Typically, high-performance and the more expensive shoes have the BOA dial system. If you’re serious about cycling or triathlons, these could be a good investment.
Even though these shoes are more expensive, the closure system is easy to replace if they get damaged in a race or on a training ride. Just be sure you get the right BOA dial system since there are a handful of variations.
- Ratchet Buckles used to be the choice for high-performance triathletes and dedicated cyclists before BOA dials came out.
The ratchet buckle system is very reliable and sturdier compared Boa Dials.
But, they are not as precise as Boa Dials. This means it could take you longer to get your shoes ready before your ride. And, would definitely add time when you’re in transition at a race!
A big disadvantage to these shoes is replacing them! If you break the closure system, it’s nearly impossible to replace it and you might have to buy a new pair of shoes altogether.
- Velcro strap closure system has been around for a long time! And, there’s a reason why; they’re lightweight and durable.
Velcro straps are less likely to get damaged in a crash than if you had cycling shoes with a BOA dial or ratchet closure system.
The downside to this type of closure system?
Velcro won’t give you the precision you’d get from a BOA dial or ratchet system.
- Laces. Using laces on cycling shoes is relatively old compared to the other closure systems.
Of all the systems, laces are the lightest and easiest to replace.
However, these are really hard to adjust if you’re crunched for time, like in a race.
If you do a lot of recreational cycling or commute, this system might work well for you.
You’ll have to decide if you want a closure system that puts more emphasis on durability or precision. Evaluate your cycling needs and you’ll figure it out!
All high-performance cycling shoes have a carbon sole, which is the stiffest and most lightweight. And, within the carbon itself, there are different stiffness ratings. The higher the number the stiffer the sole becomes.
Mid-range cycling shoes are also made of carbon but are less stiff compared to high-performance shoes. Mid-range shoes can also have a plastic and carbon mix depending on the shoe brand.
Beginner cycling shoes are always made of plastic so that your foot’s comfort isn’t compromised for stiffness. These are a great option if you regularly bike long distances. They are heavier than carbon but are less expensive.
Just to be clear, just because you are competing at a high-level or a serious cyclist, you may not need a cycling shoe with the stiffest sole.
Very stiff soles can be uncomfortable and may cause your feet to go numb.
It’s best to find some balance between comfort and stiffness for your cycling shoes.
All cycling shoes have a ventilation system so that your sweaty feet can breathe in the warmer months.
The ventilation system is simply a pattern of mesh holes near your toes.
Pedal and Cleat System
The next type of system to talk about is the pedal and cleat system!
The type of cycling shoe you buy heavily depends on the type of pedals you currently have.
- SPD (2 holes). This pedal and cleat system works really well if you commute, participate in bike tours, or are a mountain biker.
The recessed cleat design makes it easier to walk and these shoes typically look more like a walking shoe.
- SPD-SL (3 holes). This pedal and cleat system is the most popular among road cyclists because it’s more stable and more efficient compared to the SPD.
The cleat has a wider design compared to the previous system which makes the power transfer more streamline.
- Speedplay (4 holes). This system is rarely found in any cycling shoes. This is the only system that uses 4 holes and you must buy a base plate that can convert 3 to 4 holes.
If you need a fully customized cleat and pedal system, this might be an option to look into.
|Fizik R5 Tempo Overcurve||245 g||SPD-SL|
|Giro Savix (Editor’s Choice)||305 g||SPD/SPD-SL|
|Mavic Cosmic Elite||270 g||SPD-SL|
|Scott Road Comp Boa||295 g||SPD-SL|
|Pearl iZumi V5||284 g||SPD/SPD-SL|
|Louis Garneau Carbo LS-100 3||235 g||SPD-SL|
|Shimano SH-RC7||245 g||SPD-SL|
|Fizik R4B UOMO (Editor’s Choice)||254 g||SPD-SL|
|Lake CX237||310 g||SPD-SL|
|Giro Empire ACC||215 g||SPD-SL|
|Mavic Pro Cycling Shoes||300 g||SPD-SL|
|Pearl iZumi PRO Leader V4||265 g||SPD-SL|
|Northwave Extreme GT||274 g||SPD-SL|
|Specialized S-Works 7 (Editor’s Choice)||224 g||SPD-SL|
|Bont Vaypor S Road Cycling Shoe||230 g||SPD-SL|
|Fizik Infinito R1||232 g||SPD-SL|
|SIDI Shot Cycling Shoes||287 g||SPD-SL|
|Louis Garneau Course Air Lite 2||235 g||SPD-SL|
|Scott Road RC SL||245 g||SPD-SL|
Why Do I need Cycling Shoes?
If you’ve read through all the information so far, you might wonder why even use cycling shoes?
You might like using your running shoes because it’s easier or you’re afraid of clipping in and out.
Simply put, a good pair of cycling shoes keep you clipped into the bike so you can use all your leg muscles (quadriceps, calf, and hamstring).
Clipping into the bike gives you a more efficient power transfer between your feet and your pedals as well.
Using flat pedals only lets you use your quadriceps since you can’t pull up on the pedals as you would if you were clipped in.
Why Carbon Soles?
Another question you might ask, why use carbon soles?
And, what are the advantages of carbon soles?
Carbon soles, as mentioned before, are very lightweight and stiff, which provide a highly efficient power transfer from your legs to your bike pedals.
Of course, such materials come at a high cost.
You can get a mix of carbon and plastic, which is more affordable than carbon soles and can still provide some stiffness.
How Long Does It Take to Break-In Cycling Shoes?
A lot of factors play into how long it takes for you to break in your shoes.
Just to note, your shoes will never become less stiff. You’ll just get used to wearing stiff shoes.
Typically, it takes around 20-30 riding hours for riders to become accustomed to their new cycling shoes.
I’m sure you’ll find something for you after reading this article. But, if you’re ever unsure or deciding between two pairs of shoes, go to your local bike store! They will help you pick the shoe that suits your cycling needs and foot shape.