How to Buy Cycling Shoes: The Ultimate Guide
Cyclists are creatures of habit. We all have our favorite brands, styles and features that we love to see in the latest cycling shoes. But with so many options out there, it can be difficult to decide what is right for you. That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide on how to buy new cycling shoes – so you know exactly what you’re looking for when you go into your local bike store or search online.
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What is the point of cycling shoes?
Cycling shoes are designed to help you maximize your power. The stiff soles allow cyclists to apply more pressure on the bike pedal, which means a stronger push-off during each stroke. By wearing cycling shoes, you can expect to increase your speed and endurance.
Is there a difference between clip-in and clipless shoes?
There is no difference, it’s just two different terms for the same thing.
So what is a clip-in / clipless shoe?
Clipless cycling shoes (and clip-in) allows you to attach the shoes to the pedals. This connection allows you to pedal more efficiently and with greater power.
For you to be able to attach your shoes to the pedal there are 3 main components that needs to match each other. Shoe, cleat & padel.
Different cycling shoes
There are three main types of cycling shoes:
Road shoes are best for cyclists who want to achieve a high level of performance and these are the most popular type used for racing.
They have a slim, low-profile design and the upper is made of synthetic or leather materials with mesh for extra breathability. The come with a very stiff sole, typically made from lightweight materials like carbon fiber or nylon.
There are a variety of closing systems to choose from, including normal laces and the BOA system.
The cleat system is external on racing shoes (3-bolt).
Mountainbike shoes are designed for the off-road cyclist and they’re meant to provide stability and performance during rough terrain.
They can vary greatly in appearance, with some models looking more like normal sneakers. They tend to be made from more durable materials than road shoes, to be able to withstand the elements and wear-and-tear of riding on trails.
The soles are softer than the stiffer soles on road shoes and are lugged, just like hiking shoes, for better grip and traction when you are not on the bike.
There are a number of closure systems, but the most common is the Boa closure system.
Recessed cleat systems is the most used system for MBT shoes (2-bolt).
One of the most important things for triathlon athletes is that they need to be able to quickly put their shoes on and off. That’s why you’ll find triathlon shoes have a strap system for quick and easy access along with a heel loop.
Cycling comes after the swim leg in triathlons races, so make sure to choose a shoe with plenty of ventilation for your wet feet to dry quicker.
Triathlon cycling shoes are typically lightweight, made from many of the same materials as road cycling shoes and have stiff soles, which allow maximum power transfer when pedaling.
Just like race shoes the cleat system on triathlon shoes is external (3-bolt).
What are cycling cleats?
Cycling cleats are the pieces, that attach to the soles of cycling shoes and lock into special receptacles on the bike pedal. This connection allows you to apply more pressure on the pedal, which in turn provides more power when you push off.
Different types of cleat systems
There are two main systems. 2-bolt & and 3-bolt.
You attach the cleats under your shoes and you need to make sure that the cleats are compatible with your pedals and your shoes.
2-bolt shoes (recessed cleats)
The cleats used for the 2-bolt system is recessed. This means that you can more easily walk around in shoes using this system and that is why they are commonly used by Mountainbikers.
The cleats used for the three bolt system are not recessed and this means that they won’t be as practical if you need to walk. This system is used for Road racing and Triathlons.
What is cleat float?
The cleat float is the amount of degrees you can move your feet around on the pedal without disengaging from the pedal.
How much float do i need?
Firstly, this is a personal preference; however, there are some general guidelines.
Road & triathlon: Typically road racers have less float because they want more power transfer when pedaling. But if you are new to cycling then you should not limit yourself to any specific amount of cleat float.
Mountain bike: Most mountain bikers typically have more cleat float than the road racers. This is important to better be able to steer the bike and give some margin to errors without unintentional releasing the shoe from the pedal.
If you are having problems with your feet disengaging from the pedals or if you are experiencing pain in your knees, then you might need more float.
What are cycling cleats made of?
Most Road cleats are made of lightweight materials like Nylon (Polyamide) coated with a plastic layer.
Cleats for MTB, Gravel etc. are mostly made out of steel for better durability.
How should a bike shoe fit?
Just like a good pair of running shoes, your cycling shoes should fit snugly. You don’t want them to be too tight that they are uncomfortable, but you do want them to be supportive.
The heel of the shoe should fit comfortably against your ankle and there should be no slipping or movement when you walk around in them.
It’s important to remember that you feet will swell when you ride, so it’s best to buy your shoes a size larger than what you would normally wear.
Are cycling shoes bad for your feet?
Cycling shoes are not bad for your feet. In fact, they can actually be good for them! The stiff soles help to align your foot and ankle while you’re cycling, which can prevent common injuries.
Are Biking shoes expensive?
Bike shoes can be expensive but there are a number of good quality, affordable options on the market. When shopping for bike shoes, be sure to compare prices and features to find the best option for you.
A quick search on Amazon.com shows a variety of cycling shoes for less than $100 but they can go as high as $700.
Are expensive cycling shoes worth it?
Spending more money on the right cycling gear including proper shoes can often result in a better quality product that provides greater comfort and performance.
So if you can afford it, investing in a good pair of cycling shoes can be a wise decision.
Best cycling shoe brands
Each brand offers a range of features and styles to choose from so it’s important to do your research before making a purchase so you can find the best pair of cycling shoes for you.
Shimano is a popular brand for cycling shoes. They offer a variety of cleat systems and their shoes are known for being comfortable and durable. See our Shimano sizeguide here.
Giro is an American company that offers a range of cycling shoes for Road, Mountain and Triathlon use. They have a wide variety of options to choose from and their products are known for being high quality.
Specialized is another well-known brand for cycling shoes. They make high quality products and their shoes are often designed with specific types of riding in mind, such as mountain biking, urban cycling or road racing. See our sizeguide for Specialized bike shoes here.
Fi´zi:k is a brand known for their high-end cycling shoes. They offer a variety of materials and features, as well as different colors and styles to choose from. See the Fizik sizeguide here.
Sidi is an Italian brand that specializes in footwear for cycling and other sports. They offer a variety of cycling shoes for both road and mountain biking. See the Sidi sizeguide here.
Best men’s road cycling shoes
Here is our top 6 list to help you find the right cycling shoe for clipless pedals.
Specialized – S-Works 7
Designed for the most discerning rider, these shoes offer a sole and footbed that are ergonomically designed to increase efficiency and a FACT Powerline™ carbon plate outsole that maximizes power transfer.
It is extremely lightweight and easily adjusted with the BOA® S3-Snap Fit System.
Works with most 3-bolt cleat systems.
Giro – Regime
These shoes are designed for the rider who wants a classic look with great performance. They have a carbon composite outsole that provides stiffness and power transfer while still being lightweight.
It also features a 3D molded footbed with medium arch support and with the Twin BOA L6 dials closure system you can easily adjust the fit exactly how you want to.
Works with all 3-bolt pedal/cleat systems.
Sidi – Sixty Road Cycling Shoes
This shoe features a Polyurethane sole and a Techpro microfiber upper. It comes with the Techno 4 closure system for a precise fit and is extremely lightweight.
The new reinforced heel design helps avoid deformations.
Works with all 3-bolt pedal/cleat systems.
Shimano – SH-RC502
This model has an upper made from mesh and synthetic leather that provides a comfortable fit along with enhanced breathability.
It also features a carbon fiber reinforced nylon midsole for maximum pedal power and a BOA® L6 dial closure system.
3-bolt cleat system (SPD-SL).
Fi´zi:k – Tempo Overcurve R4 Road Cycling Shoe
Versatile and for the rider who wants a stiff, durable and lightweight cycling shoe.
It has PU laminated mesh upper for enhanced ventilation and a BOA ip1-b dial closure system.
Available in different colors and works with all 3-bolt pedal/cleat systems.
Giro – Stylus
Great for beginners – this model from Giro comes with a breathable upper and fiberglass reinforced outsole. It is lightweight and has a classsic 3-strap closure system.
Repported to fit a big small so size up one full size.
It works with all 2-bolt and 3-bolt cleat systems.