What We Look for in Cycling Shoes
There are several things that make up a cycling shoe’s performance, and all can have an impact on how you feel riding in them. We looked at features such as:
- The shoe’s fastening system
- The material of the sole
- The types of cleats
- The ability to be customized through heat molding
- If the shoe can double as a triathlon shoe
In order to determine what specifications you need from each of these features, consider what conditions you’ll be riding in. Do you need a shoe that offers a lot of power transfer because you spend your riding time doing races? Then you’ll want to pay close attention to the sole material. If you are doing things like commuting or cross-country riding, you’ll probably be more interested in the shoe’s ability to withstand weather.
The fastening systems that cycling shoes come with include Velcro, ratchets, laces, and dials. Velcro is very popular for affordable cycling shoes, and it can do a good job – but it tends to be harder to get the most precise fit with a Velcro strap. However, they are also very lightweight, which can be a benefit to someone who rides long distances. Ratchets are a little bit more secure, but dials are the most commonly found on high-end cycling shoes. These give you a very precise hold.
The sole of the shoe is what is primarily responsible for power transfer, but keep in mind that the foot needs to flex when walking. If you choose a very stiff carbon sole for lots of power on the bike, you won’t have a comfortable time walking or running in the shoe off the bike. Most affordable cycling shoes have a plastic sole, which is the most flexible option.
The cleats on a cycling shoe will determine if the shoe will be more stable on your bike, or easier to walk in. Three cleats is far more stable on the bike, and gives you more power transfer. Two cleats is easy to walk in.
Some cycling shoes can be customized to fit your foot to a T through a process called heat molding. This will be the most comfortable riding shoe with the most support for your foot shape, but it can be very expensive.
If you race in triathlons, you’ll need a pair of cycling shoes that can also work for running and swimming. These usually have drainage holes so your feet don’t stay wet in them, and a loop on the heel so you can adjust on the fly.
Check out more bike gear guides with our round ups of the best cycling gloves and cycling sunglasses.
Always Remember to Try Before You Buy
It’s a great idea to do some research before you shop for cycling shoes – but it’s much better to try on a pair of cycling shoes before you buy them. Everything from the arch support to the fastener to the cleat design and more could make the shoe work – or not work – for you. If you do try on a shoe before buying, do it in the afternoon. Your feet tend to expand a little as the day goes on.
Choose the Best Shoe for You and Hit the Road
These shoes are the best on the market today. Choose the right shoe for your riding adventures and hit the road!