The Road Cycling Shoe Gear Guide

Road cycling shoes are an essential piece of clothing, being the main point of contact between your feet and the pedals. There is a very large choice of road cycling shoes available from a huge number of brands, so it is vital to choose your cycling shoes carefully, taking into account the materials that a shoe is made from, the climate where you ride, the shoe closure system, and most importantly the fit and comfort of the shoes.

Road cycling shoes can vary greatly in price, however some can be very expensive at around the $1000USD/$1350AUD/730£ mark. Spending more on a pair of shoes doesn’t necessarily mean that you are getting a better pair of shoes for you. Some shoes may look stylish or be the choice of the pros in the WorldTour, but if they are uncomfortable from the beginning, then they will most likely be uncomfortable for the time that you have them.

Everyone’s foot shape and size is different, also the sizing between different brands varies greatly, so as always, we recommend trying on a pair of shoes before buying.

Looking to buy road cycling shoes? We have compiled a list of almost every road cycling shoe that is available to buy, with specifications, reviews and the latest deals.

What are the benefits of using road cycling shoes?

While you can certainly ride a bike whilst wearing sneakers, wearing road cycling specific shoes with clipless pedals provides a greater connection to the bike, in the process saving you a lot of energy all while increasing your power output and your average speed.

Road cycling shoes are purpose built and prioritize performance. The shoes are generally highly rigid, low weight, low profile, have stiff soles for better power transfer to the pedals, have enhanced ventilation, feature a variety of closure mechanisms and have maximum cleat/pedal engagement. Some even have aerodynamic benefits as well.

What to look for in road cycling shoes

Fit, Sizing and Comfort

It is crucial to get the fit right first before purchasing any cycling shoe. Investing in a well fitting and comfortable pair of shoes can enhance your riding experience.

Manufacturers make shoes in varying sizes, widths and shapes, which can all greatly affect the fit of a shoe. The majority of manufacturers offer shoes in a large range of sizes (including half sizes) as well as ‘wide’ versions, for people who have wider feet. It is common to find that a size 44EU in one brand may be larger than a size 44EU in another brand. This is because each manufacturer has a different shoe mould or ‘last’.

Some shoe brands include extra adjustable footbeds/insoles which can be inserted into the shoe to support different foot shapes and provide various levels of arch support to ensure the perfect fit. For people with high foot arches, this support can help to reduce hot spots and improve pedaling efficiency and comfort. Some manufacturers even include heat mouldable soles which can be customized to perfectly fit the shape of your foot.

Size charts are quite useful to get a good idea of what your ‘rough’ shoe size would be, however we always recommend trying on a pair of shoes prior to purchasing, or either buy from an online retailer with a good returns policy.

Don’t forget, some shoes may look stylish or be the choice of the pros in the WorldTour, but if they are uncomfortable from the beginning, then they will most likely be uncomfortable for the time that you have them.

When trying on a pair of cycling shoes, make sure that the shoes fit well with:

Length: There should be a distance of around 1/2 inch (1.27cm) between the end of your longest toe and the end of the front of the shoe.

Toe box width: Make sure that there is enough room for your toes to move around. A wider toe box allows you to put even pressure across your toes which therefore helps to align your knees, improving comfort and power output to your pedals.

Heel hold: There should be a snug hold at the heel, with no heel slipping or movement. To test this, lift your heel off the ground and press down on your toes to see if the heel cup is secure and comfortable. Some manufacturers such as Sidi, even make shoes with adjustable heel retention.

Cycling socks: It is best to try on shoes with your usual cycling-specific socks. Cycling socks are generally much thinner than standard socks, improve shoe contact and improve foot temperature regulation.

Shoe Closure System

Velcro Straps (Hook-and-Loop): Velcro straps have been used for a very long period of time and are found on shoes at all different price ranges as they are lightweight, simple to use, easy to adjust and easy to fine-tune whilst riding. The only downside is that the velcro section can lose its grip over time or get filled up with mud and other road debris.

Shimano SH-RC100 RC1

Laces: Shoe laces have become very popular over the past few years. They are a simple, effective, easy to repair/replace closure system with a classic look. The main downside is that the laces are hard to fine-tune and adjust whilst riding.

Pearl Izumi Tour Road Shoes

Buckle and Strap: A buckle and strap system has been used on shoes for a very long period of time due to its durability and ease of use. Although it is easy to make small incremental adjustments with this system, it is harder to fine tune and get the best possible shoe tightness levels compared to other closure systems. As a result, this system has mostly been replaced by dial wire retention systems on top level shoes, to reduce weight and improve functionality.

Garneau Copall II

Dial/Wire Retention Systems: This system works via the use of wire laces, that can be tightened by turning dials on a shoe. Dials tend to be found on mid-range to top-end shoe models. They are very light, durable, weather and mud resistant, and are excellent at eliminating pressure points. They offer the best closing force and are micro-adjustable, allowing for the best and most precisely controlled fit. They can get jammed or damaged however they are fairly easy to repair or replace.

Specialized S-Works 7 Shoes

Sole Materials and Sole Stiffness

The sole of a cycling shoe is usually made of either full carbon fibre, nylon or a carbon composite (usually a mixture of carbon and a plastic or nylon).

Some manufacturers grade the sole stiffness of a shoe sole by using the stiffness index. The higher the stiffness index, the stiffer the sole, and generally the more expensive the shoe is. Stiffness is important but it’s not everything.

A stiffer sole results in greater power transfer from the rider to the pedals, as less energy is wasted through material flexing and absorption. The downside of super stiff soles can be discomfort, usually in the form of foot pressure points or hot spots.

Image courtesy of Gaerne

Nylon soles are most commonly found on lower end shoes. They are cost-effective, heavier and generally allow more flex. More flex may mean that there is less power transfer directly to the pedals, however it usually results in a higher level of comfort compared to super stiff full carbon soles.

Carbon composite soles are often found on mid-range shoes. They have the benefits of being lighter and stiffer than a full nylon sole and are generally more comfortable than a full carbon sole.

Carbon fibre soles are often found on mid-range to top-level shoes. Carbon fibre soles are generally stiffer and lighter than full nylon and carbon composite soles, optimizing power transfer and overall performance. The downside of super stiff carbon soles can be discomfort, usually in the form of foot pressure points or hot spots.


It is important for cycling shoes to provide adequate ventilation to allow your feet to breathe and remain comfortable, just like a helmet. The amount of ventilation that you need depends greatly on the climate you live in.

Shoes made from highly breathable and lightweight materials which allow significant airflow and cooling, are perfect for cyclists in warmer climates. It is important to have good ventilation, as our feet tend to swell, expand and sweat, especially whilst riding for extended periods of time in warmer weather.

Shoe, or toe covers are a good option for those who ride in variable weather conditions during the different seasons and wish to use one pair of shoes year-round, as they not only keep your feet dry and warm but also protect your shoes from grit and the elements.

Conversely, shoes with limited ventilation, are well insulated and/or are waterproof, are excellent for those who ride in cooler and/or wet climates. There is nothing worse than not being able to feel your feet whilst riding on a cold day.


Shoe weight is important, just as long as the fit, comfort, sole materials and stiffness, ventilation and shoe pads are not compromised. It is easier to pedal in shoes which are lighter in weight as there is less rotational weight. It can also give the rider a much needed psychological advantage, especially when riding on hilly terrain.

Reflective Features

For safety purposes, many shoe brands choose to make shoes equipped with or made from reflective materials, to enhance the visibility of cyclists on our roads in all weather conditions.

Studies have shown that reflective decals, flashing lights, wearing contrasting colours, basically improving the visibility of a cyclist to other road users, is the best measure to improve the safety of cyclists on our roads. Therefore wearing bright and reflective footwear should be considered.

Toe and Heel Pads

The small rubber inserts on the toe and heel are often used when walking or stopping at traffic lights, helping to protect the soles of the shoes. These pads can wear out quite quickly with a lot of shoe wear. Therefore, choosing a pair of shoes with replaceable toe and heel pads is recommended, in order to improve the overall shoe durability as well as increase the life of your shoes.

Image courtesy of Sidi

Looking to buy road cycling shoes? We have compiled a list of almost every road cycling shoe that is available to buy, with specifications, reviews and the latest deals.