Road Cycling Shoes FAQ
Are cycling shoes worth it? Do road bike shoes make a difference? Are road cycling shoes important? Do I need special shoes for cycling? Can I wear running shoes for cycling? Are running shoes good for cycling?
Yes. Cycling shoes are important, and are definitely worth considering if you want to maximize your overall performance and biking experience.
Cycling shoes will not only improve your performance, bike speed, cadence, efficiency and power output, but they also look great as well.
Yes, you can wear running shoes for cycling. If you are just beginning your cycling hobby, are on a tight budget or ride very occasionally then running shoes are fine. However if you regularly ride your bike outdoors or on a trainer, it is best to consider purchasing cycling specific shoes.
Compared to other shoe types, cycling shoes:
• Are lightweight
• Have very stiff soles for excellent power transfer to your pedals
• Provide appropriate/excellent ventilation
• Can attach to cleats which firmly connect your shoes to your pedals for maximum power transfer and pedaling efficiency without foot slipping
• Improves safety as your shoes won’t slip off the pedals
• Can be securely fitted regardless of foot shape using a special enclosure system and/or insole
• Can help to align your knees and body for maximum efficiency, to reduce the risk of injury and potentially improve knee and other joint related issues
• Can increase your confidence levels and improve overall bike experience
• Visually look better, more suited and professional
• Improve all-round bike speed, cadence and power output
• Don’t have free shoe laces which can get caught in the gears
The only hurdle to overcome from wearing cycling shoes is the initial thought of being clipped into your pedals. However with time and some initial practice before riding, you will become accustomed to taking your shoes/cleats out of your pedals, with a simple heel movement away from the frame of your bike.
Compared to other shoe types, the benefits of road bike shoes are significant and the difference is outstanding.
What should I look for when buying road cycling shoes?
Please view the The Road Cycling Shoe Gear Guide to view the detailed answer to this question.
In summary the key qualities and features to look for when buying road cycling shoes include:
• Fit, Sizing and Comfort: It is crucial to get the fit right first before purchasing any cycling shoe. The shoes should be the correct size, fit well and should be comfortable without any pressure, heel slipping or hot spots.
• Shoe Closure System: Velcro straps, laces, buckle and strap, dial/wire retention systems or a mixture of a few closure systems are usually found on road cycling shoes. Dial retention systems are usually found on higher end shoes as they are lightweight, durable, weather resistant, offer the best closing force, are micro-adjustable for fine tuning to ensure the perfect fit, and are excellent at eliminating pressure points. The more expensive the shoe, the greater the number of dials you will expect to see. More dials allow for the most precise fit. Every type of closure system generally works well, however as always, there are pros and limitations of each system.
• Sole Materials and Stiffness: The soles of road cycling shoes are usually made from nylon, carbon composite or carbon. Nylon soles are normally found on lower end shoes as they are generally heavier and allow more flex, however they are usually more comfortable to use as a result. Carbon composite soles are usually found on mid-level shoes, and are generally lighter and stiffer compared than nylon soles. Carbon soles are found on mid-range to top-level shoes as they are generally stiffer and lighter than nylon and carbon composite. A stiffer carbon sole results in greater power transfer from the cyclist through to the pedals as less energy is wasted through flex and absorption however, super stiff carbon soles can be uncomfortable to some cyclists due to limited flex, which can result in foot pressure points or hot spots.
• Ventilation: Ventilation is important as it allows your feet to breathe, remain comfortable and stay dry. The amount of ventilation you need depends greatly on the climate that you live in.
• Weight: Shoe weight is important, just as long as the comfort, fit, sole, ventilation and shoe pads are not compromised. It is easier to pedal in shoes which are lighter in weight and can give the rider a needed psychological advantage, especially when riding on hilly terrain.
• Reflective Features: For safety purposes, reflective details and bright shoe colours enhance the visibility to other road users, and therefore should be considered.
• Toe and Heel Pads: The small rubber pads on the heel and toe of the shoes help to protect the sole when we walk or stop at traffic lights. The pads can wear out fairly quickly with a lot of shoe wear. Therefore it is definitely worth considering a pair of shoes with replaceable heel and toe pads.
What makes a good road bike shoe? What makes a good cycling shoe?
The characteristics of a good road bike shoe include:
• Excellent fit and comfort, preferably with a dial/wire closure system if possible, for the best and most precise fit
• Lower weight, preferably around 250g per shoe or less
• Excellent and/or appropriate ventilation for the weather conditions and environment in which you live
• Very stiff sole but not so stiff that it causes foot discomfort or pain, preferably made from carbon composite or full carbon fibre
• Added safety features including reflective details to enhance rider visibility
• Shoe parts which can be replaced, in particular the closure system as well as the toe and heel pads
How much should I spend on cycling shoes? Do better, more expensive cycling shoes make a difference? Are expensive cycling shoes worth it?
It is important to know that spending more on a pair of shoes doesn’t necessarily mean that you are getting a better pair of shoes for you.
Each rider has different needs and budgets. However, every cyclist should look for a balance of well fitting, supportive and comfortable shoes, which are also very stiff, low in weight and have excellent ventilation.
Generally, the more expensive the shoes, the greater the: upper and sole material quality, the stiffer the sole and shoe in general, the lighter they will be, the better the closure system and the better the ventilation, which subsequently enhances comfort.
The fit, sizing and comfort is the most important aspect of any shoe. Cyclists may find that lower cost shoes fit well and are quite comfortable in comparison to more expensive shoes, mostly due to the more flexy sole. Some may find the opposite. In some respect, the price of cycling shoes doesn’t matter too much, just as long as they fit well and are comfortable for any length of time. It’s always recommended that you try on shoes, as every manufacturer has different sizing.
The majority of shoe manufacturers have low cost entry level shoe models and more expensive high end shoe models. Generally, there is a noticeable difference in performance between an entry level shoe and the top two to three shoe models in each range, especially in terms of weight, stiffness and ventilation. If you are on a budget or looking for the best performance per dollar shoes, the second and third shoe model in a company’s range are usually the ones to try. They usually cost around the $200USD/145£/€170/$270AUD mark. You will find that the price gap between a flagship high-end shoe model and the next two models is quite substantial, yet the overall performance and difference between them is not easily noticeable to most. However, if you work hard and have the money to spend, then why not try a top level shoe? They may just give you an extra psychological edge as well.
What are the lightest road cycling shoes?
Former Australian WorldTour rider Adam Hansen has created his own innovative cycling products which are available through his company and website, Hanseeno. The Hanseeno Carbon Shoes U95 are the lightest road cycling shoes available. They are not cheap by any means but you do get a lightweight, super stiff and aerodynamic shoe, at just under 95g per shoe.
The lightest and most commonly seen mass production road cycling shoes are the Specialized S-Works EXOS road shoes which weigh approximately 150 grams per shoe in size 42.
Do you need special pedals for road cycling shoes? Do I need cycling shoes for clipless pedals?
Yes, road cycling shoes need to be connected to clipless road pedals via the appropriate cleats. A clipless pedal system refers to the lack of a ‘toe clip’ and straps. Cleats are included with the purchase of clipless pedals. Road cycling shoes generally have three threaded holes on the outsole of the shoe, positioned near the ball of the foot. Cleats are attached to the soles of the road cycling shoes via the threaded holes using bolts. The standard for road cycling pedals is the three-point/bolt system which Look, Shimano, Speedplay and Time pedals all use. The shoes can be connected or ‘clipped in’ to the road pedals by pressing down on the platform and ‘clipped out’ by twisting the ankle away from the bike frame. In order to greatly improve speed as well as maximize pedaling efficiency and overall performance, then road cycling shoes with clipless road pedals are the only option.
How many miles do cycling shoes last? How long do cycling shoes last?
Road cycling shoes will last for a very long time, possibly up to over 5000 miles (over 8000km) or as long as 15 years, however, it depends on the quality of the shoes, how much you use and walk in them, your riding style, the weather conditions and basically how hard you are on them.
Good quality cycling shoes which are made from a durable upper material, a durable and stiff sole, and have replaceable shoe parts, in particular the closure system as well as the toe and heel pads, can greatly prolong the life of the shoes. Make sure that your shoes are clean and free of dirt, mud, water or grime, as this can cause the shoe materials to wear out and disform more quickly. Over time, the stiffness of the sole naturally decreases and the upper materials stretch and lose form, parts that can’t be replaced. So even though a pair of shoes may last for many years over many rides, it comes at the expense of overall performance. This makes old shoes the perfect back up or training pair, particularly on wet roads and in poor weather conditions.
Can you walk in road cycling shoes?
Yes, it is possible to walk in road cycling shoes however it can be difficult. This is due to the size and shape of the plastic cleats which are attached to the bottom of the shoe, in a position close to the ball of your foot. Cleats connect or ‘clip’ your shoes into the pedals. As a result of the cleat size and position, as well as the typically small heel pad and minimal arch support, it can make walking in cycling shoes challenging and/or uncomfortable. It will feel as though you are tippy-toeing, not to mention that it can easily cause damage to the bottom of the shoes, in particular the outsole and heel pad. However many cycling shoes now have replaceable heel pads to combat this. Although you will get accustomed to walking in cycling shoes over time, it’s always best to keep walking to a minimum if possible.
Looking to buy road cycling shoes? We have compiled a list of the most popular and highly rated road cycling shoes that are available to buy, with specifications, summarized reviews and the latest deals.