How to Choose Bike Shoes

A good pair of bike shoes will make it easier to transfer energy from your foot towards your pedal.

Additionally, they’ll keep you comfortable all day without causing blisters or hot spots.

While biking may seem simple, there are many accessories and apparel that can be made for cycling.

When it comes to choosing the right bike gear, the challenge is in deciding which one you should have and which one you can live without.

It’s particularly important for footwear.

We have put together this guide to help you choose the best bicycle shoes.

Do you really need cycling shoes?

Two of the most important reasons you need to wear cycling shoes are that they are comfortable and efficient.

Your body and your bike work together to get you where you want to go when you ride.

One of the weak points in that combination is the interface between your pedal and your shoe. 

Any slipping or flexing of the sole of your shoes when you press down on the pedal will result in wasted energy.

Bike shoes should have stiffer soles and cleats/other tech to hold you planted and transmit all the power to your bike’s chains, without any wasted.

For longer rides, bike-specific shoes are more comfortable. Shoes that are normal for walking or running can be worn in regular shoes.

However, when you ride a bicycle, your feet move differently from when you walk, and you flex different muscles.

Bike shoes were designed to do just that. They fit snugly and prevent your feet from rubbing or getting blistered.

So, if you have been riding in street shoes for a while, you should consider buying a pair of cycling shoes.

Types of Bikes Shoes

Here we’ll explain the differences in types of bike shoes and help you understand the factors you should consider when shopping.

Road Cycling Shoes

Road cyclists may prefer to pedal as efficiently as possible. They have the strongest soles and three-hole protruding, cleat-like cleats that link shoes to clipless pedals.

They are not designed to be used for prolonged walking because they have very little tread.

Pedal compatibility:

3-hole cleat

Road shoes typically have three holes drilled into their soles that allow for cleats or pedals from manufacturers Look, Time, Shimano (SPD–SL).

A 3-hole cleat system provides stability and energy transfer, which is the best for riders. The large cleat allows for the distribution of the pedal’s force over a large area.

This helps to reduce pressure on the connection points, and ensures a secure connection while pedaling hard.

2-hole cleat

Some road shoes have a 2-hole cleat system, which is in addition to the 3-hole cleat system. These can be paired with pedals made by Shimano (SPD), crankbrothers, or Time.

A compatible pedal will match your shoes.

Mountain Bikes Shoes

For added grip on rough trails, mountain bike shoes often have grippy soles.

There are two types of shoes: clipless sandals and clipless shoes. Shoes that attach to clipless pedals have two hole cleats that are recessed in the sole. This makes walking easier.

Shoes that can be used with flat pedals will have a sticky rubber sole, but no cleats.

Clipless Mountain Bike shoes (use cleats):

Clipless mountain biking shoes are made with a two-bolt system (SPD or crankbrothers styles).

Mountain biking shoes typically have cleats built into the soles. This makes it easier for you to walk on trails or other terrains.

These are great for distance or non-technical and cross-country riding. However, some road cyclists prefer to use mountain bike shoes for their comfort and walkability.

Pedal Compatibility

All clipless mountain biking shoes feature a 2-hole cleat system, which works with all pedal manufacturers’ cleats.

They won’t work on road cleats. However, any product with two holes in it will be fine.

To get shoes that are big on tread and have clipless pedals with larger platforms, you might need to trim some rubber.

Features

You get more features as you pay for higher prices, such as thicker soles and lighter weight, better foot and ankle protection, and/or stiffer soles.

Other features include waterproof liners and additional hook-and-loop straps or a buckle-and-ratchet-type strap for an improved fit and foot security.

Shoes can also be equipped with removable toe spikes that provide traction in loose, soft dirt.

Flat Pedal Mountain Bike Shoes (platform):

These shoes are not designed for cleats, and can be used with flat, wider pedals. The grippy rubber outsoles provide better grip and “stick” to the pedals.

You don’t need to clip in or out of the bike. This makes it easy to get on and off the bike when you’re riding trails.

These bike shoes are great for trail riding, casual riding and technical riding.

Pedal Compatibility

Flat pedal shoes can be used with any platform pedal with pins that grip the rubber sole.

Flat pedal designs can vary in grip, so it is worth testing a few to find the right level.

Although you may be able to ride around town on your flat shoes and clipless pedals, it is not recommended to do this for too long.

It is easy to slip off the small platform and can cause pressure points under your feet.

Casual Bike Shoes

Flat pedal shoes can be used with any platform pedal with pins that grip the rubber sole.

Flat pedal designs can vary in grip, so it is worth testing a few to find the right level. Although you may be able to ride around town on your flat shoes and clipless pedals, it is not recommended to do this for too long.

It is easy to slip off the small platform and can cause pressure points under your feet.

Pedal Compatibility

Casual cycling shoes can be either a 2-hole cleat system like mountain bike shoes or flat with no cleats.

How should bike shoes fit?

Comfortable

You want to choose bike shoes that are comfortable from the beginning. Shoes that don’t feel comfortable at first may not be as comfortable later.

Room for Toes

Your toes should have enough space to move slightly in all shoes.

Arch and Heel Support

Your arch should be supported and snug. Your heel shouldn’t slide up or down.

You may feel some slippage when trying on bicycle shoes.

This is because the soles are stiff and designed to keep your foot stable while you cycle.

You can try a smaller shoe size or a different model if you feel the slippage is due to a poor fit.

Accessories and Features for Bike Shoes

Shoe Closures

Laces

Laces are the best choice for a custom fit and maximum comfort. Inclement weather conditions can make them slippery and get muddy.

If you are wearing a shoe with laces, ensure that they are not too long or are hidden to avoid them getting caught in a necklace without a guard.

Hook-and-loop

The hook-and-loop straps are quick to close and can be used in wet or muddy conditions.

Straps are less stretchy than laces, and they will stay on more securely.

Many cycling shoes come with two or three straps. The more straps you have, the better the ability to adjust the fit.

Notched cam straps 

Although they are more costly, notch cam straps with buckles offer the best security and clamping power.

Dials/Ratcheting cable lace

Boa, a dial/ratcheting cable lacing shoe, has a dial system that tightens the system of cable laces.

A knob is used to adjust the fit. You can undo the laces by using the quick-release mechanism on the dials.

Bike Shoe Covers

It is a good idea to wear a pair of shoe covers when the weather is cold or rainy.

These boots are typically made from neoprene, or a rubberized laminate, to provide insulation and water resistance.

To accommodate cleats and lugged soles, the cutaways on shoes are designed to allow for cleats. Shoes covers can be used for riding, but they should not be worn while walking.

Toe Covers

Toe covers can be used to keep your feet warm during a cold ride. Toe covers are a more lightweight option than shoe covers, and they provide warmth for your feet.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose bike shoes?

It is important to consider the fit of your bike shoes when choosing them. It should be comfortable and allow for your toes to move.

You should also ensure that your arch is supported properly and that heels don’t slip up and down.

Do cycle shoes make difference?

Cycling or cycles shoes does make a difference because it can give you  10% more power output with cycling shoes compared to regular shoes, even less with a stiff soled rubber shoe

Conclusion

To ensure your feet are securely on the bike, you will need to pair your cycling shoes with a compatible pedal.

Many bicycle shoes come with 2-hole or 3-hole clipless cleats. This allows you to pedal more efficiently and has the added benefit of reducing pedal strokes.

While you can ride a bicycle in any shoe, it is possible to use shoes specifically designed for cycling.

Bike shoes have stiffer soles than traditional athletic shoes. This allows for better energy transfer when you pedal.

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