Cycle shoes are specially designed to make your bicycle rides more fun, efficient, and safer. Different types of cycling shoes offer different features, and the best pair of cycling shoes fit you properly and meet your cycling needs.
Different brands may have different fasteners and soles, such as ones that rest on flat pedals or fit in toe cages. Other cycling shoes clip directly into your pedals to make your cycling more efficient.
Different types of cycling shoes
There are two main types of cycling shoes: flat-pedal shoes and clipless shoes. Flat-pedal shoes are shoes that simply get placed on the pedal. They are ideal for situations where you need to be able to remove and replace your foot quickly. They usually have a sticky rubber outsole that helps your feet stay relatively securely on the pedals. You can use these shoes with toe clips or toe cages - metal, plastic, or material harnesses that you can slip the front part of your shoe into.
Counterintuitively, clipless cycling shoes clip onto your bike’s pedals. The name refers to the fact that there are no toe clips or toe cages to place your foot into. The soles of these shoes are fitted with a cleat. This is the part that clips into your bike’s pedals and is usually sold separately from the shoe. Most clipless pedal systems have something called float and tension adjustment. Float enables your feet to twist sideways slightly, this is to protect your knees while cycling. Tension adjustment refers to the degree of difficulty or ease in which you get your cleat in and out of the pedal.
Cycling shoes are not all alike, and the pair you decide to purchase depends on what kind of cycling you will do.
Road shoes have a smoother and stiffer sole. The cleat stands out from the shoe once it is attached, making walking difficult with these shoes. The uppers or road cycling shoes are usually made of leather or synthetic materials. They have reinforced heel cups and mesh inserts. The heel cups keep your feet secure, while mesh inserts in the upper keep your feet cool.
Mountain bike shoes can either be flat (no cleats) or clipless. The soles are usually made of rubber to give you confident traction when you need it. High-end MTB shoes could have stiff carbon outsoles, but most mountain biking shoe soles are softer near the toes so that you can move around easier over rugged terrain. In addition, the uppers are made of more durable materials, and the toes and heels may be reinforced.
Although there are very few manufacturers that specifically make indoor cycling shoes, most outdoor cycling shoes can be used on stationary bikes.
The benefits of using clipless pedals and cleats while cycling
When your feet are clipped into your pedals, your legs, feet, and pedals become an extension of each other. This makes your movements more secure and efficient since you don’t need to worry about your feet coming off the pedals. Many stationary indoor bikes, like Peloton bikes, use a clipless system, and there is a good reason for that.
With clipless pedals, you can pull the pedal up on the upstroke, thus enhancing how you spend your energy and increasing your pedaling efficiency. This can obviously not be done with flat pedals and is challenging to do with toe cages. This makes for a more efficient and safer ride - and a more thorough workout.
When mountain biking or BMX-ing, a clipless system can help you lift your bike off the ground to make jumps or bunnyhops.
What to look for in a cycling shoe
Whether you will be mountain biking, doing casual riding, taking to street biking, or working out on a stationary bike, the right cycling shoes will make a massive difference to your cycling excursions. Here are a few things to consider when looking for your next (or first) pair of cycle shoes.
Bike shoes should be snug - that is: tighter than your regular sneakers. They should be able to hold your foot in place with very little movement of your foot in the shoe. Having said that, they also should not be too tight, and your toes should not rub against the front of the shoe. Instead, they should be able to move a little bit without being restricted. Your heel should be held securely and should not move up or down.
Most cycling shoes have one of four different types of fastening systems: Velcro, ratchets, dials, or laces. Cycling shoes should not only be able to fasten and undo effortlessly, but they should also be easy to adjust while you are riding. The reasoning behind this is that your feet might swell while you are riding. If you wear cycling shoes that are difficult to adjust, you will need to stop, unclip, and readjust your shoes mid-cycle.
Velcro is the cheapest and lightest option. They are good at securing your cycling shoe and foot alignment but may be challenging to adjust mid-ride. To adjust a Velcro fastener, you need to undo the strap, loosen it or pull it tighter and then redo the strap. This is tricky to do mid-pedal.
Ratchet fasteners are usually combined with one or two Velcro fasteners positioned lower down on the shoe (towards your toes). Shoes with this type of fastener offer a more secure fit since the ratchet fastener can adjust more precisely than Velcro fasteners. The great thing about ratchet fasteners is that they are easy to adjust while riding. The drawback of ratchet fasteners is that they could be difficult to release and often need two hands to undo them.
Dial fasteners offer the most secure and precise fit. They are easy to adjust but may be difficult to loosen and are usually found on high-end shoes. The dial makes incremental adjustments to the tightness of cycling shoes with these fasteners, making them perfect to tailor the fit to your feet.
The last fastening option for cycling shoes are laces. They are comfortable, light, and aerodynamic but nearly impossible to adjust while you are riding. More than that, laces could come undone during your cycle and get tangled in the pedal or chain.
The soles of cycling shoes should be stiff. Stiffer soles don’t bend and thus transfer more power down onto the pedal. This means you use less energy to push the pedal down, your legs will get less tired and your feet will be less strained.
Low-end cycling shoes usually have plastic or nylon outsoles and have some flex in them. Mid-rage shoes have carbon composite soles. These soles are made of a blend of carbon and plastic and are stiffer than soles made of only plastic or nylon. High-end cycling shoes usually have much stiffer carbon soles. Keep in mind that while stiff soles are beneficial, they may become uncomfortable during long rides.
Most cycling shoes have EVA midsoles. These soles are found between the upper and the outsole. EVA foam midsoles offer cushioning to your feet while you pedal.
Cleats are not technically a part of a cycling shoe. Instead, they are additional pieces that attach to the shoe. They then, in turn, clip on to your bike’s pedals. When looking at cycling shoes, pay attention to the kind of cleat patterns that they can accommodate.
Some cycling shoes can only be used with a specific type of cleat. The most common types are two-bolt and three-bolt cleats. Two-bolt cleats, like SPD cleats, are usually slightly recessed, which makes them easier to walk in.
On the other hand, three-bolt cleats, like Look Delta cleats, have a wider platform and larger contact area with the pedal. This promotes better power transfer when you pedal. Most mid and high-end cycling shoes can accommodate three-bolt cleats.
The degree of ventilation that a cycling shoe needs depends on how and where you will be using the shoe. Outdoor rides in cold or wet weather will quickly become unpleasant if your cycling shoes have a lot of mesh or perforations. On the other hand, if your feet tend to get hot quickly, these features could benefit you. You may also want more ventilation if you will mainly use your cycling shoes for indoor cycling. Because you aren’t physically moving through space while cycling on a stationary bike, you may prefer to have extra ventilation to help keep your feet cool.
Cycling shoes for wider feet.
Most cycling shoes are designed to fit ‘average’ feet. That means that persons with wider feet may have difficulty finding cycling shoes that fit well. Having said that, some cycle shoe brands offer ‘wide fit’ options that are better suited for persons with wide feet. These shoes have wider toe boxes and can be used with molded heel cups to ensure a secure fit for persons who have wide forefeet and narrow ankles.
How to use clipless shoes while riding
You may need to practice clipping and unclipping your clipless shoes, especially if you plan on taking your bike out. Obviously, you don’t need to practice quite as much if you will mostly be cycling on a stationary bike, although you still need to know how to do this safely.
To clip in, simply push your foot down on the pedal. When you are ready to unclip, rotate your heel outward. This motion will unclip the cleat from the pedal.
When you first start using clipless shoes, you will need to build some muscle memory so that this motion becomes natural. This will lower the risk of falling over because you cannot get your foot off the pedal and place it on the ground quick enough.
Start out by straddling your bike with one leg on either side. You could secure your bike to a bike mount or practice on a soft surface if you are worried about falling over. While bearing your weight on one leg, place your other foot on the pedal and press down to click in. Then turn the heel of the foot on the pedal to unclip. Do this again. And again. Focus on one foot at a time and do this as many times as needed until the movement feels natural. Then do the same with the other foot. You want to get to the point where you don’t need to look down or think about what you are doing.
The next step is to practice clipping and unclipping while moving. Cycle around while clicking in and unclipping both feet without stopping. You want to start with clipping and unclipping one foot at a time while moving, then progress to unclipping both feet at the same time. This will prepare you for unclipping when you need to come to a stop. You can practice this while doing a short ride around your neighborhood. If you need to stop but are not ready to unclip, slow down to lean against a sturdy object like a tree or telephone pole.
Once you have mastered clicking in and unclipping while moving, you can work on unclipping before coming to a stop. When you are ready to stop, slow down and unclip both feet, then come to a stop when you are able to place both feet on the ground. You can also just unclip one foot, but remember that you will need to lean slightly towards your unclipped foot to avoid falling over to the side of the foot that is still clipped in. Remember that you can always keep riding if you are not ready to unclip your feet.
If, after practicing, it is still tricky to unclip, your cleat may be misaligned or too loose, or there could be an adjustment that is too tight.
The best cycle shoe is the one that gives you superior comfort and enhances your cycling experience. The features that you find most important in a cycling shoe depend on your preferences and what kind of riding you will be doing the most. While mountain bikers could prefer a flat pedal system, clipless, or at least pedal systems with toe clips could greatly enhance your cycling adventures.