The best cycling shoes for a more efficient and powerful ride (2024)

“Off-road or mountain-bike shoes tend to have extra tread on the sole that allows grip for walking around. The cleat is also recessed into the tread, giving a more normal walking experience if you have to get off your bike. Road shoes have a flat, ridged and slick sole with no tread, and your cleat is noticeable if you have to get off your bike, making it awkward to walk in.”

"Cleated cycling shoes securely bind your shoe to the pedal system, improving power transfer and stability,” says Phil Burt, who runsBike Fit Assessments at the Manchester Institute of Health and Performance (MIHP).

“Mountain-bike [MTB] cleats have lots of float [rotation from side to side] and freedom of movement, and they’re a good place to start if you’re new to being clipped in. Road cleats are more securely bound which improves power transfer, but they do take some getting used to if you’ve not worn them before."

Are running shoes OK for cycling?

"They can be a great option for beginners – to improve the riding experience, it’s worth investing in a toe strap and clips,” says Matt Bottrill, founder and head coach ofMatt Bottrill Performance Coaching. “This is an easy and cost-effective way to get used to riding with your foot in the correct position.”

“Many bikes come with flat pedals so you can jump on it straight out of the office and head on your commute or down to the pub without a change of shoes,” adds Chris Pengilley, managing director ofQuella Bikes. "Trainers are fine for cycling on any bike with flat pedals, but they’ll get uncomfortable quickly if you use them on specialist pedals designed for cycling shoes with cleats."

How should I size cycling shoes?

“Some brands of shoe come up short and wide, others are longer and thinner,” says Bottrill. “I’ve found it works for me to go up a shoe size, but an expert bike fitter would be best placed to help with shoe selection.”

"The shoe should be wide enough that it doesn't pinch your feet and long enough that it doesn't squish your toes,” says Hoobler. “Your foot should be relaxed in the shoe with a little room to wiggle in the toe box and your heel should be snug in the back of the shoe. If your toe is touching the end of your shoe, or your foot squeezes the sides, it’s too small. Your feet will swell when you ride, and you need to have room for your foot to expand."

“Cycling shoes that are too tight can lead to a condition called ‘hot foot’, causing pain and numbness,” explains Burt.“Look for a shoe that has multiple tightening or fastening points so you can easily adjust it. Several brands including Shimano and Lake do wide-fitting beds which are good for people with a wide forefoot.”

“Laces can provide a snug and secure fit, but they can also be time-consuming to adjust," addsAlex Randall, founder and CEO ofRevelSports."Velcro straps are easy to use and can be adjusted quickly, but they may not provide as secure a fit as laces. Dials are a popular option because they can be adjusted quickly and easily while providing a secure fit."

What kind of fastening should you look for in a road cycling shoe?

How that shoe is fastened to your feet can impact not just comfort, but just how easy they are to fasten and unfasten. You can expect to find closure systems that use Velcro straps, laces, ratchet buckles or new Boa dials that twist to keep things secure. Go for laces and you’ll achieve that more retro look; Velcro straps keep things light and are easier to adjust; buckles can offer a more reliable fit; and dials are the lightest options and are the easiest to adjust mid-ride.

What sole materials should you look for in a road cycling shoe?

Paying attention to what lies underfoot and coming in direct contact with pedals can be the difference in the kind of comfort and performance you can expect to get from your ride. Shoes with carbon-fibre soles are aimed at the serious cyclist, offering a stiffer fit and minimal flex that ensures you transfer the maximum amount of power onto that pedal. Shoes with plastic soles will feel heavier, while nylon soles or soles with a mix of nylon and carbon can deliver efficient pedalling, but you will miss out on the lighter feel you get on carbon-sole shoes.

What upper materials should you look for in a road cycling shoe?

If you’re going to be riding out in the cold, or heading off into the sunshine, paying close attention to the materials used in the upper of the shoe will ensure you have the best fit for these conditions. A leather upper can offer more snug surroundings, while something that’s made from synthetic materials can give you something that feels lighter to wear and is better for riding in colder conditions. When the temperature rises, a knitted or mesh upper will offer better breathability when things get sweaty.

Shop our pick of the best cycling shoes available right now…

The best cycling shoes for a more efficient and powerful ride (2024)


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