9 Nov 2010
Shoe Buying Guide
Cycling shoes are purpose-built and allow you to attach or "lock in" to the pedal much like ski boot. While it takes a little getting used to, with no chance for your foot slipping off the pedal you will be more balanced comfortable and faster.
The appropriate design will depend on the type and intensity of the riding you intend to do. The key features to look for with all bike shoes include good fit, rigidity for better efficiency and transfer of power to the pedals, and light weight. From here your best choice will depend on the type of riding you do. There are cycling shoes designed specifically for road racing, track racing, casual or recreational cycling, touring, off-road or mountain biking, and indoor cycling or spinning.
It is important that you check your cycling shoes and pedals are compatible. See our pedal buying guide for more information.
Road shoes are designed to be STIFF and light. The goal is to transfer every bit of your energy into the pedals and propelling you forward, while at the same time keeping them as light as possible. Little attention is given to being able to walk around.
The quality of a road shoe is dependent on its fit, rigidity, durability, construction quality and lightness. Currently carbon fibre soled shoes are the best at achieving these goals.
Casual cycling shoes are designed to be good on and off the bike. They provide a solid platform for comfort and efficiency when riding while still being comfortable to walk in.
The outersole usually has a lugged pattern similar to a hiking boot. They have a moulded midsole which transfers energy while avoiding a pressure point at the exact shoe/pedal contact points and can be walked in normally.
MTB shoes are designed with the same goals in mind as a road shoe, with the additional requirement of being able to run through unrideable terrain.
They have an aggressive, lugged outersole similar to a football boot for better performance when the rider has to get off the bike to run or to push or carry the bike. A hand laid carbon fibre midsoles offers the best performance when considering weight and stiffness.
Modern cycling shoes are designed to work as part of clipless pedal systems. Such systems temporarily connect the shoe to the pedal like a ski binding system for maximal efficiency and balance, using a cleat on the bottom of each that clicks and locks into the pedal and is easily released with a sideways twist of the foot. Several manufacturers produce these systems including Shimano, Look, Speedplay and Time; consequently, modern shoes usually have threaded holes in the sole in various arrangements to attach cleats from different manufacturers.