While you certainly can cycle in any kind of shoe, if you’re looking at long-distance riding, something that offers support, warmth and comfort would be greatly preferred to a pair of stilettos or cuban heels. The right type of cycling shoe can even enhance your ride, turning your commute to work from a struggle into a great experience. To get the best out of your riding, a dedicated pair of cycling shoes will offer big advantages in pedalling efficiency and comfort. Take a look through our buying guide to find your ideal cycling shoe!
In comparison to normal shoes, MTB shoes offer excellent power transfer to the pedals and a grippy rugged sole, both on and off the bike. Mountain bike shoes cover a wide range of off-road activity. This can include anything from light-weight high-performance cross-country racing shoes to trail and enduro shoes suitable for use with both flat pedals or with cleats and clipless pedals.
If you are looking at MTB shoes your first choice is the type of riding you intend to do. Off-road shoes come in a variety of styles from the very light-weight and technical cross-country race shoe to the super-tacky soles of a shoe designed for use only with flat pedals.
If you are commuting by cycling to work or cycle touring, MTB shoes also make a great choice, even on a road bike, when you might need to unclip frequently or walk any distance. If you frequently get off the bike (commuting), a softer more grippy sole and recreational style of shoe might suit your needs better.
Cross-country shoes are well-ventilated and light for when every gramme matters, perfect for racing and the summer months. However, they have stiff soles, often carbon, for better power transfer but that makes walking more difficult.
Shoes that offer great support and protection - particularly around the ankle - are ideal for Enduro, downhill and aggressive trail riding. This style of shoe is often dual-purpose; you can fit cleats or opt to ride them with flats. They have super-tacky soles so if you do unclip whilst riding you still have a stable connection with the pedals until you can clip back in. If your style is foot-out, flat-out, these are the ones for you!
For winter riding there are a number of waterproof and insulated boot options that still allow you to clip into your pedals but offer a higher degree of warmth and protection if you are riding off-road in bad weather. Look for boots with Gore-Tex liners for the ultimate in wet weather protection.
Shoes designed for road biking feature lightweight, stiff soles, often carbon, for excellent power transfer, comfort and performance. Designed to be used with the larger platform road pedals these shoes are exclusively for use on the road with very little or no grip on their soles, compared to the more grippy range of MTB shoes.
Road shoes provide a variety of different closure systems; from lace-ups to the BOA system, perfect for on the fly adjustment. This will ensure that your feet are secure even when you are putting down the power. With sleek, sharp, stylish designs these shoes are well-ventilated for summer and racing.
Velcro is the simplest fastening featured on road shoes but boa closures are popular for their security and ease of adjustment even whilst riding. The boa system uses a dial to create even pressure across the front of the foot. Laces are experiencing a resurgence, not just for their retro cool looks but also for aerodynamics and the ability to customise the tightness of the lacing across the forefoot.
Road shoes have a variety of different price points depending on the materials used in their construction. At the entry level, soles are made of plastic composites which have slightly more flex and are a touch heavier. In comparison, at the performance end of the market shoes feature very stiff, lightweight carbon soles. Carbon soles may be useful for racing and high-level cycling but are more easily damaged if you walk in your shoes a lot or clip out frequently.
Look for shoes that are well ventilated and have plenty of room for toe movement, particularly for racing and hot weather when your feet often swell. Some shoes, such as the Specialized Body Geometry and Giro range, offer different insoles to help customise your fit.
If you already have a preferred pedal system make sure the shoe you are interested in is compatible and has the correct cleat drillings as not all shoes suit all pedals.
When choosing commuter cycling shoes it’s a good idea to take into consideration that compared to race shoes, you might be spending more time standing and/or walking in them. We recommend opting for a commuter shoe. These usually have a small amount of flex in the sole to make walking easier. They will also have a treaded sole to offer some traction.
As commuting by bicycle has increased in popularity, brands like Giro and Shimano offer commuting styled shoes with proper performance soles. Giro’s Civila wouldn't look out of place in the office whilst still having a sole compatible with two-bolt cleat pedals systems, whilst FiveTen offer a range of skate style shoes with stiffened soles designed for riding with flat pedals.
Flat pedal shoes often look very similar in design to skate style trainers, but they tend to have a stiffer sole to improve pedalling efficiency. There are an increasing number of specific flat pedal shoes, making it easier and easier for cyclists to choose the perfect type of shoe to suit their cycling needs.
Five Ten use special, extra grippy rubber soles based on climbing shoes. All flat cycling shoes tend to have much more padding internally. This makes them very comfy but also means they can absorb a lot of water and take much longer to dry out. Some, such as Shimano's flat shoes, like the Shimano AM45 All-Mountain shoe use a special lace cover to reduce water ingress.
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