10 Best Cycling Shoes Reviewed and Compared
When it’s time to gear up for riding, having a good pair of cycling shoes is just as important as the bike itself. Cycling shoes are designed to be stiff in order to transfer more power to the pedal with each stroke for better performance. Since they clip into the pedals, the cyclist can use their legs muscles more effectively and be in the right position to keep alignment and prevent injury.
Having a personal pair is ideal for those who aren’t fans of renting cycling shoes offered from their gym or studio because of the spread of germs, bacteria and fungus. Those who hit a cycle class up often might just end up saving money in the long run opposed to shelling out a few bucks each time to rent shoes for every class.
The main things to know about cycling shoes is that they should be rigid with some flexibility, be comfortable and have a snug fit. Compatibility to both indoor and road bikes is a plus for those who take their cycling seriously. Other features like moisture-wicking properties, quick dry time and easy access into and out of the shoe are all things to keep in mind for triathletes. Though, of course, the best cycling shoes have a combination of all these qualities.
- Fi'zi:k R5B Uomo Boa
- Comfortable, Adjustable Fit
- Shimano SHR065 Road
- Good Power Transfer
- Sidi Wire Vent Carbon
- Great for Sprinting
10 Best Cycling Shoes
Fi'zi:k R5B Uomo Boa
Take a look at this cycling shoe and it just has that powerful and sleek appearance. And its look goods is backed up by by how well it performs. The R5B has a Microfiber upper that is durable to meet the demands of racing, yet flexible, comfortable and lightweight. This material has tiny, diamond-shaped perforations that provides ventilation so that feet stay dry. It is equipped with Boa did controls, as well as micro straps at the bottom for a more snug fit. It also has a reflective strip on the back of the heel for increased visibility when rising at night or in inclement weather.
Fi'zi:k R5B Uomo Boa has ample padding with a soft liner that is smooth. The shoe is aerodynamic, with a snug and comfortable fit, with the Boa dial on the side to eliminate pressure points. The company’s Cycling Insole has a sculpted footbed and supportive heel. Because the sole isn’t fully carbon, it does make it slightly heavier than other options. However, it isn’t heavy and the weight is a fair trade for its amount of cushioning and flexibility that put comfort in the forefront.
This option has a 4-anchor, dual Boa Dial, along with a velcro toe strap. The Boa iP1A closure calls for quick adjustments, and makes the foot really feel secure. Turning the dial adjusts the shape of the shoe volume-wise, calling for a more custom and tight fit.
This shoe has a carbon reinforced nylon outsole that is designed aerodynamically to be transfer the maximum amount of power. Even though its not made fully of carbon, it is very stiff and stable, great for really sprinting it out on the bike. Along with its rigidness, it provides great support, keeping the heel securely in place to reduce lifting and shifting. This means more power and energy to directed right to the pedals for a more efficient stroke. It also has a low stack height to be close to the pedals
- Great performance with features packed together for an affordable price
- Comfortable, with a snug and adjustable fit
- Easy to adjust
- Lots of support, especially at the heel
- Not as lightweight as other options
- Micro adjustments slightly lacking
Shimano SHR065 Road
These road cycling shoes are sleek and stylish, featuring a dual hook-and-loop strap closure. It has a synthetic leather upper that has mesh layers and an integrated air intake and exhaust system for moisture control and breathability. The sole is flexible, making it fit well across different foot shapes. It is compatible with 2- and 3-bolt cleats, with a wider cleat range so the shoes fits nicely with a range of pedals (although best with PD-R550, PD-R540, PD-540-LA, PD-A520 options.)
The Shimano SHR065 shoes have plenty of cushioning, making them score very high on the comfort scale. The insole is flat and there is underfoot cushioning for a more pillowy feel that makes this a great option for cycling beginners. The loop straps are also more comfortable than dials. Overall, there is lots of ventilation keeping the feet nice and dry.
Because of its dual hook-and-loop straps, the consumer can quickly and easily make adjustments. This system also keep the foot nice and secure in the shoe, although precise micro adjustments dials provide aren’t available here.
For its affordable price, cyclists will be shocked by how well these perform when it comes to pedaling efficiency. These shoes have a fiberglass-reinforced sole that is nice and stiff. It’s intake and exhaust system proves a more energy-efficient upstroke for a smooth ride. As mentioned before it is SPF-SL and SPD compatible for both indoor and road cycling, with the cleats sold separately.
- Affordable without sacrificing performance
- Good power transfer
- Compatible with indoor and outdoor bikes
- Super comfortable
- Great for triathlons
- Velcro straps not as adjustable as dials
Sidi Wire Vent Carbon
The Sidi Wire Vent Carbon overall is just built really well. It has a carbon fiber construction, withe the sole being super stiff. It has a microfiber TechPro upper, and eco-friendly leather thetis durable, provides stability while keeping the shoe light. It also provides water-resistance capabilities and wards off bacteria and odor. The insole provides support and is comfortable, and its features a Soft Instep Closure System that consists of curved strap that distributes pressure evenly.
Sidi managed to make a cycling shoe that is the right combination of stiffness and comfort, something that is not easy to do with cycling shoes made for the road. It has padding in the heel collar and front closure strap, as well as a padded tongue that eliminates pressure points.
These shoes offer the consumer the option to adjust a lot, with five different points. First up is its Soft Instep 3 that includes a Tecno 3 buckle. This feature keeps the heel down, and these closure system is adjustable on each side. This system is also replaceable. The Techo 3 PUSH System allows for adjustments since these includes dials that go down the length of the shoe to give a more customized fit. These dial includes Sidi’s Wire material that is non-binding to make on-the-fly adjustments worry-free. The PUSH bucks has a button that simply needs to be pushed to lift the buckle so adjustments can be made. It also has an adjustable heel retention device that further secures the heel and can be tightened for a more snug fit.
If you thought this shoe performs well when it comes to adjustability, wait until you hear about power transfer. It has a Vent Carbon Sole that is super stiff thanks to its weave pattern that maximized rigidness, while directing the force down right to the pedal. All this and it still has controlled flexibility in the toe. Carbon soles are the best for power transfer because how lightweight they are. It also has a vent like its name suggests that allows for air flow. It includes a 3-hole design, with a 10 mm lateral and fore/aft cleat compatibility. These shoes perform exceedingly well in this category, in part because its adjustability that gives a better fit for better form.
- Great power transfer with its full carbon sole
- Lots of adjustability
- Replaceable parts increase its life
- Ideal for sprinting
- Thicker sole, so heavier than others
Mavic Cosmic Ultimate II
Lightweight, thin and a favorite among many professional riders, the Cosmic Ultimate II has an upper section that swaps stitches for bonding to provide for ventilation. It has a supportive instep, with dials on the side to avoid hot spots. It is equipped with a full carbon sole that is super stiff, and has a 3-hole design.
Comfort is in the forefront with this option because of its high-quality Ortholite insole that provides ample cushioning. It has Ergo Fit 3D + with a padding on the tongue. Overall, there is ample breathability throughout the shoe.
This shoe has two Mavic Ergo Dials that fall off to the sides (with the top one connecting to the padded tongue) that allows for two-way micro adjustment with precise retention. It also has a Smart Release function that makes the dials easy to release. This all adds to a tight fit that is firm and secure.
The Mavic Cosmic Ultimate II has an Energy Full Carbon SLP outsole that is ultra-stiff, performing the best on the Index Energy Transfer scale for optimal power transfer. This is thanks to the think sole that keeps the feet has close to the pedal as possible, while the frame keeps that foot in place, with ample support to lock down the heel.
- Carbon fiber soles are super stiff with great perform transfer
- Very comfortable, and ultra-lightweight
- Easy to adjust
- Normally made for wider fit, but slightly narrow fit
Giro Empire ACC
This cycling shoe has a lace up design that was originally made for Taylor Phinney for the 2012 London Games. It has an overall sleek appearance that just looks like it performs well, and this is so true. The Empire ACC is a lightweight shoe at about 18.8 oz. It features a Evofiber upper that is light as a feather and breathable, as well as a low-profile outsole.
Lightweight and ideal for road racing, these shoes are flexible because of its microfiber upper, and as a more evenly tight fit because of its lace system. The collar is padded for added comfort. These aren’t the best when it comes to its level of comfort, but doesn’t cause discomfort in any way.
Because of its laces, adjustments can’t be made during a race or right before a starting to climb. However, it does feature a SuperNatural Fit Kit in the insoles that allows the athlete to customize support.
The Empire ACC are very stiff thanks to its Easton EC90 ACC Carbon Sole. It has 6.5 mm stack height that makes it one of the press for power transfer since the feet as so close to the pedals. And while its power transfer is impressive, it does lack behind the Fi'zi:k R5B Uomo Boa in this category mainly because the heel can slip a bit.
- Great power trader because of its 6.5mm stack height
- Great fit with a sleek look
- Contains antimicrobial fibers to keep bacteria and smells away
- Narrow fit
- Heel tends to slightly slip
- Laces mean adjustability is limited
Northwave Evolution Plus
This shoe is all about its construction, using the company’s BioMap tech for its upper. This consist of PU material that is lightweight, seamless and eliminates hot spots. This upper is made with microfiber that is fast-drying. It’s design also allows for getting the shoes on quickly, saving seconds for triathletes.
This shoe has small holes on the sides and upper that helps to make it breathable. It
It’s dial system is to the side, which prevents pressure being on the top of the foot. It has wider fit, ideal for those who have wide feet or how don’t like how snug narrower options feel. However, the upper may cause some irritation for some depending how how it gets on each consumer.
The Northwave Evolution Plus has a SLW2 dial design that has both a full release and a incremental adjustment. This allows for customizing the fit and making adjustments mid-ride super easy. It also have two straps with clean on the top for more security.
The Evolution Plus has a carbon and fiberglass Carbon Light sole that has a stiffness of a 10 on the index, making it rigid without too too hard. It can hold its own for those powerful and fast ride. It has 3-hole design, with compatibility with a Speedplate adapter to make the shoe the closest to the pedal as possible for impressive power transfer. It also have an omega heel retention system to prevent slipping during those moments of going all out when pedaling.
- Speedplate compatible
- Stiff sole
- Easy to adjust
- Wider shoe
- Not as breathable as other options
- Wider fit means consumer might want to first try on
Pearl Izumi Pro Leader v4
This option has a sleek appearance that just looks like it performs well. And that it does. It has a seamless upper for comfort, is lightweight, breathable and a secure fit. It has a an asymmetric closure with an off-center Boa closure system, as well as a unibody construction.
These are some comfortable shoes thanks to small features that go a long way. First is its seamless upper that eliminates all stitching. This means it is smooth on the feet. The dials are off center so they don’t rest on the top of the foot that can be sensitive. There is also a replaceable heel bumper.
The Pearl Izumi Pro Leader v4 has a zonal Bi-direction closure that has a great git that is secure and keeps that foot in place. While this is important for power transfer efficiency, it also allows for a semi-custom fit. More importantly is its dual Boa IP1 dials that allows for 1 mm micro-adjustability.
This option has a 1:1 insole system that allows for independent arch and forefoot varus canting adjustment. It has an integrated carbon power plate that is stiff, while still being lightweight. With a stiffness rating of an impressive 13 for the soles, the overall unibody construction proves super low stack height which enhances pedaling efficiency. It also has a 3-hole design.
- Very stiff
- Unique unibody design provides comfort and improves pedaling efficiency.
- Comfortable, especially on the top of the foot
- Great option for road biking
- Uses a 3-hole lock system, no 2-hole option so it’s less versatile
Giro Empire E70 Knit
These cycling shoe is in a league of its own design wise because of the use of its unique Xnetic Knit upper, which consists of a TPU skeletal system that is bonded to a knit material that process support, comfort and breathability. It also has other fun features like water repellent DWR-finish and heel guards for added durability. It has a molded EVA footbed, replaceable heel pads, and an overall great “sock-like” look.
These shoes have a stiff sole that isn’t overly rigid, making walking in them comfortably possible. The amount of ventilation here is a major selling point. They have comfortable, resembling more of a sock than a shoe and feels great on.
This option has empire laces. This means the ability to customize the fit isn’t has much as other options. It also means that adjusting on the fly isn’t possible. However, it does have a secure fit so this might be a major concern.
The Giro Empire E70 Knit has a Easton EC70 carbon composite outsole, and a TPU-reinforced toe and heel that provides the support needed when in motion on the pedals.
- Xnetic Knit makes it comfortable and breathable
- Water-resistant finish
- TPU-reinforced toe and heel
- Not has lightweight as other options
- Empire laces means limited adjustments
Shimano SH-RP2 Touring
This is a versatile shoe that is great for road cycling, indoor and mountain biking. The cleat has a 2 and 3-hole design, and a buckle closure. The upper is made of synthetic leather with nylon mesh that makes it durable, strong, stable and breathable. It is lightweight, and has a EVA footbed.
This cycling shoe as a pad tongue to add to its level of comfort. There is adde support at the instep, and it features a smaller toe box made with women’s feet in find. Plus there is enough air circulation that helps to keep feet dry and comfortable.
Along with a buckle closure, the Shimano SH-RP2 has three asymmetrical straps to reduce pressure and hot sports. This shoe is specifically designed for women so it has a more secure and narrow fit that feels nice and snug.
This shoe has a fiberglass reinforced nylon sole with direct connection to the pedal that enhances power transfer to the pedals—with a more efficient upstroke. The shoe is stiff with a low profile, and has SPD and SPD-L compatibility to wear to spin class or when road riding.
- Great power transfer
- Snug fit, yet breathable
- Great control and stiffness
- Affordable for spin class addicts who don’t want to keep borrowing shoes
- Specifically made for women
- Too narrow for those with wide feet
Louis Garneau Multi Air Flex
This cycling shoe is designed to be worn when riding, commuting or getting around on the bike. Its upper includes synthetic leather and mesh that aids in breathability. The EVA insole also offers ventilation, so expect the feet to stay nice and dry without sweat or causing overheating. The bottom is SPD cleats that fits all major MTB pedals. It also has a reflective heel for visibility in low light situations and when night riding.
The outsole of this shoe provides some flexibility, making it not too stiff to be able to walk. This flexibility is a great feature for those who do triathlons or who want or need to walk around comfortably off their mountain bike. And its nylon fiberglass outsole also prevents heel pressure. This all calls for one comfortable shoe.
The Multi Air Flex’s closure system consists of three velcro hook and loop fasteners straps that not only provide enough support, but it also allows for a more adjustable fit.
These shoes have a stabilized heel that keeps it down and in place. This means less lifting to not reduce power transfer. The stiffness isn’t as important here since it is a shoe for mountain biking and the consumer needs to be able to walk. That’s where its nylon. fiberglass sole domes in. It is stiff enough for cycling and without hindering walking.
- Compatible with most MTB pedals, so a great choice for mountain bikers
- Roomy fit
- Easy velcro closure
- Lots of breathability
- Fixing can be an issue so try on first
The Criteria We Used for Our Evaluation
Because there are different types of cycling shoes (road, mountain biking and indoor spin options), each with their own construction, closure system and other main selling features, and it can be hard to determine what classifies an specific option as the best. To do so we used a set list of criteria that is detailed below.
Design: More than just the overall design of the shoe, other important features include the sole and cleat style. Are the soles stiff enough to transfer power to the pedals effectively? Keep in mind that carbon fiber is the popular sole option since it is both lightweight and rigid. Also be aware of the pedal design, with 3-holes made for road bikes and 2-holes for mountain bikes.
Fastening: The closure system to fasten and keep the foot secure is one the most important feature of cycling shoes. This includes velcro straps, dials, buckles and laces. Each have their own pros and cons that varies among consumers when it comes to customizable fit and the amount of comfort.
Fit: Adjustability plays a major role here. The shoe needs to be able to be customized to have that tight and close to the foot fit. Also consider the fact that some options might feel narrow on the toe box.
Comfort: No matter what the physical activity is, athletes want shoes that are comfortable to be able to perform. Does the shoe offer ample support in the arches and heels for a comfortable foot stroke when riding? What is the outsole and upper made of? Is the shoe breathable?
Other Important Things to Consider
Just like runners investing in good quality shoes to be able to perform their best. That’s because the right shoe can help prevent an injury. They are also more comfortable since they are designed for the activity. This means no more pedaling with the toes, which is painful. Instead, clipping into the bike via cycling shoes keeps the athlete on the balls of their feet where they should be. Not only is it more comfortable, but it also means working the muscles more. Since the feet are securely in place on the bike, the right muscles can be engaged like the glutes, core, and hamstrings instead of the shoulders during the workout.
Clipping In vs. Cleats
Being able to clip into the bike is distinctive to cycling shoes. Some cycling shoes provide this feature, while others are also or solely designed to work with clipless pedals. Instead, this option features small holes on the soles that are meant to attach cleats. The cleats then snap into the pedals. Push down on the balls of the feet, and the shoe then clips into the cleat. This allows the athlete to be secured on the pedal.
This is also true for spin classes. Studio spin bikes commonly feature a cage design on one side of the pedal that allows the athlete to wear any sneaker. The other side has the clip that then attaches to the athlete’s cleat.
Cleats are commonly sold separately.
These clipless cycling shoes either have a 2- or 3-hole system. The 2-hole system (SPD or Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) is meant to be used for road cycling, casual riding, mountain biking, indoor cycling and spin classes and commuting. The 3-hole system (lock-style system) is used specifically for road cycling.
Power transfer is a term used a lot when it comes to finding the best cycling shoes. The idea behind this is that the shoe should be designed to be as close to the cleat or pedal as possible to reduce the amount of power lost when in rotation. The lower the stack height, the closer the foot is to the pedal for optimal power transfer.
Having maximum power transfer makes it easier to pedal because the power created by the legs goes directly to the pedals and not elsewhere in the foot. This allows the athlete to then turn up the resistance, and sprint it out efficiently.
Just like there are different styles of cycling shoes that include road and mountain bike shoes, there are different closure systems among cycling shoes. What determines which is the best system varies among consumers and their own preferences and needs.
This system allows the athlete to really make micro adjustments. It consists of a dial (typically two) on one side with thin wires that keep the foot in place and fit snugly. It helps to maintain circulation and distributes pressure evenly. The IP1 Boa dial is extremely easy to use mid-ride by turning right to make righter, left to loosen and pull up for a quick release.
This system typically features velcro closures. The strap hooks and loops around, allowing the athlete to pull are tight or loosen to find their right fit. Cycling shoes generally have two or three of these straps for a more adjustable fit.
Laces are great for getting an even amount of tightness across the entire shoe. However, they don’t allow for more customized fits or size adjustments. Laces get dirty and come undone.
Q: How should cycling shoes it?
A: The shoe should feel snug at the heel with little toe room without feeling too crunched. The widest part of the shoe should be where the balls of the feet are. Consider what kind of cycling and the type of bike, and get measured if its the first time buying a shoe to get the best advice.
Q: What shoes are best for a triathlon?
A: This depends on if the bike’s pedals call for a particular cleat design or not. Comfort is key here with the option to be worn without socks and have quick drying time, as well as power transfer in order to be speedy.
Q: How do I clean my cycling shoes?
A: Cycling shoes should be wiped with a towel or rag for minor dirt, but the user can use mild soap and water on the rag to dab away more serious dirt that builds up.
Q: How often should I buy new cycling shoes?
A: This depends on how often they are used. Casual riders can keep their pair (and cleats) for up to 5 years. Those who ride long distances and often should invest in a new pair every year. Also, make sure to replace when damaged.
Q: Should I buy cycling shoes for spin class?
A: This is up to the individual, but it is a good idea for those who spin as little as twice a week. Having your own pair is more hygienic and will provide better form and power transfer than using the cage.
Q: Should I be fitted for cycling shoes?
A: It is always a good idea to try on the shoes before purchasing for those who do not own cycling shoes. Being fitted the first time will ensure the athlete is sized correctly.
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