The best cycling shoes will make riding an altogether more pleasurable experience, regardless of your ability. Why should you buy dedicated shoes for cycling? The main appeal being clipped into the pedals which improves efficiency as you turn the cranks, but the best cycling shoes are also comfortable which enables you to ride for longer without any chafing.
Cycling shoes are not exclusive to road bike users either. There are bike shoes for mountain bike riders as well as triathlon bike pedal-pushers, not to mention commuters. Bike shoes for the latter group of riders look inconspicuous enough so you don’t have to feel embarrassed for wearing them in public riding your electric bike. After all, you are only trying to maximise pedalling efficiency.
Bike shoes can also be used for indoor training. Mount your bike on a turbo trainer and pedal in your home, safe from the weather. Or get a decent indoor exercise bike, like the Wattbike Atom, and pop your pedals on it so you can ride indoors like there is no tomorrow, too.
Now, on with your cycling socks and let’s go find out which are the best cycling shoes to buy.
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How to buy the best cycling shoes
There’s a huge range of shoes out there for all budgets and finding the right pair can be a minefield – because everyone’s feet are slightly different shapes and sizes, it’s best to try before you buy.
Entry-level cycling shoes will typically have a nylon sole, with mid-range options adding a smattering of carbon fibre to increase the torsional-rigidity. The most expensive cycling shoes will have a full-carbon sole, with the added stiffness helping to convert all of your effort into forward motion.
There’s also a number of closure systems available, ranging from old-school laces to velcro straps, ratchets and fancy dials that let you adjust the fit down to the millimetre.
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The Fizik Transiro Infinito R1 Knit combines the stiff, race-orientated feel of road shoes with a design that facilitates quick and easy foot entry at transition – after all, the Fizik Transiro Infinito R1 Knit is a triathlon shoe at heart. What makes it the best cycling shoe is exactly the multi-purpose nature of these shoes: it can be worn on a triathlon race as well as on a road race. And it looks pretty amazing too.
One thing is for sure: regardless of what cycling principle you’re into, you would like to avoid ill-fitting shoes, especially on longer rides. The Fizik Transiro Infinito R1 Knit was designed to provide a comfortable ride without socks – a feature that might sounds music to the ears of triathletes.
There are too many technologies that went into the Fizik Transiro Infinito R1 Knit to detail here so we’ll stick to the key benefits; that’s why you’re here anyway. The forefoot area can be adjusted to infinite precision using the using the aptly named Infinito system, which is a textile webbing in place of plastic lace guides. This closure system pulls the eyestays inwards consistently from all directions for a more supportive and comfortable fit.
The upper is made out of a machine-knitted material that adjusts to each riders feet so you’ll feel locked in, even if you wish to tackle the full Ironman cycling distance – the whole 112 miles.
As for the outsole, the R1 full-carbon sole plate is stiff for maximum power output with vent openings channelling the airflow through the sole to keep your feet cool as you pedal.
All the premium features come for a premium price tag, though: the Fizik Transiro Infinito R1 Knit was designed for and is used by pro athletes who will pay the extra money for being lighter and quicker than the rest of the competition.
But we can also say that for a not-so-extreme price, you can gain access to the kit of the champions and gain advantage over the rest of the peloton, either on a triathlon race or a road race.
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The Giro Savix Women’s road shoes can be used with either road (3 bolt) or mountain bike (2 bolt) cleats, although we wouldn’t say they are all that ideal for MTBs, but in case you are in an emergency situation where you might have to use the Giro Savix on a mountain bike, rest assured you can.
The injected nylon outsole makes the Giro Savix stiff so you won’t lose power as you turn the crank hard. The die cut insoles add comfort, while the synthetic upper enhances breathability and keeps weight to a minimum.
The upper can be adjusted precisely thanks to the Boa L6 lacing system in 1 mm increments, and there is also a macro release function for a quicker exit. The upper is synthetic, not knitted, but the Giro Savix still fits fine. Some user reviews mention sizing not being 100% accurate but then this is the case with any running/cycling shoes: it’s impossible that a shoe will fit all types of feet perfectly.
The Specialized S-Works 7 Road Shoe is made for maximum power transfer. The Powerline carbon sole is light yet stiff and the Padlock heel system holds the heels firmly but not too tight so you can ride even longer distances in comfort.
On the top, the Dyneema material doesn’t stretch when pulled on, making sure that your foot stays where it’s supposed to – in the shoes. The Boa S3 Snap dials allows riders to adjust the the fit to every minute detail, should you want to.
The speedy Specialized shoes are definitely on the pricey-side but if you’re happy to pay the price, you’ll get one of the fastest shoes in the market that are also stylish and as comfortable as slippers.
The Fizik R5B strikes an excellent balance between top-end features and affordability, making this slipper our top all-round choice for roadies.
The laser-perforated upper is made from a material called Microtex, said to be lighter than leather. In reality, it provides a close, unobtrusive fit around the foot – just what you want from a cycling shoe – and is easy to wipe clean after a ride in mucky conditions.
The micro-adjustable Boa dial means you can fine-tune the fit on the fly, while the carbon-reinforced sole sits in that all-important sweet spot between rigidity and comfort. Sure, it’s not as outright stiff as a top-end racing shoe, but as an all-rounder it hits the mark.
The stiff sole of cycling shoes is great when it comes to effective power transfer, but it’s not ideal when you need to walk around in them off the bike. If you’ve ever seen people wearing bike shoes off the bike, you know the added rigidity doesn’t help walking all that much.
Enter the Mavic Allroad Elite Shoes. The rubber outsole is not only less stiff but it also has an anti-slip tread for walking on slick concrete or pavement. The comfort is further enhanced by the lace closure on the top (as opposed to Boa-style fastening) which also makes the Mavic Allroad Elite Shoes less conspicuous.
In the shoes, you’ll find the OrthoLite insole which offers comfort on the soles of your feet – just like in the Salomon Alphacross trail running shoes.
At the bottom, the composite sole is made from a combination of fiberglass and nylon for added rigidity to provide a good energy transfer index (Index energy transfer: 80) but without making it too stiff.
Lace-up cycling shoes have been all the rage over the past few years, providing a slice of old-school cool for the weekend group ride. The Dorica may be dhb’s entry-level shoe but it undoubtedly looks the part and is backed up by performance to match.
Laces aren’t just for looks. Some riders prefer the inherent adjustability offered, as you can tweak the fit across the front of the entire shoe. Once you’ve done them up, there’s a little tab on the tongue to tuck the laces into.
Otherwise, the semi-perforated upper helps provide ventilation for sweltering mid-summer rides, while the nylon sole can accept either a three-bolt road or two-bolt mountain bike cleat.