Cycling - Knowledge

Cycling Gear: Road Cycling Shoes Buying Guide for Every Cyclist

1912 Views - 9 mins read

Well! You can ride a bike in any kind of shoes but when you ride in bike shoes, your cycling performance definitely improves a lot. Buying cycling shoes, and using them of course, improves your performance to transfer power to the pedals with their stiff sole, provides extra comfort for your feet, avoids cramps in the long run, and has various other efficiency factors. We have created an ultimate road cycling shoes buying guide along with complete information about the road bike shoes.

Road Cycling Shoes Buying Guide: How to Select Bike Shoes

Road bike shoes always come with the soft outer sole and an extremely stiff inner sole. They are light-weight and follow an aerodynamic design. They are constructed with stiff nylon or carbon fibers and are for cycling and not walking. Road bike shoes are specially designed for long and fast straight path rides as they lack traction (though some shoes come with a small rubber pad for a little traction) and flexibility. The cycling shoes are designed in such a way that a maximum amount of your energy is used for pedaling to drive you forward.

The cycling shoes are designed in such a way that a maximum amount of your energy is used for pedaling to drive you forward. They have a 3-hole cleat system (provided by brands like Look, Time, and Shimano SPD-SL) which goes well with clipless pedals and extended soles. These features improve performance by maximum energy transfer and provide easy foot on and off from your bike. In addition to these features, road bike shoes offer proper ventilation to avoid wet feet.

Cycling Shoes: Pedal Compatibility and Cleat Type

Pedal Compatibility of bike shoes is directly related to cleats of the paddle and the type of sole used for the shoes. A prime principle in every road cycling shoes buying guide is when you go to purchase any type of shoes for cycling, always match them with the cleat system of your pedal.

Livingit Tip: Remember, cleats come with pedals, not with shoes.

The main feature that you look for in a bike shoe is the stiffness of pedals. The sole does not bend when you press the pedal down. The beginner level shoe will come with a plastic soul. It is cheaper than most of the expensive brands which are made of both carbon and plastic and provide better performance due to their stiff sole.

There are mainly two types of cleat designs used by the shoe: 2-hole system and 3-hole system. Shoe-hole system implies the number of drills made in the shoes featuring different functionalities. Some shoes even come with both kinds of cleat systems but are rarely used.

What is the difference between 2-hole system and 3-hole system except for the number of holes?

Let’s find out!

  • The 2-hole system is used for mountain bike shoes and commuter bike shoes. It provides easier walking than a 3-hole system. These are suitable for all kinds of biking such as mountain biking, commuter biking, indoor/training purpose biking, and also for road biking in some cases.
  • The 3-hole system comes with road bike shoes. It provides stability and speed during long, straight runs. It has the largest cleat spread over a wide area, which provides a secure connection while paddling fast and improves performance and energy level.
cleat hole bike shoes
Cleat Drill Hole Configuration Source

Mostly, road cycling shoes have a 3-hole cleat system given by Shimano, Look and Time. You cannot use different cleat and pedal systems; for instance, you have to use Shimano SPD-SL cleat with Shimano pedals. Apart from these cleat systems, the 4-hole system shoes are also available in the market. They are also known as Speedplay shoes and time road pedals.

Here are some of the best road bike shoe cleats that can be attached using 3 bolts –

Shimano SPD-SL Cleat

Shimano SPD SLcleat
Shimano SPD-SL Cleat

Look Keo Cleat

Look Keo Cleat
Look Keo Cleat

Time Xpresso cleat

cycling shoes cleat
Time Xpresso Cleat Source

Speedplay Zero cleat

cycling shoes cleat
Speedplay Zero Cleat

Speedplay Zero cleat system comes with speedplay shoes and is compatible with speedplay pedals only.

Sole Material

The sole of shoes plays a vital role as it is the vital cog that defines the quality of any shoe. So the material for the sole of the show should be good enough to sustain the kind of activities that you do. There are various types of soles with different material and varied price range. All you got to do is choose the best one for you. Following are some of the sole material types.

Some of the sole material types are as follows-

Nylon Sole

Shoes with nylon soles are inexpensive. The plastic sole shoes are the ones which make them heavier and less stiff.

Nylon/Carbon Sole

Some shoes have soles made from the combination of plastic and carbon. Their price range is moderate, and these are lighter in weight than full nylon soles.

Carbon Sole

Shoes with full carbon soles are the most expensive bike shoes. However, they are extremely light-weight and made of natural leather. The shoe sole is smooth and stiff, which makes it more efficient. They even provide proper ventilation to keep your feet cool.

Closure Styles

Bike shoes have different kinds of closure styles.

  1. BOA/Dial style consists of boa dials which provide suitable closure in any environment. It offers proper grip and power to the rider. They are a bit expensive though.
  2. Laces offer the most traditional, easy, and comfortable fastening. You should just know how to tie them properly. They are a bit tricky to adjust while you are riding.
  3. Velcro straps provide easy and quick fastening. Prefer using shoes of this style while cycling on a muddy
cycling shoes
Cycling shoes closure types Source

Shoe Size

Bike shoes should fit perfectly snug into your feet. They should not be too large or too small in size but fit comfortably. If the shoe is too small, it will lead to swelling and numbness of feet. And, if the size of shoe is large, your feet will slip inside, leading to knee instability.

Other Features

Uppers are usually made of leather or synthetic material. Uppers should be light in weight and must have mesh panels. They are airy to avoid wet feet.

The footbed is also termed as the insole. Some of the road bike shoes come with a footbed to provide you with good arch support.

Toe bumpers are designed to maintain the sole of shoes. They even can be replaced once they become useless.

Top 8 Road Bike Shoes

This is all about the features of road bike shoes and pedals. Now is the time to buy a shoe that fulfills your purpose. Here is the list of best road bike shoes available in the market.

1. The Louis Garneau LA84

This is the perfect option if you are seeking for a bike shoe under $100. These shoes not only provide better performance but are stylish and comfortable too. They come with a heel retention system to conserve your power on the upstroke. This is done by adding an extra layer of material that is attached around the heel and tightly tied to the sole. These shoes come with mesh upper and three straps to fit perfectly in your feet. You will also find a proper ventilating shoe sole which helps to keep your feet cool during the heat.

road bike shoes
The Louis Garneau LA84 bike shoes

2. Shimano SH-RP2 Cycling Shoe Men’s

These are one of the best road shoes available in the market in the range of $100. When it comes to durability, they last for more than five years. They have a synthetic leather and lightweight fiberglass nylon sole which provides perfect stiffness. Moreover, they are stiffer than the shoes designed by Louis Garneau. Apart from this, Shimano shoes provide a more efficient upstroke feature, proper air intake, and the exhaust system keeps your feet dry and cool.

The synthetic leather used for this shoe is lighter and more durable than natural leather. Hence, they can handle more sun and heat without wearing down. These shoes come with many features, which make it hard to believe that these are entry level shoes.

bike shoes
Shimano SH-RP2 Cycling Shoe Men’s Source


3. Pearl Izumi Race RD

Women bike shoes are rare to find in the market and with very few colors and varieties. These shoes come with a fabulous look in black color. They provide comfort during the summer, ventilation, efficient and better riding. They are specially designed for women, with extra comfort and style.

best road bike shoes
Pearl Izumi Race RD bike shoes.

4. Northwave Evolution Plus Cycling Shoes

These are the mid-range but excellent performance bike shoes. They have a dial fastening system which makes it easy to fasten them. These are made of ultralight PU material to provide extreme comfort. They also avoid unwanted pressure across the foot due to their dial style closure system. They have a carbon sole which makes them lightweight.

They even fit for wider feet and provide quite accurate sizing which makes them worth buying.

Northwave Evolution Plus Cycling Shoes
Northwave Evolution Plus Cycling Shoes


5. Shimano RC7

These shoes are the best and in the range of $200. Whether you talk about the style or performance, Shimano RC7 meets both. They are comfortable, fit, and stiff. Combined Boa and Velcro fastening systems make them easy to put on and take off.

bike shoes
Shimano RC7 cycling shoes.

6. Shimano RP9

These are the best performance shoes available at a very affordable price. They provide the performance of a pro-level shoe at the cost of only $119. They have 3-bolt cleat system. These shoes are stiff but comfortable. They also have insoles, rubber bumpers—to avoid scratches—and a vent at the front which makes them more efficient.

bike shoes
Shimano RP9 shoes

7. Giro Empire SLX

Though a bit expensive—range between $199 to $404—than the above-mentioned shoes, these are lightest in weight—just 408 grams—comfortable and stylish. Their lace-fastening style and full carbon sole make their performance excellent without wasting your power during the race.

shoes for cycling
Giro Empire SLX shoes

8. Bont Vaypor S

These are the most expensive shoes but worth the cost. Bont’s Vaypor S shoes are extremely comfortable, inflexible—completely stiff—and have a high strength sole. They have a handmade sole constructed with Toray’s carbon fiber. There are a lot of high price shoes for cycling available in the market that provides stiff soles, but Bont Vaypor S shoes have an incredibly high strength to weight ratio.

cycling shoes
Bont Vaypor S Shoes

Cycling Shoes for Triathlon

Some people also might be taking part in triathlon races or might be thinking of taking part in one. Shoes for the road cycling part of the triathlon races are different than the normal road cycling shoes. Here’s a little brief on the same.

Triathlon cycling shoes are different to the road cycling ones. If you are ever going to try one be sure to buy triathlon specific shoes as they are designed to be clipped to your pedals before you start biking. These shoes are specifically designed to be put on the pedals of the cycle and hence have an easy to open retention system as you have to get on the bike after the swim leg of the race and put your feet inside the shoes once your speed is up.

cycling triathlon shoes
Triathlon shoes attached to the pedal. Source

Triathlon shoes also have holes for wet feet so riding in cold weathers can be a task. As you come to an end of your biking leg in the race you can remove your feet from the shoes and leave them hanging on the pedals.

Road Cycling Shoes Buying Guide: Shoe Accessories

Any sport requires you to follow certain rules and prerequisites. Cycling has also become a popular sport nowadays. We should always carry the necessary cycling gear accessories along with the following shoe accessories.

  • Shoe cover: A shoe cover comes in handy when the weather conditions are not good. They are wind and water resistant, which keeps your shoes dry. These bike shoe covers are made of rubber lamination or neoprene.
    Remember, these are not preferable when you walk because its soles are not designed for that purpose.
  • Shoe Dryer: Shoe dryers are used to dry wet shoes using warm airflow in a couple of hours.

So there you have it the ultimate road cycling shoes buying guide. This is everything there is to know when you are buying cycling shoes. Remember, never go for a pair of cycling shoes just because of a brand, and preferably avoid buying online. Look for comfort and durability, because that is what will matter in the end.

Image Source and Cover Source