Everything You Need To Know About Cycling Shoes

Having the right cycling shoes will make a big difference in the power of your pedaling and the certainty with which you ride.

If you have been a tenacious cyclist for some time, you are probably already familiar with the most relevant concepts about cycling shoes. If you just bought your first bike or are ready to start wearing cycling shoes, in this article you will find all the information you need about cycling shoes.

What are cycling shoes for?

The cycling shoe is a type of footwear that has been specifically designed for cycling – almost since the bicycle was created. For these, in addition to making pedaling more comfortable for the cyclist and protecting their feet, seek to transfer the power of your legs to the pedals with absolute efficiency.

Better power transfer

With cycling shoes on, none of the energy you generate when pedaling is wasted. And, because they keep your feet steady, your pedaling efficiency will be much more efficient. The simple fact of not having to worry about the possible slipping of your foot, guarantees a much more efficient transfer of energy.

Designed for high voltage

This is related to the ability of the shoes to stay comfortable, even when you give your best when pedaling. If you did this with ordinary shoes, your feet will go numb due to the thin space between the soles of your feet and the pedals.

If you wear cycling shoes, you can pedal as frantically as you want and you will not feel any type of stress on the soles of your feet, in addition to avoiding possible tendon problems and that burning sensation in the lower part of the feet that afflicts when we ride great distances in our training sessions and rides.

Ergonomic design

Cycling shoes do not feel as bulky as other types of footwear and are extremely light compared to other types of footwear and depending on their price and brand that makes them. This, however, does not compromise its strength.

Types of cycling shoes

There are a wide variety of designs depending on the type and intensity of cycling you practice and what they are intended for.

Key features of this specialized footwear include: the stiffness of both the sole and the last that serves for a more efficient transfer of power from the rider to the pedals; shoe weight; a method to hold the shoe firmly to the pedal and adaptability for use on and off the bike.

Most high-performance cycling shoes can be adjusted while in use, through a quick adjustment system that has largely replaced laces or laces.

Differences between different types of cycling shoes

Cycling shoes can be classified by the type of terrain in which cyclists will use them and by the purpose for which they are used, for example: road cycling, mountain biking, to transport you, among others.

The key differences between cycling shoes and most other athletic shoes are:

  • Rigid outsole for protection of the pedals and to ensure no energy is lost when transferring power to the pedals.
  • A perfect fit so that your feet cannot move inside the shoes while you pedal.
  • Little or no cushioning on the soles of the feet as this would interfere with pedaling.
  • Lightweight and ventilated upper to keep your feet cool, dry and to keep the shoes light.
  • They have special holes to install the fixings or cleats that are used to hook you to the pedals.

Let’s take a look at each type to see what characteristics they have.

Route or highway:

Road cycling shoes usually have smooth, stiff soles. Their cleats are shaped like protrusions on the sole, so they can be attached to the pedals in a matter of seconds. They are very light and comfortable to use, especially over long distances.

Their prices are affordable, but the price can be affected by the material from which they are made, in addition to their design increasing the transfer of power to the pedals.

Road cycling shoes have very rigid soles that are often made of carbon fiber – but it depends on the price and brand – for greater resistance and minimal weight. They typically sport lightweight, ventilated uppers made of nylon mesh and are reinforced in strategic locations with synthetic leather.

Its breathability is ensured by the outer mesh that accompanies most of the models. You can pedal all you want, and your feet will be cool.

Tony Martin on stage three of the 2014 Tour de Suisse

Its closure systems are with velcro or ratchet – which are: it is a mechanism that allows a gear to turn to one side, but prevents it from doing it in the opposite direction, since it locks it with a trigger – they are popular so the adjustments are they can do on the go; tighter for climbing or pedaling at speed, looser if your feet swell or feel uncomfortable.

You should pay attention to the fact that most of the time road shoes come with a 3-hole cleat system . If your pedals have only 2 clamps, these shoes will not work. But don’t worry, you can easily find road cycling shoes with cleats or 2-hole cleats .

It is necessary to consider that this type of footwear is not practical for walking, but on the bicycle they are very useful. Since walking is limited with these shoes, you will have to periodically check your cleats to make sure they are worn.  

Mountain and off road:

Shoes made for mountain biking must present a robust exterior, an almost infallible fastening system and, finally, their recessed cleats. This will allow you to walk more easily, especially if you practice a combination of hiking and cycling.  

Off-road shoes are also quite stiff and inflexible, but not as stiff as road shoes. Like road cycling shoes, these also provide greater power transfer through the shoes to the pedals.

This type of shoe even accepts additional studs that screw in close to the toes for grip on muddier trails.

The upper parts are usually a bit more robust than road shoes, to cope with the brush, stones and other irregularities that you will find in the mountains.

If laces are used, they are usually hidden by a protective tab.

Urban or casual cycling:

Urban cycling shoes are made with comfort in mind and therefore tend to be more flexible than their super stiff road and mountain siblings as the pressure on them will not be as great and they will be used for much more walking than to pedal.

So if you use your bike to commute between work and home or school, if you ride your bike for a spin every now and then, you can wear almost any type of footwear.

But it is recommended that it be flat soled and that it does not have too many ornaments, ribbons or elements that are easy to hook on the bicycle, if you are a woman, I recommend that you do not use very high-heeled shoes to pedal, but not so-called flats , either. because these, in addition to the fact that their sole is very soft, easily come off the foot. However, both types of footwear can be used over short distances and without putting more power on the pedals.

Well, urban commuting is generally not a high-performance task, so you don’t need a clip-on pedal system to get the job done, but if you want, you can install clamping systems on them, although there are marks of articles for urban cyclists that this type of footwear sells, however, any type of sports shoe can be conditioned to allow a fixing system to the pedal.

Features to consider when looking for cycling shoes

Shoe stiffness

The stiffness of your cycling shoes will depend on the type of cycling you practice, and as you have already seen, road shoes are the stiffest, followed by mountain or off-road shoes and finally urban cycling shoes. These aspects will be present both on your last and on your sole.  

Shoe material

The materials most used today for the soles are rubber, for mountain and urban ones; As for road shoes, it is made of some kind of rigid plastic, often reinforced with fiberglass or carbon fiber.

Leather, suede, plastics and even canvas for urban cycling shoes are common for the body of footwear.

Shoe adjustment system

Laces or laces:  

They offer the most customizable fit and comfort.

When you wear a lace-up shoe, make sure the ends are short enough or hidden enough to prevent them from catching some parts of the bike.

Non-slip straps or velcro:

They feature a quick release and can be used in muddy and wet conditions. Straps stretch less than laces and are more likely to stay good. Most cycling shoes have 2 or 3 straps; The more straps, the more the shoe can adjust to your foot.

Ratchet or buckle:

They are more expensive, but offer the most holding power and safety for your feet.

How to choose the right size for your cycling shoes

When buying cycling shoes, don’t underestimate the importance of trying them on, as some brands are wider in last than others; some shapes of soles adapt better than others to your feet and some brands are larger than others.

Always try on footwear with the socks that you are going to wear with them. Preferably use cycling socks, these are thin and generally made of synthetic fibers to ensure they dry quickly, although wool is also a fiber that is used in this type of garment.

When it comes to choosing the right shoe size for you, keep these considerations in mind.

All cycling shoes must allow the toes to have enough room to move slightly. Your arch should be snug and supported and your heel should not slide up or down.

When trying on cycling shoes, you may feel a slip in your heel when you walk. This is due to the stiffness of the soles, which is designed to support your foot in a stable position while pedaling. If you think a poor fit is causing the slip, try a smaller size or a different shoe style.

Bicycle shoes are sold in US or European sizes, depending on the manufacturer.

No matter how much you like the look or features of a cycling shoe, a poor fit can ruin your ride, so it’s always best to try them on.  

As last tip

Shoes that are made for cycling do not need a different treatment than shoes you wear every day. One small difference is that they tend to smell faster, but they can be taken care of by airing them out or using a special shoe deodorant.

In case you have to clean them, you can do it in a few minutes. All you have to do is rinse them with water if they are muddy and then use a brush to clean the stains that are a bit more resistant.

If they get very wet during your ride, try to dry them as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is by stuffing them with paper towels or newspaper.

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