How To Choose The Best Cycling Shoes For You A Buyer’s Guide
First Published May 5, 2021
You can cycle in a pair of trainers but dedicated cycling shoes will be more efficient, more comfortable and just better all round if youre riding any significant distance.
The stiff soles and mechanical connection to the pedals of cycling shoes improve comfort and efficiency
Cycling shoes with external cleats are for racing and other sporty riding choose shoes with a cleat recess if you want to be able to walk in them
Pay more, get less: pricier cycling shoes are usually lighter thanks to use of spendy high-tech materials
You can choose from laces, Velcro straps, ratchet buckles and wire dials to keep your cycling shoes on your feet
Cycling shoes are designed to be light and stiff for efficient pedalling, often with mesh panels to keep your feet cool in the summer and with a sole thats designed to be compatible with a clipless pedal cleat.
Clipless pedals were introduced about 30 years ago, an idea borrowed from the world of skiing. A small metal or plastic cleat is attached to the sole of the shoe with two, three or four bolts, and engages with the specific pedal when you push down on it. This allows you to transfer power better and keeps your foot in the optimum position in terms of ergonomics.
When you want to unclip from the pedal, you twist your foot to disengage. Being attached to your bike might seem scary at first but its very simple to unclip and get your foot on the ground when necessary.
How To Find The Best Spin Shoes For Indoor Cycling
When shopping for spin shoes, the first thing to consider is the type of bike youll be using them on. If you have a spin bike at home, chances are that information came with the bike when you purchased it. Do you go to a studio often? Youll want to check with that studio to ask what type of spin bike they use so you can find compatible spin shoes and cleats.
Some bikes offer triple pedals, which means they can accommodate either a Delta or SPD clip, Maxwell says. But most indoor cycling studios can accommodate both SPD and Delta clips.
Choosing between a shoe that works with Delta or SPD cleats really comes down to personal preference. Evans says he prefers styles with Delta clips, as theyrebigger and easier to clip in and out of your bike, especially in dark studio rooms. SPD clips are smaller and may be harder to lodge into your bike pedal, meaning they may not be the best choice for beginners.
Some shoes are compatible with both cleat styles , but be sure to check the product details before purchasing to make sure.
Other than cleat compatibility with your bike, youll also want to consider the wearability of the spin shoes youre shopping.
I always go with fit and comfort over overall look, says Evans. The right fit will be a game-changer for your performance and allow you to effectively transfer through every pedal stroke.
According to Maxwell, you want your indoor cycling shoes to fit snugly but not too tight.
Look Delta Cleats Vs Spd Cleats
Almost every top spin bike on the market requires you to clip your shoes into the bike pedals in order to ride thats why youre shopping for special shoes for spin class, after all but the mechanism by which your shoe attaches to the pedal varies. The piece that clips in is called the cleat, and there are several styles on the market, but the two most prominent ones are SPD cleats and Look Delta cleats.
SPD cleats, or two-bolt cleats, attach to the sole of the shoe at two points. They sit at the center of the ball of your foot and provide a localized point at which the power transfers from your foot to the pedal.
Clipping in and out of the pedals is a bit easier with SPD cleats than Look Deltas and so are favored by mountain bikers and those who ride in traffic who may have to react quickly to changing conditions. SPD cleats are also considerably smaller than Look Delta cleats and are therefore easier to walk around in off the bike.
Look Delta cleats, or three-bolt cleats, attach to the sole of your shoe at three points in the shape of a triangle. One point reaches toward your toes and two points sit at the ball of your foot. This provides a much larger surface area that attaches your shoe to the pedal creating a most stable base for your foot.
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How To Choose The Best Peloton And Indoor Cycling Shoes
Comfort and fit
When purchasing shoes to go along with your Peloton or exercise bike, comfort and convenience are two of the most important factors. Most spin shoes are made to be lightweight and have a velcro strap for easy and fast wear and removal you dont want to have to stop mid-workout stops to tie your shoe.
Just as important is clip compatibility. At the bottom of a spin shoe is a metal clip which locks your foot into the bikes pedals this clip is typically screwed in, so that you can remove it and attach it to a new pair of shoes when your current pair wears out.
Spin shoes are typically compatible with either the SPD Clip , or the Delta Clip . Better spin shoes can fit either clip. Either way, its important to know if the spin shoe youre buying will work with the clip thats compatible with your exercise bike. For example, Peloton bikes come with Delta-compatible pedals, so unless you want to replace the pedals on your bike, too, youll want to find shoes that work with Delta clips.
Also note that most cycling shoes do not come with clips, so be prepared to purchase them separately and attach them to your shoes. Heres how to attach a clip to your cycling shoe.
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How Do I Stop My Feet From Overheating When Cycling Indoors
Riding inside is a sweaty proposition at the best of times, and the airflow that keeps your feet cool as you spin down the road is, of course, gone. A shoe that relies on pin-prick perforations, therefore, is going to become a sauna.
To keep your little piggies from becoming crispy bacon, look for shoes that have lots of mesh and an open design, and then use a good strong fan to keep your body cool. The less heat your body needs to expel, the less heat it will send to your extremities.
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What Else I Tested
Giro Trans BOA : The Giro Trans BOA was this close to being the best overall BOA cycling shoe in this guide. Its got excellent support thanks to the BOA/Velcro closure combo, is breathable thanks to mesh ventilation panels, and I think it just looks cool.
But Giro is slowly phasing it out in favor of new models. Its also only available in a mens fit starting at a size 39, so those with smaller feel could be out of luck. The Trans BOA only supports Look Delta cleats, while the Cadet supports both Look Delta and SPD, so the Cadet is the more versatile shoe all around.
Tomasso Pista : The draw of the Tomasso Pista is that cleats come included and pre-installed on the shoe, which is great for beginners. But recently, the price jumped up by nearly $40. It was previously available for around $85, which would have made it a great budget buy.
The quality of the shoe itself is lesser than some of the other equivalently-priced models I tested, and the fit felt bulky in a way that other shoes didnt, so its just not worth it at the increased price.
Giro Empire E70 W Knit : I was first intrigued by this shoe because it had laces a rarity in the cycling shoe market. And those laces ended up being its downfall, not because they performed poorly but because I was constantly worried they would get caught in my pedals or come untied during my ride. They never did, but the stress wasnt worth it.
Which Type Of Cleat Do I Need
For the most part, road shoes use a three-bolt mounting system, and mountain-bike shoes will use a two-bolt setup. If you’re looking to get shoes for a spin class or something like a Peloton bike, all spin bikes have pedals that work with two-hole SPD cleats, while some will also have a Look Delta pedal on the underside.
Your road bike will already have pedals screwed into the cranks, but if you’re putting together a dedicated indoor setup, it might be worth looking at a pair of MTB shoes. With lugs designed for scampering up steep inclines, and over rocks and roots, MTB shoes have considerably more traction than road shoes something you’re likely to appreciate if you’ve ever tried to run to the bathroom mid-workout and hit the tiles with a bit too much speed.
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How To Attach Look Delta Cleats
Most cycling shoes don’t come with cleats included, so you’ll need to buy them separately and therefore attach them yourself. Look Delta cleats are easy to install simply screw the three bolts into the bottom of the shoe. The cleats have some vertical allowance so you can position them closer to your toes or closer to the arch of your foot depending on your preference and riding style.
Swierszcz recommends beginners centralize their cleats over the bolt holes and allow them to adjust themselves over time as you ride. “Everybody’s physiology is set up slightly differently. Range of motion and pedal stroke are going to be different from person to person, so start with your cleats in a neutral position and let the repetitive motion break them in over time as you ride.”
That said, you shouldn’t notice too much movement in your cleats from ride to ride. That’s likely a sign that you didn’t tighten the bolts enough. If that happens, reset them to the center and make sure to tighten down your cleats a bit more.
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So you found the perfect cycling shoe manufacturer, but youre not quite sure what size shoes to order, well here are some cycling shoe charts to help you decide.
From my experience road, cycling shoes dont fit the way normal everyday shoes fit. Most cycling shoes are designed to fit snug, so you want to go down a 1/2 to a full size. So, for example, I generally wear a 10.5 or 11 in everyday shoes, but I wear a 43.5 in road cycling shoes.
Winter cycling shoes are a bit different because you will want to wear thicker socks so the chart below is about perfect.
Ultimately if you can try the shoes on first youre better off, but that isnt always an option, especially if youre wanting some of the high-end cycling shoes that most bike shops dont inventory.
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Cleats Will You Need To Buy Them
Most cycling companies dont include cleats or pedals with their cycling shoes. That is an extra cost that you will have to take into an account. The good news is cycling cleats and pedals usually last longer than the cycling shoes they are attached to. That means you should be able to swap out an older set of cleats with a new set of shoes.
I am a big fan of Shimano pedals and cleats. They have been tested and worn by some of the best cyclists in the world and continue to be very reliable.
Which Are The Best Women’s Spinning Shoes
There’s a large number of spin shoes for women, with plenty of variations in style and function. For example, if you’re only planning on wearing the shoes for spinning workouts, consider the studio-oriented Tiem Slipstream or the Vesta Studio from Pearl iZumi. The Five Ten Hellcat is a highly versatile shoe with enough stickiness to get a firm grip on flat pedals along with two-bolt cleat compatibility.
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What Are The Best Shoes For Peloton And Indoor Cycling
Our top pick for the best indoor cycling shoes are the Shimano RC1. They were light, comfortable, and breathable over a month of riding. At less than $100, they’re affordable too, though you’ll need to purchase cleats separately.
If you’re starting out on the Peloton bike for the first time, you’ll most likely turn to the Peloton brand, as you can buy the shoes along with the bike, making it convenient for someone to buy all at once. They’re pretty good shoes, too.
The best cycling shoes for those on a budget are those made by Vitalpa. At less than $60, theyre very affordable. Even though you have to purchase the clips separately, buying these shoes with them is significantly cheaper than buying shoes from a more expensive brand. And they work nicely with the best Peloton alternatives, too.
Alternatively, if you already have a pair of cycling shoes with SPD cleats and don’t want to buy a new pair to fit the Delta cleats needed on Peloton, we’ve reviewed these brilliant Venzo 3-in-1 pedals that allow you to switch between the two.
Read on for our top picks for the best Peloton shoes.
Best Budget Spin Shoes With Velcro
The Shimano RP1 is outstandingly comfortable with an upper that’s plusher than many other cycling shoes, but with only two Velcro straps, the fit isn’t quite as adjustable as other pairs.
- Size range: 36 – 48
- Closure: 2 Velcro straps
- Cleat compatibility: Look Delta, SPD
Pros: Excellent padding makes for a comfortable ride, fits true to size, good grip when walking around off the bike
Cons: Only two Velcro straps, no specialized women’s fit
Many cycling shoes are incredibly streamlined for increased aerodynamics and therefore aren’t always the cushiest. A few of the shoes I tried had so little padding that it affected my ride in a negative way, but the Shimano RP1 shoe has plenty of padding probably more than a road racer would want. But their loss is the spinner’s gain. The RP1 really cradles the foot for a comfortable ride.
It’s also the most budget-friendly shoe I tested, but it’s still constructed from excellent materials including nylon mesh panels for breathability and a ventilated glass-fiber-infused sole. Shimano is also one of the most trusted players in the cycling market, producing cycling gear for a century and cycling shoes in particular since the ’80s.
The RP1 also only comes in a men’s fit. I didn’t notice any major differences in how the RP1 fit me when compared to a women’s engineered shoe, but it does have a bit of a wider toe box than a women’s fit. Regardless of your gender, this is going to be a great option for those with wider feet.
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Fizik Tempo Overcurve R5
- Not compatible with two-bolt SPD cleats
- Runs a bit wide for narrow feet
- Could use more ventilation
The Fizik R5 comes in two styles: Overcurve, which features a form-fitting staggered collar, and the Powerstrap, which has a unique ribbon-like Velcro closure system for extra security as you ride.
Both versions feature a durable carbon-reinforced nylon outsole. The Overcurve features a Boa IP1 dial system so that you can make micro-adjustments as needed for a more comfortable and secure fit.
Both shoes are designed in Italy and are compatible with three-bolt cleats.
The Different Types Of Spin Shoes
When shopping for indoor spin shoes, keep in mind that these are different from mountain biking or road cycling shoes . In addition to featuring different cleat compatibilities, indoor cycling shoes also typically come in lace-up or velcro styles.
The most common, and usually the most affordable, shoes are those with velcro closure systems, says Evans. This makes them super easy to get on and off while keeping your shoe securely on your foot while riding, says Evans.
For shopping made easy, we consulted our experts and customer reviews to bring you the best indoor cycling shoes for men and women. Read on to find your perfect match.
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Louis Garneau Ruby Ii
- Long tongue can rub against skin
- Not the best choice for cyclists with narrow feet
- Sole could be stiffer
An integrated comfort zone, complete with Spandex, gives this shoe more stretch than your average cycling shoe. The result is an indoor cycling shoe for wider feet that can accommodate B to D+ foot widths. You can use the Ruby II with two- and three-bolt cleats.
In addition to giving your feet more room to expand on rides, the material also boosts arch support and power transfer so you can rock every ride. A combined Boa fastening system, complete with a hook and loop strap closure, ensures a more secure fit.
If youre tired of feeling like your heels are slipping out with every upstroke, youll appreciate the integrated heel cup to keep heels locked in place. Mesh panels allow for breathability during rides, while the stiff fiberglass and nylon sole keeps feet stable whether youre sitting or standing.