How to Choose Bike Shoes
The world of cycling shoes can be a complicated one. Don't worry, we're here to help. The first thing to think about is what application of cycling are you going to use the shoes for. Are you mixing it up on dirt roads on a gravel bike? Racing towards that local town line sprint? What about just trying to ride road bikes with some friends and want a comfortable option to get you to the coffee shop? Don't worry, we've got you covered. The guide below should be all you need to make an informed decision. If you still have questions reach out to one of our in store sales professionals for help!
Why Wear Bike Shoes
When thinking about the importance of a cycling shoe, we need to take a step back and think about the cycling experience as a whole. Whether on the road or in the woods, the more connected we are to the bike, the more efficient the riding experience will be. Regular shoes are designed to comfort our feet while we're out walking around. Unfortunately, the flexibility and padding underfoot dramatically reduces the efficiency of the pedal stroke. Cycling shoes are specifically designed to overcome this inefficiency. Whereas a walking shoe has a flexible padded sole, a cycling shoe generally has a stiffer, leaner sole to help translate your energy into forward motion !
Types of Cycling Shoes
Cycling shoes can be broken down into three different types. Road or 'Three Bolt' shoes, Mountain or 'Two Bolt' shoes, and Platform or 'Flat' shoes. Gravel riders can be known to use each of these aforementioned types, but we will keep things simple below !
Shoe Size Chart
How to Choose Road Bike Shoes
Road bike shoes are designed with one thing in mind, to transfer your pedaling power as efficiently as possible into forward motion. Road bike shoes will have a standard 'Three Bolt' pattern in the base for use with a road specific pedal. With this in mind, road specific shoes are generally stiff and have little to no traction underfoot. Great for going fast, but not always great for walking into your local coffee shop or Local Bike Shop! A good place to start in a road shoe is a shoe that offers some comfort as well as some efficiency gains. Generally these shoes will have a soft upper with a stiff plastic or carbon lower. On the higher end, road bike shoes are sometimes molded out of pure carbon fiber underfoot to offer a superior weight to stiffness ratio. These shoes are often super light and transfer almost every ounce of your power straight into the pedals.
How to Choose Mountain Bike Shoes
First up, we gotta work together to nail down your pedal and shoe interface. Want to be super connected to the bike? If so, then 'clip in', or run a pedal system with a cleat on the bottom. Remember that if choosing a 'clip in' style shoe you'll have to match that to a 'Two Bolt' mountain bike pedal. Want to be a little less connected or get rowdy in the park? No problem, you're going to want to steer more towards a flat shoe and pedal interface. Beyond that, generally the more efficient you want to be pedaling, the leaner the shoe you should go for. On the other end of the spectrum, if super gnarly enduro style riding is more your speed, and you want to be super comfy, a shoe with more padding is going to be your jam.
How to Choose a Gravel Riding Shoe
The greatest dilemma! With gravel riding gaining in popularity over the years we have seen riders go in many different directions. Some gravel riders focused on speed will actually run road bike shoes and pedals on their gravel bikes. In the other direction, gravel riders that value 'walkability' off the bike will often go with a mountain bike style shoe because the cleats are recessed up inside the sole of the shoe. And last but not least, the adventure set sometimes prefer sandals on a flat pedal! All these choices are great as long as you know what your end goal is.
Still confused? No problem, we're here to help! Give any of our stores a call to talk about all things cycling shoes!