If there is anything about cycling that stands out to me is the amount of specialized gear there is for riding your bike. Whether it is the type of bike you use to the clothes you wear to ride in. It’s all unique. The choices can be overwhelming at times and many question themselves whether they really need/want/will use it but shoes as near the top of my list after a good helmet and lights. This time we will talk about shoes, their features, different styles and why they cost what they cost.
The three main styles of shoes
There are three main styles of cycling shoes sold right now. They are
Road shoes have
- Hard soles that are stiff for good power transfer
- Velcro, buckles, dials or a combination for a snug fit
- 3 hole bolt pattern for most road pedal systems,note there may be a option for 4 bolt pattern shoes in the future these will be speedplay specific
- Worst for walking,
- Best choice for road only riding,usable but not recommended for spinning, poor mountain biking shoe.
Mountain shoes have
- Hard soles that are stiff for good power transfer but covered with lugged soles for walking off road helps with muddy terrain
- Velocro,buckles or a combination for a snug fit
- Two hole bolt pattern for a universal fit for mountain bike pedals
- Toe spikes good option for cyclo cross run ups
- Best choice for mountain bike riding,acceptable for touring,acceptable for spinning
Fitness/ spinning shoes
- Fully rubber covered soles
- Moderately stiff soles compared to sneakers
- Best choice for indoor spinning and touring. Acceptable on the road,acceptable for light mountain biking.
How the shoes should fit
Once you are past what type of shoe you are looking for the fit comes up next most common question I get is “How should the shoe fit?”. This is a tough one. I have been to numerous fitting seminars both by fitters and shoe companies. Here is what I have taken away.
- Start by measuring your feet- both of them with a Brannock device. Generally you will need to size the shoes for the larger foot. Brannock devices will also give you a width measurement. Hint cycling shoes run narrow-look for wide shoes if you need that.
- Pick a shoe that is the size of your foot and start there. The shoe should feel snug in the forefoot and the heel cup of the shoe should be snug against your ankle.
- The distance of your toes to the end of the shoe isn’t a reliable way to get the best fitting shoe.
- The volume of the shoe(how it fits over your whole foot not just length) can be adjusted with the closure mechanisms but if you are at the limits of those you should look for a higher volume shoe. This means you may not have full contact with the velcro, the ratchets may not close etc.
- Arch support in cycling shoes is pretty minimal. Consider an insole with an adjustable arch support or a custom insole.
Why are the shoes so much Amos?
Next up on the list of questions is price. Shoes for cycling start around $100 and go up depending on the brand. There are a few reasons for the expense of shoes, they are a very specialized product with a small market. They last a long time especially the better ones -your feet sweat a lot and that breaks down the shoes. That adds up to most shoe companies not selling very many shoes. Huge brands like Nike for instance have been off and on again in the market and when they were they didn’t make their own shoes and then they left. So why pay more? Good question. Let’s go into that.
More expensive shoes have a number of advantages over low priced shoes. The first is comfort. The comfort comes from two main areas- higher end shoes come in more sizes including half sizes and the shoes use more flexible but still robust enough to hold your foot in place materials in the upper. Better shoe design is worth a notice- I’ve seen shoes with great materials but then didn’t fit that well- again some of that is individual but it is a big thing to consider.
Low end shoes tend to break down from use much faster. You feel this in some obvious ways like the shoe breaking and some not so obvious ways like the shoe losing it’s shape after riding it for a short time. Better shoes just plain hold up better and often they have parts that can wear out but there are also replacement parts available to keep them going.
The sole material has a big affect on the price. Lower end shoes tend to be fairly flexible which is a bad thing for power transfer but can be a plus if you are doing some walking in the shoes so sole stiffness is a big plus on road or mountain shoes. Brands use a plastic or mix of fibers (sometimes carbon) in their entry level shoes- these are far stiffer than the average shoe you are walking in. As brands move up the price ladder they switch to carbon soles. Just like carbon frames carbon soles add to the price of the shoe quickly.
My advice is to get the best shoe you can afford since it will last longer but when they start to break down replace them. I’ve seen shoes that in any other situation people would throw them away long ago. 2-5 years is a good life span for them. What’s that I hear you have had them for 10 years…get new ones.
Specialty shoes- Winter
Okay the last thing I am going to write about is Winter shoes. Hands down this is one of the better investments you can make. One of the first things to stop cyclists from going outdoors is being uncomfortable not like from the effort involved but more from the feelings of being cold/ hot etc. Winter shoes are the best money you will spend to get comfortable. There are road and mountain versions. Own some.