Cycling is great. It’s a low-impact form of cardio that gets your heart rate pumping without wreaking havoc on your knees and hips, and can be done stationary or not making the possibilities endless. Spin bikes became immensely popular during the pandemic for their convenience and the night-club-slash-workout vibes that boutique fitness brands like Peloton create. We have a whole piece on spin shoes if you prefer the bikes that lead “nowhere and everywhere” all at once. However, if you’re more of a road bike person and are ready to exit quarantine and hit the streets, a worthwhile pair of road biking shoes is a must. The best biking shoes give your foot, a.k.a the most important point of contact with your bike, the stability it needs for maximum power. I’ve gathered a bunch of the top-rated ones below and highlighted some important things to consider when choosing the best biking shoes for you.
What to Consider Before Choosing Biking Shoes
There are three crucial things to consider when choosing biking shoes, the first of which is fit. It’s so important that your shoes fit properly to avoid pain during rides, give you an adequate about of support and give you maximum power potential while you’re pedaling. The majority of manufacturers have a wide range of sizes and fits, with some including “wide” fits in their selection. The sizes are typically European or UK sizes, so many sure you convert properly before committing to a shoe. Some also have varying amounts of arch support, and some are flatter, so check out all your options before making a decision.
Many of the highest rated cycling shoes have carbon fiber soles that help handle weight efficiently when you’re pedaling out of the saddle and give you a stiff platform to work from. The uppers of the best biking shoes are made of synthetic materials that are highly durable and breathable as well. You’ll also want to consider how much the shoes weigh and how much ventilation there is. If you’re a foot sweater (no shade) you’ll want a shoe that’s built cool to lessen the wear and tear over time.
There are multiple different ways cycling shoes are fastened — traditional laces, Velcro strips that attach across the front of the cleat and Boa dials that tighten via cables fastened across the front of the shoe. Some cleats use a combination of a few different methods. I’ve got road biking shoes that have Velcro strips and Boa dials, and I love the fit, they’re super adjustable and the fit feels secure.
A Note on Biking Shoe Cleats
There are four different types of cleats that you’ll find on most biking shoes — SPD, Look Delta, Speedplay and SPD-SL. They all differ slightly in their construction and the bikes they’re best suited for, so it’s good to familiarize yourself with the options before choosing a cleat.
SPD Cleats are generally used by mountain bikers and indoor cyclists. They give you a super secure connection with the pedal, but are harder to clip into and unclip from quickly, so they’re not recommended for road bikers who need to stop more frequently.
Look Delta cleats are used by elite road cyclists who want to maximize their performance, they’re smaller and sleeker and easier to clip in and out of without sacrificing power.
Speedplay cleats aren’t super common and aren’t really something you need to consider heavily. They’re used by some high-end road cyclists because they’re lightweight and easy to clip in and out of, but they’re not necessary for recreational bikers to get the power they want.
SPD-SL cleats are great for road bikers who want a wider platform to stand on and work with when clipping in and out. They’re still a newer technology, but are becoming more popular.
1. Shimano RC1 Road Cycling Shoes
These Shimano cycling shoes have a race-inspired design with a comfortable fit, walk stability off the bike and are designed to efficiently transfer power between your foot and the pedal. They’ve got a synthetic leather upper with a mesh texture that’s comfortable to wear and has a nice slim profile. They’ve got three hook-and-loop straps across the top that tighten as they offset tension at the highest points of your feet as well. The upper wraps across your foot with minimal overlap, and the lightweight glass fiber-reinforced nylon soles create a stiff surface for pedaling. The shoes also have wide heel pads so they’re stable and comfortable to walk in off the bike.
2. Giro Savix Men’s Road Cycling Shoes
These biking shoes from Giro are built for performance and are easy to put on, take off and adjust to your liking. They’re made of a breathable microfiber upper that wraps around your foot for a secure fit, and have a BOA L6 dial so you can crank them as tight as you like. They have a nylon outsole that’s built for power transfer with stainless steel hardware and heel pads that are molded for security on the bike. They’re universal cleat compatible and come with medium arch support.
3. vitatalpa Men’s Road Bike Cycling Shoes
This pair of cycling shoes from Amazon is designed with highly breathable mesh and a wear-resistant nylon sole that hugs your foot for comfort. They’re lightweight and have a hook and loop closure via straps so you can find your customized fit. These biking shoes are compatible with both SPD and Look Delta cleats depending on which ones you attach, and are built stiff for adequate support. They’re not the most durable option, so if you cycle every day I’d recommend investing in another pair. However if you’re an occasional rider who doesn’t want to drop $100, they’re a solid pick.
4. Specialized Torch 1.0 Cycling Shoe
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
These biking shoes are made easy to take on and off and adjust for entry-level cyclists who are just getting comfortable on the bike. They’ve got a design that takes body geometry into account and works to align your hip, knee and foot for maximum efficiency. They’ve got an L6 BOA dial fit system so you can make adjustments easily and on-the-fly, and the composite sole is moderately stiff so they’re possible to walk in, and are 3-bolt cleat compatible. The upper is supple for comfort and built for ventilation as well.
5. PEARL iZUMi Tour Road Cycling Shoes
These road biking shoes have laces rather than Velcro or the BOA dial, so if you prefer tying your shoes to your exact fit these are a great option. They’re built lightweight, responsive and combine a classic lace-up design with modern technology for the best of both worlds. The upper is seamless and fully bonded for comfort and avoiding hot spots. The outsoles are 1:1 Composite Power Plates and include a carbon fiber plate underneath the ball of the foot for power transfer. These biking shoes also have Direct-Vent technology for keeping you cool and are 3-bolt SPD-SL and 2-bolt SPD cleat compatible.
6. Fizik Tempo R5 Overcurve Cycling Shoe
This cycling shoe from Fizik has an asymmetrical construction that ergonomically conforms to your foot the more you wear it. The upper is made of comfortable and durable microtel fabric, and the outsole is made of R5 nylon that gives you balance and efficiency while you’re pedaling. These shoes are also designed with the BOA dials for a perfect fit, and are designed to perform well on paved roads specifically.
7. Tommaso Strada 100 Cycling Shoe
BEST INDOOR SHOE
This piece is primarily focused on outdoor road biking shoes, but if you need a pair of cycling shoes these are a great option available on Amazon. They’re built for indoor cycling on bikes like the Peloton, and have dual-cleat capabilities so you can use Look Delta or SPD cleats. The upper is made of synthetic leather that hugs the foot and keeps it secure while pedaling, and they’ve got Velcro straps so the fit is snug. You can buy them with the cleats you want attached or buy just the shoe and attach your own later on. They’ve also got a reinforced toe box for safety and a breathable mesh insert for ventilation.
8. Gavin Pro Road Cycling Shoe
These biking shoes from Gavin have an upper that’s entirely vented and breathable, and has a lace closure system with a dial for an easy, secure fit. The cleats are built to be lightweight and are made with a Nylon fiberglass sole that also has vents built into it so your feet stay cool during your ride. If your feet tend to get hot during rides outside, or indoor cycling classes inside, these cleats are a great option.