Whether you're racer, a trail rider, or even a city commuter, the proper bike shoes can make a big difference in your performance. If you're a casual biker you can get away with riding in your favorite sneakers, but if you're getting serious about cycling, you're going to want a pair of cycling shoes. If you're new to biking, you might ask, "Sure they look interesting and professional riders use them, but what's the big deal with cycling shoes?" Well, that's why we're here: to explain the basics of cycling shoes, the dynamics of what makes them great and why you might need a pair.
Features to Look For
* '''A Stiff Sole'''
** Running shoes are usually built with a thick PU or EVA sole, while the best cycling shoes have a thin, stiff, carbon fiber sole.
** The stiffer the sole, the less energy you'll lose between your foot and the pedal.
** A perforated sole is best to drain water.
* '''A Good Fit'''
** You should buy your shoes about a '''half-size smaller''' than your normal size to ensure a proper, snug fit.
** If your feet slide around at all, you should try a different shoe.
** Some brands feature shoes designed specifically for woman that may offer a better fit.
**European bike shoes are well known for being among the best, but also run somewhat narrow. Cycling shoes can come in a number of widths depending on the brand.
* '''Breathable Materials'''
** When your feet start to sweat, it's best to be wearing a shoe that is made with a moisture-wicking material. That way it will draw the perspiration away from your foot, so that it doesn't slip around inside the shoe.
** Mesh patches allow the feet to breathe.
* '''Easy On, Easy Off'''
** With Velcro and hook and loop strap closures it's very fast and easy to adjust the tightness of a shoe, a necessity when on a long ride with varied terrain.
** An easily adjustable lacing method is best so that you can maintain the best fit no matter what the circumstances.
* '''Quality and Cost'''
** You get what you pay for. A good pair of cycling shoes should cost around $100, but they range to $300+.
There are a few different types of shoes designed to suit the needs of each type of cyclist.
Bike shoes must bind to the pedal is some way. The two methods are with clipless pedals or toe-clip pedals. Whichever you choose, you must be sure that the shoes match the type of pedal you are using.
* '''Toe Clip Pedals'''
** These are inexpensive plastic or metal clips that wrap over the front of the foot and toes.
** They are the best option for casual cyclists since they can be used with any type of shoe, whether or not they are cycling shoes.
** Easy to get out of, but harder to get into.
* '''Clipless Pedals'''
** This is the pedal/clip combo of choice for serious riders as it will allow you to easily get your feet on and off once you figure out how to use them and they offer much better pedal efficiency and conserve stroke energy. You'll want to make sure you're locked in properly when using cycling shoes, however. If you don't have your cleat aligned correctly, your leg will be in the wrong position, as well as cycle through in the wrong direction. This can cause serious knee injuries over time, so make sure your knee is straight!
** Not the best option for mountain biking because they can be relatively hard to get your feet out of.
** They'll cost you anywhere from $40 to $300+ for top models. Check out our bike pedals buying guide.
** Keep in mind that the clipless pedals have to be compatible with the shoes you are wearing.