Are Cycling Shoes Worth It? or Necessary Even?

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Yes, absolutely. Like other in-bike components like wheels, frames, brakes, etc., cycling shoes are an integral part of cycling that looks to boost your overall stability, comfort and performance, that goes on you, the cyclist.

This brings about a whole new dimension of variables that engineers and cyclists alike are working towards improving.

cycling shoe

So let us dive into the article and understand the basics of cycling shoes and work our way to finding the perfect pair for yourself.

Cycling Shoes: What Do They Do?

The primary purpose of a cycling shoe is to allow you to be one with the pedals. What we mean by that is the shoe is engineered to attach itself to the pedals the entire time you are pedaling.

The most common way that the shoe goes about achieving this is by the use of ‘cleats’. The cleats ‘clip-on’ to the pedals, firmly planting the feet on the pedals.

But unlike the cleats of shoes of other sports, the cleats of the cycling shoes are attached onto them on the bolts (cleat attachment holes) that are engraved on the sole of the shoes.

➥ This article will help you to find a pair of shoes with good quality and they come as a combo in which you could get cleats and pedals at the same time.

Cycling shoes are often very stiff, unlike regular trainers. Some have no lateral flex at all.

For a more in depth description of cycling shoes:

Introduction to Bike Shoes and Pedals, Why They Matter

This firm attachment of the feet to the pedals and the added stiffness do come with significant advantages:

Advantages

  1. More efficient power transfer from the feet to the pedals.
  2. Keeps your feet at the correct angle at all times.
  3. Prevents your feet from slipping off the pedals, even on wet conditions.
  4. Helps you gain improved stability on the pedals, which eventually equates to greater comfort.
  5. Looks absolutely stylish. Various shoes for different occasions (more on that later).

Disadvantages, on the other hand can be:

Disadvantages

  1. Can take some time to get used to. This, almost permanent, attachment can prove to be uncomfortable to some, but engineers have found a way, like the SPD from Shimano, to allow users to unclip themselves very easily.
  2. Cleats may stick out making walking difficult. These are external attachments.
  3. Requires cleat maintenance.

As you may have noticed, these are all quality of life disadvantages. For example, for 1 and 3, you only have to put in some extra time and effort to overcome them. And as for the second point, if your riding routine contains a bit of walking, consider getting recessed cleat style shoes.

cycling shoe

Which brings us to the various types of shoes and what type of cyclists they are meant for.

Types of Cycling Shoes

With all the categories of riding disciplines and their corresponding shoes out there, it can be quite difficult to settle your mind on just one type.

So we have split them up into three major categories based around your riding experience:

  • Leisure
  • Road Cycling
  • Pure MTB

1. Leisure or Commuting Shoes

Let’s start off with the beginner friendly leisure or commuting shoes. These are catered to more casual, feel good cyclists who will be looking to use them on their daily commute to work (like us) or for the weekend cycling trip with friends around the outskirts of the city (also like us).

So you can expect their design to be more fashionable without too much tech.

As such, most of these shoes resemble your regular sneakers when viewed from above, until the point you decide to turn them over.

Casual Up

Leisure Shoes From Above

As all cycling shoes you will find bolts on the sole of the shoes where the cleats go on, or just be flat like regular sneakers but with a harder rubber compound.

Casual Bottom

Leisure Shoes From Below

The few characteristics that are common to most commuting shoes are:

Shoe outsoleFlexible Rubber (designed to look like sneakers or walking shoes)
Shoe soleSoft with good lateral flex for more comfort while walking. But it makes for subpar pedaling efficiency compared to other types of cycling shoes.
Cleat styleNo cleat bolts (Flat) or bolts recessed into the sole surrounded by medium to low treads.
Pedal styleFlat or Clipless (2 bolts for cleats)

2. Pure Road Cycling Shoes

The original cycling shoes were created for the road cyclist to give them a competitive edge in races, Time Trials and Triathlons.

As you can guess, these shoes are very light and much better ventilated than their counterparts.

To achieve maximum efficiency, these shoes are made to be extremely stiff to enable better transfer of power from the feet to the pedals.

Road Up

Road Shoes From Above

And since they are purely made for cycling, these shoes will have smooth and flat soles.

Another distinguishing point that these shoes have are the number cleat bolts. They have three. So make sure you keep that in mind before making a purchase.

Road Bottom

Road Shoes From Below

Summary of road cycling shoe characteristics:

Shoe outsoleSmooth and Flat. No Treads
Shoe soleVery stiff, usually made of plastic with higher end options made of carbon composites or carbon fiber.
Cleat styleSticks out of the sole. Will make walking difficult. Can be damaged if walked on regularly.
Pedal style3-bolt clipless style

This is merely a generalized breakdown of road cycling shoes. If you are looking for a more specific discussion for a cycling discipline please look at our Triathlon vs Road cycling shoe article.

3. Full MTB Shoes

You can consider cycling shoes of the MTB category to be an upgraded version of the leisure shoes given purpose. There are a lot of similarities between them when it comes to design.

MTB Up

MTB Shoes From Above

MTB shoes are typically heavier than their road counterparts and sport aggressive treads to provide the grip required for any type of trekking or walking on rough terrain.

The cleats are recessed into the soles and have a 2-bolt system, this is common to all MTB cycling shoes.

➥ Go through this article to find your desired winter mountain bike shoes that are of high quality with amazing features as well as long-lasting.

MTB Down

MTB Shoes From Below

To summarize their traits further:

Shoe outsoleMid to high treads with aggressive design. Maximum grip even on wet and muddy conditions.
Shoe soleStiff, with some lateral flex. A good balance between power efficiency and comfort.
Cleat styleRecessed into the sole or no cleats
Pedal style2-bolt clipless style or flat pedals

The Elephant In The Room: Price

Since we are talking about worth, the prices of these shoes must be discussed.

For leisure shoes you need not invest anything more than $100. Materials used and the design is very simple but gets the work done.

More specialized shoes of the Road and MTB categories generally have a price tag of $100-200. The differences that you can see as you go up the range is mostly in the materials used during manufacturing.

Beyond that is the premium range for the more serious and competitive cyclists.

Final Words

No matter what budget range you wallet falls in, you can’t go wrong with investing into a pair of cycling shoes. That is if you know how you are going to be riding: Casual, Commuting, Road, Racing or Mountain Biking among others.

Each type provides a base set of traits specializing in their respective disciplines. This specialization is what makes the price as it is.

Now comparing what each type of cycling shoe gives with their prices as discussed in this article, you can clearly see that your investment is definitely worth it.

That said, you are welcome to explore our other articles regarding cycling shoes if you are in the market of getting yourself a pair.

And Happy Riding!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1) Should cycling shoes fit tight?

Ans.: The fit of your cycling shoes should be snug. Your toes should not touch against the front of the shoes and the sides of your feet must not feel uncomfortably tight.

On the other hand, they should not feel roomy either. Your feet sliding inside your shoes is a big no-no.

Prolonged use of tightened shoes will produce a feeling of numbness due to restricted blood flow, which can have dire consequences in the long run. Roomy shoes will cause fatigue after long uses due to bad feet positioning and unnecessary extra effort given during a ride.

Q2) Are running shoes good for cycling?

Ans.: No. At least not if you are looking to pursue cycling seriously.

As the name states, running shoes are designed for running. They are soft and flexible, made for maximum comfort. This is highly contrasting to the extreme stiffness of typical cycling shoes, which exists to maximize feet-to-pedal power transfer efficiency.

The absence of cleats on running shoes makes them lose out on a lot of efficiency and cycling performance.

My name is Dion Lewis. I’ve been cycling since my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions. In my college life, I took a part-time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally. Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or bike gear.

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