Traditionally bike shoes have always had sleek, narrow designs. This leaves a large number of people at a disadvantage because they have wide feet. For a long time, shoe-makers did not cater to the needs of the riders with wide feet. The good news is that just like the running shoe industry, the cycling shoe industry is now putting more focus on the overall shape of feet rather than just the length. Multiple manufacturers like Shimano, Bont, Giro, Lake, Sidi, and Bontrager produce shoes that are suitable for wide feet. Having properly fitting cycling shoes can not only relieve you of any discomfort you were facing, but they will also notably improve your performance.
Cycling shoes | Credit: cyclingweekly.com
Wide Shoes vs High-Volume Shoes
It is important to first distinguish between two types of cycling shoes that are available for large feet. One category consists of wide shoes that focus on having a wide forefoot. This type of shoe has a specially designed sole that contours to a wide foot shape. The other type is a high-volume shoe. These shoes have more upper material without changing standard sole sizes. Hence, they have a greater volume and are not necessarily wide. You might need only one or the other. Just because a person has wide feet does not mean they require too much volume.
Manufacturers such as Lake and Bont prioritize foot shape and produce shoes that can truly cater to riders with wide feet. Others such as Giro, Shimano, Sidi, and Bontrager have gone the volume route by adding more upper material. They claim that this works just as well for wide feet, and in our opinion, they do come close. However, if you want the perfect and most comfortable fit, you should try out shoes offered by Lake and Bont.
Shimano makes wide cycling shoes for almost all categories of riders from road cycling to mountain biking (Trail, Downhill, Enduro, etc.). You can check our list of wide cycling shoes from Shimano.
The importance of wearing shoes with the proper size and shape can be understood by knowing about the biomechanics of feet. Walking may seem like an easy task because we’re so used to it. But in reality, it is quite a complex movement, requiring a lot of coordination. Each foot consists of 26 bones and more than 100 muscles and all of these need to function properly. Most cycling shoes are too narrow for the forefoot, the widest part of the foot. By not allowing the forefoot to spread fully while under load, other body parts have to compensate for stability. This could lead to overuse injuries in the hips or the mid-back, diverting us from the real cause of the problem.
The solution to this is to provide room for the metatarsals (forefoot bones) to move. This greatly improves foot function while walking and also while pedaling. However, just making the shoes wider isn’t the answer. The overall shape is what’s important. The forefoot has to be wider while the rest of the shoe stays pretty much the same.
Bones of the foot | Credit: medicalnewstoday.com
Features to look for in a wide cycling shoe
Regardless of whether you need wide shoes or not, there are multiple factors that you should always consider before purchasing a new pair of shoes. Proper selection of cycling shoes can greatly improve your bike rides. Think carefully about what your requirements are and select a pair of shoes accordingly.
1. Style of Shoe
There are different types of shoes for different cycling disciplines. Road cycling and triathlon shoes are designed for maximum efficiency and power transfer. They have protruding cleats with a smooth and stiff outsole. Even though they are great for riding, you wouldn’t be able to walk too far with these shoes on.
➥ Though both triathlon and road riding shoes are designed for optimum power transfer, there are some differences between these two categories. Read our article on this topic: Cycling Shoes: Triathlon vs. Road.
Meanwhile, mountain bike shoes have more flexibility and recessed cleats to make them more walkable. There are also casual cycling shoes that look like regular sneakers and are even more comfortable. Although, they do not deliver high performance. Some of them do not have cleats at all. Whatever your riding style, there is a specific category of shoes out there.
Road vs MTB shoes | Credit: 4playcycles.co.uk
If you are a road or cross-country racer, then you probably want to carry as little weight as possible. This includes the weight of your shoes. However, some riders prefer heavier shoes. Ultimately, it is about personal choice. Weight is dependent on what materials are used to construct the shoe, and generally, the price increases with decreasing weight.
When it comes to building material, your main concern should be with what the sole and upper are made out of. Road bike shoes have soles made of nylon, nylon-carbon composite, or pure carbon. Carbon shoes deliver the best performance being the lightest and stiffest of the three. But they are also the most expensive. Mountain bike shoes or leisure cycling shoes have rubber soles for a good grip off the bike. Most cycling shoes have uppers made of synthetic materials with varying levels of stiffness. More expensive shoes are made of leather and the highest-end cycling shoes are made of kangaroo leather.
Carbon composite sole | Credit: cyclingweekly.com
4. Tread Pattern
Again, the shoe’s tread depends on the type of riding. Most road bike shoes have no tread at all, except for a little bit on the heel. This is because you wouldn’t normally walk in these shoes and hence, are not needed. Casual or urban cycling shoes have the king of normal tread you can expect to find in regular trainers. Mountain bike shoes (especially for enduro, all-mountain, and downhill riding) have an aggressive tread pattern with tall lugs for enhanced grip on all kinds of terrain. Some even have pointy studs so that you can walk on soft mud.
5. Arch Support
While most cycling shoes have decently good arch support, the arch level can vary a lot from person to person. Riders with flat feet do not require much support. On the other hand, if you have highly arched feet, then you might not get enough support from just the shoes. This could surprisingly lead to pain in the knees. In this case, you should buy separate insoles and that should resolve your issues.
6. Closure Systems
After finding the right size, the shoe must stay on. For this, there are multiple types of closure systems found in cycling shoes. There isn’t one type that’s better than the rest and riders choose according to their own tastes.
- Laces are a classic type that allows for a good amount of customizability. Laces are less popular nowadays because of how long they take and because there is always a possibility of them getting caught in the chain.
- Velcro straps provide a quick and easy way to adjust the fit of the shoes. Multiple straps allow for more adjustability at different parts of the shoe.
- Ratchet and buckle systems are pretty precise and offer the most secure fit among all the types. However, they are not easy to adjust while riding.
- Wire-lace dials are probably the easiest and fastest to use. You can use the dials to fine-tune the fit. This has made them the most popular type of closure system these days.
The shoe with wire lace dials | Credit: cyclingweekly.com
7. Ventilation and Water Resistivity
During long rides on hot days, it is important to keep your feet from overheating. Ventilation on cycling shoes can be found in the form of mesh panels or vent holes. These keep the shoes breathable and cool. For cold climates, you can buy a shoe cover to keep you warm. If you are looking for waterproof shoes for the winter season, then you’ll have to sacrifice ventilation. Either way, it depends on where you ride.
Shoe ventilation | Credit: cyclingweekly.com
8. Cleat and Pedal Compatibility
Before buying new shoes, always make sure to check whether they are compatible with the pedals on your bike. You will also have to buy matching cleats as they are sold separately. Road and triathlon shoes usually use 3-hole cleats while mountain bike shoes typically use 2-hole cleats. Remember that pedals and cleats are not always interchangeable between brands. This is why some brands sell a combo of the shoes and pedals so that riders don’t have to face compatibility issues.
3 hole cleat system | Credit: cyclingweekly.com
Some final tips before buying wide cycling shoes
Now you know exactly what to look for before buying a pair of cycling shoes that will offer comfort and relief, no matter how much you ride. Here are a few extra tips to consider before making a final decision:-
- Try Out Thin Socks: Avoid buying needlessly bulky socks. These will take up valuable space in an already compact space. Slim fit socks are a great option for leaving enough space for wide feet. Unless, of course, it is freezing outside.
- Buy The Proper Length: A lot of riders make the mistake of buying one size larger to have some extra space. However, this sets the cleats forward by causing the heels to slip. This ends up reducing some of the power that you can exert. It also looks a bit funny.
- Make Sure Your Bike Fits Properly: Before going out to spend money on a new pair of shoes, be sure to check whether the pain you’re experiencing is not actually due to an improper bike fit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What is considered a wide foot?
Ans.: If you find that buying shoes with the same length as your feet give you a tight fit, then you probably have wide feet. On the other hand, if the sides feel too loose, then you have narrow feet. For the average foot, buying the right length usually gives a proper fit from all sides.
Q2. How do I know if I need a wide shoe?
Ans.: If you know your foot size, you can find out if you have wide feet by simply measuring your feet’s width and comparing it with the size chart given below. Be sure to measure at the widest part of your foot.
Men’s Size and Width Chart
|US size||UK size||EU size||Width (inches)|
|Narrow (B)||Medium (D)||Wide (EE)||Extra-wide (4E)||Extra, extra-wide (6E)|
|6||5.5||39||3 5/16||3 1/2||3 11/16||3 7/8||4 1/16|
|6.5||6||39/40||3 3/8||3 9/16||3 3/4||3 15/16||4 1/8|
|7||6.5||40||3 7/16||3 5/8||3 13/16||4||4 3/16|
|7.5||7||40/41||3 1/2||3 11/16||3 7/8||4 1/16||4 1/4|
|8||7.5||41||3 9/16||3 3/4||3 15/16||4 1/8||4 5/16|
|8.5||8||41/42||3 5/8||3 13/16||4||4 3/16||4 3/8|
|9||8.5||42||3 11/16||3 7/8||4 1/16||4 1/4||4 7/16|
|9.5||9||42/43||3 3/4||3 15/16||4 1/8||4 5/16||4 1/2|
|10||9.5||43||3 13/16||4||4 3/16||4 3/8||4 9/16|
|10.5||10||43/44||3 7/8||4 1/16||4 1/4||4 7/16||4 5/8|
|11||10.5||44||3 15/16||4 1/8||4 5/16||4 1/2||4 11/16|
|11.5||11||44/45||4||4 3/16||4 3/8||4 9/16||4 3/4|
|12||11.5||45||4 1/16||4 1/4||4 7/16||4 5/8||4 13/16|
|12.5||12||45/46||4 1/8||4 5/16||4 1/2||4 11/16||4 7/8|
|13||12.5||46||4 3/16||4 3/8||4 9/16||4 3/4||4 15/16|
|13.5||13||46/47||4 1/4||4 7/16||4 5/8||4 13/16||5|
|14||13.5||47||4 5/16||4 1/2||4 11/16||4 7/8||5 1/16|
|14.5||14||47/48||4 3/8||4 9/16||4 3/4||4 15/16||5 1/8|
|15||14.5||48||4 7/16||4 5/8||4 13/16||5||5 3/16|
Women’s Size and Width Chart
|US size||UK size||EU size||Width (inches)|
|Narrow (AA)||Medium (M or B)||Wide (D)||Extra-wide (EE)|
|5||3||35/36||2 13/16||3 3/16||3 9/16||3 15/16|
|5.5||3.5||36||2 7/8||3 1/4||3 5/8||4|
|6||4||36/37||2 15/16||3 5/16||3 11/16||4 1/16|
|6.5||4.5||37||3||3 3/8||3 3/4||4 1/8|
|7||5||37/38||3 1/16||3 7/16||3 13/16||4 3/16|
|7.5||5.5||38||3 1/8||3 1/2||3 7/8||4 1/4|
|8||6||38/39||3 3/16||3 9/16||3 15/16||4 5/16|
|8.5||6.5||39||3 1/4||3 5/8||4||4 3/8|
|9||7||39/40||3 5/16||3 11/16||4 1/16||4 7/16|
|9.5||7.5||40||3 3/8||3 3/4||4 1/8||4 1/2|
|10||8||40/41||3 7/16||3 13/16||4 3/16||4 9/16|
|10.5||8.5||41||3 1/2||3 7/8||4 1/4||4 5/8|
|11||9||41/42||3 9/16||3 15/16||4 5/16||4 11/16|
|11.5||9.5||42||3 5/8||4||4 3/8||4 3/4|
|12||10||42/43||3 11/16||4 1/16||4 7/16||4 13/16|
Q3. What is the difference between Men’s and Women’s width?
Ans.: Men typically have wider feet than women even at the same length. For example, a men’s wide width is a ‘EE’ while a women’s wide width is a ‘D’. The following table illustrates the different widths for men and women.
|Width Category||Men’s Width||Women’s Width|
Q4. Does going up a shoe size increase width?
Ans.: In general, bigger feet are wider as well. Shoe width and shoe size tend to be proportional in normal sizing. Hence, large shoes might be a little wider than necessary if you have long, but narrow feet. However, we do not recommend opting for a larger shoe size, just so you can get a wider fit, as this could cause a trip hazard.
Q5. Can I use Walking or Running Shoes for Biking?
Ans.: For cycling, you can pretty much wear any kind of shoe you want. However, cycling shoes have specialized features that make them a lot more suitable for biking. Firstly, they may utilize a different type of closure system. Also, they typically make use of cleats which keep your feet attached to the pedals and allow for more efficient power transfer. Moreover, cycling shoe soles are stiffer than the soles of walking/running shoes. But you can use mountain bike shoes for walking due to their recessed cleats and moderate flexibility.
Whether you have feet that are too wide or too narrow, there’s no need to suffer as many previously had. Cycling shoes of all shapes and sizes are available these days. You might have to limit your search to a few premium brands but in the long run, it is very much worth it. After all, shoes that fit perfectly will ensure that you can enjoy longer rides for years to come.