Beginner's Guide To Cycling Shoes

Beginner's Guide To Cycling Shoes - Gear West


Originally written by former Gear West Employee Emma Schindler

Now that the weather is getting warmer it is time to break out your bikes and hit the trails. Be prepared this cycling season with the proper gear to keep you riding longer. This introduction will cover the importance of cycling shoes, the difference between the two main categories of these shoes, mountain and road, and finally how to find the perfect pair to suit your needs.   

Cycling shoes will prevent your feet from falling off of the pedals, improve pedaling efficiency, enable full circle pedaling, transfer your energy into power, and most importantly will eliminate stress and strain in your legs. Your forward motion is created via your foots' pressure on the pedal which makes dynamic all-day comfort a top priority when it comes to a cycling shoe.

Fatigue in the hips, feet, and knees can be a result of not wearing the proper shoes when riding.  In addition, if you ride in tennis shoes you may find that the sole of your foot tires quite easily and becomes cramped and sore due to the flex, or lack of stiffness, in your shoe.  Cycling shoes are stiffer, and come in a variety of stiffnesses. The more power you can create, the stiffer the shoe you may require.  In stiff shoes feet are unable to bend and wiggle as they do in tennis shoes, rather they become an extension of the pedal. Be kind to your joints and invest in a pair of cycling shoes today. 

Now that you have an understanding of why cycling shoes are so important, let's learn about the two most common cycling shoes, road and mountain.  Road cycling shoes have very stiff soles to ensure that your arches do not collapse, flatten, or over extend themselves when pedaling. The sole purpose of this shoe is to bike.  They are not built for walking in.  Road cycling shoes have three-hole protruding cleats that connect shoe to the pedal. This allows for better control, stability, and more power throughout each stroke. 

Mountain bike shoes are very stiff and durable. They are constructed to put up with rough terrain and to withstand hard blows from rocks, trees, and other obstacles that are in your way. These shoes have treads on the bottom which enables one have grip on slick and rocky surfaces as well as to walk in them without damaging the sole.  Mountain cycling shoes have a two-hole protruding cleat pattern, and they are positioned close together unlike the road shoe pattern. 

When searching for the perfect pair of cycling shoes, you need to ask yourself what your needs are. What is your ideal ride? How far are you hoping to go? How fast? Will you want to stop and take a walk in the middle of a ride to stretch your legs? Or maybe make a pit stop in town at the local brewery or coffee shop? This will be an indication of weather or not you need a shoe with treads or not.  It is important to try on different brands because eacbrand fits a little differently.  Be sure to find a shoe that matches your discipline/preferred riding style. If you are just getting started with road or mountain cycling it is important that you find a shoe that is entry level and then work your way up. The stiffer the shoe the more efficient your pedaling will become, but it will take some time getting used to. When it comes to fit you'll want the midfoot and heel to be secure. Tighten the laces, straps, or BOA to achieve the right level of tightness. Toes should still have some wiggle room and you'll want to avoid any hot spots or pressure points. Try standing on the balls of your feet to simulate standing on your pedals to see how the shoe feels. 

Our Picks By Performance Level



Bontrager Vella Road Shoe

The Vella cycling shoe was designed to deliver the performance benefits of a cycling shoe with the go-anywhere fashion of a street shoe. All-day comfort and versatility means this clip-in shoe is perfect for the woman who's just as active off the bike as she is on it. Great for spin classes!


Bontrager SSR Multisport Shoe 

Versatility, thy name is SSR shoe! On-road, off-road, touring across the country, or commuting to the farmers' market—Bontrager's SSR Multisport cycling shoe will tackle it all. Its roomier fit and classic lace closure system deliver comfort and convenience, and the lugged, full-rubber outsole gives you all the traction you need for off-bike scrambles and adventures.



Shimano SH-RC500 Road Shoe

The Shimano SH-RC500 Road Shoe is a lightweight, high-performance mid-range shoe. The low stack height midsole and carbon fiber reinforced nylon sole help stabilize your feet, maximizes power transfer and efficiency.


Shimano SH-XC501 

The Shimano SH-XC5 Mountain Bike shoe is the high-performance mid-range shoe for the sending it down the mountain, riding miles of single-track to exploring logging roads and rough gravel.  This shoes uses top materials, like the synthetic leather uppers and lightweight carbon fiber reinforced insoles.






Bontrager XXX Road Cycling Shoe

Ride what the pros ride.  The most sophisticated road cycling shoe on the planet. XXX is professional grade from heel to toe. It's meticulously constructed of the most luxurious materials available, and renowned for its tailored fit and unparalleled pedaling efficiency. This attention to detail has made XXX one of the most sought after race shoes by the world's best riders.


Sidi Trace 2 Mountain Bike Shoe 

Stiffness is a must when we're searching for new mountain bike shoes, and Sidi has never been a brand to waiver when it comes to the watts. The Trace 2 is no different, as it offers a reliable sole that won't waste your energy on flex, and supple uppers that gently hug your foot in place for support through long miles and punchy climbs.


Gear West Videos

How to Stop on rollerskis