As the name implies, bike shoes (sometimes referred to as cycling shoes) are footwear specifically designed for riding bikes.
They aren't needed for casual rides around your neighborhood, but if you're planning to bike long distances on a regular basis, having a set of the best bike shoes will make a difference.
If you're not sure where to start looking, here are our recommendations for the best bike shoes.
In a hurry? The test winner after 15 hours of research:
SHIMANO WOMEN'S ROAD SHOES
Why is it better?
Last Updated: January 2, 2019
By Max Shumpert: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding bike shoes available for those who are interested in better cycling commodity. The best 10 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best bike shoes currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
SHIMANO WOMEN'S ROAD SHOES
SHIMANO MEN'S TRIATHLON SHOES
SHIMANO MEN'S CYCLING SHOES
FIZIK R5 ROAD CYCLING SHOES
DIAMONDBACK MEN'S CYCLING SHOES
VENZO MOUNTAIN BIKE SHOES (FREE PEDALS)
SHIMANO MEN'S MOUNTAIN/SPORT SPD SHOES
LOUIS GARNEAU WOMEN'S MULTI AIR FLEX SHOES
PEARL IZUMI'S WOMEN'S CYCLING SHOES
GIRO WOMEN'S WHYND CYCLING SHOES
Best Mountain Bike Shoes
These shoes are specifically for people biking over rough terrain. If you're looking for shoes to use on smoother terrain, skip down to the Road Shoes section.
1. Venzo Mountain Bike Shoes
Mountain bike shoes need to be done right - if they aren't, your feet are going to feel it.
Given that, Shimano's Venzo set is an excellent place to start if you don't already have a pair.
These feature a Synthetic and Mesh upper, providing good ventilation and low drying times. The lining is textile, with a removable sock liner to help the shoes fit better. The overall cut of the shoes is low, and they offer medium flexibility.
Now, just looking at these shoes, you can see thick treads around the front third of the foot.
These treads are an important part of the best mountain bike shoes and tie into the main point about these shoes: They're balanced.
That would be a problem for most cycling shoes, but mountain bike shoes need this balance to help you stay safe while you're hiking or walking your bike over rough terrain.
Based on multiple reviews, these shoes are also breathable, which helps to keep your feet cool on longer rides.
To top it off, this particular set of shoes comes with compatible pedals, so you know you'll be able to use them with your bike.
However, the low fit isn't necessarily the best choice for mountain terrain, especially if you expect to be going through mud or plants.
Some reviews also noted that the pedals were made of fairly cheap plastic. This isn't likely to be a problem for the occasional trip, but anyone biking up mountains on a regular basis should get sturdy, metal pedals.
The Venzo line is priced around $70 for shoes with pedals, and around $50 for sets without pedals.
Amazon tends to have the best prices.
These shoes are a solid choice if you want to ride up and down a mountain on an occasional basis. They aren't the best choice for sport or frequent use.
2. Shimano Men's Mountain/Sport SPD Shoes
Mountain bikes are designed to take on the toughest terrain, and these shoes help their biker rise to meet the challenge.
These shoes feature a synthetic leather and mesh upper, while the lining offers a high-volume interior with a flat sole. The cut is low, and the overall flexibility is medium.
These shoes have an outstanding rubber tread covering the entire bottom of the shoe. This makes them excellent when you need to walk your bike.
Meanwhile, the fiberglass-reinforced midsole plate offers a good balance of compliance and overall stiffness. This helps riders exert force without feeling the bumps in the terrain too much.1
Multiple Velcro straps make these shoes easy to adjust while in use.
These shoes are best matched with two specific models of pedals, which you'll have to buy separately.
In other words, it's harder to use these shoes right out of the box.
Many reviewers also noted some difficulty finding the right size, with about four in ten saying they did not fit as expected. Extra diligence when picking the right size is required here.
These shoes occasionally go on sale, so they're usually in the $45 to $90 range.
Amazon offers free returns on some of these, which is helpful if you didn't quite order the right size.
These are solid, performance-based mountain biking shoes that are ideal for beginners and experienced bikers alike. The need to buy pedals with them is a little unfortunate, but shouldn't deter you if you're looking for quality.
3. Louis Garneau Women's Multi Air Flex Shoes
Serious performance shouldn't impede style, and these mountain biking shoes don't sacrifice anything.
These shoes have a synthetic leather and mesh upper, with a ventilated EVA lining. The cut is low, and the overall flexibility is medium.
These shoes place significant emphasis on comfort, from a ventilated insole to a water-resistant, but breathable, upper.
At the same time, these shoes are designed to improve performance, particularly with a heel retention system that provides a more powerful stroke of the pedals.
These shoes are mainly meant for casual mountain biking, but some reviewers observed that they were excellent for indoor use as well.
Despite generally liking these shoes, though, reviewers noted that the official sizing on these shoes is a little off. Only about half reported that the shoes fit as expected.
Buying a size larger, then using the velcro straps to adjust the fit, was a common suggestion.
These shoes are also intended to be used with clips. That isn't inherently a problem, but unlike many other cycling shoes, you'll notice they're missing on this particular set.
Prices for these shoes vary from the low $60's to the low $130's, but can usually be found for around $100.
Amazon has been known to offer discounts on these, making it a good first check.
If you're looking for a good pair of women's cycling shoes that are suitable for indoor or outdoor use, these shoes are an excellent choice. They're well-balanced overall, and in this case, that's a plus.
Best Road Bike Shoes
If you're planning to ride on asphalt and sidewalks, these are the shoes that will help you the most. If you're looking for long-distance shoes, keep going down.
1. Fizik R5 Road Cycling Shoes
Fizik is one of the best brands in the business, and these cycling shoes are an outstanding choice for first-time buyers.
Their R5 line includes a Microtex fabric and nylon mesh upper, a vibration-absorbing superlight insole, and a low cut. The flexibility is also low - and remember, for biking shoes, that's a good thing.
Feature-wise, these performance-oriented racing shoes have a carbon-reinforced nylon outsole that keeps the shoe stiff, allowing for maximum transfer of power.
This isn't quite as good as pure carbon fiber, but it offers slightly lower performance at a much lower price.
The R5 shoes also have a molded heel cup to keep your foot in position, as well as an insole that supports your arches and absorbs road vibration. This makes going over bumps in the road considerably more comfortable.
Topping it off, these shoes have boa dials to help precisely adjust them and ensure the snuggest fit.
However, some reviewers noted that these shoes are narrow. If you have wide feet, you may not be able to find a size of this shoe that properly fits.
Aside from this, though, most people did feel that the shoes fit as expected.
Several people also commented on some difficulty finding new bumpers, which are important for safely mounting and dismounting. You may want to order replacements at the same time you get these shoes.
These shoes can run from around $100 to as high as $400, depending on who you're buying from. Amazon usually has them in stock for a good price.
Fizik's R5 shoes are an excellent choice for moderate road cycling. They don't quite have the best performance, but they're more than good enough for most people.
2. Diamondback Men's Cycling Shoes
If you're not looking for pure performance, comfort and ease-of-use are major considerations. That's where these clipless shoes from Diamondback come in.
Diamondback's Men's Century line offers a synthetic leather and mesh upper with a soft spandex lining. The cut is low, with medium flexibility.
These shoes clearly emphasize comfort for cycling on the road, with extensive ventilation to improve their overall performance.
The Century also has a reasonable tread on the outsole, allowing for comfortable walks over short distances. That's harder to find on road shoes than many people realize.
The sole of this shoe is a nylon-fiberglass composite. This is a solid, mid-grade material that helps with the affordable pricing.
Unfortunately, the biggest strength of this shoe is also, in a way, its biggest weakness. The Century is suitable for casual cycling, but it won't hold up to serious long-term use.
In other words, these shoes sacrifice performance for comfort. Some people may prefer that, but if you plan to do a lot of biking, these are not the best choice.
These shoes sell for around $80.
Amazon is particularly helpful here since Diamondback provided a shoe-sizing chart to help you figure out the correct size to buy.
Diamondback's Century line is an excellent choice for casual road cycling, including short trips around your neighborhood. They're priced quite attractively for this level of use and should last you at least several years.
3. Shimano Women's Road Shoes
Balancing comfort and performance is important in women's road cycling shoes, and with this particular model, Shimano hit the mark.
These shoes offer a multi-layer synthetic leather and mesh upper, with an adaptable cup insole. The cut is a little higher than most at medium, and they also offer medium flexibility.
This shoe is solidly in the middle of every category, which makes it beginner-friendly and reasonably affordable.
We are especially fond of the rubber outsole, whose recessed cleat makes it possible to enjoy both walking and biking in these shoes.
Many of the features here are specific to women, including a narrower heel cup, the overall reduced volume, and extra instep support.
However, like some other Shimano models, the SH-WR35 shoes are best matched with specific pedals, which adds to the cost and makes them a little harder to use.
This model has also been discontinued by the manufacturer. That's fairly common for shoes, but it does mean that you may have to change to a different style once these wear out.
These shoes can run from the low $80's all the way to the mid $300's, in part because the low stock means marketplace sellers have raised the prices on certain sizes. Amazon can help you find the right size for your needs.
We don't recommend paying more than $120 for shoes like these.
These are an excellent pair of women's shoes if you're new to road cycling and want something that blends comfort and performance. Inventory is limited, though, so be sure to buy them quickly if you want them at all.
Best Triathlon Bike Shoes
These shoes are particularly well-suited for long-distance and competitive biking.
1. Shimano Men's Triathlon Shoes
Every athlete starts somewhere, and their shoes are no exception. These affordable sports shoes are an excellent choice if you're just getting started and want something that gets the job done at the right price.
Shimano's 2015 line of men's triathlon shoes offers a synthetic leather and 3D moisture control mesh upper, as well as a highly ventilated, ergonomic design. The cut is low, with medium flexibility.
These shoes are lightweight, which is an important part of maintaining the rider's stamina during any competition.
The 2015 model of this line is also particularly well-ventilated, with a design that helps air flow and keeps feet dry.
Unlike many other shoes, these can be worn without socks, making them fit that much more snugly.
However, do note that these shoes aren't very adjustable - with just the one velcro strap up top, they're great if they fit but harder to use if they don't.
The sizing on these shoes is mostly good, but about a quarter of reviewers said that they didn't fit as well as expected, with the errors going both too small and too large.
Competitive shoes should never sacrifice on quality fitting, and you may need to try a few different sizes before your competition. In other words, don't expect to order these shoes at the last minute.
These shoes typically retail from about $70 to $130, depending on the exact style.
Amazon occasionally runs sales on select options, and these are worth looking for.
These multi-sport cycling shoes are ideal for newcomers. They don't offer the best performance you could get, but they'll get the job done as you decide whether to keep going and start investing in the best gear you can get.
2. Pearl Izumi's Women's Cycling Shoes
Comfort is important when you're competing with others, and Pearl Izumi has managed to come up with a surprisingly effective design.
This set from Pearl Izumi offers a synthetic and mesh upper, with an anatomic tri enclosure on the inside that helps to remove pressure and eliminate hot spots. They have a low cut and low flexibility.
These sporty shoes also have a uni-directional carbon plate, which provides outstanding stiffness while minimizing the weight of the shoe.
The concave shaping of the interior provides additional support for arches without sacrificing quality or creating uncomfortable pressure points.
The Deep Lake/Gumdrop coloring pattern is surprisingly attractive and fits well with many outfits and bikes.
However, multiple reviewers noted that these shoes trend small, with almost half of all buyers saying the fit was not as expected. You may need to buy a size or two larger to get the right fit.
Also, while all shoes need to be broken in before serious use, you may need to bike about 150 miles before these truly start to fit. That's at least several long rides, so it's difficult to quickly replace these before a competition.
These shoes typically retail around $100, making them surprisingly affordable for the performance they deliver.
Amazon tends to sell these shoes at-cost but occasionally discounts specific sizes.
These are an excellent set of sports shoes for women. We're not quite sure how they managed to get so much quality into such an affordable set of shoes, but we're not going to complain.
Best Commuter Bike Shoes
Commuter bike shoes are ideal if you need to get to work on a regular basis. Unlike road shoes, these are a little more resistant to things like broken glass and other dangers you may see on urban paths.
1. Shimano Men's Cycling Shoes
Comfort is key when you're commuting by bike - after all, you're not going to perform at your best if you're sore as soon as you arrive.
These natural leather shoes from Shimano offer a well-balanced blend of comfort, durability, and performance. Aside from the excellent upper, they have a classic lacing with a reinforced toe area, a medium cut, and medium flexibility.
It really bears noting that these are made with natural leather - not that synthetic stuff. This is by far one of the most comfortable materials available, and that means your feet won't be hurting to (or from) work.
The reinforced toe area is a nice touch - given the kinds of environments these shoes will be used in - and helps to protect the rest of the shoe from damage.
The insole of the shoe has a shock absorbing cushion, which is always good but particularly useful when you have to hit the ground instead of your pedals.
These are pretty good shoes overall, but reviews did note that they're not the best for mountain terrains.
This isn't a problem if you're sticking to city streets and sidewalks when commuting, but if you're going over any rough trails, you may want something with a little more cushioning on the insole.
Additionally, these feature laces - the worst kind of closure. The shoelace keeper loop helps to mitigate the chances of laces coming loose and getting entangled, but we would have preferred velcro or boa here.
These shoes usually retail around $80 but can go as high as $120.
Check for Amazon sales on the more expensive versions, as these may bring their price down to a more comparable range.
If you're looking for comfort while commuting, these shoes are hard to beat. We wouldn't recommend them for a performance-focused situation, but if all you're doing is biking to work and back, you're probably not going to go wrong with these.
2. Giro Women's Whynd Cycling Shoes
Comfort is always a plus for shoes, and these general-purpose cycling shoes are ideal for women who want to go biking on a regular basis.
Giro's Whynd line includes a microfiber and mesh upper, as well as a classic lacing setup with a velcro strap. The cut is high, with medium flexibility.
These shoes offer a well-balanced blend of performance and comfort, starting with rubber walking zones on the outsole that allow them to be used on a wide variety of surfaces.
Meanwhile, the recessed cleat area allows for two-bolt cleats, while keeping them out of the way when you're not actually on your bike.
On top of that, the molded EVA outsole is just rigid enough to help prevent hot areas from forming, allowing for comfortable, long-term use.
That said, laces are never great, though the Velcro strap covering them helps to keep them in place.
Also, the focus of these shoes is comfort instead of performance. You're not going to maximize your efficiency while using these shoes, and that could be awkward during long commutes.
That said, Giro should have focused a little less on comfort and a bit more on sizing. Only about half of all reviewers felt that the shoes fit as expected, with numerous buyers citing that the shoes were too small. Consider starting a size up.
These shoes usually retail between the upper $70's and the upper $90's.
Amazon occasionally offers these on sale, and you may be able to get them in the $50 range.
These are comfortable, affordable shoes, and we found that they're ideal for short and mid-length commutes. As a bonus, they're cute enough to wear around the office without changing, making them among the best commuter bike shoes for women.
Why Do You Need Bike Shoes?
If you're planning to go biking on a regular basis, you need cycling shoes because they will be more comfortable and more efficient over the long run.
This is most notable when we look at the benefits that bike shoes provide.
Benefits Of Bike Shoes
How Are Bike Shoes Constructed?
It's worth noting that the stiffest soles also tend to transmit vibrations from the road more efficiently, which can be uncomfortable on rough terrain or fragile bodies. If comfort is a high priority for you, look for a mid-stiffness sole instead of a high-end performance unit.
Cycling shoes typically have little or no tread on the soles, which makes them unsuitable for walking long distances.
Mountain biking shoes may have moderate treads, but even those tend to be slimmer and less effective than actual hiking shoes.
Sometimes referred to as the 'body' of the shoe, uppers are the largest single part and encase your foot when the shoe is on.
The main considerations here are comfort and breathability. Softer materials like leather are the most comfortable, but they can be hard to clean and aren't ideal if you're often biking in bad weather. For those situations, synthetic uppers (especially in dark colors) are a better choice.
You should also consider how breathable the shoe is. Airflow helps to pull sweat away from your foot and reduce the chances of smell, but better ventilation also exposes you to temperature and moisture changes from outside.
The Footbed is what your foot rests on. These have a variety of different shapes and styles, all based on factors like arches, curves, and width.
Feet vary more than most people realize, so it's important to find a footbed that works for you. If you want the best possible shoes, you may need to consider getting custom footbeds designed specifically for your feet.
The Heel Cup is attached to the back of the sole and serves to keep your foot in place as much as possible.
When you're biking, you want your foot to remain snugly in place as much as possible. If your foot is slipping, you'll lose out on cycling power and could be at risk of friction-based discomfort on longer rides.
Bumpers are inserts - typically made of rubber - that provide a little more stability when getting on or off the bike. These are necessary because cycling shoes usually don't have a tread on the bottom - having at least a few rubber grips makes it possible to mount and dismount safely
Types of Bike Shoes
The following are the major types of bike shoes you can buy.
Road BIKE SHOES
Road shoes are the most common biking shoe and emphasize the ability to bike from one's house along roads, sidewalks, trails, and other pathways.
These types of cycling shoes are among the least suitable for any other purpose, including walking. They are, however, built to fit a variety of attachable cleats and shoe plates, which helps to provide maximum force while you're on the bike.
Mountain BIKE SHOES
Mountain bike shoes have a more rugged outsole and tread, which contributes to providing grip when walking a bike up or down trails.
Many models also allow for screw-in spikes, which further enhance their grip and reduce the likelihood of slips and falls. Note that these screws are not suitable for all kinds of terrain.
City/Commuter/Casual BIKE SHOES
Casual bike shoes are among the most affordable options. They don't have the performance of track or road shoes, but they are more comfortable than other choices.
Most casual cycling shoes have a molded insole, which evenly spreads the pressure of the foot around instead of focusing it on the pedal.
Track BIKE SHOES
Track bike shoes are specifically designed for track racing and feature the lightest and most rigid materials possible. The main purpose of these shoes is to allow riders to exert their full force without worrying about their shoes loosening or coming undone.
As a sports shoe, these are most suitable for short, intense biking sessions. If you're planning to go on a longer, less-competitive ride, you should consider another type of shoe instead.
Note that these types of cycling shoes sometimes go by other names, like Triathlon or Multi-Sport shoes.
Touring BIKE SHOES
Touring bike shoes are meant for particularly long rides - think biking across multiple states, rather than an hour or two a week.
The best touring shoes are less rigid than other cycling shoes (reducing their effectiveness at turning the rider's power into forward momentum) but have thicker treads and cleats, so they're easy to walk in.
While this may sound like a nice balance, note that doing several things well is not what most people need from a cycling shoe. Unless you're going on a tour, you'll likely be better off with a shoe that's great for cycling and terrible for walking.
Indoor BIKE SHOES
Indoor cycling is limited in its popularity, but enough people participate to have spun off a unique brand of cycling shoes. The best indoor shoes are intended for stationary bicycles, which allows them to fit correctly and make it easier to maximize performance.
Winter BIKE SHOES
Breathability is typically a plus for a cycling shoe, but that stops when the weather gets cold.
Winter bike shoes are thicker and more insulated, which provides better protection from moisture, wind chill, and general cold. Some companies offer both indoor and outdoor variants of these shoes.
The drawback is that winter shoes tend to be heavier, and even a little additional weight can make a big difference on longer rides.
Cycling Shoes and Pedal Compatibility
Shoes and pedals come in a wide variety of shapes and styles - which is an immediate problem for anyone who wants to maximize their performance. Fortunately, the industry has already handled this by mostly standardizing shoe plates and connector designs.
That said, most kinds of cycling shoes do not have universal compatibility.
The only way to be sure your biking shoes properly attach to your bike is to test them, and you should do that before you buy them (or at least before the return period expires).
Bike Shoe Closure Types
A Closure allows you to adjust the tightness of your shoe. Most modern cycling shoes are made with one of four kinds of closures:
Bike Shoe Sizing
Sizing for bike shoes can vary wildly based on manufacturer, and it doesn't help that many of the best cycling shoes use non-standard European sizing. While there's no substitute for trying a shoe on, you can and you should look up the manufacturer's sizing and compare that to the US sizing.
Do not just look up the European sizes - some manufacturers don't entirely abide by those, and it's best to get the closest possible fit when you first buy.
Most cycling shoes are built to be used for an extended period, but there are a few maintenance notes to keep in mind.
First, regularly clean your bike shoes. Every three months is appropriate for normal use. This will help to prevent your shoes from getting stinky or dirty.
Your shoe's manufacturer probably has cleaning instructions, and you should follow those when they're available. Otherwise, follow this process:
Some parts of bike shoes wear out faster than others. Bumpers tend to wear out particularly fast, so replace them on a regular basis.
What to Consider When Choosing Bike Shoes
There are several things that will go into determining the correct bike shoes for your needs.
Type of Biking Activities
What sort of biking activities do you want to do? This is the first - and most important - consideration. Road shoes are not like touring shoes, and track shoes are not like indoor shoes.
You should always look for shoes that fit your intended use. If you plan to bike in a variety of different settings, it may be worth getting multiple pairs of biking shoes.
Not every manufacturer produces their best bike shoes in every size. Men's 8 to 11.5 (and Women's 9.5 to 13) in US sizing are relatively common, but it's a little hit-or-miss if your foot is outside those ranges.
If your preferred manufacturer doesn't produce shoes in your size, you may need to settle for a different choice.
You should always try to get shoes that are sized appropriately for your foot. Do not compromise on this point.
The fit of a cycling shoe is critical to its overall performance. When checking for your shoe's fit, here are some important things to keep in mind:
A well-fit shoe will be comfortable and should become more so over time.
That said, it's important to consider what environment your shoe's inner soles are meant for. Changing the interior of a shoe will affect its overall performance, so you'll have to decide what kind of a trade-off you're willing to accept.
For maximum comfort, you'll need custom inserts. If you have any medical conditions involving your feet, you should talk to a licensed podiatrist about what will be the most comfortable setup for biking.
The best bike shoes are compatible with most or all types of professional pedals, but there's no universal standard. You may have to get a plate for your shoe that matches your pedals - or change your pedals to something that matches your shoe.
This is not an insurmountable problem - far from it - but it is worth keeping in mind. Having properly compatible shoes and pedals will significantly improve your overall performance while biking.
Soles are priced based on the material they're made of and heavily weighted based on performance. In other words, the best-performing shoes (with carbon fiber soles) tend to be the most expensive, while less-expensive models may be more comfortable.
This is particularly true for rough terrain, where rigid shoes will transmit far more shocks into your feet. If you're riding in a smooth, city-style environment, this won't be a concern for you.
Ideally, your biking shoes will have closures that allow you to adjust their fit without having to stop your ride. This is especially true if you're in a competition or other situation where stopping for a minute or two would be inconvenient.
In order from best to worse, the closures are:
Some shoes come with additional accessories, like additional plate designs or replacement parts. These shouldn't be a buying factor all by themselves, but if all other factors are equal, it's fine to get shoes that come with useful accessories.
Do try to carry spare parts, though. This includes extra pedals, plates, and closures, all of which you can store in a small bag on your bike.
In the end, most people make their final decision based on the style of the shoe. The style is important, but for the best bike shoes, it should not trump their materials, feel, or general performance. Your comfort while biking is considerably more important than how your shoes look.
There's a lot that goes into cycling shoes, but today you learned about the many different parts and looked at a few shoes suitable for different situations.
Remember, you should never sacrifice on the quality of your shoes. You're going to be wearing them on a regular basis, and spending a little more to get a better fit is always worth it.
Finally, remember that shoe manufacturers often put out several different variants. Even if the exact shoe you want is out of stock, you may be able to find something similar.
Don't hesitate to look around and compare a few options before you buy - you'll be glad you did.
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