The best cycling shoes can be used on spin bikes, road bikes or mountain bikes. Clipless and non-clipless designs are now made for a wide range of bikes. Clipless shoes are made with a small plastic cleat that attaches to pedals. Twisting movements are used to get off the pedals. In turn, road cycling shoes come with 3 holes that take exterior bolt cleats.
But even within these categories, there are a few alternatives. Depending on the type of cycling, shoes can also come with the following designs.
- 2-hole shoes – made specifically for road cycling, mountain biking, commuting or touring
- 3-hole shoes – made for road cycling
- 4-hole shoes – made for road cycling
The following shoes have been selected to cover all types of cycling, which also include spin bikes or indoor bike compatibility.
These might interest you:
The versatile 3-hole shoes are among the asphalt kings. Made with a narrow profile, the shoes are made for aerodynamics. Lightweight and designed with two closure system options, the shoes aren’t expensive.
As many road cyclists know, these shoes can easily cost a few times more than another brand. But their design and amazing colors are made for some of the most demanding users.
The all-road design makes these right for both uphill and downhill challenges. These might not be the next Tour Of France winners, but these work as road cycling training shoes. The added perforations keep the feet a bit cooler, so the cycling sessions can be as long as needed for any event training routine.
MicroTex upper is used on both types of closing systems. There are tens of perforations to the left and right sides of the foot. Most of them are centered around the midfoot area, where most heat accumulates. But the perforations also make the shoes look a bit better as they break the upper’s overlay-free design.
Overcurve BOA IP1-B dial designs are easy to use. A simple dial replaces a traditional lacing system. This dial is mostly used by professional races. Most users like it most because it can be adjusted while on the bike without stopping. During the race, such a system can be used to allow the feet to relax a bit or to get ready for overtaking.
Tempo R5 Powerstrap is another option for those who want a simpler design. The advantage of this system is that it can’t break the plastics of the dial system. A zig-zag pattern on the strap secures the shoes tightly around the midfoot.
Color options aren’t bad either. The black version or the white version would suit any stiff carbon-frame bike. But coral and navy alternatives are really special as they’re hard to find at any other brand such as expensive Giro Empire shoes. Even leading brands don’t offer these exact colors which look a bit more unique.
- Made for all road surfaces
- Available in 2 closure systems
- Perforated upper adds ventilation
- Stiffest midfoot design
Tackling steep mountain trails is not very easy with casual shoes. Even the best mountain bikes struggle to offer a stable platform for regular shoes in off-road cycling conditions. Venzo creates these affordable shoes for maximum versatility.
The manufacturer had a simple objective: to make these useful for any type of SPD pedals. Most users find them a bit better than a simple Shimano-compatible release as they also work clipless.
The quick-drying mesh upper makes these shoes even more interesting. The three straps don’t cover the mesh area, so breathability is as good as possible in this range. There’s extra padding around the ankle to keep the upper comfortable even with its reduced impact design maximizes ventilation.
Compatible with Shimano SPD pedals, the shoes can be a great addition to a vast range of mountain bikes. Even some hybrid bikes use the pedal system. As its one of the most popular systems, it is also the main choice for those new to the mountain bike community.
Made with a removable sock liner, the shoes are among the most durable options in their class. The sock liner can be washed or replaced. But its dampening nature is what many cyclists find attractive due to its added comfort. While other shoes also use a similar design, they oftentimes cost at least four times as much.
The shoes can be used with or without cleats on regular non-SPD pedals. But while there are plenty of mountain bikes with such pedals, a simple SPD upgrade might be worth the extra grip and stability. It may be important when dealing with uphill and downhill off-road cycling.
- Made with a mesh upper
- Used with or without cleats
- Designed with forefoot overlays
- Not available in extra-small sizes
The practical shoes are made with a breathable upper. Representing one of the most desired designs in the affordable range, Gavin’s Velo shoes are great pedal compatibility.
The shoes are among the interesting options for those who want cheap performance road bike cycling shoes with a rigid fit. They’re not as comfortable as others, but they are made for maximum speed without focusing too much on aerodynamics.
Rigid soles are not right for all cyclists. However, on smooth tarmac, these shoes become fast and practical. Those who don’t have high-quality roads to ride on might need to look elsewhere. However, it might be difficult to find a viable alternative at this price.
Snug fit for clipless pedals is the main profile of the shoes as described by cyclists. The snug fit works best for average width feet. There’s no option for wider shoes; cyclists with wide fit will struggle with comfort when cycling for a few hours.
Lightweight nylon fiberglass soles have been chosen by the manufacturer. They are known for their rigidity, but they remain lightweight. The difference becomes obvious when cycling for more than 3-4 hours. On the other hand, the rigidity of the outsole favors spin bike fans who can cycle hard during a 1-hour class to burn extra calories.
Synthetic microfiber leather is added to the upper. The leather is not as sensitive to moisture. As a result, the shoes won’t start to show cracks when cycling through the occasional rain and puddles. But they’re not going to offer the best protection based on the mesh materials either.
SPD, SPD-R, and SPD-SL pedals are compatible with the shoes. There are a few instances where they start to become even more valuable. For example, those who use the same pair of cycling shoes for indoor and outdoor cycling can find them practical.
There’s no point in spending more to buy different pairs of shoes for various bikes if performance cycling is not an objective.
3 Velcro straps are added to the upper mimicking premium designs such as those from Pearl Izumi or Dyneema. These straps are already familiar to most cycling fans. There’s nothing special about them, but they do the job. It’s only with a proper fit that cyclists can feel comfortable on any type of riding surface.
- Made with breathable mesh
- Top choice for rigid shoe fans
- Affordable given pedal compatibility
- Only available in black
These mountain bike shoes are made for cycling enthusiasts. As an entry-level shoe design, the cover most needs of those who look for 2-hole shoes mostly found on mountain bike pedals.
With a simple mesh upper and practical Velcro straps, the shoes offer one of the best options for any cyclist who may deal with longer routes at some point. However, they’re not the type of shoes to consider on wet trails where the mesh upper can’t keep moisture out.
Mountain biking and commuting are considerably easier with these shoes. They work clipped and clipless, offering a supportive platform with proper stability even when taking a few steps off the beaten path.
Those who use hybrid mountain bikes for commuting can also consider these shoes among the top-end affordable releases together with similar Bont releases.
Carbon fiber hook and loop closure make these shoes even more durable. They can also be easily washed, which is a must with any mountain bike shoes. But washing these shoes should only be done with a sponge to remove all dirt from the upper and the stiff sole.
Quick-dry insoles also help the cleaning process apart from offering top arch support. Made with perforations, the footbed prevents feet from sweating. But these insoles are also quick to dry whenever taking a break and taking the shoes off, just like Sidi alternatives. For better hygiene, the insoles can also be washed on both sides with soap.
The shoes are made in small sizes for a specific type of cyclist. This pair of shoes is available in EU 38 and EU 39 sizes, making them particularly appealing for cyclists of small stature. But they’re also available in larger sizes to cover most cyclists’ needs.
US size eight and above, the shoes are not the tightest. There’s plenty of room for the feet to move around the shoes. This is why they might not be the best choice for supple feet unless they have more room inside the shoe, which can be helpful on hot summer days.
- Made with 3 Velcro straps
- Breathable mesh upper
- Compatible with mountain bike pedals
- Roomy forefoot
As one of the popular affordable manufacturers, Tommaso makes some of the most interesting shoes in the community. The manufacturer is known for one of the best outlooks on the overall cycling experience and creates cycling shoes that are easier to walk in as well.
The Montagna 100 is designed with triple Velcro straps. They offer custom fit closer towards the forefoot and on the midfoot. The right fit is always going to be different for cyclists. For example, those with high arches won’t need to tighten the straps as much as those with flat feet.
The reinforced toe box is also important for those seeking the ultimate durability. This might not be the easiest to achieve with shoes that don’t have overlays. But the manufacturers know the toes need to be protected first, which is more important than the shoes' durability.
Perforated tongue design maintains acceptable breathability levels. During the summer, feet can overheat easily, especially on climbs. This is the main reason why even the tongue of the shoes features perforations.
Removable toe spikes are the ultimate versatility feature. It allows cyclists to walk on trails with proper traction. When the hiking session is over, these spikes can be removed for cyclists to continue their journey on the bike.
The breathable liner is specifically made for warm climates. These shoes are not the best for wintertime cycling. But during the summer, they offer reliable breathability in key areas, such as the midfoot and around the ankles, for improved ventilation.
Mountain bike versatility makes these shoes an interesting choice for 2-hole pedals. They can be used on most types of MTB pedals. Reinforced nylon added to the outsole makes these a bit more rigid than the average alternative. However, it also improves durability.
SPD compatibility also means Shimano fans can get their right fit from the start. However, those new to cycling might be better off simply by choosing 2-sided pedals as they’re easier to master new skills with.
- Compatible with mountain bikes
- Versatile on spin bikes
- Made with removable toe spikes
- Tight for cyclists with wide feet
One of the most popular Fizik releases, the X5 Terra, are mountain bike beasts. The shoes combine some of the top technologies from the manufacturer. Made with impressive specifications, they’re among the shoes with the lightest construction.
They work on fast hardtails and comfortable full suspension mountain bikes They are a popular choice alongside the Fizik Infinito R1.
Micro-adjustable Boa L6 Dial B is the main discussion around these shoes. The small customization options support one of the best-fit designs from the manufacturer. The shoes come with a textile upper, which can be set as tight as needed around the foot with this popular closure system.
Laser-perforated Microtex materials on the upper make the shoes hard to match when it comes to aesthetics. The material looks amazing, and the olive-green version of the shoes has been hailed in the cycling community as the most impressive. The added perforations help as well. There’s no room for any overheating in the upper.
Injected carbon TPU outsoles are used on the shoes. It makes them more balanced as they raise the standards of the upper. But at the same time, the shoes offer the rigid platform needed for the best comfort on short pedals.
Fizik’s cycling insole is also made from A to Z by the manufacturer. With increased breathability and thin materials, it controls the total weight of the shoes. The manufacturer recommends its removable insole as one of the parts which last the most in these cycling shoes.
At 288 grams each, the lightweight performers are ready to be paired with lightweight carbon or aluminum bikes. Some of the most demanding terrains might require the lightest performer. But even those riding steel frame bikes might find them attractive due to the comfortable, lightweight feel on the feet.
Available in extreme sizes, the shoes cover all user heights. From EU 36, they fit smaller feet or even teenagers. The shoes are among the few options which cater to the extreme size community, as other Fizik releases. However, they also stand out with the impressive range of modern colors, making them easy to pair with any bike color.
- Made with a textile upper
- Micro-adjustable custom fit
- Available in extreme sizes
- Rigid outsole design
The shoes combine the aesthetics of casual hiking designs with the performance of mountain bike designs. Made with a Vibram outsole, these shoes are among the most versatile options for those who appreciate classic designs and are only interested in relaxing mountain bike rides.
The synthetic textile mesh upper looks very similar to materials used in casual shoes. However, it is also one of the hardest materials to keep clean. Unlike synthetic leather, it needs frequent cleaning to look as pristine. But the material is an excellent choice for dry days.
A classic lace closure is what makes these shoes stand out even more. Similar to vintage cycling shoes, they use a lace system that still works to keep a tight fit. Most riders won’t be able to tell the difference between the lace fit and Boa closure anyways.
EVA midsole is used on the shoes. The foam is known for its unmatched comfort. Riders who want to enjoy the best cushioning rarely have a better option. But EVA is also considerably less rigid than other cycling shoe materials. As a result, these shoes follow the contour of the pedal a bit more, which is not problematic but can be an issue when coming from road cycling shoes.
Vibram rubber is used on the outsole. Made with Chevron-style patterns, the outsole also serves for those who might take the shoe hiking. Alternating hiking and mountain bike cycling are what these shoes do best. Even on wet surfaces, the rubber is known for its impressive traction.
The problem with the versatility is the outsole doesn’t last as long as simple cycling-dedicated shoes. This is why they can’t last more than a few hiking and cycling seasons. But those who want such a versatile outsole are stuck for choices in the first place.
- Made with classic laces
- Soft textile upper
- Made with a foam midsole
- Not the most rigid support
These high-performance shoes look nothing like cycling shoes. However, made with a 2-hole design, they offer the much-needed versatility for some of the most versatile mountain fans.
Made for cycling and hiking, the shoes feature a thick rubber outsole made to grip all types of surfaces. On flat pedals, these shoes remain rigid. Made with a wide upper, they suit all feet sizes.
Laces and a Velcro strap are used together for a custom fit ratchet design. Such shoes are rare. This combination is borrowed from fitness shoes, which require the exact fit to stay injury-free when performing squats. This design is gaining popularity in cycling again, especially among amateur pedaling fans.
The bike manufacturer uses rugged mountain shoe outsoles. With an aggressive rubber outsole, the shoes can also be comfortable for short walks. With thick padding around the ankle, they can even handle the protection of the ankle on uneven surfaces.
A protective forefoot overlay with a reinforced toe is added to the upper. Maximum ruggedness is achieved with this feature. However, it also turns the shoes into a heavier release. These are not the shoes to consider when traveling lightweight on tour bikes.
A heel loop is added above the heel cup to get the shoes on and off the feet easier. Those willing to get their hands on a practical design will struggle to find shoes with more features, at least at a similarly affordable price.
- Made with extra cushioning
- Designed with a Velcro strap and classic laces
- Made with a rugged outsole
- Heavy for long-distance cycling
Strada means street in Italian. These asphalt shoes are the variation of the popular off-road performers from Tommaso. Made to accommodate the needs of cyclists who like to cycle fast on the road, the shoes are also affordable.
Spin class indoor cycling fans are going to find the shoes practical. Made with thin upper and mesh materials, the shoes maintain good feet ventilation even when cycling indoors. However, real cycling takes place outside, where these shoes perform the best.
Mesh inserts recommend the shoes mostly for sunny days cycling. Their simple, lightweight construction means the shoes work for short and long rides. But cyclists should not count on the best protection on wet surfaces.
A reinforced toe box design has been added to the shoes. With an impressive design, the toebox adds durability and protection. Even in case of slipping off the pedal when trying to sit on the bike, there’s not going to be any pain to deal with.
2 and 3-hole design compatibility makes the shoes ready for any type of cycling. Both indoors and outdoors, the shoes maintain a very versatile profile. Since they are made for maximum compatibility, cyclists can count on them for various needs.
During rainy days, they can cycle indoors on a spin bike. But the same shoes can be used outdoors when the weather clears up.
Non-skid walking strips are added to the heel. These strips allow users to stay on their feet when off the bike. Outdoors, this is less of an issue. However, spin bike shoes have been known to cause various slip accidents at the gym. However, some users say these strips are too small, even if they were added with good intentions.
- 2 and 3-hole pedal compatibility
- Made for indoor and outdoor use
- Made with a reinforced nylon outsole
- Not available in extreme sizes
Frequently Asked Questions
What are cycling shoes?
Cycling shoes are specifically tailored for bike use. They keep the foot connected to the pedals at all times. This means cyclists pedal faster as they push and pull the pedals better. Cycling shoes are also made with different uppers that control the amount of heat inside the shoe.
Specific differences are made between cycling shoes. They can be separated in terms of compatibility. But they can also be categorized according to outsole design. Road cycling shoes are made for aerodynamics.
Lightweight and with a straight outsole, they face minimum wind resistance. Mountain bike cycling shoes are bulkier and with a softer outsole. They need to attenuate some of the shocks from terrain irregularities. But these shoes also need to come with a thicker outsole to offer better traction when off the bike and walking on uneven terrain.
How do cycling shoes work?
Clipless and clip-in cycling shoes can be used for bicycling. Both men’s and women’s cycling shoes are made to offer a better cycling experience. For example, cycling shoes used on spin bikes connect the forefoot to the pedal and the locking cage of the pedal. They allow users to push and pull the pedals and cycle faster without the fear of slipping.
How tight should cycling shoes be?
Shoe tightness is very personal. Some shoes are made to be very tight. Others are made to feel comfortable. Over the years, these shoes have mainly moved away from classic laces into straps or combinations of straps and thin laces.
But the shoes shouldn’t be too tight either. The pressure of the midfoot laces might be felt shortly if the fit is too tight. The width of the shoes is important as well. Those with a wide fit will struggle with the average shoe design in terms of comfort.
How to put clips on cycling shoes?
On 4-hole shoes, cyclists can put the clips on the two front holes to test the position. 2 screws hold the clips in place. Cyclists then need to tighten the screws with an Allen wrench. The angle of the clips is going to affect riding comfort.
If the clips are too angled, there will be a bit of pain in the knees. Users need to find the right position to reduce knee pain and have a comfortable riding position. This might also mean that some cyclists will only go to install the clips with the two screws on the read two holes in a 4-hole cycling shoe setup.