The Best Shoes for Bike Riding in 2020 ( Reviews & Guide )

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Shoes for Bike Riding i

With so many bike riding shoes in the market going for such a wide range of prices, it can be difficult to settle on something. Here is a list of some top bike riding shoes with details on what makes them stand out from the rest.

As a professional cycling athlete I know that shoes are an extremely important part of my gear. Yes, some cycling shoes can be unbelievably pricey but often prove to be worth every dime.

Even if you are not a professional cyclist, perhaps cycling for weight loss, cycling shoes also help to increase pedaling efficiency and increase calories burned with each ride.

Here is a detailed comparison of some of the best shoes for bike riding with details on what makes each of them a good option.


The Best Shoes for Bike Riding – A Comparison Table

 
Sole
Closure system
Ventilation
Action
Giro Imperial Shoes
Carbon
Dual Boa
Monofilament mesh
Mavik Aksium Shoes
Nylon with fiberglass
Laces
Toe vents and small holes
B’Twin 700 Carbon Road Shoes
Carbon
Boa dials and velcro straps
Perforations
Bontrager SSR Multisport shoes
Rubber
Laces and single velcro strap
Mesh

 


Giro Imperial Shoes – Our Top Pick

Giro Imperial Men's Road Cycling Shoes
  • PRO-LEVEL PERFORMANCE AND STYLE: Performance, comfort and style - proven on the road at the highest levels of the sport
  • COMFORTABLE AND SUPPORTIVE FIT: One-piece Synchwire upper with soft lace guides for supple-yet-supportive fit and great breathability

The Imperials are Giro’s first shoes with 2 Boa closures.

Specs

  • Dual Boa closure
  • Monofilament mesh upper
  • Webbing loops to guide cables
  • Weight: 408g ( size 41)
  • Steel cleat mounting inserts
  • High stiffness to weight ratio

They feature a twin Boa closure system like many other brands. The difference here is that the cables are not directed using plastic guides as is in other cycling shoes. Giro’s Imperials use a loops of webbing which are sewn on. These loops are said to reduce hot spots. The entire Boa mechanism is both repairable and replaceable.

The upper has a light, see-through mesh which is reinforced with Tejin TPU (found in other Giro shoes). This gives the shoes superior ventilation as well as adds to aesthetic appeal. The two are welded together and the result is an almost seamless upper.

Soles are made from carbon, making it a stiff shoe despite its weight. In fact this shoe carries Giro’s EC90SLX designation. This means that it takes the top spot among all Giro shoes for the highest stiffness to weight ratio.

Inserts for cleat mounting are made of steel but are not adjustable like in some other cycling shoes. A rubberized heel gripper provides additional security.

One of the methods used to keep overall weight down are that the manufacturers didn’t include an external plastic heel cup.

The main complaint we have from these shoes is that the Boa cables sometimes stick to the shoe’s tongue when tightening them. This creates an unusual amount of resistance when you pull on the cables. You have to hold the tongue in place with one hand as you tug on the cables with the other to make sure it doesn’t creep back up.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Very breathable
  • Stable
  • Stiff sole
  • Closure system is repairable and replaceable

Cons

  • Fixed cleat inserts
  • Boa cables stick o tongue
  • Slightly lifted heel

Verdict:

The Giro Imperial has carved out a space as the lightest twin-Boa shoes in the market. Despite being quite pricey, these are ideal for riders looking to enjoy the comfort of light shoes without compromising on quality and of course aesthetic appeal.

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Mavik Aksium Shoes

Mavic Aksium II Shoe 13.5 Black/White
  • Details:Energy Comp OutsoleThree Comfort StrapsOrthoLite InsoleWeight: 250g

Mavik Aksium cycling shoes fall on the lower end of the price spectrum. They feature a nylon sole (with fiberglass) so it is no surprise that they are not nearly as rigid as carbon sole shoes.

Specs

  • Nylon sole with fiberglass
  • Lace closure
  • Toe vents and small holes for ventilation
  • Padded heel cup
  • Has reflective elements

The first thing you notice is the lace closure.  Laces make shoes lighter because they don’t add much to the overall weight of the shoe. A pair of size 42.5 Mavik Aksium shoes weighs 512grams

When fully done up, the laces cross the foot 5 times which helps to distribute pressure evenly. This also makes them more aerodynamic, compared to shoes with Boa or ratchet closure systems.

Ventilation is one element the manufacturer definitely wanted to adress satisfactorily. These shoes have large fabric toe vents at the front and small pin-prick holes on the side for additional ventilation. If that is not enough ventilation, there are a few small vents under the foot for extra cooling of the feet.

The sole can take 3-bolt cleats. You can slide the bolts forward and backward slightly for additional adjustment.

There are some small reflective elements on the outside of the rear part of the shoes  as well as along the edge of the front vent. These come in handy for visibility especially if you are cycling at night.

The one drawback in these shoes has to do with the lace closure system. You cannot make any adjustments while riding.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Stable
  • Good ventilation
  • Stylish design
  • Aerodynamic
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Not rigid
  • Cant adjust while riding
  • 3-bolt cleats only

Verdict

Mavik Aksium shoes are stylish, retro shoes which pack a good number of features in. They are fairly priced and comfortable enough to wear all day. Ventilation is well taken care of so these are an option to consider if your feet tend to get extremely hot during rides.

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 B’Twin 700 Carbon Road Shoes

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B’twin carbon road shoes stand out for what many describe as almost unbelievable value for money. They have features only seen in much more expensive shoes for a relatively low cost.

Specs

  • Full carbon sole
  • Closure system: Boa dials and velcro straps
  • Polyester upper
  • Perforations for ventilation
  • Shark skin-like material on heel cup

Top on the list of features is a full carbon sole which makes the shoes very stiff, ideal for road cycling. Power transfer is extremely efficient. The upper is made from polyester which has perforations for adequate ventilation. The closure system is made up of two types of closures. There are Boa dials and Velcro straps at the front. Both work together to make sure the upper is fully tightened at the same time ensuring comfort for you.

It is also a relatively light shoe. The size 43 pair for instance weighs 237 grams, a feature which again is found in more expensive brands.

Another unforgettable feature is the shark skin-like material on the heel cup which adds to comfort. With this material, the foot doesn’t easily ride out of the back of the shoe.

A notable drawback is the toe box of these shoes are quite narrow. If you have wide feet, these shoesmay turn out to be uncomfortable because a lot of pressure is applied on the toes.

A common question asked regarding these shoes is how they can be so inexpensive yet carry high-end features. The manufacturers of this brand operate using a direct sales business model. There are no middlemen. Decathlon handles its distribution and retail sales. The savings made are passed to the consumer.

Pros

  • Great value for money
  • Good power transfer
  • Double closure system
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Unsuitable for wide feet

Verdict

You will struggle to find cycling shoes with these features in this price range. These give you great value for money.  Now you know how they manage to keep their prices down so you don’t have to worry if they might be skimping out on something somewhere.


Bontrager SSR Multisport Shoes

Many cycling shoes in the market are great when you are on the bike but if you have to get off and do some walking they are not the most appropriate. Vice versa for walking shoes. Their soft sole which allows for the natural folding motion of the foot as you walk doesn’t do well when it comes to energy transfer to the pedal.

Specs

  • Internal glass-reinforced nylon plate and rubber outsole
  • Closure: laces and single velcro strap
  • Mesh and rubberized upper
  • Hidden 2-bolt cleats

Bontrager SSR multisport shoes make an impressive attempt at giving you the best of both worlds. These are designed for beginner cyclists who are not yet accustomed to the discomfort which comes with very stiff soles and commuter riders who often need to do some walking as well.

They feature glass-reinforced nylon plates with textured rubber outsoles. This gives a measure of stiffness and a good amount of tread for comfortable walking.

Closure is done using a combination of laces and a single Velcro strap which keeps the laces out of your way as you ride. These also help to give the shoes a trendy street look.

With the street look and walking comfort covered, the cleats transform them into safe, comfortable cycling shoes. The rubber plate on the sole can be cut away to make the shoe 2- bolt SPD cleat compatible.

The upper has a combination of closed mesh and rubberized reinforcements which add to overall durability of the shoes. The drawback is that if it rains, these are not the best shoes to have on.

Pros

  • On-bike and off-bike comfort
  • Great street look
  • Good walking traction
  • SPD compatibility

Cons

  • Don’t handle well in wet weather

Verdict

Versatility is the best part about these shoes. You don’t have to carry an extra pair of shoes to walk in when you get to your destination. It does help that they look great so you won’t mind sporting them as part of a trendy weekend look.

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What to Consider When Buying the Best Shoes for Bike Riding

Fit

Fit is a factor to think about no matter what kind of shoes you are looking to buy. Look for cycling shoes whose length or size matches what you ordinarily wear for other types of shoes. Width of the shoe should also be considered. If you have a wide foot, look for shoes with a wide fit. If you have slim feet, look for brands with a narrow fit.

Some people like cycling shoes which fit very snug. If you are one of these, you may go for a narrow fit even if you have wide feet.

The surest way to check the fit of cycling shoes is to try them on at the shop. Avoid online purchases here. It is best to try them on in the afternoon or evening because your feet tend to expand slightly in the course of the day.

Stiffness

Cycling shoes typically have soles which are substantially stiffer than regular shoes or trainers. Regular shoes need to bend to accommodate comfortable walking. These shoes don’t. The general idea is that the stiffer the sole is, the more power you can transfer to the pedals.

When you shop around for cycling shoes, you will notice that the stiffer the sole is, the more expensive the shoe. The most expensive shoes have full carbon soles while the least expensive ones have nylon soles. Products which fall somewhere in between have carbon reinforced soles. Carbon soled shoes are also lighter and this is another selling point for them.

One drawback associated with carbon soles is that there is more transfer of vibration from the road to your foot. This leads to your feet feeling fatigued sooner.

Upper Material

Top of the range cycling shoes are made from kangaroo leather. It fits perfectly on the foot and is very comfortable. Most shoes have uppers made of man-made material.

The two aspects to think about when it comes to upper material are ventilation and cleaning.  You always want to have shoes which allow your feet to breathe. For good ventilation, mesh paneled shoes are best. Mesh material is however, quite difficult to keep clean. Holes for ventilation therefore make a better choice because it is easier to keep clean.

Insoles

Insoles are one of those parts of the shoe which is easy to disregard. With cycling shoes, it is one that manufacturers, especially of high-end shoes, consider to make the riding experience more efficient and comfortable.

Basic shoes have a simple layer of foam while higher end ones have layers with varying densities for different support needs. In some shoes you can get heat-molded insoles which are shaped to fit your foot.

Closure System

When it comes to closure systems (how the shoe is fastened on to your foot), there are 3 main options: Velcro straps, ratchet buckles and Boa cords. All have their advantages and drawbacks but ultimately work fine.

Velcro fastenings are strong, reliable and add minimal weight to the shoe. Ratchet buckles give a very firm hold on your foot and can be easily adjusted on the move. Boa systems are light and their lacing helps to prevent uncomfortable contact points which tend to happen with other strap systems.

Type of Riding

The shoes you buy should be ideal for the riding conditions you get into most often.

Mountain biking: Shoes specifically designed for this typically have soles with very good grip. This increases traction on rugged trails which are common in mountain biking.

Road cycling: These cyclists want to get maximum pedaling efficiency. Their shoes have very stiff soles and use 3-hole protruding cleats which connect to clipless pedals. They don’t have much tread so you can’t use them for extended walking.

Recreational biking: For this you need biking shoes which look much like regular sneakers but have a stiffer sole. Some bike shoes designed for recreational biking and commuters have cleats which are recessed into the sole to allow you walk in them.


Conclusion

There are many brands, designs, colors and price ranges to choose from when you go out to buy a pair of bike riding shoes. What you settle on depends on the kind of riding you intend to be doing and specific features in the shoes which meet your needs best. These features all come with varying price ranges.

Basic features to keep in mind include the fact that carbon soles make shoes stiffer and are generally more expensive. They are great for competitive cycling but are not the best if you will need to do some walking.


FAQs

Are cycling shoes really necessary?

Cycling shoes make sure your feet are firmly locked on the pedals. When they are locked in, there is more efficient transfer of power from your feet to the pedals. This is especially so if you are riding up a hill.

If you are cycling for fitness or weight loss they are important because you engage all your leg muscles. Ordinarily you work your hamstrings, calves and quadriceps. When your feet are not clipped in you only work your hamstrings. You can’t pull the pedal up as your foot is not attached to the pedal.

How long does it take to fully break in new cycling shoes?

It depends on how often and how long you ride. It would typically take between 20 and 30 hours of riding before your feet start to feel comfortable in new cycling shoes.

Can women wear men’s cycling shoes?

Many women actually prefer men’s or unisex cycling shoes. If you have very narrow feet, it may be useful to look for brands which carry shoes specially designed for women. These come in smaller sizes and a narrower fit. Your choices will be limited because only a few brands carry women specific shoes.

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