Before You Begin Shopping for Cycling Shoes1 of 9
When selecting a cycling shoe, consider prioritizing fit, purpose, features, price and of course, style. Your intended use will dictate fit and some features: Road cycling shoes are designed to be stiff, light and breathable while providing a secure connection to your bike.
Pro Tip: No matter what shoe option you select, get a bike fit to ensure proper cleat positioning, which will prevent injury and optimize power transfer.
You Deserve Premium Cycling Shoes2 of 9
Custom Fit Features of Premium Cycling Shoes3 of 9
Don't underestimate the value of cycling shoes that offer a precise fit. You'll be more comfortable and are likely to have a smoother pedal stroke if your cycling shoes match the shape of your foot.
The Pearl Izumi PRO Leader IV allows for customization of the footbed: You can swap the arch, and varus (ball of your foot) inserts to match your specific anatomy. Plus, the top-mounted placement of the Boa dial closures on the padded tongue of the shoes was a huge hit among testers.
Fit Advice: When fitting Pearl Izumi PRO Leader IV cycling shoes, we suggest going up half a size, as they tend to run slightly small in both men's and women's models.
Cycling Shoe Retention Systems4 of 9
Many brands of cycling shoes offer the Boa dial system for securing the shoe to your foot. This retention system offers a precise, adjustable method for securing the shoe, which can be easily adjusted while on the bike. The new Specialized S-Works 7 features micro-adjustable, alloy Boa dials, made exclusively for this shoe. With a low stack height, the S-Works 7 felt light and stiff under our tester's big feet. "It was almost like wearing a high-tech, comfy cycling slipper."
Fit Advice: The Specialized S-Works 7 cycling shoe fits true to size, and like other shoes from the California-based brand, feels slightly wider in the toe and narrower in the heel.
Cycling Shoes to Help You Keep Your Cool5 of 9
If you're prone to sweaty feet, you'll really appreciate shoes that offer superior ventilation. While all shoes in our test group have vents in their soles, the Fizik Infinito R1 Knit took lightweight cooling to the next level. These Italian-made shoes wrapped our feet like they were made just for us and helped us keep cool when riding in hot environments. Despite the airy feel, we were still impressed with the stiffness—we felt our watts going right to our pedals.
Fit Advice: The men's Fizik Infinito R1 Knit is a low-volume shoe, which conformed to our tester's feet well. These narrowest-fitting shoes gave us a very secure feel.
Full-Featured Triathlon Shoes6 of 9
Triathletes have slightly different cycling shoe needs than do road cyclists: drains to allow excess water to escape, comfort without socks, a large opening for ease of entry and exit and a retention system that's foolproof to operate while on the bike. The Louis Garneau Tri 400 checks all the boxes. The stock footbed and brushed membrane interior were so smooth and comfortable our testers nearly forgot they went sockless when wearing these shoes.
Fit Advice: Both men's and women's versions of the Louis Garneau Tri 400 fit true to size.
Price-Conscious, Performance-Oriented Shoes7 of 9
Functionality, comfort and durability don't always have to come with a premium price tag. If you're on a budget and want only one pair of shoes for both triathlon and road cycling, look for shoes which offer features similar to high-end models: ample ventilation, easy-to-work retention systems and firm soles. The women's Bontrager Lohi shoe and the unisex Bontrager Woomera shoe are a great value. The carbon-soled Woomera felt like they transferred power to the pedals well and were roomy with a smooth interior. The large, easy-to-manage retention straps offered a fumble-free experience, even while already in motion. The Lohi felt firm under our tester's feet and were spacious enough to allow for thick socks—great for early- and late-season outdoor riding.
Fit Advice: The Bontrager Lohi and the Bontrager Woomera felt roomy. If you have normal to narrow feet, opt for a half size smaller.
Your Cycling Shoes Are an Expression of Your Style8 of 9
Whether you opt for a simple colorway, or a scheme that pops, cycling shoe choice is an excellent and fun expression of your style. Although fit should be a priority when selecting a cycling shoe, don't be shy when selecting something that complements your bike and your kit.