2019 Triathlon Bike Shoe Guide

What are the most comfortable, most durable, most stylish and best value triathlon cycling shoes? That's a tough question to answer, but we tested a variety of models with triathlon-specific retention systems—straps that open away from your bike so as not to get caught in the drivetrain—and all shoes are three-hole cleat compatible to find out.

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Louis Garneau Tri Air Lite ($349)

Features: hook/loop strap and a Boa dial closure system to dial in a great fit; X-Comfort Zone panels to offer comfort around the widest part of your foot

Why We Like This Shoe: The Tri Air Lite offers many features found in Louis Garneau's premier road cycling shoe, including a cooling and breathable footbed with customizable arch supports, expansion panels around the widest part of the shoe, and a retention system that is easy to operate on the go. The membrane liner helps this shoe stay in place without any rubbing or chafing.

Fit: You can shop confidently: Louis Garneau shoes fit true to size.

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Sidi T4 Air Carbon Composite ($249)

Standout Features: massive, no-miss retention straps; perforated upper for superior cooling; Italian styling

Why We Like This Shoe: These are some of the most durable triathlon shoes we've worn. They can take a beating in transition runs and have shown minimal wear over several seasons of use. They are also among the most comfortable tri shoes we've raced in, with a sole that offers plenty of stiffness and a brushed interior that works so well with or without socks.

Fit: Sidi's run true to size, and they will not stretch when broken in.

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Bontrager Woomera Triathlon Shoe ($119)

Standout Features: a carbon sole rated 10:12 on stiffness scale; excellent ventilation and drainage features

Why We Like This Shoe: The Bontrager Woomera tri shoe offers features found in pricier shoes: full carbon sole, easy-to-grasp strap closure and superior ventilation. In fact, the ventilation is some of the best we've experienced.

Fit: It's been our experience that Bontrager tri shoes tend to run large—so if in doubt, go down half a size.

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Specialized S-Works Trivent Triathlon Shoe ($500)

Standout Features: unique heel hinge and magnetic fastener to keep the "Drawbridge" open, allowing quick and easy entry/exit; stiff and minimal carbon sole; quick-drying liner to prevent any chafe

Why We Like This Shoe: We absolutely thrashed our Specialized Trivents for several seasons, racing in all kind of conditions, and they held up and were just as comfortable as the day we first tri'd them. The flip-down heel made getting into this shoe while riding seemed second-nature.

Fit: Specialized shoes run true to size, but unisex sizing can be a little wide for female feet.

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Fizik Transiro Powerstrap R4 ($129)

Standout Features: single, large dual enclosure strap; mesh and Microtex upper for efficient cooling and comfort; composite sole for ample stiffness

Why We Like This Shoe: The Fizik Transiro offers the largest enclosure strap of any tri shoe we've previewed, which is great when hand dexterity is low for just a few minutes out of the water. The entire top of the shoe allows ventilation, which is enhanced by the vent in the sole. Cool feet prevail.

Fit: Try before you buy. The enclosure system on this Fizik shoe made a normally snug fit seem just right.

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Mavic Cosmic SL Ultimate Triathlon Shoe ($330)

Standout Features: full carbon sole with titanium stiffening plate; massive vents in sole; single retention strap and offset opening in upper for enhanced comfort; 200g claimed weight

Why We Like This Shoe: The Mavic Cosmic SL Ultimate is so lightweight due to the carbon and titanium sole, yet provides plenty of stiffness for efficient power transfer. The drains in the sole double as vents, to keep feet cool, even in hot and humid conditions. And the iconic Mavic "service course" yellow is great for hi-viz cycling.

Fit: Mavic shoes run true to size.

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Pearl Izumi Tri Fly ELITE v6 ($225)

Standout Features: no-slip sole great for getting in and out of transition; wider at the rear of the shoe to allow for easy entry/exit

Why We Like This Shoe: Pearl Izumi shoes can feel both forgiving and also stiff. We're delighted to wear a shoe that is comfortable for hours yet also channels our power to our pedals.

Fit: Pearl Izumi shoes run small. So unless you have experience with Pearl Izumi and know your size, go up by half a size. Also, note that men's and women's versions of Pearl Izumi shoes offer all of the same features but are shaped to fit appropriately.

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About the Author

Greg Kaplan,

A lifelong endurance sports athlete, Greg raced bikes on the road as a junior prior to changing his athletic focus to rowing. Upon retiring from elite rowing competition, Greg revisited his passion for racing bikes and also added some swimming and running into the mix, competing at the ITU Age Group World Championships on multiple occasions. He and his wife Shannon—also a rower, bike-racer, and triathlete—enjoy traveling, learning about wine and keeping up with their rescue cats when they are not training or racing.
A lifelong endurance sports athlete, Greg raced bikes on the road as a junior prior to changing his athletic focus to rowing. Upon retiring from elite rowing competition, Greg revisited his passion for racing bikes and also added some swimming and running into the mix, competing at the ITU Age Group World Championships on multiple occasions. He and his wife Shannon—also a rower, bike-racer, and triathlete—enjoy traveling, learning about wine and keeping up with their rescue cats when they are not training or racing.

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