Quality cycling shoes can improve your speed, reduce strain, and help to prevent injuries. While road cycling shoes are generally not cheap, the investment is well worth the cost whether you currently pursue the road cycling hobby and want to improve your performance, or if you’re looking to get into it for the first time and want to be well-equipped from the get-go.
Before we jump into our top picks for road cycling shoes, let’s briefly go over the important features to consider when purchasing road bike shoes.
- Features to Consider in Good Road Cycling Shoes
- Top 7 Best Road Cycling Shoes 2021
- 1. Best Overall Road Cycling Shoes: Fizik R5 Road Cycling Shoe
- 2. Best Premium Road Cycling Shoes: Giro Empire ACC Road Cycling Shoe
- 3. Best Spin Cycling Shoes: Tommaso Strada 100 Cycling Shoe
- 4. Best Beginner’s Road Cycling Shoes: Pearl iZUMi V5 Road Cycling Shoe
- 5. Most Comfortable Road Cycling Shoe: Venzo 3 Strap Road Cycling Shoes
- 6. Best Budget Road Cycling Shoe: Gavin Elite Road Cycling Shoe
- 7. Best Road Cycling Shoes for Triathalons: Tommaso Strada Elite Quick Lace Road Cycling Shoe
- Top 3 Best Women’s Road Cycling Shoes 2021
- Guide to Buying the Best Road Cycling Shoes
- Bottom Line
Features to Consider in Good Road Cycling Shoes
There are a variety of criteria worth considering when making any footwear purchase.
This is probably the most important factor for shoes in general, but especially for footwear you intend to use while exercising for long periods of time. Road cycling is an endurance sport that can often involve rides lasting for multiple hours at a time. As such, finding road cycling shoes that fit properly while providing appropriate levels of support and comfort is imperative.
While fit and comfort are related, there are many aspects of a shoe that can change its comfort level that have nothing to do with how well they fit. Personal preference will play a role in this aspect, but so will the shoe’s suitability for different types of weather. The materials the shoe is constructed from, the quality of their ventilation system, and how the shoes are fastened will all play a role in their overall comfort level.
Even the best-fitting and most comfortable road cycling shoe isn’t worth the money if it doesn’t up your cycling game. While the reverse is also true, in that a high-performance cycling shoe that makes you feel like your feet are going to fall off won’t be much help, it’s important to choose a shoe that lets you put the power into your pedaling that you need to reach high speeds.
Another aspect of road cycling shoe comfort will be dictated by your intended use of the shoe. Some people like to use road cycling shoes for spin classes, while others might be looking for a good pair in which they can bike and walk without having to change shoes. Still others might want road cycling shoes for competing in triathlons or other similar events.
Though many cycling shoes, particuarly outside of the high end of the market, can be used with standard flat platform pedals, all shoes designed to be used with road bikes are best used with special pedals that contain attachment points for efficient power transfer and a reduced risk of your feet falling off. Cycling shoes sometimes have multiple types of connections, and the most common few types cover a vast majority of all hookups. That being said, certain shoes won’t work with certain pedals, so its it’s especially important that you check to make sure the shoes you are buying will be compatible with the pedals you’ll be using.
Road cycling shoes can be quite expensive, but the investment is worth it for serious riders and beginners alike. We’ve put together a list of some of the best road cycling shoes you can find with an eye for cost-effectiveness. The items on our list cover a range of prices from entry-level to premium shoes suited for more serious riders.
Without further ado, here are our favorite road cycling shoes currently on the market.
Top 7 Best Road Cycling Shoes 2021
These Fizik R5 Road Cycling Shoes offer a snug fit that still provides enough room to prevent your toes from feeling squished together. Slightly wider than typical road cycling shoes, these bad boys stay in place thanks to their excellent closure system that uses the BOA IP1 wired system to provide an even tightening across your whole foot.
With a synthetic Microtex outer and a carbon-reinforced nylon sole, these cycling shoes offer a good combination of flexibility for comfort and stability for performance. These shoes are excellent for serious road cycling hobbyists who want to take care of their feet during long rides.
Slightly less stiff than some higher-end road cycling shoes, the Fizik R5 provides slightly less power transfer capabilities in exchange for greatly enhanced comfort in comparison. These are also a great option for competitive triathletes thanks to their excellent closure system that allows for quick adjustments and easy on-off capabilities.
Who Is the Fizik R5 Road Cycling Shoe Best For?
The price point on these road cycling shoes places them slightly above the range of what a true novice who hasn’t firmly committed to the sport would want, without being so pricey that they couldn’t be introductory shoes. Thanks to their comfort-minded design, people who are looking to squeeze out every iota of performance may want to look elsewhere.
Having said that.
These Giro Empire ACC Road Cycling Shoes provide a tight fit that doesn’t strangle your foot. Giro shoes tend to run narrower than more comfort-minded road cycling shoes like the Fiziks. The SuperNatural Fit footbed allows you to dial in the fit and arch support so you can get these to fit your feet like a glove (a foot glove).
We mentioned the variable arch support provided by the Giro SuperNatural Fit footbed above, but these road cycling shoes take comfort a step further thanks to their extremely light weight. Coming in at only 215 grams (for size 42.5 shoes), these are some of the lightest cycling shoes on our list.
The sole is constructed from Easton EC90 carbon fiber that provides a solid base for excellent power transfer when pedaling. This is perfect for competitive riders looking to eke out every bit of performance, but also means they are especially bad for walking in.
Who Is the Giro Empire ACC Road Cycling Shoe Best For?
These are top-notch road cycling shoes designed for serious riders with a price to match. The price is fair for the performance on offer but that factor alone makes these a hard sell for those who aren’t committed to the sport. There are certainly more expensive road cycling shoes out there, but these are on the top end of the ones we put on our list.
These cycling shoes have a fit that’s closer to a pair of sneakers than standard road cycling shoes. Using a triple velcro strap closure system, these Tommaso Strada 100 Cycling Shoes are easy to get in and out of while also providing a good amount of fit customization. The Tommaso Strada 100s were designed to be used on the road, at spin classes, or at home on your Peloton or other compatible stationary bike.
The combination of the breathable liner, ventilation ports, and mesh inserts provides a great level of comfort for your feet during the ride. The tongue is also perforated to provide increased airflow and allow for moisture removal. These cycling shoes do an excellent job of preventing your feet from overheating during long workouts.
The reinforced nylon sole offers performance, durability, and comfort, and the added non-skid walking strip makes it easy to avoid slips when walking to and from your spin bike, and the multiple cleat bolt patterns make them effectively transfer power to nearly any type of pedals.
Who Is the Tommaso Strada 100 Cycling Shoe Best For?
We recommend these cycling shoes for hobby riders and spin class attendees alike. These cycling shoes are especially great for riders who use stationary bikes in spin classes or at home but that doesn’t mean they don’t make for good road cycling shoes as well. The dual cleat design allows for Tommaso Strada 100 owners to use these shoes with pretty much any type of cleat or bike.
Pearl iZUMis are known to run a little on the narrow side, so you may want to go up a ½ size if your feet are in the average to wide range. Similar to some other options on our list, the Pearl iZUMi V5 Road Cycling Shoe wears similar to sneakers thanks to the textile liner and velcro strap closure system. With three velcro straps, these shoes can be quickly and easily adjusted to provide a great fit.
These Pearl iZUMi V5 Select Road Shoes offer good ventilation and reasonable flexibility to prevent your feet from experiencing overheating and pinching. The added EVA foam and rubber heel bumper also make these surprisingly good for walking in compared to most road cycling shoes.
The sole uses a composite power plate with nylon forefoot inserts to offer good stiffness for power transfer while pedaling to reduce strain. This may not seem like much, but that little bit of extra power will go a long way during long road bike sessions. Though very comfortable, the considerable weight of the shoe does make them imperfect for high-performance athletes, however. That being said, the comfort-to-performance ratio makes them perfect for beginners just getting into dedicated road bike shoes.
Who Is the Pearl iZUMi V5 Road Cycling Shoe Best For?
These road cycling shoes are compatible with various cleat types that make these good for various biking activities. These are good for spin classes, but we feel they are especially well-suited for the outdoorsy types that may spend some time walking when out on their rides.
These cycling shoes use a 3-strap Velcro closure system similar to some of the other options on our list. In contrast to many of the other products on our list, these have a low-cut ankle to reduce their weight and provide a more agile feel on the pedal. This Venzo Road Cycling Shoe is a medium-width shoe for average feet.
These cycling shoes are fairly light and offer good ventilation thanks to their mesh outer. Their textile lining provides a comfortable fit that breathes well and should keep your feet cool during long rides. On top of that, the low-ankle design makes these feel slightly more agile and far less restrictive than some of the other items on our list. More than any other shoe on our list, you’ll hardly notice that the Venzo 3 is there.
To some extent, these shoes don’t concentrate on performance as much as they do on fit and comfort. That being said, the Venzo 3 still feature construction and features that will have you moving far faster than you do with any shoes not designed specifically for cycling.
Who Is the Venzo 3 Strap Road Cycling Shoes Best For?
These shoes are designed for various cycling activities thanks to their compatibility with various cleat types. The low-ankle makes these especially appealing for riders who prefer a sporty fit when working out.
The Venzo 3 Strap Road Cycling Shoe is great for cycling enthusiasts who regularly exercise outdoors or on stationary bikes, but these aren’t ideal for ultra-competitive types looking to get every drop of performance from their equipment. If you’ve tried other cycling shoes but can’t get over how uncomfortable they feel on your feet, this is your best bet.
The Gavin Elite Road Cycling Shoe is designed with a micro-adjustable buckle and two Velcro straps for dialing in the right fit across your foot. The combination of a mesh outer and nylon and fiberglass sole provides a good mix of flexibility and stability in the right places for good comfort and performance. Thanks to the 2 or 3-bolt design, these Gavin Elite Cycling Shoes can be used with road bikes, Pelotons, or spin bikes with the appropriate cleats.
These road cycling shoes offer good ventilation in the soles and are made with a breathable mesh fabric to keep your feet from overheating during your biking workouts. The sneaker-like design offers a familiar wear on the foot for those who aren’t accustomed to cycling shoes. While they may not provide excellent performance, these Gavin Elite Cycling Shoes are an affordable way to get started with cycling.
Though by no means high-end performance-oriented shoes, the Gavin Elite road bike shoes offer a great foot-to-pedal connection and a firm footbed that will allow you to efficiently put every last drop of effort into your ride.
Who Is the Gavin Elite Road Cycling Shoe Best For?
These cycling shoes are designed with an eye for comfort, and priced to provide excellent value for budget-minded cyclists and people who are just dipping their toes into the cycling hobby. While they may not provide top-notch performance, these cycling shoes are more than capable of providing enhanced comfort and efficiency for hobbyists looking to get an excellent workout on their indoor or outdoor bike.
Thanks to the combination wire and strap closure system, these Tommaso Strada Elite Cycling Shoes can be dialed into a perfect fit with ease. This makes them perfect for triatheletes, since the Tomasso Stradas are quick and easy to take on and off while not sacrificing a perfect fit. The upper microfiber with nylon mesh inserts allows these shoes to hug your feet without squeezing or overheating them.
These Tommaso Strada Elites are smartly designed with comfort and performance in mind. The molded EVA insole in the footbed is removable for customizable comfort and the outer is perforated for excellent breathability. The ventilation on these cycling shoes is excellent, too, providing enhanced foot comfort throughout long rides.
Using a 100-percent carbon fiber cleat plate, these cycling shoes provide great power transfer and stability on your pedals. On top of that, they’re very light, especially considering the price—and as any experienced road cyclist knows, any drop in weight is worth pursuing.
Who Is the Tommaso Strada Elite Quick Lace Road Cycling Shoe Best For?
These cycling shoes offer good performance at an affordable price for people looking to maximize their cycling ability on a budget. The combination of a quick-lace wire closure system and velcro strap allows for easy on/off and adjustment. These Tommaso Strada Elite Cycling Shoes also use a 2 and 3 hole cleat bolt pattern that allows for compatibility with most cleat types.
Top 3 Best Women’s Road Cycling Shoes 2021
As a quick note, the difference between men’s and women’s cycling shoes is generally limited to the sizing and the overall width of the shoes. Women’s shoes tend to be narrower, but aside from that, most of the offerings above could be worn by men and women. In fact, many come in both men’s and women’s sizes. That being said, if you’re a female cyclist who hasn’t found a great fit from among the men’s options on the market, take a look at the following products on our list specifically tailored for female road cyclists.
Designed for ease of use, these women’s road cycling shoes use a Velcro 3-strap closure system so you can adjust the fit for each part of your foot. These ride a little lower on the ankle than standard sneakers, but otherwise fit similarly to your favorite pair of running shoes thanks to the mesh liner and inner padding.
The Tommaso Pista Road Cycling Shoe is crafted for comfort and usability while still providing a solid performance bump. While these don’t have as much ventilation as other products on our list, they still provide solid breathability thanks to the incorporation of mesh throughout the body of the shoe. The sole is ventilated and has perforations along its length to allow moisture to wick out of the shoe, as is the tongue.
While they may not provide optimal power transfer capabilities, these shoes do a noble job of increasing performance while being versatile and affordable. This is particuarly thanks to the stiff fiberglass sole, but they’re fairly light for the price, too.
Who Is the Tommaso Pista Women’s Road Cycling Shoe Best For?
These cycling shoes are perfect for women getting started in the cycling hobby whether they want to ride outside, in a spin class, or at home on their Peloton. Thanks to the dual cleat platform, these shoes are compatible with all standard cleat types.
Like many other road cycling shoes, these use a Velcro 3-strap closure system for fit adjustment. Some shoes do a better job than others of providing fit adjustment with the positioning and design of their straps, but these Giro Techne Women’s Cycling Shoes are especially well made for that purpose. The shoes do tend to run a bit small, but as long as you size up accordingly this won’t be an issue
These Giro Techne Women’s Cycling Shoes provide good ventilation throughout the soles but are somewhat lacking in whole-foot ventilation. Despite this, these shoes do a good job of remaining comfortable and fairly cool throughout long rides thanks to the moisture-wicking lining and incorporation of mesh in the body of the shoe.
Though comfortable, the nylon sole doesn’t provide top-of-the-line power transfer. They’re by no means low-performance shoes, but cyclists at the top of their game will likely want to choose a more performance-oriented option.
Who Is the Giro Techne Women’s Cycling Shoe Best For?
These cycling shoes are great for indoor and outdoor cycling workouts. We especially like these for people who attend spin classes or who workout on stationary bikes thanks to their comfort and versatility. These aren’t likely to meet the exceptionally high standards of competitive cyclists, but they are a fairly-priced option for beginner road cyclists.
These shoes, with a theme of resembling a sneaker as closely as possible, use standard laces. Though this won’t provide nearly as perfect of a fit as just about any other system, they do a fairly good job of allowing you to adjust the tightness of the shoe. Unlike most cycling shoes, these use standard shoe sizes, and its recommended that you size up if you’re in between sizes so that you can use the laces to dial in your fit.
Tommaso has left no stone unturned when it comes to making the Venezia the most comfortable road cycling shoe for women on the market. Again, they’re closer to a broken-in pair of sneakers here than a restrictive cycling shoe. If you can’t stand the feel of strapping your feet into a high-performance chamber, the soft, ventilated synthetic leather used here will have you and your feet breathing a sigh of relief. On top of that, the rubber sole feels (and looks) exactly like a normal shoe when you’re walking around off the bike.
Despite their appearance, there is some hardware contained within these shoes that does boost your performance to some level. Though the outside sole is rubber, it contains a hard inner sole hidden within that puts extra power into each pedal stroke.
Who Is the Tommaso Venezia Best For?
Thanks to the material and design of the sole, these cycling shoes are best suited for outdoor activities. They are easy to walk in especially when compared to most cycling shoes on the market. These shoes only have a 2-bolt system for cleats, which means they aren’t compatible with all cleat types, so make sure you check for compatibility with your pedals prior to purchasing.
Guide to Buying the Best Road Cycling Shoes
Before we get into the detailed buyer’s guide, let’s talk about what road cycling shoes actually do for you.
What Do Cycling Shoes Do?
Specially designed cycling shoes provide numerous benefits for competitive riders and hobbyists alike.
Maintain Optimal Contact
One of the most important factors is that clipping in with cycling shoes enhances your comfort and safety thanks to the fact that the clip and pedal system ensures that your feet remain positioned on the pedal at the perfect contact point. Different-sized feet can run into issues when using standard shoes and pedals because you might be contacting the pedal with the wrong part of your foot. This will reduce your pedaling economy and can result in excess strain or even slipping off the pedal completely, causing injury and embarrassment. A good road cycling shoe will eliminate this annoyance.
Increase Power Transfer
Cycling shoes use incredibly stiff soles made from a variety of materials to optimize the transfer of power from your legs, through your feet, and into the pedals. Shoes that are more highly optimized for performance can help you ride farther and faster thanks to the increased efficiency of your stride provided by the cycling shoes.
Improve Muscle Recruitment
Thanks to the fact that cycling shoes do the work of maintaining your foot position for you, you are more able to focus on the effectiveness of your pedal movement. This allows you to get a more targeted workout for the primary muscle groups involved in cycling: your legs, glutes, and core.
If you’re still wondering whether cycling shoes are worth the investment even if you only ride once or twice a week, master cycling instructor Rachel Buschert emphatically says yes and has this to add: “If you ran twice a week, you wouldn’t do it in flip flops.”
The benefits offered by cycling shoes heavily outweigh the investment cost, especially if you go with one of the numerous budget-friendly picks found on our list.
How Do I Choose the Right Road Cycling Shoes?
Now that you have a better understanding of how road cycling shoes work, let’s go into more detail about what you should pay attention to when looking for the right cycling shoes for your needs. One of the most important factors to consider when shopping for cycling shoes is their compatibility with different types of bikes and pedals.
Pedal and Cleat Compatibility
There are two primary systems used for road cycling pedals: 2-bolt and 3-bolt cleats. Each of these are a type of the confusingly-named category of clipless pedals, which are called that because past pedals contained restrictive and restraining clips that kept you nearly tethered to your pedals. This video from Global Cycling Network provides a great breakdown of the different pedal and cleat types as well as how to use them safely for first-timers.
The 3-hole systems are commonly found in Look and Look-style cleats and pedals, while 2-hole systems are generally used with SPD pedals. There is also a 4-hole system called Speedplay that is somewhat less common. None of these shoes are designed for this rare type, but it’s possible to buy a Speedplay adapter that will allow you to use 3-hole shoes with Speedplay cleats and pedals.
Many of the cycling shoes on our list offer 2 and 3-bolt patterns, so you can easily use the same pair of shoes for riding different pedals and bikes. This is ideal for users who like to vary their rides or are interested in expanding their cycling hobby to other styles of cycling.
If your bike has platform pedals, the stiff soles of these shoes will still help improve your power transfer, and the proper fit should still improve your performance and comfort, but you should consider upgrading to maximize the use you’ll get out of your new shoes.
Fit and Comfort
It’s important to understand that specialty exercise shoes like cycling shoes have a different ideal fit than standard shoes like sneakers. A well-fitting cycling shoe should be snug for most of your foot, without causing pinching or bunching anywhere. This article from Fit Werx provides additional details regarding finding the best fit for cycling shoes.
While walking around in a new pair of shoes is normally a good way to test out the fit, this is not the case for the vast majority of cycling shoes. Cycling shoes are designed specifically for optimal riding and most (with the exception of those designed for multipurpose use) are awful for walking around in.
When it comes to ordering cycling shoes, getting the right size is key.A good tip for sizing is to measure your feet in the afternoon to account for natural swelling that will happen during the day due to heat. This will help ensure that you have a more accurate reading of what size your foot will be during your bike rides as opposed to the size of your feet before mounting up. The heel should be particularly snug. A combination of some room in the toes with a firm hold on your forefoot is ideal for a properly fitted cycling shoe. The balls of your feet should sit in the widest part of the shoe so you can position the shoe on the pedals properly, enabling you to maximize the force you put into pedaling.
A large number of cycling shoes will use European sizing, which may be confusing for many first-time buyers. These conversion charts can help you find the right size based on your current shoes or measurements. Some shoe manufacturers tend to run larger or smaller at times, too, so make sure you read the comments before placing your order to see if you should go up or down a size.
Road cycling shoes can come in a variety of closure system styles. While there are some that use standard laces, most tend to use a velcro strap system, a BOA or alternative wire system, or a combination of these.
Velcro Closure System
Velcro straps are nothing new for shoes. You’ve likely owned a few pairs of shoes with Velcro straps, even if it’s been years. When it comes to road cycling shoes, the positioning and flexibility of the straps are important to consider.
Not all Velcro strap systems are created equal. Some of the products on our list use Velcro in combination with a ratcheting, micro-adjustment strap. This allows users to have more control over the overall fit of the shoe: however, it’s important that you don’t over-tighten and cause pinching or folds as this could create extreme discomfort over the course of a long ride.
BOA (or Alternative) Wire Closure System
BOA is a company that has made quite an impression on various markets in the exercise gear niche. Named after the constricting snake that this system resembles,it is excellent at providing an easily-adjustable fit that tightens the shoe evenly across your entire foot.
BOA closures allow you to quickly dial in the right fit and snap out of your shoes with little downtime. This is particularly important for users who may want to change the fit on the fly, or for athletes that compete in triathlons or other similar events. Being able to quickly adjust your shoes, put them on, or take them off can help shave seconds off your times and give you an edge over the competition.
Furthermore, the BOA system simply provides an excellent and comfortable fit to a greater extent than what is offered by most other closure systems. On the other hand, this tight all-around fit might turn off new road cyclists who aren’t used to this style of shoe. You can learn more about how the BOA closure system works by visiting their website.
Road cycling shoes can improve your performance, enhance your comfort, and make your cycling hobby more enjoyable overall. While a pair of road cycling shoes won’t immediately turn you into the next Lance Armstrong, they will help you get more out of your workouts while also protecting you from strain and injury.
Now that you have a better understanding of what cycling shoes do and what features you should look out for when purchasing them, take another look at our list to see if the perfect pair of road cycling shoes is right there waiting for you.