Whether you’re a beginner cyclist or a road racing veteran, choosing a new pair of cycling shoes is a considerable decision. Your cycling shoes might accompany you on rides for thousands of miles, so choose a pair that treat your feet well on your longest rides. All great road cycling shoes should be stiff, well-vented, and clipless, but not all great cycling shoes will be right for you. You won’t know which pair works best until you try them, but with so many options a buying guide is the best place to start. So, here’s everything you need to know before gearing up with a new pair of cycling shoes, along with 10 of our favorite shoes for road bike riders.
What to look for when buying cycling shoes
Fit, stiffness, adjustability, ventilation, comfort, and durability are all cycling shoe must-haves. As you’re testing shoes, make sure they hit all of these marks because each quality is essential to an enjoyable ride.
A good fit can’t be compromised. It’s the most important factor that should influence your shoe-buying decision. This may seem obvious, but there’s more to finding a good fit than ordering the right size. Cycling shoe sizes vary from brand to brand. You may wear a size 10 in some shoes, and a 10.5 in others, or certain shoe models might not fit you well in any size. You should start by comparing your foot measurements with a manufacturer’s size chart, but even the top-notch, most accommodating shoes won’t suit every individual’s unique foot shape. So we highly recommend being fitted at your local bike shop or ensuring returns are accepted before ordering online.
Unlike any other pair of shoes you own, the stiffer the better with cycling shoes. Stiffness is preferred for pedal efficiency and power transfer. A stiff sole won’t give as you push against the pedal, so all of the energy from the force of your foot is applied to the pedal. A stiff sole sets elite cycling shoes apart. The highest quality and most expensive cycling shoes usually have a sole made of carbon with little to no flex.
Cycling shoes with good adjustability will be snug and secure no matter how they’re adjusted. The most common types of shoe closures are laces, Velcro, and a BOA system. They each have their advantages, but if the shoe is made well, they can all be secure options.
Popular types of cycling shoe closures
- Laces are the most time-consuming to adjust and can’t be adjusted as you ride, but they allow you to customize your fit so that pressure is distributed evenly across the entire upper of the shoe. Laces also have a vintage or classic appeal.
- Velcro shoes are the easiest to slip on and usually the least costly option. Velcro is super secure, but the adjustment is not as precise as with laces or a BOA system.
- A BOA system is a twist-lock system that gives cycling shoes a tailored fit. By twisting a dial, the wires tighten or release to make secure and precise micro-adjustments even while riding.
Your feet need to stay cool and dry when cycling to prevent sores and bacteria, so good ventilation can’t be an afterthought. Different shoes have different avenues for airflow, whether strategically placed vents or mesh, or both. You won’t really know how cool a pair of shoes will keep your feet until you test them out.
All of the qualities listed above contribute to a shoe’s comfort. Shoes can appear to have all of the right qualities, but, again, you can’t guarantee comfort until you try them. The most comfortable cycling shoes don’t sacrifice comfort for stiffness. Your foot should feel cradled securely in the shoes. The more the shoe fits like a second skin, the less padding is required to keep you comfortable. If the shoes you try give slight discomfort, don’t settle for them. Cycling shoes are made to stay rigid and don’t break in over time, so the discomfort will only get more irritating the more you wear them.
Cycling shoes are supposed to last a long time. So if the material is too cheap or thin or if the shoes are flimsy and poorly constructed, you won’t get your money’s worth of riding out of them. Durable cycling shoes find the balance between breathable and secure and lightweight and sturdy. White cycling shoes are the classic favorite, but if you choose white, make sure the material is easy to clean.
Does weight matter for cycling shoes?
The gains of lighter cycling shoes are so slight that most people don’t need to be concerned with a shoe’s weight. Heavier cycling shoes won’t weigh you down and hinder your performance like heavy running shoes. Weight matters more for professional racers when a few seconds lost on a steep climb is a big deal. However, no one (not even the pros) should get hung up over a shoe’s weight. Comfort influences performance to a much greater degree. And if you want to cycle faster, don’t expect lighter cycling shoes to do the trick. Focus on increasing your cycling power instead.
How much do cycling shoes cost?
Most road cycling shoes cost between $100–$500. Cycling shoes aren’t cheap, but if you buy quality, they should last a decade or longer. You only need to buy a new pair if they’re broken, worn out, or in need of a tech upgrade. It takes a long while for cycling shoes to wear out from pedaling, and many options come with parts, like a heel or toe cover, that can be replaced instead of buying brand new shoes.
If you’re new to cycling, you don’t need to spend several hundred on a pair of shoes. Make sure you’re committed to the sport and used to the feel of shoes with cleats before buying high-end cycling shoes. You can find excellent cycling shoes for less than $150.
10 Best Cycling Shoes
1. Fizik R5 Powerstrap – Best Cycling Shoe for Beginners
Image courtesy of Fizik. Used with permission.
- Cost: $109.99
- Weight: 255g (size 42)
The fit, comfort, and price of the Fizik R5 Powerstrap are excellent, making it our recommended shoe for new cyclists. The Velcro closure Powerstrap design wraps around the entire foot for comfort, stability, compression, and a secure fit. As you’re adjusting to the feel of cycling shoes, you don’t have to fiddle with laces or BOA dials and can still be certain that your shoes will be snug and secure. The Velcro is in two pieces, one at the instep and the other at the midfoot, to create a more precise fit. The outsole is carbon-reinforced nylon with a little give that’s good for longer distances at a relaxed speed.
2. Specialized Torch 1.0 – Best Value Cycling Shoe
- Cost: $120
- Weight: 290g (size 42)
The Specialized Torch 1.0 is a premium quality shoe for a remarkably low cost. The sole is moderately stiff and light, perfect for entry-level cyclists. The shoe features Specialized signature Body Geometry that provides greater stability and alignment, less pressure on the metatarsals, and arch support. The shoes provide comfortable padding on the tongue and in the heel and 94 ventilation holes for plenty of airflow. This shoe has a great balance of stiffness and comfort for new or recreational cyclists.
3. Shimano RC5 – Best Mid-Range Cycling Shoe
Image courtesy of Shimano. Used with permission.
- Cost: $170
- Weight: 250g (size 42)
The Shimano RC5’s leather and mesh construction fits like a glove. Its large toe vents and perforations provide great ventilation. This shoe’s closure uses a Velcro and BOA system combination. The bottom strap is secured with Velcro, and the top strap has a single BOA dial on top of the strap, reducing pressure in that spot. The midsole, rather than the entire sole, is made of carbon-reinforced nylon, which adds stiffness to the ball of the foot. The “optimized” toe spring reduces tension on the plantar. This shoe offers high-end features at a great price but is likely to show wear sooner since neither the heel nor toe buffers are replaceable.
4. Specialized S-Works 7 Lace – Best Lace Cycling Shoe
- Cost: $325
- Weight: 236g (size 44)
The carbon sole, titanium cleats, and lack of BOA dials make this lace shoe light and race-ready. One of the benefits of laced cycling shoes is the multiple points for adjustment at each eyelet. The S-Work 7’s non-stretch laces and reinforced eyelets keep your precisely laced fit in place. And, a band halfway down the padded tongue secures the laces. The S-Works 7 has a tough upper for fewer scuff-ups. Its upper is one smooth and thin piece without seams, making it adaptable to different feet while still maintaining its structure.
5. Fizik Vento Infinito Carbon 2 – Best Aerodynamic Cycling Shoe
Image courtesy of Fizik. Used with permission.
- Cost: $359.99
- Weight: 227g (size 42)
The Vento Infinito Carbon 2 is 10/10 stiff on Fizik’s scale. The carbon sole is laid in a single piece rather than multiple pieces in a lattice, making it stronger. Because the Microtext upper is light and pliable and fits like a second skin, no extra padding is required that would add weight to the shoe. The wrap-around upper supports that plantar fascia. Ventilation is supplied through internal channeling, a mesh footbed, and a perforated upper. The cleats are positioned further back than most other cycling shoes, so this shoe is a great choice for a fast and aerodynamic cycling position.
6. Rapha Pro Team Shoes – Best Breathable Cycling Shoe
- Cost: $380
- Weight: 292.5g (size 45)
The Rapha Pro Team shoes have a unique and stylish woven design that gives a cozy sock-like fit to serious cycling. Knit shoes are stitched with one yarn, but Rapha’s shoes are woven with multiple yarns, which makes them more durable. The stretch of the material will flex and mold to your foot, but it won’t loosen the fit. The material is DWR treated, so it’s water repellant but won’t keep you dry in a downpour. The carbon fiber sole is stiff and light. And the sole is protected by treads at the toe and heel, so it’s a great cycling shoe for performance or pit stops.
7. Bont Vaypor Hologram – Most Well-Fitted Cycling Shoe
- Cost: $415
- Weight: 230g (size 42)
It’s difficult to award a cycling shoe for fit since a “good fit” depends on the cyclist, but the Bont Vaypor Hologram earns this award for its individually customizable Epoxy Thermoset Resin upper. If the shoes don’t fit quite perfectly out of the box, pop them in the oven at 160℉ for 20 minutes, let them cool until you can handle them, and then slip your feet in, smooth the shoes out, and tighten the BOA dials. Your shoes will fit like you were born wearing them. And if you don’t get it right the first time, you reheat and remold the shoes as many times as needed.
The shoe’s holographic material takes professional cycling shoes to next-level cool and keeps you visible in low light. The “tub shape” cradles your feet around the sides for secure comfort. The Bont Vaypor Hologram is also one of the brand’s stiffest shoes with a 100% carbon monocoque chassis.
8. Specialized S-Works Ares – Most Comfortable Cycling Shoe
- Cost: $425
- Weight: 220g (size 42)
This powerful performance shoe does not forsake comfort. One of the S-Works Ares’s best features is the tight and comfortable mesh sock liner that provides smooth and breathable compression and eliminates the need for a tongue. Multi-layer straps in the upper fold over each other and are secured with BOA Li2 dials for evenly distributed pressure and a precise fit. This shoe is constructed with Specialized’s Body Geometry that stabilizes joints supports foot arches, reduces pressure points, and minimizes discomfort.
The FACT Powerline carbon outsole is the stiffest and lightest carbon sole Specialized offers and is designed to stop the foot from rolling. You also won’t have to worry about your heel slipping with the PadLock padded heel cup that secures your foot in place.
9. Giro Imperial – Best Lightweight Cycling Shoe
Image courtesy of Giro. Used with permission.
- Cost: $425
- Weight: 215g (size 42)
The Giro Imperial is designed to help you shave seconds off your race time. At the same time, none of its lightweight features compromise durability. The one-piece and seamless upper is made of Giro’s Ultralight Monofilament Synchwire Mesh. Soft webbing, rather than a wire, guide the IP1 BOA closure and reduces hotspots. The EC90 SLX2 sole is made of Easton carbon fiber making it Giro’s stiffest sole. With the Supernatural Fit, you can choose high, medium, or low arch support. All of the materials in the Imperial’s construction are incredibly light but hold up well.
10. Shimano S-Phyre RC902 – Best Performance Cycling Shoe
Image courtesy of Shimano. Used with permission.
- Cost: $430
- Weight: 250g (size 40)
The S-Phyre RC902 is a cycling shoe favored by Tour de France racers because of its excellence in performance. The carbon outsole is both incredibly stiff and comfortable. The sole is thin for closer contact with the pedal and great efficiency. The S-Phyre RC902 has plenty of toe room and ventilation with intake and exhaust ports for air or even water. Silvadur treatment prevents bacterial growth after sweaty rides. The shoe has no need for a tongue since the upper wraps completely around the entire shoe for stability. The BOA closure system includes a dial on the upper strap and another lower dial with a criss-cross wire to even pressure distribution. One of this shoe’s most unique features is the adjustable footbed. You have the choice to insert high, medium, or low arch support. Everything about this shoe is designed with the elite athlete in mind.
In well-vented cycling shoes, your feet often need extra protection during winter. So before you decide to brave the cold on your bike, make sure you have warm cycling shoe covers.
And when shopping for new cycling shoes, keep in mind the importance of cycling socks in protecting your feet from sores and keeping them comfortable.
If you’re thinking about gearing up with a new cycling kit to go with your new cycling shoes, shop the Hicapie collection of pro-tested cycling jerseys, shorts, bibs, jackets, socks, and baselayers. Or find recommendations in our other cycling buyer’s guides.