Your foot is one of three points that contact your bike while cycling, so finding the right cycling shoe size is no small decision. A cycling shoe size chart is a great place to start because every brand has a slightly different fit and feel and varies in width and length. This is because the fit of your shoe is the most important factor in determining which brand, size, and model are right for you. Cyclists don’t shop for nice cushioning or tread but for shoes that give support and stability for greater control, more power on your pedal strokes, and better cycling form and efficiency. Good cycling shoes can last a decade, so finding a pair that fits you will enhance your performance for years to come.
What size cycling shoes do you need?
Measuring your foot and comparing it to the size charts of different brands is the first step in figuring out your cycling shoe size. European sizes are standard, but the measurement associated with these sizes varies across different brands and models. It’s common to need a completely different size in one design of shoe than another. But measuring your foot is simply a starting point. Just because you find your size in a shoe doesn’t make it right for you. You must try the shoe on to ensure it fits properly and guarantee that a) you have the proper size and that b) the shoe supports your foot well. Getting fitted at a cycling shop gives you expert help in making the best choice of cycling shoes for you.
Pro tip: If ordering your cycling shoes online, choose a site with a good return policy so you can try them on with confidence, and return them for a different size if needed.
How to measure your foot for cycling shoes
- Stand on a sheet of paper with your heels against a wall.
- Trace your feet.
- Step from the paper and measure from the heel to the longest point on your largest foot in mm or cm. (You may need to convert one to the other depending on the brand’s size chart).
- Compare the measurement to a size chart, like the one below.
- To find the width if needed, simply wrap a measuring tape around the widest part of your foot.
Cycling shoe sizing
Cycling shoe size chart
The size chart below contains a few popular cycling shoe brands’ sizing. The chart is just a guide. And different charts often show discrepancies in size conversions, so it’s important to check sizing on the manufacturer’s website and always try the shoe on before making a final decision.
|Pearl Izumi (cm)
Cycling shoe fit
Cycling shoes aren’t made for walking–they’re designed solely for pedaling. Good cycling shoes are stiff, snug, and supportive. Unlike running shoes, a roomy forefoot isn’t necessary since the foot does not roll forward while pedaling. About 1.5 cm of toe room should be plenty. Stiff soles and snug shoes stabilize the foot, but they should not be so tight that they pinch. And even though your toes don’t need wiggle room, they should not hit the front of the shoe at any point while riding. You also don’t need to place as much emphasis on the weight of the shoe as you would on running shoes. Weight does matter for cycling long distances, but it is not as critical to endurance. Stiffness is one of the most important qualities unique to cycling shoes. This allows you to apply more force to the pedal for greater efficiency.
Your heel should be tight in your cycling shoes because you don’t want your heel shifting or lifting out of the shoe. Also, make sure your shoes also support your arches well. Sometimes additional inserts are needed for optimal arch support. Your feet should remain in a neutral, stationary position for your entire ride, and your feet should not have room to move from side to side.
Cycling shoes with cleats have two or three holes strategically positioned on the soles for stability and lock the shoes into place on clipless pedals. Buying shoes that are too big lead to improper positioning of your foot on the cleats and creates pressure points in the wrong places. Cycling shoes that are too big mean a loss of power and pain in your feet.
One final note of cycling shoe fit: Cycling shoes aren’t made to flex or stretch, which means you can’t break them in. This makes sizing them properly all the more important.
Types of cycling shoes
Road cycling shoes generally have three holes with cleats that provide greater stability for riders who must maintain a proper riding position over long distances. Mountain biking shoes require more mobility for the rugged terrain cyclists encounter, so they have two recessed holes for a wider range of movement. Casual cycling shoes either have two recessed holes for compatibility with clipless pedals or none at all. They give greater flexibility and are more adaptable to walking, so they’re a great option for commuters or leisurely cyclists.
Cycling shoes have three common types of closures:
- Laces are comfortable and give you greater control over the fit, but they can come untied and get caught and will need replacing every so often.
- Velcro is a secure and cheaper option, but it’s harder to replace than laces when it gets dirty or loses adhesiveness.
- Twist-lock retention systems (BOA) are a secure, convenient, and high-quality option. You simply twist to loosen and lock it into place, and the fit can easily be adjusted while riding.
Indoor vs. outdoor cycling shoes
Indoor and outdoor cycling shoes have small but significant differences. The flat pedals on an indoor bike call for a firmer sole to keep from slipping. Most significantly, indoor cycling shoes are not appropriate for all outdoor conditions. Unlike indoor shoes, outdoor cycling shoes must be waterproof, breathable, and able to withstand a variety of conditions.
Men’s vs. women’s cycling shoes
Cycling shoes can be worn by men and women. Women’s feet are often more slender and have a narrower heel but wider toes. Some women may prefer female-specific cycling shoes for a better fit or for the color and style options. But ultimately, finding shoes that fit best trumps the style or gender.
Do you wear socks with cycling shoes?
We would argue that cycling socks are about as important as your chamois. Chamois provide support and comfort between you and your saddle and cycling socks do the same between your feet and your pedals. Socks wick moisture and keep your feet comfortable while cycling in different seasons. Cycling socks should be thin and not cushioned because there’s no need for shock absorption while cycling. Their primary purpose is to wick away moisture to prevent blisters, regulate body temperature, and provide compression. Many cycling socks are created with antibacterial fibers that keep germs away.
Learn more: Do You Really Need Bike Socks?
Cycling socks should be snug like your cycling shoes and thin. Winter-weather cycling is not a reason to layer up cycling socks. This makes your shoes too tight and causes bunching that leads to blisters. Shoe covers, in addition to wool baselayers, cycling jackets, and warmers are better additional sources of warmth in winter.
Now that you know how to size and style your cycling shoes check out our 10 best cycling shoes for road bike riders, then learn how you can size other important pieces of cycling gear in the guides below.