Cycling Shoes Buying Guide: Which Shoes Do I Need For Cycling?10 January 2024
If you're looking to get the most out of your bike riding experience, both in performance and comfort, then investing in a pair of cycling specific shoes is a sure fire way to enhance your experience on the bike.
While you can go out for a ride in your sports trainers or running shoes, a proper cycling shoe will make your ride ride much more comfortable, you'll have better control of your bike and they will even make your pedalling more efficient in some cases.
What are the different kinds of cycling shoe?
Cycling shoes come in many different styles and there are different shoes for different types of cycling
The two main types of cycling shoe are road specific and mountain bike specific.
Whilst you could use either, each type has different features that lend themselves to the different disciplines.
Road cycling shoes can be identified by their smooth hard soles with no tread making them difficult to walk in.
Mountain bike shoes, on the other hand, have a grippy rubber sole more capable of walking on muddy terrain, something more likely to be required in mountain biking.
Cleats, Clipless and Flat pedals
If the cycling shoe world wasn't confusing enough, another feature that differs from shoe to shoe is how they connect to the pedals.
Some cycling shoes have a built in system that allows you to clip onto your pedal to increase pedalling efficiency.
The system uses cleats fixed to the bottom of your shoe, these then fit into compatible pedals holding them in place.
To confuse things even further, this system is sometimes referred to as 'clipless'.
The reason for this is that pedal manufacturers needed a way to separate older pedals, that utilised a built in toe-clip and strap to keep your foot attached to the pedal, from the newer type of pedal that didn’t have the toe-clip, but instead used the cleat system.
Both road and mountain bike shoes can feature cleats but they are different.
Road cleats have a three bolt pattern to attach them to the shoe and mountain bike cleats, a two bolt pattern.
Some mountain bikes have flat pedals with a raised surface or pins to stick in the grippy rubber sole of a shoe that doesn't have cleats.
Different kinds of shoes for different kinds of riding
The shoe you buy will ultimately determine what kind of riding you can do.
So if you intend to do some road riding but you occasionally want to venture off road, like gravel riding for example, you might be better off with mountain bike shoes.
If your goal is to hammer out the miles on tarmac and you don't intend to be doing much walking, then a stiff, smooth soled, road specific shoe will probably be better for you.
To help you decide which shoe is best for your kind of riding, take a look at our road shoe guide and mountain bike shoe guide.