Yeah, for sure you can make do without special cycling shoes in the city, but can they actually be worth it? Well, if you’re only getting on your two-wheeler a few times a month, then such an investment is going to be rather unprofitable.
But what if you ride regularly? Clipless cycling shoes or even decent shoes, dedicated for flat pedals, with a wide, flat sole will make you feel like a slayer of street crits, bike courier or Peter Sagan. Really.
Of course, this doesn't mean that you'll suddenly start winning competitions, but the comfort and efficiency of your riding changes radically and we strongly recommend that all of you who cycle regularly should at least try switching to dedicated cycling shoes.
Okay, let's say someone’s just persuaded you, and you've gone to the store or to a bicycle wholesale website. What now? There are hundreds of options out there, even when it comes to the main types of bike shoe. But what's best for you, then? Let's take a look at the kinds of bicycle shoes we have to choose from. Come on!
Types of cycling shoes
The simplest of them all are clipless cycling shoes, i.e. those designed for clipless pedal systems and shoes with regular soles. The former definitely dominates the market and are widely used in the most popular forms of cycling. So what are these so-called clipless pedals? For a detailed description please refer to another article.
Clipless cycling shoes can be further divided into MTB shoes (for mountain bike pedals) and road shoes. They have a metal (MTB) or plastic (road) cleat, that when “clipped-in” to the pedal, gives you a very secure connection.
The results? Better pedaling efficiency, excellent foot stability, and the ability to permanently adjust your foot position on the pedals. Of course, this system has its pros and cons.
They have a mount for a three-bolt road cleat The fastenings are typically Velcro and buckles or, in higher models, BOA dials, although good old shoelaces have recently made a comeback, also in professional models.
SPD road shoes are very light and stiff. The stiff sole provides better power transfer, but together with the big protruding cleat and virtually no tread, makes walking in them very difficult. On slippery surfaces, you’re going to look like a penguin walking on an ice rink and this going to be a real struggle.
Do you tend to ride longer or shorter routes on the road without getting off and walking? Then these could be a good option for you. However, if you have to walk a lot, forget about road cycling shoes.
Clipless MTB shoes
MTB shoes are a good choice if you want an SPD system, but also need to be able to walk sensibly. This type of shoe will also be great if you need some form of “clip-in” system while riding your fixed gear.
SPD MTB cycling shoes are usually not as stiff as their road counterparts and have a tread which allows you to comfortably move around after getting off the bike. You can easily walk into a cafe with them on, carry your bike up a steep incline, or do some shopping in the store.
SPD MTB shoes will also be more durable and usually offer better protection from knocks and bumps.
Standard SPD MTB shoes
You’ll have to be able to make the distinction between SPD MTB shoes and a whole group of other shoes compatible with cleats for the two-bolt system. In this main category you also have urban footwear, more leisurely options, and even sandals!
Cycling shoes strictly for MTB riding will tend to stand out due to their distinctive appearance, fairly stiff soles (top MTB models can even be as stiff as top road shoes) as well as fancy fastenings, from Velcro to BOA dials, and new solutions like Giro Techlace. They’ll give you the possibility to make quick adjustments while riding and they’ll hold your feet firmly.
If you're looking for a very stiff shoe that will give you excellent power transfer, but you need the functionality and comfort of a normal tread, then top MTB shoes will be a good choice for you.
If you need more comfort, you can opt for a slightly lower model, which won’t be as stiff and will be even more sensible when it comes to walking.
Shoes suitable for adventures, touring SPD shoes
If you want to go on a lot of bike adventures and go away for more than a day or so, you’ll need shoes that’ll feel as comfortable as possible.
The best option will be MTB shoes with medium stiffness or just dedicated SPD touring shoes. These kinds of boots usually have a thicker sole with a comfortable tread that’ll allow you explore the mountain trails comfortably after getting off the bike.
City cycling shoes
A lot of people use SPD shoes in the city as well. However, appearance is the deciding factor for many since they can’t turn up to the office in the shoes that look like they just came back from a competition.
Fortunately, there are SPD cycling shoes on the market that are designed specifically for the city. They look like standard tennis shoes and with them on, you can go to the pub or work normally. They typically have a fairly soft sole and a deeply hidden cleat, which makes wearing them a more comfortable and practical option for when you get off your bike.
If you need normal looking SPD shoes for the city, this will be the perfect choice.
SPD cycling shoes for winter
In winter, you have several options. The first one is to stop riding. The second is to freeze in a pair of airy summer shoes. The third, which is much better, is to get wind and waterproof overshoes that’ll keep your feet warm and dry or just buy special winter SPD shoes.
They usually have a higher profile which protects your ankles from the cold and are made with technologically advanced membranes such as Gore-Tex which provides adequate protection against wind and rain.
The downside is the high price considering the short length of time you’ll actually be using them, but if winter is very harsh where you are, they could certainly be a lifesaver.
Types of SPD shoe fasteners
You've already decided on a particular type of SPD shoe. This raises the next question. What kind of fastening will be best for you?
- Laces - the most obvious way of adjusting the tension, they’re trouble-free, and replacing them is incredibly simple. However, they don't always hold your foot in the best possible way, and it's not possible to adjust them in while riding.
- Velcro - quick to adjust and will hold your foot securely, but not as well as the buckles. Additionally, they don’t offer as many points for adjustment as laces do. Poor quality Velcro fasteners can quickly become undone and won’t give you with the security you need.
- Buckles - give you the possibility of making very precise and quite quick adjustments, but the problem is if they fail. If the buckle breaks, the only way around this is to buy a spare part from a store. On a fairly long expedition this can be a bit of a logistical problem.
- BOA - a system that's very quick and accurate to use, giving you the feeling of laces and the benefits of buckles. It spreads the pressure evenly around your foot and gives you the possibility to make quick adjustments. However, like buckles, if it fails, you’ll need a spare part, which will be trickier to find than ordinary laces. You'll also have to clean the BOA mechanism regularly to prevent it from getting clogged with mud.
Cycling shoes for flat pedals
Are you scared of the SPD system, but would like something more than just plain sneakers? Shoes alone aren't enough, first find good flat pedals with pins that will securely hold your shoe. Loca Bikes bikes use the tried-and-true Exustar pedals.
Cycling shoes for regular pedals will stabilize your foot better. The tread and type of rubber in these models is specially designed to "stick" to the pedals very well. People ride freeride and DH bikes in such shoes.
Apart from a much better feeling from riding than ordinary sneakers, their undisputed advantage is their normal appearance and comfort you get while walking. Therefore, they’ll be ideal for the city and a great choice for bicycle trips.
Cycling shoes - some tips when making that decision
So, you already know what specific model you want, but what size? And, if they're SPD shoes, how do you set up the cleats? Cycling shoes, as with most sports shoes, have to fit to your feet securely, much more securely than the fit of your regular sneakers.
Furthermore, with increased effort, we are much more likely to experience any discomfort that might already be there. That’s why it’s so important to buy properly fitting cycling shoes.
Okay, let's say size 43, you know the model you want, so you go in and buy them. Well, that’s a mistake.
Firstly, bicycle companies tend to over and undersize their sizes. The differences can be considerable, so it is worth measuring your foot and following your centimeters.
Let's not choose a size too small, counting on the fact that the shoes will wear in with time. Before this happens (if at all, because bicycle shoes are designed not to stretch with time) you’ll regret the purchase you made. Additionally, feet at a high temperature and with effort tend to swell and it may turn out that after an hour of riding the shoes aren't so comfortable.
Also, if you’re going to be using them in winter you can take half a size more to fit thick woolen socks, but let's not overdo it!
Secondly - cycling shoes are closely matched, so small differences are much more important. Many companies even make separate models for those with wider feet.
It varies with the toe space and even if a shoe on paper seems to be the perfect size, it may not really be that comfortable. That's why the best solution to find the best fitting pair is to go to a store and try them on.
If you don't have a specific model in mind, you can at least try on a pair from the same brand, this will give you a good idea of how the shoes from a particular company are designed and feel on your feet. This way, we can find a pair that fit perfectly.
Setting up the cleats
If you’ve decided to buy SPD shoes, it’ll be equally as important to set up the cleats exactly after buying them. If badly done, it can lead to discomfort and reduced efficiency at best, and at worst knee problems. Please refer to the video below for detailed instructions.
You can also set up your cleats during a bike fitting session. This is an expensive solution, but thanks to the use of specialized tools you can be sure that their location is perfect.
So what kind of cycling shoes are you finally going to buy?
- Do you only ride on the road, rarely get off your bike, and expect the best possible performance? Go for road shoes.
- Is riding performance still a top priority for you, but you’d also like to go for a walk sometimes? The best option will be top range SPD MTB shoes with a stiff carbon sole.
- Are you not bothered about the look of typical clip-in shoes, but want to walk around town a lot or even go on a long bicycle trip? Less rigid SPD MTB shoes or SPD touring shoes will be the solution for you.
- You don’t want to give up on clip-in pedals, but need shoes that look like normal tennis shoes? There are many urban models on the market.
- Are you preparing for the winter season? Choose specially designed winter SPD boots with a membrane or invest in good shoe covers.
- Remember how important it is to choose a shoe size based on your foot length. Choose a model that is also wide enough to fit your anatomy and you can spend all day in the saddle!
Would you like to try your hand at riding a fixie, or maybe you're looking for a fast, versatile city bike? Take a look at our latest range of Loca Bikes bikes here.