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How to Choose the Best Biking Shoes

There’s nothing wrong with cycling indoors in your regular sneakers, but swapping those tennis shoes out for a solid pair of cycling shoes can improve your comfort, safety, and efficiency on the bike.

What are cycling shoes?

Close up of a indoor bike shoe.

There’s no official definition of a pair of “cycling shoes,” but they’re essentially shoes made specifically for cycling. They typically clip into the pedal of a cycling bike, and their overall design is meant to improve your cycling workout with enhanced comfort and fit.

All cycling shoes have a very stiff sole and a cleat pattern that clips into the pedal (either 2-hole or 3-hole). They’re typically made of very lightweight material and have excellent ventilation to release additional heat and humidity while you’re sweating. This type of shoe may also have velcro straps or laces, depending on the brand and design.

Why use cycling shoes?

Women wearing cycling shoes before cycling class at gym.

Cycling shoes are not a necessity, especially if you prefer to cycle occasionally. However, if you cycle indoors often or you have discomfort with the current shoes you’re wearing, you may want to consider an alternative shoe made specifically for cycling.

Many avid cyclists say cycling shoes provide the following benefits:

  • Better stability: While riding on an indoor trainer, a cycling shoe might provide more stability while you’re seated and standing on the bike. So no matter how intense the ride gets, you’ll still feel solid and stable.
  • Comfort: The additional flexibility of a standard tennis shoe can sometimes cause some discomfort while cycling on an indoor trainer for long periods. Opting for cycling shoes might be a better option if you’re uncomfortable.
  • More power: The extra stiff sole of cycling shoes transfers more power to your bike pedals than your regular sneakers. A stiff cycling shoe might be best for cyclists who want the most efficient, and powerful movement while biking.

What features to look for

Man using indoor bike shoes on his bike.

If you decide to venture into the world of cycling shoes, consider the following factors to find a pair that fits well and provides the best cycling experience possible.

Sizing

Finding the right fit makes all the difference. Although you probably already know what shoe size you generally wear, your feet are likely to swell during a hard cycling session. In that case, you might consider sizing up a bit to give your feet some extra room. Cycling shoes tend to fit more snugly than regular sneakers but should still feel comfortable. The sides of your shoes should fit snugly, but you’ll want to have about half an inch of wiggle room around your toes.

The sole

Some cycling shoes are easier to walk in than others. If you train at a gym, this might be an important factor since you’ll be walking into the gym in your cycling shoes. Otherwise, if you ride with Vingo at home, you might just keep your shoes next to your indoor trainer at home, which requires minimal walking.

Ventilation

Cycling indoors is a hot and sweaty experience. Even if you use fans to stay cool, your feet will still get hot as the temperature and humidity inside your shoes increase. More modern cycling shoes have several vents in the sole to allow for more breathability, but the more ventilation a shoe provides, the more expensive it typically is. Some shoes also have venting channels that run through the soles of the shoes to provide much-needed breathability.

Clip system 

Before you purchase any cycling shoes, check out the pedal system your bike has to determine which type of cleats you’ll need for your cycling shoes. You’ll need either the SPD with two holes or the Delta with three. If you’re unsure what clip system you need, check with your bike’s manufacturer.

Price

Depending on how frequently you cycle indoors, you might be willing to spend more on a cycling shoe. Either way, cycling shoes can range anywhere from $35 to more than $200 or more, so carefully consider how much you want to spend before you start browsing options.

Aesthetics

Cycling shoes come in all kinds of colors and styles. They may also feature regular laces, velcro straps, or BOA dials (a circular knob) for better ease and convenience. It’s up to you as to which you prefer!

Do I need cycling shoes?

Close up of mans indoor bike shoes and back of his wheel.

The simple answer is no; you don’t need cycling shoes. However, you might find that you want them. 

Most cycling bikes have adjustable toe cages and straps, so you can slip into your regular tennis shoes and be just fine while you ride. If you’re just getting into cycling or only doing it once a week, you most likely don’t need to buy a pair of cycling shoes unless you really just want to.

On the other hand, if you cycle several times a week, you might find that a shoe specifically designed for cycling is more comfortable and efficient. Cycling shoes offer a safer and more efficient ride since they have a firmer sole and clip right into the pedal of your bike for more stability.

Where can I purchase cycling shoes?

View of different worn out bike shoes.

You can buy cycling shoes online through well-known retailers like Nike, REI, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and more. Or, you can head to your local running store for a more personalized approach.

At a running store, you’ll be able to try shoes on in person, and the staff can take measurements of your feet to ensure the proper fit. Additionally, you may want to consult a running expert before purchasing a pair of shoes if you have issues like a high arch or plantar fasciitis.

Key Takeaways:

You don’t have to purchase cycling shoes, but if you cycleseveral times a week, you may benefit from a pair. Cycling shoes are designed for indoor biking, with ideal comfort, ventilation, and efficiency in mind, and they can also improve your safety and stability on the bike.

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