10 Best Cycling Shoes in 2021

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10 Best Cycling Shoes in 2021

The search for the ideal bike shoes could be daunting. But your worries end here. We have compiled everything you need to know to pick the best cycling shoes for your needs and preferences.

Having tested over 90 bike shoes, we can now recommend the best ones in five different categories. Whether you’re after a road shoe or an MTB shoe, flat or clipless, there is a great option for each one.

And if you want to understand which cleat and closure systems will work best for your rides, scroll down to the guide section below.

How we come up with the top 10 

To come up with our list of the best cycling shoes, we spent hours scouring the web for reviews left by regular cyclists and less technical hobbyists. We were able to gather data from almost 400 hardcore cyclists and almost 4,000 recreational bikers.

Their opinion on a wide array of products– from the more popular Shimano and Giro cycling shoes down to the less talked about Pearl Izumis and Sidi bike shoes– are sought to come up with a comprehensive list. 

Their scores are then weighted and averaged to come up with a corescore for each product.

Best road shoe

Whoever said you can’t have it all clearly hasn’t tried cycling in the Giro Empire SLX! It’s such a beast of a shoe that it crushed almost every test we subjected it to.

Part of its impressive level of comfort can be credited to its uber-light and breathable build. Weighing in at just 5.6 ounces (158.7 grams) for a pair, it’s one of the lightest cycling shoes ever made available in the market. We always forget we have shoes on whenever we really get in the zone while cycling. It’s just that AMAZING!

Don’t let its simple appearance and feather-like weight fool you, as it also hits the bullseye in providing accurate, robust power transfer. With its carbon composite outsole, it felt like it didn’t waste a watt of energy we exerted.

Now, a big player in this pair’s comfort is the interchangeable arch support. Three different levels of arch supports can be attached to the insole, allowing customization and ultimate comfort. It’s a game-changer!

At $375, the shoe is expensive, we can give you that. However, discounted prices show that it can be copped for as low as $110!! Now, that’s a steal!

See our full review and facts

If you thought you couldn’t own more than one cycling shoe that packs a punch, you’re wrong! Coming in a close second as the best road bike shoe is the Fizik Infinito R1.

It is a favorite among the pro-peloton riders, and rightfully so! It took us by surprise how we didn’t need to exert too much effort to make our bikes move forward. This is all thanks to the exceptionally stiff full carbon soles and direct connection to the pedals.

Through this wonderful concoction, we got to trim off seconds to our previous personal best!

Now, what’s efficiency without comfort? Don’t get us wrong, performing well is all the buzz, but if you’re in a lot of pain while doing so, then it’s still somewhat of a loss. 

It’s an excellent thing that the Infinito R1 also comes superior in terms of comfort. The shoe’s supportive upper and cushiony insoles make sure you don’t have to worry about pain or discomfort.

On top of these, you get to enjoy on-the-go adjustments to achieve optimal fit. You definitely get what you pay for, as these kickers will last a very long time without compromising performance.

Don’t forget it’s also offered at discounted prices that will make your jaw drop! Upon checking, from its original price of $400, it has now dropped to $160!! Now, what are you waiting for? Go get ‘em!

See our full review and facts

Best MTB shoes

The Giro Sector has got to be the most versatile and sleek mountain bike shoes we’ve ever seen!

After months of trials and putting 100+ MTB shoes through the wringer, all results point to the Sector being a monster where performance on rocky terrain and adaptability are involved. It is just THAT awe-inspiring!

For one thing, this bike shoe hits it out of the park when it comes to being an all-arounder! With a sleek upper that’s unusual in MTB shoes, we perfectly blended in amongst road cyclists. 

What’s more, its recessed cleats and semi-flexible soles allowed us to walk comfortably on wooden and tiled floors, sans the clanking sounds and penguin-like struts.

And since this is the best overall, you can expect your digits to stay comfortable even after a long day of shredding through rough terrain. We mostly forget about it, which is always a pro for every rider.

At $225, you get more than what you pay for, given its versatile function, innovative closure system, efficient performance, and immense comfort. It’s a win-win situation if you ask us!

See our full review and facts
Shimano ME701
Shimano ME701 Shimano ME701
Unisex

No offers available

Also great

Yes, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. The Shimano ME701 comes in as the second-best MTB shoes overall!

After subjecting all 100+ mountain bike shoes to rigorous tests, the ME701 beat almost every other model. An ambitious feat, but this Shimano shoe passed with flying colors!

The ME701 shines the brightest in the grip department. The dedicated designers at Shimano thought of the brilliant idea to partner with Michelin (yes, the tire manufacturer!) This collab has succeeded in producing an outsole that sticks onto all surfaces no matter what! 

We’ve treaded on moist logs, went up slippery slopes and loose dirt paths, and our feet clutched onto every surface and every step felt confidence-inspiring.

Seriously, this astonishing piece can deliver and take whatever beating we have thrown its way! It held up excellently well and showed minimal signs of wearing after months of aggressive cycling through the woods. 

Bangs and hits from the pedal and rocks as well as scrapes and scratches from branches and trunks had nothing on these bad boys.

Thanks to its burly overall protection, our feet didn’t feel an ounce of vulnerability against all the bumps and impact.

See our full review and facts

Best casual shoe

Don’t let the Freerider’s skate shoe aesthetic trick you into thinking that it’s merely just another footwear with good grip. This assumption might be your biggest regret!

It is so skillful at what it does that it quickly became a modern classic even though it didn’t exist before 2013! In fact, it’s been the most popular flat MTB shoe in the market, and no other model can tip it off its throne.

We’ve come to find out that all these accolades come with many great reasons. The main one is its unparalleled grip on the pedal. We’ve never experienced dangerous pedal slips! It’s so sticky that we have to stop in the middle of our ride whenever we want to correct our pedal placement.

Now, you’re probably questioning how it performs when it comes to protecting the feet from inevitable bangs and bumps. Well, we’ve never had to go through any pain or discomfort thanks to its uncompromising construction.

Although the suede upper can fade out over time, we’ve been impressed by the more important factor - its ability to withstand aggressive riding! We don’t really care about how it looks as long as we get plenty of rides out of it, which we happily did!

What’s best is, at $100, we got to ride it in multiple mountain cycling activities like enduro, gravity, and trail. All these in exchange for the Benjamins? An excellent value, if you ask us!

See our full review and facts

The Five Ten District Flats packs a punch when it comes to light trail cycling, urban commuting, and keeping us stylish throughout!

Equipped with the brand’s famously grippy outsoles, our feet felt very secure and every pedal stroke concise. We’ve breezed through the busy streets of the city effortlessly and without any hassle.

It may use more perforations to let more air in, but truthfully we prefer water resistance more! The lack of breathability wasn’t really bothersome, and at the end of the day, we got to be protected from puddles and splashes.

If you’re looking for a cycling shoe that looks right at home inside the mall, a quick coffee stop with friends mid-ride, or even at work, the District Flats is one of the best options.

We saved so much time and effort by skipping the need to change from casual footwear to cycling shoes and vice versa!

See our full review and facts

Best for indoor

Nike has dominated almost all of its ventures. And now the Swoosh brand has also reigned in the indoor cycling shoe realm! 

The Nike SuperRep Cycle has come out on top of our list after several months of testing 10+ indoor bike shoes. The shoe now has the right to call the shots as it has raised the bar for indoor cycling shoe performance.

One of the factors that catapulted this pair to the top spot is the highly compatible design of its cleat system. Equipped with both 2- and 3-hole systems, it can be paired with most major indoor bike designs in gyms and commercially.

The outsoles may not impress elite cyclists, but it is very remarkable for indoor cyclists who don’t need speed as much! The pedal control and feel are extraordinary to the point that once we get in the zone, it’s hard to tell where our foot ends, and the pedal begins.

Ventilation is abundant, thanks to the mesh upper and vent pockets in the sole. Compared to the rest of us, our feet stayed cool and dry despite the intense routines we subjected ourselves to. 

To top it all off, its wide toebox made enough room for our digits. We didn’t feel any pressure or rubbing. Talk about ultimate comfort!

See our full review and facts

Coming in at a close second is the Louis Garneau Multi Air Flex. It has its own set of strengths that outshine its top 1 contender. 

One case in point is its affordable price. At $100, we got so much more than what we paid for! To start, we’ve beaten our previous personal best in terms of distance and time thanks to its efficient power transfer and strong connection to the pedals.

This indoor shoe is also loaded with features that can operate in several other cycling endeavors! Within the months we’ve tested it, we’ve put it through light trails, tours sans the climbs, and weekend rides with friends. It performed excellently in all of these circumstances!

But how does it feel on smooth, wooden floors across the studio, you ask? Well, the Multi Air Flex felt effortless. Thanks to its recessed cleats and rubber outsoles, we didn’t need to wobble like penguins on slippery ice. 

Yup, the Louis Garneau Multi Air Flex is all that and more! Get it now if you need an indoor cycling shoe.

See our full review and facts

Best budget shoe

Finding efficient road cycling shoes with prices nearing the $100 mark can be likened to a blue moon - a very rare phenomenon! 

At $120 (and less if you check the discounted prices), the Fizik Tempo Powerstrap R5 ripped through every one of its opponents due to its unparalleled performance to price ratio.

With its uber light build, it doesn’t weigh us down and provides swiftness like never before. It’s incredible just how we forget we have shoes on once we get in the zone!

The star feature that makes the Tempo Powerstrap R5 such a steal is its overall quality! From the materials to its sleek design and construction! We’re always in awe that we paid only $120 for what seems to be a supposed $200+ feeling (and looking) shoe!

See our full review and facts

Now, if you’re within a budget and love the unpredictable nature of cycling in the woods, the Giro Terraduro is your top choice!

At $110, this mountain bike shoe packs a punch out on the trail. It performs on every aspect that is vital to us and every mountain cyclist out there.

The shoe’s protective ability is confidence-inspiring, not leaving any space for hesitation and worry. Our digits remain unscathed, thanks to its burly and durable construction.

On the bike, we felt the majority of our effort translate into propelling us forward and faster. We’ve also never felt fatigued on our feet while pedaling or hike-a-biking, as the outsoles are pliable enough to allow a bit of a give with our every step.

Its Vibram-equipped rubber outsole sticks onto wet and uneven terrains that backing down from hiking slippery terrain with a bike on our shoulders has never crossed our minds!

See our full review and facts

Why bother with cycling shoes?

Because biking is a form of exercise, many wrongfully assume that typical trainers already do the work on the bike. But there are significant differences between shoes meant for cycling and the ordinary trainers.

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Most bike shoes are characterized by a relatively snugger fit and stiffer soles than typical trainers for running

Given the snug fit of cycling shoes, newer fastening systems such as BOA dials and ratchet buckles closure systems are designed to prevent pressure points across the top of the foot. 

Their upper of a cycling shoe is made of lightweight textiles that are not easily penetrable by liquids. Cycling footwear also employs several air pockets for ultimate breathability.

Down below, soles are engineered to provide rigidity to aid in the efficient transfer of energy onto the bike. Most bikers deem that the stiffer the sole,  the higher the power transfer is.

Getting the right cycling shoes: 4 things to consider

Choosing one among many seemingly great options is already a daunting task. You can make your search easier by following the four quick steps below.

Purpose

There are different types of cycling shoes depending on the kind of activity that they are used for.

Type

Description

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Road

Road bike shoes are for cycling on smooth pavement. They employ the stiffest soles to allow ultimate energy transfer. Road shoes aren’t recommended for prolonged use off-bike.

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Triathlon

Cycling shoes made for Triathlons are basically road bike shoes with modified or added features for smooth and quick transitions such as easy draining, fast-drying materials, and on-the-fly adjustments.

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Mountain

Mountain cycling shoes are burly, protective, and rugged. They have impact-resistant features and soles employ aggressive lugged treads for grip. While many brands have a stand-alone cyclocross shoes category, many MTB shoes are still used for cyclocross.

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Casual

Casual or commuter shoes utilize relatively softer soles than road bike shoes. They also feature a sneaker-like design complete with molded midsoles.

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Indoor

Often called Spinning shoes, indoor cycling shoes are used on stationary bikes in fitness centers. Spin shoes have more rubber lugs on the sole than their road counterparts to properly walk around the studio, while also constructed to be sleeker than mountain cycling shoes. 

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Winter

Winter cycling shoes have more insulation and sport a high-top profile for maximum coverage and protection against the cold, wind, and moisture. 

Pedal system

There are two types of pedal systems cyclists can choose from - Clipless and Flat.

Bike shoes for clipless pedals have holes in the sole to accommodate cleats that clip onto the bike’s pedal for better connection. 

Clipless shoes employ three varieties of hole numbers depending on the cycling activity. 2-hole clipless shoes, also known as SPD, are usually seen on mountain bike shoes. 3-hole shoes, often called SPD-SL or Look Delta, are commonly placed in road bike shoes, while the 4-hole type is the least common.

Flat cycling shoes do not have holes in their soles and instead have a regular sneaker sole look. However, their outsoles are characterized by excellent traction to help keep the foot planted on the bike while pedaling.

Closure system

Cycling shoes are a bit snug, so their closure systems are designed to not put additional pressure on the foot, which may lead to discomfort. 

There are at least four types of closure systems used on cycling shoes.

Closure System

Description

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BOA

BOA cycling shoes have thin wires placed throughout the upper that clasp the foot more closely when the dial is tightened.

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Ratchet

The ratchet buckle secures the top part of the foot while Velcro straps clinch the mid and forefoot sections. Ratchet shoes are easy to adjust while on the saddle, but they are heavy because of the buckle.

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Velcro

Velcro straps are usually used on Triathlon shoes. They are utilized in conjunction with other closure types.

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Lace-Up

Many bikers still prefer lace-up cycling shoes because they are light, efficient, and do not have hotspots.

Make sure of the fit

Cycling shoes are engineered to be narrower than the everyday trainer. The relatively tight fit is designed for improved power transfer. 

As for measurements, most cycling shoes come in European sizing, so it is beneficial to know what your EU size is. 

Why are cycling shoes expensive?

Cycling shoes are specialty footwear built and engineered for efficiency. Materials, designs, and technologies employed in these shoes aren’t ordinary. 

Making a pair of good quality cycling shoes requires a significant amount of craftsmanship and skill. It has been proven that the better the quality and lighter the weight, the more expensive the bike shoe is.

Accessories for cycling shoes

Bike shoes come with accessories to further aid in the cyclist’s comfort and performance. Each brand offers a distinct set of accessories, but some of the most common ones are insoles with a variety of arch support, laces, and overshoe.

Overshoes are made from waterproof materials. They are usually worn over the cycling shoe during winter to protect the wearer’s foot from the elements such as water, dirt, and chilly wind.