10 best road cycling shoes

Based on reviews from 45 experts and 259 users. Learn how our rankings work or see our guide to road cycling shoes. Updated Dec 2019.

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Many beginner cyclists and some novice enthusiasts think they don’t need cycling-specific shoes. The first reason for this is they are turned off with bike shoes’ relatively higher price tag, and the second is they just don’t know that it would make a world of difference.

This section caters to all things road cycling shoes. If you want to know more about this type of footgear and how to choose the right pair for you, read on.

What are road cycling shoes

Best road cycling shoes

Best road cycling shoes - November 2019

Road bike shoes, in general, are constructed with the stiffest soles, lightest and most breathable materials, and simplest upper designs. This type of footgear is engineered for smooth, long rides on pavement roads. They are designed for maximum efficiency while pedaling and can’t be walked in for long distances. Most companies offer a variety of sole stiffness. The stiffer the sole is, the higher the power transfer is.

Triathlon and indoor cycling shoes are usually put under the road category as these two are basically road shoes with a few tweaks. For example, triathlon bike shoes’ only differences are their faster drying and quicker draining materials.

How do road bike shoes work

The road shoes' stiff soles are either made from Carbon composite or full Carbon materials. The former type has more flex compared to the latter. Indeed the more rigid the footwear's sole is, the higher the power transfer is. However, most cyclists prefer a bit of flex to stay comfortable on long rides. 

Due to the road models' relatively stiffer bottom and minimal traction, wearers won't be able to stand or walk in them for long periods. The sole usually has three-hole cleat systems to connect the shoe to the bike pedals, while vent holes help improve airflow. 

As for the upper part of road shoes, materials are commonly synthetic with patches of mesh for breathability. Designs are minimal and straightforward while fastening systems are lightweight, pressure-reducing and most of the time, feature easy on-the-fly adjustments.

All in all, the whole design of road shoes is engineered to provide the wearer with comfort, ease of use, and excellent power transfer.

How to choose road cycling shoes

Selecting the ideal road shoes for you depends on what kind of road cycling you plan to do. If you're thinking of competing or being on the saddle for hours, going for an easily adjustable closure system and the stiffest sole your feet can bare is recommended. Most brands have a stiffness chart to give shoppers an idea of how rigid a specific model's soles are. Note that each brand measures the stiffness of their shoes differently.

If you arrange a bike tour or a short commute, it is best to go for a slightly pliable pair of road bike shoes with a two-bolt cleat to keep you comfortable and make walking easier. Choosing the type of closure is also a bit more lenient as you can casually adjust it anytime you need to. 

Other features such as water-resistance and breathability should be considered depending on the individual's preferences. Moreover, some brands also offer winter road shoes so you can still go on rides despite the chilly weather. Check out Shimano’s RW5 as an example.

How should road bike shoes fit

Most road-specific cycling shoes do not fit like everyday walking shoes as they are designed to fit snug. This relatively compact fit aims to prevent the movement of the foot inside that causes blisters. It also contributes to the efficient transfer of every watt of exerted energy. Moreover, the heel should also be snug enough so that heel slips won’t happen.

The shoe’s toe room should also have enough space for your toes to wiggle. There should be no pinching or restricting sensations. Note that none of the cycling shoes need a break-in period, hence when a pair feels too narrow while fitting, it won’t eventually break-in with usage. So make sure to pick the correct fit right off the bat.

Frequently asked questions

Why use road bike shoes?

There are plenty of benefits a pair of road cycling shoes can offer that no other type of shoes can. Although some may put off these shoes as uncomfy and expensive, cyclists usually do not wear anything else once they find the perfect pair and realize the huge difference it makes. 

Road cycling shoes are designed to provide pedaling efficiency without sacrificing comfort. As mentioned earlier, the upper's trimmed fit combined with the soles' rigidity contributes to excellent power transfer. At the same time, modern fastening systems provide easy on-the-fly adjustments. From the snug fit to the vent holes and stiff soles, all these features have been tested and proven for optimal performance.

Which road bike shoes are best to buy? And where to buy them?

Determining which models are best for everyone seems like an impossible task. Why? Because what might be best for one person might not work for you. There are several factors you need to consider first before setting out for your search for the best road cycling shoes. 

Factors such as foot shape vs. a pair’s sizing, the type of road cycling you plan to do, and the level of cycling you do (beginner, amateur, pro) all have an impact. To help you decide, RunRepeat made it easy by gathering all the essential information you need in one place. Just click on a model to find everything you need to know.

Can road cycling shoes be used for spinning?

Most spin bikes employ SPD-style pedals or a 2-hole cleat system. Hence, instructors recommend going for MTB shoes. However, it is also possible to use road footgear in spin classes if you'd want to. You just have to purchase a cleat adapter so that it would be suitable to spin bikes' SPD pedals.

Using a road bike shoe for spinning has its own advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that you may feel more connected and stable while pedaling. The downside is that walking and standing might be challenging since road shoes' cleats are protruding.

Can you walk in road cycling shoes?

Walking in road shoes is possible, but doing it for long periods could be straining to your feet. This is due to the footwear’s super rigid soles and recessed cleats. If you plan on mounting off your bike for some time, it is recommended to bring a pair of casual shoes.

Road cycling shoes vs. mountain bike shoes

These two types of cycling shoes are built very differently for two very distinct cycling activities. Road shoes are engineered for cycling on flat and smooth concrete roads. It is more concerned with aerodynamics and efficient power transmission, while mountain bike shoes have a more beefy build and more flex in the soles. The MTB shoe's burly design is also equipped with impact protection against the trails' rugged nature.

When to replace my pair of road shoes?

Most cyclists dread that day when their pair of cycling shoes looks like it needs to be replaced. Some might still choose to ride in them trying to convince themselves that it will work fine when it clearly won’t. But when is the exact time to buy a new one? Here are some telltale signs you need to watch out for.

  • If there is a noticeable change in the way your pair fits. This might be due to wearing materials of the upper, sole, or both.
  • Hardware on the shoe is starting to rust or malfunction.
  • Fluctuation in performance due to the altered state of the shoe.

What are the brands that carry road cycling shoes?

Almost all cycling brands offer models for road cycling. However, some of the most notable ones are Giro, Shimano, Fizik, Mavic, Northwave, Sidi, and plenty more. At RunRepeat, we feature some of the most popular cycling brands. Just scroll above to check out the different brands and reviews on their respective products.

Interesting facts: Road cycling

  • The very first Road World Championships was held in 1921. It took place in Copenhagen, Denmark on August 4. The event was organized by UCI and is still ongoing as of 2019.
  • The first cycling road race event of each year is called the Tour Down Under. It is the first race that contributes to riders' rankings and is held annually every third Tuesday of January in Adelaide, South Australia.
  • Established in 1903, Tour de France is one of the most popular cycling events ever. It is recognized as the biggest endurance challenge out of all sports.
  • In the Tour de France, four color-coded jerseys are awarded throughout the event. The overall race leader gets the Yellow jersey, the Green one gets assigned to the leader of the Points Classification (also called the sprinter's jersey), the Polka Dot jersey goes to the winner of the Mountains Classification (the first who reaches the summits of a designated climb), and the White jersey goes to the 25 and under division's winner (the best young rider with the fastest overall time).
  • On April 20, 1980, the Liege-Bastogne-Liege road cycling event was held in such bad weather that it got a negative nickname from commentators. Due to the race's unusual and unexpected difficulty, the French winner rider Bernard Hinault became popular.
  • In road cycling races, the peloton refers to the main group or pack of cyclists. Riders cycle in bundles to save energy by riding close to others. Depending on where the rider is in the formation, wind drag usually dramatically lowers for cyclists in the back, which in turn saves the rider's energy.

9 best road cycling shoes

  1. Mavic Aksium III
  2. Shimano RC7
  3. Fizik R4B
  4. Giro Empire ACC
  5. Shimano RP9
  6. Sidi Wire 2 Carbon
  7. Northwave Extreme GT
  8. Northwave Revolution
  9. Sidi Alba
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