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The best cycling shoes can make or break any ride. Yes, it is an extreme statement but true nonetheless. When it comes to cycling whether out on the road, your trainer, or a stationary bike, your feet are one of the three points of contact between you and your bike. It is your feet that support most of your body’s weight, provide stability, and are the only part of your body in contact with the bike pedals.
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Most importantly, your feet are where the power generated from your legs is transferred into the pedal stroke to propel you forward. Cycling shoes are specifically designed with stiffer soles and uppers to move the power from your legs directly to your bike pedals which makes the cycling experience way more efficient.
I have been in the world of triathlon training and cycling for close to 15 years. I have competed in every distance triathlon from sprint and Olympic to half and full Ironman races, which means I have spent a LOT of time on the saddle (I’m also a group cycling instructor). Myself and the team here at GGR have done all the research and testing of shoes for you and narrowed down a list of the very best cycling shoes on the market today. On a budget? We’ve got you covered. New to cycling? There is a shoe here for you. So sit back and read on to find your next pair.
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6 Best Cycling Shoes
- Best Cycling Shoes Overall: Lake CX332
- Best Cycling Shoes for Beginners: Shimano RC5
- Best Budget Cycling Shoes: Fizik Tempo Powerstrap R5
- Best Cycling Shoes for Wide Feet: Shimano RC3 Wide
- Best Customizable Cycling Shoes: Bont Vaypor S
- Best Lace-Up Cycling Shoes: Giro Empire SLX
Best Cycling Shoes Overall: Lake CX332
Good for: Serious bikers who tend to ride with a higher cadence and are willing to pay a premium price for an extraordinary pair of shoes.
- Lightweight shoe featuring dual Boa closure and a carbon sole system
- Internal heel counter that is heat moldable for secure heel hold
- Double sole system with a flexible fiberglass platform over a rigid carbon sole
- Constructed with K-Lite kangaroo leather, a mesh outer, outlast temperature regulating heel and tongue liner, and a carbon sole
Pros & Cons
- Carbon sole
- Unique color options
- Comparably expensive
- Takes a few rides to break in
- Runs small
There are few things in this world that bring me as much joy and giddy anticipation as does opening a box of new cycling shoes. And the Lake CX332 did not disappoint, which is why they snagged the top spot for best overall cycling shoe. As soon as I unboxed them I thought, “these shoes sure are sexy.” Seriously though, they are one of the best-looking cycling shoes we have seen—sleek, cool colors and a streamlined design. The vast majority of customers agreed and were stoked about their bad-ass appearance.
But Lake CX332 cycling shoes are a lot more than a pretty pair of shoes. Featuring a combination of K-lite Kangaroo leather and mesh in the upper of its shoes, outlast temperature regulating heel cup and tongue liner and an internal heat moldable Thermaform carbon fiber heel counter, these shoes are engineered with cutting-edge smart fabric technology that keeps you cool (or warm), comfortable, and secure. Coupled with the dual side-mounted IP1 Boa dial closure, the moldable heel counter design allows for the option of a more customized fit. Lake offers an online tutorial for this process which I found to be relatively simple.
Something to keep in mind is that the Lake CX332 cycling shoes run small. I had to exchange my first pair for a larger size (I actually went up two sizes). While I followed the guide provided by Lake on sizing, these still felt super snug. So consider sizing up at least a half size from whatever you measure. Like many cycling shoes, there are no separate men’s or women’s sizing charts.
The CX332 boasts Lake’s patented double sole system, which consists of a semi-flexible fiberglass platform inner sole that enables flexibility at the ball of the foot where there is typically swelling. This flexibility is intended to prevent tingling or numbness in this area even after hours on the road. The inner sole lies over a rigid carbon sole designed to maintain a super stiff outer sole without compromising comfort. And, after clipping in with these shoes for multiple rides over the past four weeks, I can attest to both their performance and comfort.
In regards to clips, the CX332 is uniquely compatible with both three-bolt and four-bolt Speedplay—a spec not often seen on road bike shoes. The installation of the cleats was straightforward but there are directions on Lake’s website should you need them.
These cycling shoes are a bit stiffer than my typical riding shoe, which did take some getting used to on my part. On my first ride, they initially felt a bit uncomfortable although it was hard to pinpoint what exactly felt off other than feeling stiffer. But by the second ride I quickly realized that these CX332 ride as good as they look. They are stiff and light enough to race with while offering a level of comfort that would seriously last for hours on any long ride/race.
Their ergonomic design encourages more engagement of the hamstring on the pull portion of the pedal stroke (part of my form usually lacking). And on the press down you notice immediate transfer of power into a forward propulsion. Other consumers felt similarly, reporting that the efficient sole design delivers significant power transfer, which reduces foot stress and energy exertion.
We’ll end by saying that the CX332 cycling shoes are not cheap. But, if you can afford them, their top-of-the-line design and durability make them hard to beat.
|Sizes||39-50EU regular, wide, extra-wide|
|Closure||Dual side-mounted IP1 Boa system|
|Cleat compatibility||3-bolt and Speedplay (4-bolt)|
Best Cycling Shoes for Beginners: Shimano RC5
Good for: Anyone new to cycling or looking for a mid-level cycling shoe with some high-end specs
Best for Beginners
- Wrap-around upper minimizes overlap, which reduces potential hotspots
- Upper is a combination of mesh, TPU, and synthetic materials, which is both lightweight and breathable
- Carbon fiber-reinforced nylon soles provide some flex, but are stiff enough for casual cyclists
- Simple use single Boa closure system
Pros & Cons
- Relatively affordable
- Breathable upper
- Wrap-around style upper
- Good heel grip
- Sole is not rigid
- Only 1 Boa
- Adequate power transfer
While we didn’t test these shoes specifically, I’ve used Shimano products before, and I think the RC5 is a great option for beginners who want a shoe that will last. The Shimano RC5 is Shimano’s mid-range cycling shoe, which borrows features from higher-end shoes but offers them at an affordable price point. They offer a decent amount of stiffness, a comfortable upper, and a simple closure system, all of which are best-suited for short- to mid-distance rides.
Slightly different from previous iterations of this model, the RC5 uses a wrap-around upper design with a single velcro strap over the forefoot and two flaps tightened by a single Boa system. While a one-dial adjustment will likely work for the majority of riders, those with particularly narrow feet may not be able to dial in the shoe’s fit to their liking. But many reviewers rave over the RC5’s level of comfort, particularly in the upper so the lack of micro-adjustability doesn’t seem to cause issues for most.
The sole of the RC5 is constructed primarily with nylon and reinforced along the midsole with carbon. According to Shimano, the RC5 are rated with a level eight stiffness on their stiffness scale, which ranges from two to 12. So while these are stiff enough, they do still offer a good level of flex.
Theoretically the flex would lend itself to longer rides as it tends to be more comfortable than an extremely stiff shoe. But some cyclists felt this level of flex sacrificed power transfer making these shoes less than ideal for long or particularly challenging rides.
Compatible with three-bolt style cleats, Shimano specifically recommends their SPD-SL cleat which really is the gold standard for three-hole patterned cleats.The RC5 cycling shoes are designed with a low mid-stack height, which, according to Shimano, is designed to stabilize the foot and enable a good transfer of power. Its level of stiffness and easy-to-use closure systems are well-suited for beginners looking for an affordable but high-quality cycling shoe.
|Sizes||Standard 36-50 EU, Wide – 38-50 EU|
|Closure||1 Boa, 1 velcro strap|
|Cleat compatibility||3-bolt SPD-SL|
Best Budget Cycling Shoes: Fizik Tempo Powerstrap R5
Good for: Anyone looking to keep the cost down without sacrificing efficiency of a cycling shoe
- Unique powerstrap closure which is a ribbon that wraps around the foot
- Nylon composite outsole with carbon reinforcement for a slightly rigid sole that allows for flex, particularly in the midsole
- Available in 3 basic color options: white/black, red/black, black/black
Pros & Cons
- Comfortable on long rides
- Easy closure
- Flexible sole allows for foot swelling
- Sole is not stiff enough for tough rides
- Narrow fit
- Hard-to-read cleat markings
Looking for the best budget home gym equipment does not mean you need to sacrifice the integrity of what is at the heart of any good cycling shoe—comfort and function. The Fizik Tempo Powerstrap R5 is an affordable and dependable cycling shoe that features a unique closure system that mimics the configuration of ribbon wraps to envelop the foot with an equal distribution of tension. The result is a shoe that’s claimed by some users to be “the most comfortable shoes ever tried at this price point.” There are some who felt the shoe’s fit to be too narrow, but the closure allows you to easily tailor that to your desired tension.
Featuring a carbon-reinforced nylon composite outsole, Fizik promises that these shoes will provide all-day comfort. The sole is rigid enough but does have some give along the midsole, which contributes to the overall comfortable fit. According to Fizik, the nylon composite does not compromise pedaling efficiency.
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The R5 seems to only be compatible with three-bolt style cleats and, unfortunately, Fizik does not disclose this information. There are users who found the cleat alignment markings hard to read since the markings are molded directly into the sole instead of with a contrasting print as typically seen on cycling shoes.
Best Cycling Shoes for Wide Feet: Shimano RC3 Wide
Good for: Cyclists with wider feet looking for an affordable, comfortable and performance-based cycling shoe
Best for Wide Feet
- Synthetic leather composite upper with perforations to allow for good breathability
- Micro-adjustable Boa L6 dial for secure and precise fit
- Lightweight glass fiber-reinforced nylon sole is stiff but has enough give provide comfort on long rides
- Low stack height midsole to stabilize feet
Pros & Cons
- Wide cycling shoe
- Comparably affordable
- Perforated upper for good ventilation
- Boa closure system
- Not ideal for intense rides
- Runs small
- Shallow heel cup
Finding the right cycling shoe for wide feet can be a tall task, but the Shimano RC3 Wide Cycling Shoes are specifically engineered for the wide-footed road cyclist. Considered a mid-level cycling shoe, the RC3 offers a ton of functionality for the price. They feature a fiberglass-reinforced nylon sole and a rubber XC racing pattern for supreme grip both on and off the bike when walking around. Shimano promises a reliable transfer of power with these soles which, according to reviews, provide just the right amount of flex and stiffness.
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Constructed with a durable and breathable leather upper, the RC3 Wide uses a Boa L6 dial cinch for incremental adjustments and a customized fit. The upper has laser-cut perforations or vents, which provide both front and side ventilation. The stack height on the RC3 is noticeably low and some felt the heel cup to be a bit too shallow. But, the majority of consumers appreciate the comfortable fit.
Shimano recommends sizing up as these shoes run small. When ordering, take into consideration how much your feet tend to swell to ensure you purchase the ideal fit. The RC3 Wide are compatible with three-bolt cleats only.
|Sizes||32 – 51 EU|
|Weight||245g (size 42)|
|Closure||Boa L6 dial|
Best Customizable Cycling Shoes: Bont Vaypor S
Good for: Competitive cyclists looking for a micro-adjustable, high-quality and ergonomically designed shoe
- Anatomically correct shape designed with heat moldable construction and 316 marine grade stainless steel cleat t-nuts
- Suitable for professional cyclists
- All-weather fabric that is breathable and lightweight
- Micro-adjustable Boa Li2 closure allows for precise fit
Pros & Cons
- Biomechanically correct shape
- Carbon sole
- Heat moldable custom fit
- Efficient power transfer
- Roomy toe box
- Comparably expensive
- Sizing guide may be hard to decipher
- Lacks a good insole
When it comes to finding the perfect fit, you will be hard-pressed to find a cycling shoe that allows for more customization than the Bont Vaypor S. The Bont Vaypor S provides a micro-adjustable fit with a Boa Li2 closure system and, most notably, heat-moldable construction that creates a fit that users report feels like an extension of their own body.
In addition, these shoes are uniquely designed with an anatomically correct foot shape, which provides plenty of space in the toe box for your toes to move around naturally. The size of the forefoot area also accommodates swelling. The Vaypor S features 316 marine-grade stainless steel cleat t-nuts, unidirectional high-quality carbon fiber, an anti-stretch upper and Italian-made lightweight fabric. According to Bont Cycling, the Vaypor S provides the most biomechanically correct shoe on the market capable of withstanding professional-level use.
The all-weather fabric is both lightweight and breathable, which intends to keep your feet warm in the winter and cool on those hotter days. Both the heel and toe guards are replaceable and, unlike many other shoes on the market, Bont uses the unidirectional carbon sole up the entire back of the shoe providing maximal stability and security. As far as cleat mounting, Vaypor comes with a standard three-hole road pedal configuration with alignment grid and grip. For riders who prefer a four-hole Speedplay sole, you will have to create a custom order.
The Vaypor cycling shoes certainly are not cheap and you will pay a premium price for its premium construction. What is lacking, however, is a good insole. Most users report purchasing a separate insole insert. Bont offers four width levels when ordering—narrow, standard, wide, and Asian fit. You will want to take some time to figure out your correct size. The charts provided by Bont are, shall we say, not the easiest to read. You don’t need a degree in physics to figure it out, but it can be confusing. If you ask me, it’s a small price to pay for the level of customization.
|Sizes||19 sizes range from 36 to 50 with 5mm increments; all sizes can be ordered in narrow, standard, wide, or Asian fit|
|Weight||230 g (size 42)|
|Closure||Dual dial Boa Li2 Performance Fit System|
|Cleat compatibility||3-hole cleat or custom order 4-hole Speedplay|
Best Lace-Up Cycling Shoes: Giro Empire SLX
Good for: Anyone who is looking for an incredibly lightweight cycling shoe with solid arch support and an impressive stiffness-to-weight ratio
The best cycling shoes can make or break any ride. Yes, it is an extreme statement but true nonetheless. When it comes to cycling whether out on the road, your trainer, or a stationary bike, your feet are one of the three points of contact between you and your bike. It is your feet that support most of your body’s weight, provide stability, and are the only part of your body in contact with the bike pedals.» Read more about: 6 Best Cycling Shoes (2023): Upgrade Your Ride With These Picks »
I will be honest: As a triathlete who was always looking to shave a few seconds off transition times, I never considered a lace-up road bike shoe. Even on training rides, I opted for velcro or Boa closures assuming they were the most comfortable and aerodynamic. But after slipping into the Giro Empire SLX for a variety of rides over the past month, I quickly realized that I’ve been missing out. And, after a bit of research, I learned that lace closures are claimed to create less drag than any other closure system, which would actually help improve speed. Who’d have thought?
First, let’s talk about packaging and initial impressions. The minute I picked up these shoes I noticed their incredibly lightweight and flexible mesh upper, which is a lot more pliable than any other cycling shoe I have had. They have a bit of a vintage/retro-look and I say that as a complete positive because they look awesome. In the box, you also get a spare pair of laces, Giro-branded drawstring shoe bag and three arch support inserts for an easily customizable fit. As a flat-footed individual, I was pumped.
While not the quickest shoe to slip into (okay, they do take a minute to lace-up), the lace closure on the Giro Empire SLX allowed for even distribution of tension across the top of the shoe for a really comfortable fit. So much so that I would go as far as to say that these are my new favorite cycling shoes when hitting up the trainer in my garage. Here’s why.
First, they have a minimalist design with a one-piece monofilament Synchwire mesh upper, which Giro claims feels like a second skin. And let me tell you, they are right. I hardly noticed they were on yet there was just enough structural support provided by the thermal-welded Teihin TPU upper.
The carbon fiber plate sole provides a solid stiffness-to-weight ratio, which is where I felt like this shoe shines—they really do feel weightless but offer a surprising level of stiffness. The Giro Empire SLX offers three levels of customizable arch support, which is easily adjustated. The SLX are compatible with three-hole-designed cleats as well as Peloton-Bike-specific ones. However, they do not work with Speedplay.
I was really impressed with the level of comfort and performance when riding. Whether I was doing an interval, endurance, or recovery ride, the power transfer felt top-notch, which saved me energy to go harder or longer. Now, I do wonder what could happen if the laces came undone when out on the road or worse, somehow tangled into the chain or spokes. It is not a common thing to happen but, if there is even the slightest chance for it to occur, I can pretty much guarantee it would be to me.
|Weight||186g (size 42)|
|Cleat compatibility||3-hole and Peloton|
Other Cycling Shoes We Researched
There are a lot of high-quality cycling shoes on the market so we really did a lot of research when narrowing down our list of the best. Not every shoe made the cut but a couple are worth noting.
- DHB Dorica: The DHB Dorica came very close to stealing the top spot for the best lace-up design cycling shoes. With plenty of ventilation for good air flow and a roomy toe-box to accommodate thick or thin socks for all weather conditions, these shoes are really comfortable. They are not the lightest shoe and the nylon sole is not very stiff but they are a good option for new or casual cyclists.
- Cube RD Sydrix: The Cube RD Sydrix cycling shoes offer a lot of value for their price. By using a glass fiber sole over carbon and synthetic upper over natural leather, they are able to keep the cost down without sacrificing performance. While these may not support thousands of miles on the road or high-intensity training rides, they are an affordable option for anyone seeking a high-quality shoe. They were also hard to purchase in the U.S. so we couldn’t test them for ourselves.
- Scott Road Comp Boa: While the Scott Road Comp Boa didn’t quite make the cut for our list, they are a well-liked and relatively affordable choice for many cyclists. The upper is snug and uses a Boa closure to allow for a more customized fit. Most find the shoe exceptionally comfortable. Unfortunately, you will not find carbon soles, which can be found on cycling shoes in the same price range. Still, they offer adequate power transfer, which is more than sufficient for my road cyclists.
How We Picked and Tested the Best Cycling Shoes
When choosing the best road cycling shoe there is a lot to consider. Honestly, when I bought my first pair of cycling shoes, I had no idea what to look for other than style with little focus on function. So you don’t make the same mistake (let’s just say I went through a LOT of shoes in my cycling career), we really analyzed the specs and features with a focus on closure, sole type, cost, and performance. From there, we actually tested the shoes.
We have said it before but I will say it again: Here at GGR we really walk the walk, meaning our team actually tests the products we recommend. I wore both the Giro Empire SLX and Lake CX332 for over a month on a variety of rides including interval rides, endurance rides, recovery rides and when retesting my VO2 max. Some of my team members and other friends of GGR were able to test out several of the cycling shoes on our list and we spent a lot of time gathering information and feedback from other cyclists who have used these shoes.
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Benefits of Cycling Shoes
Clipping into your pedal system offers a lot more than meets the eye. Cycling shoes offer a level of stability, comfort, and efficiency not found in training or running shoes. Cycling shoes keep you directly connected with the bike so you do not have to worry about wasting energy on foot slippage but can instead concentrate on effective pedaling. Cycling shoes actually encourage proper form, which saves energy in the long run.
Perhaps the most notable benefit of using cycling shoes is power transfer. Power transfer refers to the amount of energy your legs produce that actually translates directly into your pedal stroke, speed, and intensity. The stiffer soles enable a better transfer which, in turn, offers you effort retention as you fatigue. Additionally, when clipped in, you can engage your hamstrings on the pull portion of the pedal stroke in a way you simply can not do with regular shoes.
Buying Guide: What To Look for in Cycling Shoes
Just as we focused on several critical specs when researching the best cycling shoes, you want to take a few of the same key features into consideration when shopping around. You will want to look at the closure system, sole, cost, and cleat style.
Cycling shoes come with one of four fastening systems: velcro, ratchet (although you won’t find this on many new models), lace-up, or dial. The best closure is highly dependent on how you plan to use your new kicks and your budget. Many entry-level and low-cost shoes use velcro straps, which get the job done.
Velcro will keep your shoe stable, but getting the exact fit you want can be difficult. Also, they are not easy to adjust on the go and can wear down over time. On the other hand, velcro is really lightweight so may be found on some high-end shoes specifically designed to support intense, hilly rides.
Ratchet fastening systems offer a bit more adjustability than velcro but can be tricky to use (specifically too loosen). To be honest, you won’t find a lot of ratchet closures on newer cycling shoes simply because of their weight and inefficient adjustability. None of the shoes on our list use this closure.
Dial closures are found on most higher-priced shoes because they offer incremental tightening and loosening, which can be done while riding. There are different brands of dial fastening systems, but the Boa brand is the one you will find on most high-end shoes.
And last but not least is the lace-up closure. Laces are considered to be more aerodynamic but getting them on, off, or adjusted is not easy. For triathletes in particular, these are less than ideal to use as a racing shoe. But they sure are comfortable! A lace-up design evenly distributes pressure along the top of the foot which is, in part, what makes them so comfortable. They also allow for a precise fit.
The sole of cycling shoes is designed to be stiff, which can take some getting used to. Stiffer soles allow for greater transfer of power from your legs directly to the bike pedals which, in turn, saves you energy. Soles are typically made from either nylon or carbon. Carbon soles are much stiffer and while great for speed, they are not always ideal for long rides. Nylon allows for some flex, which is considered by many to be most comfortable on long rides. Carbon is a lighter material than nylon so usually found on high-end lightweight cycling shoes.
Paying top dollar is not an option for many of us but it does not mean you can’t get a comfortable and high-performing shoe. Regardless of your budget, there is a cycling shoe that will check all the boxes for you. Don’t waste time drooling over shoes you can’t afford!
Regardless of the cleat style you favor (two, three, or four-bolt style) be sure that they are compatible with the cycling shoes you ultimately choose. Not all cycling shoes accommodate all cleat styles so this is super important to keep in mind.
FAQs on Best Cycling Shoes
What are the best shoes to wear while riding a bike?
The best shoes to wear when riding a bike are cycling shoes. Specifically designed for biking, these shoes have stiffer soles and are engineered to encourage good form and efficient transfer of power from your legs to the bike pedals.
Does wearing cycling shoes make a difference?
Yes, wearing cycling shoes makes a difference when biking in or outdoors. Biomechanically engineered for cycling, these shoes will ultimately save you energy as you fatigue by effectively transferring power from your legs to the pedals so that no energy is wasted. They also promote proper alignment of your ankles, knees, and hips.
Do cycling shoes make a difference in spin class?
Cycling shoes can really make a difference in spin class. Similar to the benefits reaped on an outdoor ride, cycling shoes in a spin class allow for a more efficient ride so you can focus on effort and power output to get the most out of your class.
What are the two types of cycling shoes?
There are actually more than two types of cycling shoes. Cycling shoes can be categorized into road shoes, mountain biking shoes, cyclocross shoes, indoor cycling shoes, and triathlon cycling shoes. Each type is designed with features specific to the stated sport or use.
How should cycling shoes fit?
Getting a good fit on cycling shoes is key! For the most part, they should be snug, but not tight. By design, cycling shoes aren’t roomy, so if they feel roomy to you, odds are it isn’t a good fit.
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