Skip to main content Guide to Cycling Shoes & Cleats's Complete Guide to Buying Cycling Shoes and Cleats

We have done our best to provide you with all the resources you need to purchase a pair of bike shoes, whether it's your first pair, or your tenth pair. Make the switch from athletic shoes/sneakers to cycling shoes with confidence. We are sure that you will experience a more comfortable, efficient and safer ride.

Shopping for MTB Shoes

Mountain bike shoes typically have stiff outsoles for better pedalling efficiency, and lugs to allow for better traction off-bike. Some also accommodate toe spikes to provide additional traction on muddy or loose terrain.

Uppers are often more rugged than those found on road bike shoes, because they're designed for protection against aggressive off-road conditions. They usually consist of some combination of synthetic fibers and rubber, and may have mesh panels to improve breathability.

What Kind Should I Be Looking At?
What kind of mountain shoes to buy depends on what kind of mountain biking you are looking to do. We have separated our mountain bike shoes into 4 categories as follows:

Cross country shoes are designed with performance as a top priority. As such, they are typically more lightweight than other moutain bike shoes, and have the stiffest outsoles, so that they can deliver the best pedalling performance. Ratchet and hook and loop closures are the most common, but rotary ratchet closures are also becoming more popular.

Cyclocross shoes are very similar to cross country shoes, in that they prioritize performance. However, they will typically have more flexible outsoles to accomodate the amount of running common in cyclocross. Toe spikes can be very helpful for hike-a-bike sections to help gain more traction.

Trail/Enduro shoes typically prioritize durability. More aggressive trail conditions require shoes that offer better foot protection (and sometimes more ankle protection). They are usually less stiff than cross country shoes to allow for better walkability.

Downhill/BMX shoes are designed to give you the best protection from debris when speeding downhill. Like trail shoes, they also tend to provide more protection. However, downhill shoes do not always offer compatiblity with clipless pedal systems. Instead, they sometimes favor the use of platform pedals, and as such have higher traction outsoles. Laces combined with hook and loop closures are the most common for downhill/bmx shoes.


Shopping for Road Shoes

Compared to mountain bike shoes, road bike shoes typically have stiffer outsoles so that you can achieve optimal pedalling efficiency. They usually have minimal or no traction, and as such, are not very good for walking.

Uppers are designed to be comfortable, but still be stiff enough to deliver efficient power transfer, while also trying to remain as lightweight as possible. They are usually comprised of some combination of synthetic leather and mesh to maximize breathabiliy.

What Kind Should I Be Looking At?
What kind of road shoes to buy depends on what kind of road biking you are looking to do. We have separated our road bike shoes into 4 categories as follows:

Road sport shoes are the most basic road shoe. Many would consider them to be "entry-level," but may also appeal to recreational cyclists as well. They usually have a stiff nylon outsole. Hook and loop closures are the most common, however some may also feature ratchet closures.

Road competition shoes are similar to road sport shoes, but are designed to enhance race performance. Higher-end models usually have higher-quality materials in the upper to allow for improved performance and a better fit. They usually have stiffer outsoles comprised of carbon, or a carbon composite to deliver better pedalling efficiency, while remaining lightweight.

Triathlon shoes are very similar in design to road competition shoes, but with a few key differences to optimize triathlon performance, while also reducing transition times. They are designed to be worn without socks, and typically have additional ventilation to allow feet to dry after the swimming leg, and to increase the breathability of the shoe. It is common for triathlon shoes to have a heel loop to faciliate slipping the shoes on quicker, and typically feature wide hook and closures so that your can easily secure the shoes while riding.

Touring shoes share design elements with road sport shoes, but place more emphasis on walkability. They typically will have less stiff outsoles, and more grip, enabling you to walk around. They do not typically support 3-bolt pedal systems like other road shoes, instead favoring the 2-bolt systems, and usually will have recessed cleat zones for enhanced walkability. Lacing closures are the most popular on touring shoes, but both hook and loop and ratchet closures are also common.


Cleat Information

When purchasing bike shoes and/or pedals, it is important to make sure that the items you are purchasing are compatible with each other. There are two main varieties of cleat types: 2-bolt (commonly referred to as SPD style) and 3-bolt (commonly referred to ask Look style or SPD-SL style). Bike shoes that support clipless pedals systems will typically support one or both of these configurations, with each type offering different levels of performance and walkability.

2-bolt cleat designs are most commonly found on mountain bike shoes and touring shoes, but some entry-level road bike shoes may also support these configurations. Their small size allows for a close connection to the shoe, ensuring great pedalling performance. Shoes that only support 2-bolt systems will usually allow the cleats to be recessed, allowing for improved walkability. The majority of 2-bolt shoes will actually have 4 holes, but you will only use 2 at a time. The extra mounting holes enable you to adjust your cleat position (front or back) to give you the best performance.

3-bolt pedal designs are only found on road shoes. Their design allows for the best stiffness, thus allowing for optimal pedalling efficiency. However, unlike 2-bolt cleats, 3-bolt cleats protrude from the shoe, reducing walkability.


Sizing Information

How do I find a shoe that fits me?

Start by choosing Men's or Women's from the bar at the top. If you would like to, you can select a category to narrow it down (Mountain, Road, Indoor, etc). But be aware that just because a shoe is labeled mountain or road does not mean that it cannot be used indoors. In the result page a filter will open up on the left side of the screen. Here you can choose your US size that you find fits you the best in running, tennis, or other athletic shoes. You can further narrow your search down by cleat compatibility (click here if you have no idea what that means) or by any of the other criteria in the filter bar.

What is European Sizing?

Most cycling shoes use European sizing. These sizes range from 34 to 52 (as opposed to the 3-15 that you may be used to seeing in the US). They don't always correspond to US whole or half sizes, so many shoes will have their European sizes matched to the exact decimal equivalent in the US. For example the brand Shimano has no exact match for a woman's US size 8. You would choose a EU40 which is a US 7.8 or an EU41 which is a US 8.5.

But I know I'm a women's 8, and I want my shoes to fit! Why do I have to order an 8.3?
The difference in an 8 and an 8.3 is less than a 1/8 of an inch (barely 3mm). You would likely fit in both the 7.8 and the 8.3, but we suggest you choose a size based on your experience with how running shoes or other athletic shoes fit you. If US size 8 shoes are sometimes a little loose, go with the size that matches the 7.8 (the 40). If they are sometimes tight, then go with the size that matches the 8.5 (the 41). It is not uncommon to size up in cycling shoes. You always want to keep in mind that your foot swells a bit when it gets warm. We also suggest checking the size on the tongue of your sneaker. On the tag that tells you the size, it usually also states the cm's. For example on the tongue of my Nike sneakers it says US 8.5, EU 40, 25.5 CM. I would then go to the size chart for the brand cycling shoe i am interested in (all size charts are offered on the item's page) and compare which sizes measurements are closest to my sneakers.

If none of that makes sense, you can always send us an email letting us know what size and brand shoe you wear and we can offer you our best suggestion.

Hey, I'm not new to the Euro size party! I know I'm a 41. Why can't I pick a 41 on the filter on the left?
The problem lies in the fact European sizes from different companies match different US sizes. We have designed the filters to show you the European sizes based on the size charts published by these companies, combined with our experience with how customers find that the shoes fit. If you are a 41 in a Shimano, you are likely a 7.5 US. Pick 7.5 on the filter and we will show you all the shoes from 7.3 to 7.8 that will likely fit you. Because of the disparity in the US-Euro conversion between companies, there will be 39, 40's, 40.5's, 41s, and even a 43 in this range. On the shoe's individual product page, the US and Euro sizes for that shoe are listed together. For example a Giro shoe will show 40/7.5 and a Shimano shoe will show 41/7.6.

But what if they don't fit?
Every foot is different, and every shoe's last (manufacturing mold) is different, so that is definitely a possibility. That is why we offer FREE RETURN SHIPPING FOR UP TO 30 DAYS.