- Road Bike Shoes Shopping Guide
Road Bike Shoes Shopping Guide
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 loop 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.
Do I Need to Buy Pedals Too?
Whether you are planning to buy shoes that are compatible with clipless pedal systems or platform pedals, buying pedals to go with the shoes can give you a serious performance boost. What kind of pedals to buy will depend on what shoe you plan on purchasing. On our site, pedals have been split up into the same categories that shoes have. For example, if you have decided that you are going to purchase the Shimano SH-R260 shoes (listed in our specifications as a "Road Competition" shoe), then you should select "Road Competition" as a filter option when searching for a pedal.
When purchasing bike shoes and/or pedals, it is important to make sure that the items you are purchasing are compatible with each other. Road shoes are designed to support 3-bolt pedal systems (commonly referred to as Look style, or the SPD-SL style), with the exception of touring shoes, which typically only support 2-bolt systems (commonly referred to as SPD style). These systems provide great performance on the road, but have cleats that protrude, hindering your ability to walk. Some road shoes will also support 2-bolt pedal systems in addition to 3-bolt.
What are Cleats and Should I Buy Them?
Cleats are the components of a clipless pedal system that get attached to the bottom of the shoe, and actually "clip-in" to the pedals. Cleats are included when you purchase pedals, but some manufacturers offer cleats with different amounts of float for different applications that can be purchased separately.
* Please be aware that bike shoes do not include cleats. Cleats are included when purchasing pedals, or can be purchased separately.