Best Performance Cycling Shoes Reviewed & Rated
From marathon racers to casual riders, making every pedal count is crucial in attaining the highest possible results. Different terrains require different equipment, and personal preferences often mean that what works for everyone else, may not be the right choice for you. The best pair of cycling shoes for you may take some time to find, but once you’ve attained the perfect pair, you’ll reap the benefits of a good fit, great power transfer and the required level of traction for the surface underfoot. Footwear made for cyclists is varied with numerous options available. Choosing the best possible pair is no easy feat, as you are required to know much more than just your size and width. The factors you need to consider include not only clip styles, closures and aerodynamic properties, but you will often find that one pair of shoes may not cover all of your cycling needs.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 17 hrs of research
Eco Friendly Materials
Adjustable Heel Closure
Double Sidi Dials
Vented Carbon Sole
Replaceable Heel Pad
Front Vent Closure
- Sidi Shot
- Pearl iZumi P.R.O. Leader v4
- Fizik Infinito R1 Knit
- Fizik R5 Uomo Boa
- Five Ten Freerider
- Pearl iZumi X-ALP Seek VII
- Pearl iZumi Select RD IV
- Gavin VELO
- Venzo Shimano SPD
- Shimano XC31
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Expert Interviews & Opinions
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
10 Best Cycling Shoes
1. Sidi Shot
Eco Friendly Materials
Adjustable Heel Closure
Double Sidi Dials
Vented Carbon Sole
Replaceable Heel Pad
Front Vent Closure
The thing about the Sidi Shot is that it’s a model designed by a company that makes some of the best cycling gear available for purchase. The Shot uses a lot of advanced technology to bring users a high level of power transfer, as well as a customized fit. What separates it from other models listed is that this is a shoe that uses eco friendly materials, even in the photoluminescent upper that allows you to ride in low visibility conditions.Read more
Though slightly difficult to get on and off, the Shot is actually a shoe that will provide you with one of the most secure fits you can find. Despite the closure system being similar to the popular BOA, Sidi’s dials were actually invented way before, and they allow users to make microadjustments in terms of tightening the shoe. The laces don’t stretch with time, and do a good job at keeping the foot in place (of course, aided by the adjustable heel closure).
The shoe provides excellent power transfer, unfortunately, at a higher weight and stack height. Nonetheless, the functionality you get is quite worth it. The vented Carbon sole is stiff and durable, yet it allows for adjustments in the form of a replaceable heel pad and a front vent cover you can use in winter conditions. This ensures the right amount of breathability in summer, and added temperature protection in winter. As for price, this is one of the most expensive models listed, and is definitely not for beginners.
2. Pearl iZumi P.R.O. Leader v4
Three Layer Breathable Upper
Double BOA IP1 Closure
13 Stiffness Rating
Replaceable Heel Pad
Foot May Move
Could Be More Stiff
While the PRO Leader III by Pearl iZUMi was one of the top rated cycling shoes last year, there were still a lot of improvements to be made. When creating the fourth version, the designers of this shoe took user feedback into consideration, working to provide them with an improved piece of gear that was even more lightweight, comfortable and breathable, and that boasted a plethora of tech updates as well. The biggest change, however, is that the sizing chart has been updated to coincide with that by Shimano (the company who owns Pearl iZUMi), which means that users won’t have to size up any more in order to get a correct fit.Read more
In the upper section, the biggest update is the asymmetrical opening which takes pressure off the top of the foot. The material is highly breathable, and has a seamless construction to eliminate any possible pressure points and hot spots. It is also highly adaptive, providing a customized fit, while the double BOA closure helps you fine tune the fit on the go. The Leader v4 comes in two color options, all black or black/lime, and both versions feature a newly electroplated bottom for a recognizable look.
The stiffness rating of this shoe is 13, and it’s provided by the Integrated Carbon Power Plate which only adds a 5mm stack height, and is incredibly lightweight. The insole allows users to independently adjust arch support and varus angle at the front, while the heel pad is replaceable for an increase in durability. As for the price point, this is a shoe that goes for slightly less than your average flagship, so if you’re after great performance at a more affordable price, then this is a shoe definitely worth checking out.
3. Fizik Infinito R1 Knit
Newly Developed Knit Upper
Double BOA Closure
Vented Carbon Sole
Dynamic Arch Support
Breathable Mesh Inner
Running gear has been using knit materials for several years now, with the aim of improving comfortability, breathability and fit. With the latest shoe by Fizik, you can get the same benefits in a cycling shoe as well. The Infinito R1 is an excellent road shoe you can comfortably wear for prolonged periods of time, and the power transfer you can expect is really performance ready. Unfortunately, it only comes in one color option - black, but if you’re after an improved fit and comfort, then it’s definitely worth checking out.Read more
The closure on the Infinito R1 is a double boa that is placed to the outer side of the foot. The top dial ensures lock-in, while the bottom one allows users to find a fit that is comfortable, eliminating pinching or pressure in key areas such as the top of the foot or metatarsal area. Because the shoe is made with a knit material, you can count on plenty of air flow, and it will even accommodate swelling that happens with heavy exercise. It’s also been treated to repel water, so you can choose to wear it in less than ideal weather conditions.
As for the sole, you get a stiff carbon outsole that allows for excellent power transfer, and is vented for comfort. The Dynamic Arch Support doesn’t allow for adjustments, but still does a great deal to provide a snug fit. As for price, this is one of the more expensive models you can find, which is greatly due to the unique upper. Nonetheless, if you’re after a great fit and a good amount of breathability, it’s a great shoe to invest in.
4. Fizik R5 Uomo Boa
High Quality Materials
Wide Variety of Colors Available
Some shoes keep getting better with every incarnation, and with the 5th version of the Fizik model, top performance, and durability have never been more apparent. The nylon and carbon fiber outsole that we’ve seen on other footwear made with cyclists in mind allows for the most power to be transferred with each stroke, while the BOA IP1 closure offers maximum versatility of fit.Read more
The BOA IP1 closure system allows for on-the-go adjusting, crucial when time and speed are of the essence to the cyclist. The Fizik R5 also has an additional, micro-adjustment strap on the inside that makes for the snuggest fit possible. The main material used in its construction is Microtex, allowing for maximum flexibility of movement.
Though carbon fiber outsoles are not exclusive to this model, they allow for the maximum power transfer with every stroke and make it as durable as any other pair of cycling footwear. What sets this shoe apart from the others is its aircraft grade stainless steel construction, ensuring that the Fizik R5 UOMO is one of the most durable shoes on the market. While a more expensive shoe, it offers a combination of the some of the best features on the market. Carbon fiber outsoles, BOA IP1 closures and inner micro-adjustment strap, and an aircraft grade stainless steel construction make it an attractive package for its price point. It is also available in a wide variety of colors.
5. Five Ten Freerider
Excellent Grip for Pedals
Great for All-Mountain, XC, Park and Moderate Downhill Rides
Men’s & Women’s Styles Available
Lighter Duty EVA Midsole
This pair of shoes by Five Ten is not only a great choice if you’re in the market for footwear that will serve you well for all-mountain riding, but also for when you’re off your bike and need something for casual use. It is available both in men’s and women’s versions and is a perfect fit for the wider foot that needs more space in the metatarsal area. If you choose this pair of shoes, you will find that they provide all-day comfort for medium rides and use around town.Read more
The best feature of the Five Ten Freerider is the fact that these shoes will give you some of the best grip on non-clip pedals, providing you with plenty of control, solid climbing, and excellent downhill performance. The upside of the soles on these shoes is that they will do well on all types of surfaces, dirt or pavement, and in all weather conditions, including rain and snow.
Even if you intend on spending all day on your bike and working up a sweat, these shoes will provide you with great breathability due to the suede and mesh upper that will allow moisture to escape more easily. While this means that you will need waterproof socks or overshoes when it’s wet outside, the construction is made so that there are fewer pieces and parts, extending the lifespan of these mountain biking shoes.
These shoes cost average compared to the rest of the products on this list. They will provide you with excellent grip on non-clip pedals, will be comfortable for all-day use, and will do equally well off the bike as well as for when you are riding. The durable sole will last you a long time, regardless of the conditions you decide to use them in.
6. Pearl iZumi X-ALP Seek VII
Good Power Transfer
Great for Commuting & MTB Use
Decent Arch Support
Adjustable Lacing System
Narrow Toe Box
This pair of shoes is a versatile option for those looking for a good pair of commute footwear, and do just as well off the bike as when riding. They are also an excellent choice for an MTB shoe and are compatible with SPD cleats, which is the most common pedal standard. The lacing system enables a secure, adjustable fit, while the breathable upper is great for summer use when you need a shoe that won’t have you feeling too hot and sweaty.Read more
These shoes have an outsole that is made out of carbon rubber, while the shank is fiberglass injected, giving you excellent power transfer and rigidity. Although for some users this will prove to be too hard an outsole for strolling, you will appreciate these if you need footwear that will perform well when riding, and do well-enough for when you have to get off your bike.
Even though they run almost a full size small, you will find that these shoes will be comfortable enough, even for all-day wear. The EVA Alp-X midsole provides just the right amount of cushioning so that your feet don’t take too much of a beating. They give adequate arch support, but can also fit custom insoles for a winner combination focused on performance and comfort. The Pearl Izumi X-ALP Seek VII come at a great value, especially when taking into consideration that they are versatile, SPD compatible, breathable and comfortable enough to wear all day long. Although you will need to study the sizing chart before ordering, they will prove to be a great choice if you need something that will provide you all the benefits of cycling shoes but will look more like regular everyday tennis shoes.
7. Pearl iZumi Select RD IV
Fair Price Point
The Pearl Izumi Select RD V represents the cyclist who wants the quality of the aforementioned brands but not the price point. For the economic but no less serious cyclist, it is an appealing fit. It has a few unique features that boost its functionality and make it stand alone as an attractive and competitive mid-range shoe.Read more
It has a closure system that more closely follows the contour of the foot, with a 1:1 ratio anatomically closure system involving forefront straps at a 25-degree angle. It is also compatible with road or spd pedals for functionality that is far more versatile.
While other cycling footwear might have design elements that make them stiff, the Pearl Izumi Select RD V is designed for comfort. The anatomically correct closure system virtually eliminates hotspots and works to reduce swelling. New cyclists not used to long rides or racing will appreciate the comfort and lack of pressure build up. The Pearl Izumi RD V is a great shoe for beginner to intermediate cyclists. It’s ergonomic closure system and mid-range price point ensure cyclists stay happier pedaling, and spending.
8. Gavin VELO
Sturdy & Rigid Outsole
Compatible With a Number of Clips
Three Point Hook & Loop Closure
Unsuitable for Walking
The Gavin VELO are shoes oriented towards both professional and recreational users but come with a price tag that is the lowest on this list. These shoes are compatible with Look, SPD, SPD-R, and SPD-SL cleat systems, and give you the benefits of a comfy, adjustable fit with plenty of mesh and ventilation to keep your feet cool and dry even during the toughest rides when you’re bound to work up a sweat. Users with wide feet will particularly like these, as cycling footwear often tends to be too narrow.Read more
The sole of these shoes is made out of nylon fiberglass, which gives these the rigidity you need for better power transfer so that you can develop maximum speed with less effort. The better foot to pedal connection will give you the opportunity to exercise more control over how your ride goes.
These shoes are made out of a synthetic leather material with plenty of vents that will give you a good level of breathability when you most need it. They are lightweight, which help your ride in the sense that it won’t slow you down, while the durability on these shoes is a feature that you will love, as they will serve you well, for plenty of time. These shoes by Gavin are the most affordable model on this list, which means that they are the perfect pair if you are just getting into cycling, and are looking to find out whether certain clipping systems will work for you. They are also a good choice for indoor cycling. Note that clips are not included.
9. Venzo Shimano SPD
Award-Winning Performance Technology
Superior Quality for Fair Price
Pedals & Cleats Included
Run ½ Size Big
Sometimes, your cycling adventure may take you off the beaten path to roads less traveled. When that happens, you have to be able to depend on a capable shoe that can go the distance like a pair of Venzo Shimano SPD’s. With their award-winning performance technology, quick-drying mesh, and low-cut construction for a comfortable, fast-fitting feel, no mountain stands a chance.Read more
Their sleek construction is comprised of a quick-drying mesh that is highly breathable, a textile lining with a removable sockliner, and low-cut fit that allows them to be easily slipped on or off. A light feel, flexible forefoot, and a running shoe beveled heel assure speed, performance, and durability don’t have to come at the expense of comfort. Rule the road and feel good doing it.
Ranking average in price when compared to other models on this list, these boast a level of performance technology and comfort well beyond their price point, and they even come with pedals and cleats!
10. Shimano XC31
Compatible With 2 Bolt SPD Cleats & Pedals
Hard Polyurethane Outsole
Velcro Closure for Easy Adjustability
Enough Flexibility for Walking
Shimano Dynalast System
Slippery on Smooth Surfaces
Lacks Transfer With Clipless Pedals
The Shimano XC31 is an excellent entry level pair of footwear that won’t burn a hole in your pockets but will provide you with plenty of features that will make your ride a much smoother one. Made out of a synthetic leather upper that won’t stretch, with a three strap velcro closure and an adaptable cup insole that will accommodate a wide variety of feet, these shoes are the perfect choice if you need an inexpensive shoe that will serve you well for cross-country riding and commute use.Read more
The outsole of these shoes is a good combination of stiffness and flexibility and takes into consideration that you may need to walk some parts of the trail when riding. It has mud-shedding properties, and is made out of and is made out of polyurethane, with an arch pad that will give you added pedal stability.
The outsole of these shoes is hard, and does very well with abrasion, so you can rest assured the Shimano XC31 will serve you well and for a long time. An added bonus is the fact that it is one of the most lightweight pairs of shoes you can find, weighing a mere 1lb 8oz. It has the advantages of Shimano Dynalast system that provides a better ergonomic position for a more efficient upstroke, all ensuring that your energy is saved and directed towards maximum performance.
The Shimano XC31 is an excellent choice if you are new to cycling and are looking for a pair of shoes that won’t break the bank, but will give you better grip and power transfer than a regular pair of shoes. When you add the fact that the outsole is hard and resistant to abrasion, you get a shoe that will last you plenty of time at a cost that is affordable, and perfect for enthusiasts who don’t need all the features of professional grade footwear.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
You may have noticed that cycling footwear usually comes with a carbon outsole that has a certain stiffness rating. While in any other type of shoe, you would want as much flexibility as possible, for cycling gear it's quite the opposite. This is because of a simple reason. In order to make the most of your stroke, you need a hard surface to push on (that also won't allow your feet to get hurt from the pedals).
Energy transfer (or power transfer) is one of the most critical components of a cycling shoe because it determines how effective your pedaling will be. This manifests in certain ways, like how much pressure is dispersed across the forefoot area, whether due to shoe construction or how the sole is clipped onto the pedal.
A heel cup that makes sure the foot is positioned to make the most powerful upstroke it can, means that you will get a greater energy transfer and maximum energy return with every pedal.
Not all footwear for cycling comes with the same pedal compatibility, and you will find that shoes made for this purpose come in three varieties; those that clip to the pedals of your bike, those that have cleats that snap into the pedals, and those that have no connecting system. Most models are designed to specifically work with pedals that are clipless. They have holes drilled into their soles for attaching the cleats needed to snap into the pedals and make a secure connection. Cleats come with pedals as a system, not already attached to the shoes. Therefore, the shoes you purchase have to be matched with appropriate cleats and their corresponding pedals. There are two types of hole systems on the bottoms of cycling shoes where cleats are placed:
The 2-hole system, or SPD system (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) as it is often referred to, is typically used for all types of cycling, from road cycling to mountain cycling, as well as marathons and simple cruising. The recessed cleat design, when matched up with the corresponding shoes, makes for a less awkward, hobbled gait when you dismount from your bike, not to mention minimizes the clip-clop sound as you walk.
The 3-hole system is almost always a road style system, because it’s the more durable system, and offers performance-enhancing efficiency and high energy return for the rider. Since the cleat is larger, it’s able to disperse the force the rider applies to the pedal over a much wider area than the 2-hole system. This allows for the pressure to be reduced on the connection systems themselves and make them more secure when the rider is pedaling for long periods or at fast speeds.
Cycling footwear without pedal systems like cleats or clips mean that the rider is not bound to the connection of their bike, which can sometimes make a novice rider feel more comfortable. Being connected to your bike at the sole can mean more serious injuries if you fall and can’t extract yourself from it. It’s important to work your way up to pedal systems.
One of the things that will greatly influence your performance is the weight of the shoe. While a lot of tech is great, the heavier the shoe, the more difficult it will be for you to keep up with your pace after you've been on your bike for a few hours. Shoes intended for different types of use will weigh more or less, depending on the type of construction required by the activity.
To get the most out of your ride you need shoes that are comfortable, so you can concern yourself with getting where you’re going, not when you can stop and rest to give your feet a break. Many models featured on this list have built-in ergonomic designs with extra foam cushioning and arch support so that all pedaling is painless. Even certain closure systems along the uppers are designed to distribute pressure evenly along the foot, reducing swelling and hotspots. Performance shoes are often rigid along the midsole, making them stiff and much less comfortable. Luckily, most insoles can be modified for any rider that experiences pain at the forefoot, such as with the addition of a gel insert or having a custom-made orthotic insole made. Since most energy is expelled at the forefoot with each pedal push through, this is where most pain will be experienced, so taking the extra time and care to find the most comfortable fit in that area is paramount.
Footwear made specifically for cycling should never fit badly, seeing that ill-fitting cycling shoes can lead to injury of the foot during consistent wear, or allow a greater probability of slipping off a pedal and losing control of your bike resulting in an accident. The upper portion of your model of choice is where fit is most important and can be customized. Shoes for cruising or casual rides often have lace or velcro closures, whereas racing, touring, and marathon shoes often have ratchet-style buckles. Though one would think the tighter the shoe, the greater the energy transfer and return, in actuality, it can limit blood circulation and restrict blood flow, so a happy balance must be achieved. This type of shoes often comes in wider sizes for those that can’t fit into their ordinarily tapered design. Anatomically correct closure systems, whether ratchet, buckle, or lace-up eliminate hotspots, swelling, and injury.
Features most common to road shoes
Features that are common to mountain shoes
Whether you’re cycling a long distance or a short distance, on the road or up a mountain, it’s important that your footwear has a high level of breathability. This keeps the temperature inside your shoe at a constant state and keeps your feet dry and cool. Look for mesh fabric or webbing that allows for good air flow, or integrated air intakes that will keep your feet dry and fresh feeling. Some models even have holes in the sole area that increase air circulation and keep you comfortable in warmer weather. Some cycling footwear will have a certain amount of insulation for colder months, but an appropriate amount of mesh will still be present to keep your feet properly ventilated. Although the amount of mesh present will depend on the type of shoe you need and the climate you’re cycling in, the need for breathability will always be there.
A good shock absorbing system is becoming more and more important in this type of footwear due to the presence of foot fatigue and joint pain, especially for marathon riders and those that pedal long distances.
Whether you race hard for several hours at a time, cruise the open road touring for the day, or spend it battling the incline of a mountain trail, you need a shoe that can stand lots of impacts. Several brands design their shoes with footbeds which are removable and have pads to absorb the shock of impact, just like other athletic shoes. There are also areas in the shoe, under the forefoot and back towards the heel where gel packs are built into the footbed construction to give extra shock absorption.
Each instance your foot pushes forward on the pedal, from the shoe outsole to the forefoot and all the way back, the shock absorption systems in place absorb this force of contact, leaving your joints pain free. This way you can pedal longer and harder without sacrificing your endurance or performance level.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Many cyclists will find themselves off paved trails and on the road for more adventurous and challenging rides, which, while fun, can also come with hazards.
Rule of thumb is that riders have the same road rules as cars. Right of way applies for turns, stop signs and stop lights. Always ride with the traffic instead of opposed to it.
If you're riding in the darker hours of the day, make sure to get a head and tail light so that you are visible to drivers!
There are several methods of training, based on what your goals are for cycling. If you're looking to go long, having a 'long ride' during the week is ideal, where you can increase mileage 5-10 miles per week.
If you're going for speed or strength, interval training, or hill training is ideal. For intervals, Aim for 30-90 seconds of effort, followed by 15-60 seconds rest before starting again. For hill training, find a hill that takes between 4-8 minutes to reach the top, and repeat for a set number of climbs.
Other Factors to Consider
Investing in a pair of good cycling footwear is not easy, especially considering the fact that this is a type of footwear that's expensive, and that is highly specialized, meaning that you won't actually be getting a lot of use out of it off your bike.
Whether you've decided to get a basic model, or are more inclined towards investing in a flagship, it is highly recommended that you try on the shoe in store first. Because cycling shoes fit in a very particular way that's snug and stiff, you may need to try several models before you actually find the one that works for you. For the best possible results, you should try and get a model that fits very snugly, allows no movement inside the shoe, and has a very stiff sole for maximizing power transfer. And, of course, don't forget about pedal compatibility!
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What is the best type of closure system?
Shoes made for cycling have several varieties of closure systems depending on their purpose. Casual riding shoes often just have laces or velcro, while performance racing shoes often have ratchet systems or buckles. The latter is designed in such a way as to facilitate quick customization and alteration on the go, but both are secure and simply vary in weight. Some can create different points of discomfort, so much of deciding on a lacing closure system depends on personal preference and the purpose of the shoe.
q: What style of shoes withstands the most use?
Since there are many different types of shoes designed for different types of riding and terrain, deducing which style of cycling shoes is the toughest comes down to how well they perform in their designated category. Where road shoes are concerned, they won’t be thick and heavy to be tough, but they will need a high energy return, be comfortable, and breathable so that they last out on the open road. Mountain biking shoes tend to need to need lots of tread and lugs for proper foot placement, and those should be durable. Since so much of selection and wear comes down to personal preference, whichever style you choose it should stand up to your cycling habits.
q: How long do these types of shoes last?
Cycling footwear should be able to last hundreds of miles. Marathon and other racing shoes are designed to last longer since so many miles are covered in a single day. Avid cyclists, despite how much ground they cover, expect shoes to last several years at a time. Any brands that have shoes that need to be replaced every 6 months are only suitable for cyclists that take casual rides.
q: How do you clean these shoes?
ycling shoes, especially those used for mountain riding, trail riding, or touring can get pretty dirty. If your shoes need cleaning, most are waterproof with a Gore-Tex lining that won’t be affected if you give them a rinse off with a hose or run water over them with some soap and a rag. Leave them outside to dry and don’t forget to remove the insole footpads to let them dry separately.
q: Do you have to replace cleats?
Anytime you feel your footing get loose or see your cleats visibly cracking, they should be replaced to avoid injury and increase security. Avid cyclists will end up replacing their cleats about once a year based on simple wear and tear and as a part of annual maintenance.