Cycling Shoes Buying Guide


Whether you are shredding dirt in the mountains, tearing up the tarmac, commuting to work or competing in a triathlon, well fitted cycling shoes will help you to maximise your pedal power and performance. With so many different cycling shoes to choose from, deciding on the right pair for you can be a bit confusing so here is our guide to the different types of cycling shoes available. 

Before we begin though, it’s important to point out that regardless of which cycling shoes you opt for, you will need to match your cycling shoes to your pedals. So, if you don’t yet know what type of pedals you have or want, use this guide in combination with our Cycling Pedals Buying Guide.




Key features:

  • Stiff soles
  • Aerodynamic
  • Three bolt cleat pedals
  • Lightweight
  • Close fit


Road cycling shoes are designed to be used with clipless road pedals. Featuring a stiff smooth sole and a three bolted plastic cleat they will clip into the pedal to give you better pedal stroke efficiency and control. Broadly speaking, the stiffer the sole, the more power transfer there will be, however, you may also feel more vibration from the road in a stiffer sole which can lead to fatigue, so make sure you find the right balance for your level of riding. 


Fit is also really important so try on a few pairs for size. All feet are different so you will need to find the best length and width for your foot and make sure that your heel doesn’t move around whilst you pedal. Good ventilation will also help prevent ‘hot feet’ but air vents or holes will let cold air in during the winter, even with overshoes, so choose the level of ventilation according to when and where you are likely to be riding and your personal preference. 


Cycling shoes are fastened using either the ‘BOA’ system which uses a dial to tighten a thin cable which closes the shoe around your foot, traditional laces or a velcro and buckle combination. All systems work well so choose which one feels most comfortable for you.





Key Features:

  • Grippy rubber sole
  • Smaller two bolt cleat 
  • Cleat recessed into sole of shoe to aid walking and prevent damage
  • Robust and durable
  • Good for both on and off road cycling


Mountain bike shoes are designed to be used with MTB pedals. Much more versatile than a road shoe, the cleats are bolted into a recess in the sole of the shoe so that they don’t protrude. This makes it much easier to walk in MTB shoes; perfect for when you need to hop off the bike or take the push up. 


MTB shoes have a grippy rubber sole to handle rough terrain and although they are more flexible than a road shoe, they are still stiff to ensure you get the pedal power you need. They are also much more robust and able to withstand the harsh environments of off-road riding. The downside of this though is that they will be a bit heavier. 


As with road shoes, the fit of MTB shoes is very important so try on a few pairs to find the best and most comfortable style for you, both on and off the bike. Mountain bike shoes are typically fastened using laces or a buckle and velcro combo but occasionally you’ll see a ‘BOA’ system too. 



If you have opted for flat pedals on your mountain bike, you won’t need clipless shoes. Instead, there are lots of really robust grippy mountain bike trainers that are designed to handle rough terrains and keep your feet on the pedals, even in big drop offs and steep descents. 






Leisure cycling shoes are similar to mountain bike shoes but are a bit more flexible and have features more akin to a normal hiking shoe. This style of shoe is perfect if you need to walk as well as ride in your shoes, but also want to clip in and benefit from the extra pedal power that a clipless pedal set up delivers. 







Key features:

  • Large pull tabs make them easier to get on and off in transition
  • More ventilation
  • Simple fastening straps


Triathlon cycling shoes are very similar to road cycling shoes but have a few features that make them particularly good for triathlon events and training. Transitions are very important in triathlon and you’ll want to minimise the amount of time needed to move from the swim to the bike and from the bike to the run. Part of this obviously involves putting your cycling shoes on and taking them off, so to assist you with this, triathlon shoes have a large pull tab on the heel and simple velcro fastenings. They are also seamless so you don’t need to wear socks, again saving time. Some riders find that standard road cycling shoes are more comfortable to ride in and are therefore willing to sacrifice a few seconds in transition, but it is very much a personal preference depending on your foot shape, riding style and length of ride.