Ultimate Cycling Shoes Buying Guide – Everything You Need to Know


This article is a complete guide to everything you need to know and consider when purchasing cycling shoes. We start by exploring the benefits of cycling shoes and look at factors that cause differences in price. We then highlight different types of cycling shoes and focus specifically on clip-in road cycling ones. You will also learn about popular pedal brands, their positives and negatives, cycling shoe brands, cleats, best online shopping websites, and much more. 


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What are the main benefits of using cycling shoes?

If you don’t have time to go through the whole article please see a quick comparison of our TOP 4 choices below:

Higher efficiency and minimum power loss

This one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a bike light. We suggest always look at your needs first and use the table above for guidance on the number of lumens for your front and rear light. Riding on countryside roads and through the city center are 2 very different use cases and would require different brightness levels.

Utilization of more muscle groups

With your regular sneakers or casual walking shoes, you can only push down on your bike’s pedals in order to propel forward. To do this we use muscles called quadriceps or quads. On the other hand, cycling-specific shoes are clipped to your pedals and as a result, you can also propel forward while pulling up and not only pushing down. When pulling up a different set of muscles called hamstrings and glutes are used. That’s why cycling-specific shoes allow you to utilize more muscle groups, divide the workload and thus delay muscle fatigue. 

Make you look like a cyclist

Last, but definitely not least, owning and using a pair of cycling shoes would definitely make you look cooler and will give you a feeling of being a proper cyclist. 

What is the difference between expensive and cheap cycling shoes?

In general, sole and upper material quality, as well as a closure system, would determine a price tag for a pair of cycling shoes. For example, shoes with stiffer and more lightweight soles will be more expensive. There are other factors, of course, but the ones below are the most common. 

Sole material quality

Entry-level cycling shoes usually are made of the injection-molded plastic sole, which is relatively inexpensive, however, it is heavier and more flexible. The more flexible the sole the less efficient it is at transferring energy from your legs to the pedals. Shoes in a middle category would use a combination of plastic and carbon fiber, plastic and fiberglass, or would be fully made of carbon fiber. The high-end cycling shoes are made of carbon fiber sole, which is the strongest, lightest, and, of course, the most expensive sole material type.

Upper material

Upperparts of entry-level cycling shoes are usually made of nylon mesh fabrics. This material is quite cheap, but on the downside, it is heavy and not very breathable. Shoes in the middle category are usually made of synthetic leather or suede. The high-end category shoes are made of real leather. However, keep in mind that often the upper part of a cycling shoe is made of various fabrics that are stitched together. 

Closure system

There are several popular closure systems out there. We listed the most common ones below starting with the most expensive Boa system. 

Boa system

Boa is the most popular and, in our opinion, the best closure system out there for cycling shoes. This is because it is one of the lightest and strongest ones. In addition, Boa allows you to do micro-adjustments to ensure the most comfortable fit and you even can make these adjustments on the go.

Velcro straps system

The velcro system is quite lightweight and there are plenty of cycling shoes that would come with it. They are also quite robust when it comes to adjustments, however, they would fall behind the Boa one.

Ratchet system

The ratchet system was quite popular in the past and less so nowadays. You might have seen a similar system on ski or snowboarding boots. It is quite lightweight, however, usually, it is less versatile and harder to adjust. 


Lases are still popular and used in modern cycling shoes. They are very light, however, it takes longer to put them on and adjust. For example, it is quite impossible to adjust them on the go and you would need to stop in order to loosen or tighten your shoes. 

Do I need a pair of cycling shoes?

This is a tough one to answer and will depend on how much time you spend on your bike. If you are a regular cyclist and use your bike at least once a week then you can benefit from cycling-specific shoes. In addition, if you want to enjoy cycling even more, then getting a pair is a great idea. However, if you almost never cycle or don’t even own a bike then don’t bother and your sneakers would do just fine for now. 

What are the different types of cycling shoes?

If you don’t have time to go through the whole article please see a quick comparison of our TOP 4 choices below:


Road cycling shoes are the most popular ones. As the name suggests, they are perfect for road cycling and racing and have some pretty awesome features that help you to cycle longer and more efficiently. The closure system is usually built for quick and precise buckling so you foot it locked in a perfect position. Usually, these shoes also have a ventilation system in place. The overall shoe is quite smooth except for the hole mounts made for cleat attachment. These shoes are not suited for walking, expect very short distances, since the hard sole is not flexible at all. 


Triathlon specific shoes usually have the same features as road ones, however, they are made for a faster and easier transition in and out. This is because triathletes need to quickly transition from swimming to cycling and then from cycling to running. Because of this, the shoes are built for better ventilation, a more comfortable interior so you can ride without socks, and the closure system is usually a single velcro strap with heel loops. All of these help to seamlessly and quickly transition between triathlon activities. 


Spinning shoes are designed for indoors and specifically spinning classes. In most cases, they have a 2-bolt mount for SPD pedals and cleat mounts are recessed. Recessed cleats mean that the cleats are hidden inside a sole and are not sticking out so you can easily walk with these shoes on. In addition, spinning shoes are usually slightly more flexible than road ones. 


City bike shoes are designed for commuting and urban cycling. They are quite similar to hiking shoes and come with a 2-bolt cleat system and in general, the sole is more flexible. Also, the cleats are usually recessed, which is similar to spinning shoes. This flexibility and recessed cleats allow you to walk with the shoes on.

What are the different road bike pedals and which would be ideal for me?

There are many different pedal options and getting overwhelmed with choices is super easy. In general, you can categorize road pedals into flat or platform pedals, toe clips or cage, hybrid, clipless or clip-in.


In the article, we are focusing on clipless or clip-in road pedals. Don’t let the name “clipless” confuse you. These are actually pedals that you clip into and your foot stays secure in the pedal. 

Different pedal options:
Flat or platform
Toe clips or cage
Clipless (clip-in)
What are the best and most popular clipless or clip-in pedals?
1. Shimano Pedalling Dynamics SL

SPD SLs are one of the most popular road cycling pedals and the majority of cyclists prefer this safe bet. They are high quality, reliable, durable and usually a choice you will not regret. The SPD SLs in most cases are one-sided, but there are double-sided pedals as well. Often these pedals would come with a tension adjustability option, meaning you can adjust how easy it is to clip out and in. 

2. Speedplay

Speedplay is another popular pedals brand. These pedals are also called lollipops because of their look. They are high-quality lightweight and durable . Speedplay is double-sized so it is quite easy to clip in quickly. There is no tension adjustability, however, you get a higher degree of float adjustability directly in the pedals themselves. For example, to adjust float with SPD SLs you need to change a cleat color, but with Speedplay you would not need to do that. 

3. Look Keo

Look are pioneers of clipless pedals and produced the first pair in 1984. The design and clip-in logic were taken from ski bindings. These pedals have one-sided clip-in option, which is similar to SPD SLs and 3-bolt design for attaching cleats. There are 3 types of Look cleats with different angles of float: black = 0°, grey = 4.5°, red = 9°. Also, some pedals have tension adjustability so you can adjust how hard it is to clip out.

4. Time Xpresso

Time Xpresso is another brand of road cycling pedals that you can consider. They are known for being very easy to clip in because of their iclic technology. The weight is reduced because of their carbon flexion blade, which is different from steel springs used by many pedal brands. They are also quite adjustable and preferred by cyclists who like more adjustability when they ride. 

What should you consider when choosing and buying cleats?

Cleats are essential for your cycling shoes since they clip your shoes to pedals. They are quite similar in shape, however, there are differences from brand to brand. The most important factors about cleats to keep in mind are: 


How much movement from side to side they allow before you unclip. The larger the angle the more flexibility you have. 


How often you would need to change them since they wear out especially if you walk in your shoes quite a lot. 


The heavier the cleats the more weight is added to your bike, which is something you want to avoid. 

Should I be worried about buying online and getting a poor fit?

Fit is an important factor to consider when choosing your cycling shoes. If you always struggle with finding a proper shoe size because, for example, your feet are wider than average, then we would suggest avoiding shopping for shoes online and trying them on offline first. However, if this is not the case and you even bought shoes online in the past then use shoe size guides provided by each brand. Usually, online stores also provide instructions on how to find your size for a particular brand and sometimes would suggest going a size up or down to your regular everyday shoes. For example, Spiuk provides the following guide, which is extremely useful. 

What are the 10 most popular road cycling shoe brands in the United States?

There are hundreds of cycling shoe brands out there. Based on our research, market share, personal usage and online demands we shortlisted these top 10 most popular shoe brands in the United States: 

We also reviewed some of the best road cycling shoes for men and women so feel free to check them out: 

What are the best online websites for cycling shoes shopping in the World, United States and Canada, UK, Ireland and the rest of Europe?

There are hundreds of cycling shoe brands out there. Based on our research, market share, personal usage and online demands we shortlisted these top 10 most popular shoe brands in the United States: 


Cycling shoes are one of the most essential gears to improve your cycling experience. In this article we tried to answer the most pressing and important question when searching for a pair of cycling shoes. The general rule is that the stiffer the sole and the higher the quality of a closure system the more expensive your shoes will be. Also keep in mind that clip-in road cycling shoes also require proper pedals and cleats. 

We strongly  advise you to decide what kind of cycling you will be doing, what is your price range and use this article as a guide to help you make a decision.

Why should you trust us?

In order to feature and review any products on our website we do extensive research, read user feedback, carefully review forum threads, look at search trends, brand popularity, try to actually use and test as many products as possible ourselves, and evaluate other factors depending on the product category. By doing extensive research and incorporating it with our own experience we are able to shortlist only a handful of products out of thousands of options. 


We want to bring value to our readers and help them find answers to questions and buy the most appropriate cycling products. Brands and cycling professionals always try to innovate and improve to get the best possible outcome. Unfortunately, innovations and product improvements these days result only in marginal gains, but the price increase for these gains is not equally proportional. In economics, this behavior is defined as “diminishing returns”. Knowing this we focus on featuring the best value for the money products that are affordable, but at the same time have a lot to offer. We don’t want our visitors to overspend on something they will not benefit from.

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