How to Buy Cycling Shoes? | 10 Things to Consider

There are mainly three points of contact between your foot and the bike. This includes the foot/pedal interface, which is directly responsible for the bike’s forward movement. As such, it’s crucial to consider this fact when trying to figure out how to buy cycling shoes.

The key is to find a shoe that ticks all the boxes. It must be stylish, durable and comfy without sacrificing your performance. But, the bike accessories market is so competitive nowadays that it can be really tough to choose biking shoes without feeling like you want to pull your hair out.

Read on as we offer you the best advice on how to choose cycling shoes, based on what the pros are wearing.

How to Choose Cycling Shoes

In the following guide, we’re going to share valuable tips and tricks on how to buy cycling shoes that actually work if you want to ride a triathlon bike for beginners.

1. Type of Cycling Shoe

The first thing you must consider when shopping for biking shoes is the type of shoe you want. They’re mainly available in three categories; triathlon, high-performance race and recreational.

Most manufacturers offer different varieties of shoes, such as Pearl Izumi’s Select, Elite and Pro so you can get the most of your cycling sessions. Elite offers the best of both worlds when it comes to accessibility and performance.

Triathlon shoes are primarily designed to be worn alone to maintain a lightweight stride, a powerful shank, and a good fit.

2. Shoe Shank

You know that part between the insole and outsole of your shoe? That’s called the shank, and it’s attached to the cleat to ensure stability when you’re pushing against the pedal.

Shanks are typically constructed from poly-carbon composite or plastic, or carbon. For best results, the shank should be stiff yet lightweight to ensure optimal long-term performance.

3. Material of the Outsole

The material that’s used to make your shoe’s outsole is what touches the ground. Cycling shoes usually don’t have an outsole because they’re not designed for walking.

The type of outsole material that you have on your shoe will largely depend on your preferences, whether you’re looking for an entry-level, mid-range or high-end shoe.

Note that a bit of outsole will be present on the heel of even the most high-performance cycling shoe to make sure that the shoe stays balanced while walking. The outsole material is typically constructed from dual-density rubber for a sturdy grip.

4. Shoe Insole 

Most of the time, high-end shoes feature a customized insole that’s made to provide minimal support for your foot as you push the shank and pedal.

High-end fancy cycling insoles are one of the things you should consider when you’re looking to buy cycling shoes. They are usually light in weight, and feature a breathable and thin insole with bumps or pads that are included for added foot support when you need it.

The good news is that there are plenty of after-market insoles available for biking shoes. These are made to provide power transfer and they’re essential in foot control through the balanced transfer of micro-muscles into pedaling power.

5. Upper Material

The material that’s used to make the upper portion of your shoe includes the entire section above the midsole. Form-fit and weight reduction are essential aspects of this material in biking shoes.

Depending on the model, most high-end shoes come with composite and lightweight plastic upper material. Although comfortable, you need to break them in a while before you really start to feel the benefits.

One thing you could do to speed up the process is to insert a heel cup to maintain the heel in the correct position. This reduces hot spots and blisters from rubbing and makes it easier to push against the pedal when you need to.

Upper materials are typically made from carbon fiber, mesh, plastic and leather, or a combination of any of these materials depending on the manufactures. There’s usually no midsole since the shoe doesn’t actually touch the ground.

6. Water Resistance

Waterproof is usually not the first word that comes to mind when you think about biking shoes.

That’s because the materials used to make waterproof shoes are usually not lightweight and breathable, thus causing moisture build-up within the shoe, which leads to blisters.

Clearly, no-one wants any of that going on in their shoes which is one of the main reasons why you should wear cycling shoes. That’s why cycling shoes typically feature a waterproof or insulated bootie on the external part of the shoe.

7. Compatibility of Cleats

Most cycling shoe manufacturers make shoe models that are compatible with pedals made by all the major pedal manufacturers.

But, you will need to replace your cleats after some time so it’s important to make sure that the cleats you’re buying are actually compatible with your pedals.

8. Closure System

One of the most important aspects of your cycling shoe is the part that connects your foot to the shoe and vice versa.

You want a close and comfy fit that won’t leave you with blisters but it should be ergonomic and adjustable enough to provide enough space for the inevitable foot swelling that happens when pedaling over long distances.

Weight and ergonomics are the two factors that you have to keep in mind here.

9. Cycling Shoe Weight

When deciding on the weight of your shoe, check the most high-end models first to see where you fall in the price-to-weight spectrum. Typically, lightweight shoes cost more than heavier versions.

Of course, there’s no need to be overly strict about this, especially if you’re only buying the shoes for recreational purposes and don’t plan to compete anywhere.

Keep in mind that the stated weight of the shoe is usually based on the average men’s shoe size of the country where it’s made.

10. Width of the Shoes

Every shoe manufacturer either has a thin, medium or wide foot last. Most favor the mid-to-wide spectrum while others fall on the thin side.

Either way, it’s important to know what your foot’s width requirements are before you buy a pair of biking shoes, or ask the brand what their average fit is.

The last thing you want is a shoe that’s overly narrow while cycling for many kilometers.


Well, there you have it! All the secrets you need to know about how to buy cycling shoes so you can increase cycling speed and burn more calories.

We’ve given you all the information you need to know, including the type of material, weight, width, closure system, insoles and shank that you need for the perfect shoe.

Picking a shoe considering these factors will be a walk in the park!

Shailen Vandeyar

A proud Indian origin Kiwi who loves to plant trees and play with my pet bunny when not out cycling through the best routes, reviewing the latest gear, and sharing tips on everything biking.

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