Road Cycling Shoes Buyer’s Guide – Find The Perfect Pair For You!

What do you have to keep in mind when you’re buying new cycling shoes? Whether you’re a beginner or have been riding weekly for years, a good pair of road shoes is important for a pleasant ride. With all the different available brands and sizes it can be hard to determine which ones you need to have. Our “shoe-specialist” Agnes gladly points out all of the aspects to keep in mind when you’re buying a new pair of road shoes.

As a cyclist it’s best to have your feet fixed to the pedals. This results in the best power transmission so you can both press on and pull the pedal. But if you just started cycling then it might be a bit scary! I do recommend to start with cleats right away though, eventually you can’t do without.

Do you think using cleats is a bit scary? Then practice clicking in and out at home by holding onto a chair or wall first. Then go for short tours around the neighbourhood and if you feel more secure, then you’re ready to get out into the world.

Different kinds of road bike shoes

If you chose to ride with clipless pedals then you’ll see you have plenty of options. The right choice is a personal one, often one brand just appeals more than the other.

Budget is of course also important. There are pedals that set you back around two tenners, but also pairs that cost some £939(!) pounds. For many people that’d also be a great price for an entire bike.
However do keep in mind that if you spend a bit more money on pedals, you’ll probably get more rides out of them. They rotate smoothly and the bearings are better so the pedals last longer than the cheapest pairs.

Additionally, pedals also weigh less if they cost more, which is a big plus for many riders. Every ounce counts if you have to climb a mountain.

Buying cleats

When you’ve bought your road shoes, you still need cleats, which are sold separately. This because there are so many different kinds of brands and types of pedals that cleats are included with the pedals rather than the shoes.

Road shoesA road shoe always has 3 screw holes in a triangle. This is the SPD-SL system. The Speedplay pedals are an exception, but they have adapters so you can also attach these to ‘normal’ road shoes.

Take care to choose a pair of shoes with 3 threaded holes in the sole. If there are only 2, you have MTB shoes.

Mountain bike shoes on the road bike?

Some people choose to ride with mountain bike pedals on a road bike. It’s possible, but it’s recommended to choose road pedals. These are built differently than MTB pedals.

The surface is bigger for a better power transmission, and MTB pedals have better drainage for water and mud, whereas road bike pedals have a more compact design.

Which size cycling shoes?

When you’re buying new cycling shoes it is especially hard to choose the right size. This is why we made a shoe size recommendation blog. If you follow that, you’ll easily get to the right size for you.

Maat fietsschoen

Every brand is different when it comes to length and last. With the size recommendation you can check if you have the right length, but also if you need narrower, medium, or wide shoes.

This way you’re (almost) sure that you order the right size.

Which sole?

The soles of road shoes can be very different. There are three kinds of soles: soles that are rigid, medium soles, and soles that are soft. The cheaper the shoes, the softer the soles. This because cheaper shoes are made from nylon, mostly. If you put a lot of pressure on your pedals the soles bend and a lot of power is wasted.

The stiffer the sole, the more carbon it has. More carbon makes shoes lighter, but also results in an optimal power transmission. Every push on the pedal is transferred to speed without power loss.

From a soft to a stiff sole

Often, beginning riders start with a softer sole. This is more comfortable, and perfect power transmission is not important if you don’t compete in races. The more advanced the rider, the stiffer the sole needs to be. Pro riders often wear full carbon soles when every tenth of a second counts!
On our website we have indicated the rigidity of the sole. So think about what you need, how often you’re going to use them, and your budget. Then you can decide which shoes are suitable for you.

Road shoes with velcro or dial?

The closing system of road shoes can differ. Entry level models often have 3 velcro straps. This makes it easy to close them, and to put them off again. However, the velcro wears after some time, and they offer minimal support for the feet. They are great if you want simple, affordable shoes!
If you choose shoes that are more expensive, the choice of closing system increases. The next step would be two velcro straps and one buckle, for example. This buckle allows you to tighten your shoe around the instep, so it offers better support. There are many other combinations.


This system is used more often. It is a system where there’s one (or more) dial and a wire on the shoe. The wire is wrapped around the dial, and when you turn the dial, you can tighten or loosen the wire.

This is a MTB shoe, with a great example of a dial closing system in combination with velcro.
To illustrate: this is an MTB shoe, with a dial closing system in combination with a velcro strap.

The wire adjusts the shoes to fit your feet. This way it tightens the shoes in places where it’s necessary. We also often see laces on road shoes. This also allows you to adjust the shoes to your preferences. Only drawback is that you can’t really adjust them once you’re on your bike.

Summer shoes, winter shoes, or something in between?

So, are you able to choose which specifications you need? Then there’s only one choice left… The type of shoes. If you ride only in the summer, then choose a pair with more ventilation.
Do you want to use them throughout the year? Then it’s better to choose thicker shoes so you can survive the winter with overshoes if it’s really cold.

Road shoesDo you want to use them only in the winter? Then choose winter shoes. These are extra high, waterproof, and have a warm lining. We indicate the type of the shoes under specifications in our webshop to make things easy.

Now there’s nothing in your way to enjoy your rides!

Agnes Ronner

Agnes Ronner

Track-, road-, or mountain bike. Whatever it is, I love it. Cycling started out as an alternative to skating in the summer. I then moved to track cycling at the highest level, and rode my mountain bike on rainy days and during the winter. I currently have a Giant TCR Advanced 1 LTD and a Sensa Merano SFB Pro. I might just get a racing licence next year, and start competing again!

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