The 3 Types of Bicycle Shoes & the Purpose of Wearing Them

cycling shoes
source: Slo Cyclist

While you can ride a bicycle in just about any kind of footwear, any biking enthusiast can tell you that specialised cycling shoes can greatly benefit your riding experience. Compared to conventional sports shoes, bicycle shoes feature stiffer soles so that you transfer more energy as you pedal. The type of riding you intend on doing will have a huge impact on which bicycle shoes are ideal for you. 

Road bike riders will need a different pair than mountain bikers or commuters who run errands around the city. Most cycling shoes are typically paired with a compatible pedal in order to keep your feet secured on the bicycle. Many cycling shoes come with 3-hole or 2-hole cleats that you can clip into clipless pedals, enabling you to pedal much more efficiently. There are a couple of types of shoes bicycle riders can choose from. Knowing how they differ from one another and what factors to consider when shopping is key to picking the right pair.

The Different Types

biking shoes
source: Bike Rumor

Bike shoes can be either made for road cycling, mountain biking and casual biking shoes. Road cycling models are made for maximum pedalling efficiency. They have the stiffest soles and use 3-hole protruding cleats which connect them to clipless pedals. Mountain biking shoes, on the other hand, feature grippy soles for extra traction on rugged trails. There are two types of mountain biking shoes – shoes designed for flat pedals (have a sticky rubber sole and no cleats), and shoes that clip into clipless pedals (feature 2-hole cleats which are recessed into the sole). And lastly, casual bike shoes resemble conventional sneakers and they’re ideal for commuters and recreational riders who want some of the features offered by bicycle shoes (stiff soles or shoes that attach to pedals), but also want more stylish and comfortable footwear. Casual bicycle shoes that are compatible with clipless pedals feature cleats which are recessed into the sole.

Features of Road Cycling Shoes

mtb shoes
source: Bike Rumor

Road bike shoes have smooth outsoles, lightweight construction and great ventilation. They can be distinguished by their stiff soles that allow them to facilitate power transfer from your feet to the pedals, which makes them ideal for riders looking for maximum performance. These shoes aren’t designed for extended walking as they lack traction on the sole, aren’t flexible, and feature cleats which protrude from the soles. Road bicycle shoes use a clipless pedal and shoe combination where the cleats located under the shoes are attached to the pedals. Contrary to what their name implies, clipless shoes are actually clipped onto pedals, but their name has stuck from when they were named many years ago to distinguish them from toe-clip shoes.

Most road shoes bicycle models have 3 holes drilled into the sole to accept the cleats and pedals from Shimano, Time and Look. 3-hole cleat shoe systems offer the most energy transfer and stability when riding. There’s a large cleat that spreads the force applied to the pedal over a larger area. This, in turn, reduces pressure on the connection points and enables a secure connection when you’re pushing hard. Some road shoes use a 2-hole cleat system that is compatible with pedals from manufacturers like Time, Shimano and Crankbrothers.

Features of Mountain Bike Shoes

source: Cycling Magazine

There are two types of mountain bike shoes – clipless and flat. The ideal type for you will depend on the type of riding you do, and how much time you’ll be spending off the bicycle. Clipless shoes use a 2-bolt cleat system. Unlike road bicycle shoes, the cleats on mountain bike shoes are usually recessed into the soles, making it easier to walk. They’re a great option for nontechnical, cross-country and distance riding. Some road cyclists prefer to use mountain bike shoes due to their walkability and comfort. Flat mountain bike shoes, on the other hand, don’t feature cleats and fit on wider, flat platform pedals. They have grippy rubber outsoles that are designed for improved traction. The more expensive mountain bike shoe models have stiffer soles, enhanced ankle and foot protection, lighter weight, waterproof liners, and buckle-and-ratchet or hook-and-loop straps for improved foot security and fit.

Features of Casual Bicycle Shoes

casual bicycle shoes
source: Pinterest

Casual bicycle shoes are similar to your typical sneakers, and they’re great for recreational, urban and indoor cycling. They’re basically a hybrid between casual and cycling footwear, and they offer compatibility with clipless pedal systems. However, they also feature recessed cleats and rubber outsoles to enable easy walking. Further, casual bicycle shoes aren’t as stiff as mountain or road biking shoes, so you don’t get as much pedal power. However, they’re definitely more comfortable and stylish to walk in, making them a great option if you want to bike and hang out at a restaurant or cafe later.