Cycling shoes are an important piece of your equipment from a comfort standpoint as much as what many would have thought of first, power transfer during your pedaling stroke. When I think about comfort on your bike, your position and fit is essential but so are contact points. Contact points are your hands, which include your gloves, handlebar shape and bar tape/grips. Your rear end, so saddle selection and cycling shorts and chamois cream are all essential here. Then this brings us to your feet, pedals, shoes, insoles and socks all play a factor. When I mention these areas they are also all affected by your position on your bike. An adjustment to your fit can address one problem area but possibly lead to needed changes in another area. A properly fit pair of cycling shoes offers consistent support for your foot while you are pedaling. This will reduce pain and fatigue as a result of the pedaling process. Most cyclist are pedaling 80 – 90 times a minute or about 4,800 revolutions per hour.
Think about the act of pedaling. You start the pedaling process as your foot presses down on the insole of the shoe, once you apply enough energy you compress the outer sole into the pedal and then the pedal starts to move. In a non-cycling specific shoe you have several things happening. First the insole and inner sole of the shoe deforms from the pressure of the foot pushing, then the outer sole deforms from being pushed into the pedal. You have two surfaces that are not consistent in support to your foot during the pedaling process. This can lead to hot spots, fatigue, toes that “fall asleep” etc.. Not to mention the energy lost in the process of all of that happening. A cycling shoe offers consistent support for your foot without a change in the shape. Some cyclist will exert the same amount of impact that a marathon runner does. You want your foot supported during the pedaling process.
Cycling shoes aren’t like running shoes in the sense that you are going to go thru four or five pairs a season. They are going to last for a bunch of seasons offering you thousands of miles of riding comfort.
Cycling shoes come in two types as far as the cleat/pedal interface goes. A “three hole” which has the cleat mounted to the bottom of the sole causing you to walk with your toes in the air. Generally considered road shoes. Then there is a “two bolt” style (generally called SPD’s) where the cleat sits flush with the outer sole allowing you to walk with your fleet on the ground normally. Yes some shoes will accept a two bolt cleat that leaves it external but most are a recessed or flush mount. This style was originally designed for mountain biking but is becoming popular with road cyclists, touring cyclists and is the shoe used in spinning.
The “three bolt” pattern offers a larger pedal cleat interface and a lower foot position to the pedal spindle. The two bolt pedals have a smaller cleat pedal interface with a pedal design that is generally more open in design for shedding dirt and such around the cleat. Now there are “two bolt” style pedals that have a larger body/cage around them giving the foot more support. For cyclist that select this style of pedal and shoe that is going to have a higher volume of riding miles we recommend buying a shoe that has a firmer sole to offer more support for your foot while pedaling. Some shoes that are geared for spinning or casual riding will be designed with a softer sole more conducive to walking in.
Thinking about how you are going to be using your shoes and your riding style will help us help you select a perfect pair of shoes for your cycling adventures. If for some reason they don’t do the trick most of our shoes come with a comfort guarantee that allows you to return them.
Note – This is part of a series we will be sharing that Ernest wrote about cycling accessories and components. While they aren’t intended to be full on “Buyers Guides” We do hope they will help you with things to consider when thinking about them or to view them a little differently. Then in future post we will dive deeper into each one of these.