How to Choose Your First Pair
When it comes to key milestones as a cyclist one that many have reached is the purchase of cycling shoes. There are many benefits of investing in a pair of cycling shoes. Here we break down the key aspects of cycling-specific shoes and explain what you should look for when choosing a pair.
Why should I buy cycling shoes?
Cycling shoes should be considered for those looking for a more direct connection between their foot and the pedal. Unlike normal shoes, cycling shoes use a stiff sole, often made from Nylon or a carbon fibre blend. As well as the stiffer sole to improve power transfer, the closure system is also a feature that sets cycling shoes apart from non cycling shoes. To ensure comfort and fit is optimised brands use a range of materials and systems to ensure the foot is held comfortably and securely in the shoe. The use of lightweight and breathable materials ticks a big box when it comes to performance in a wide range of conditions.
Should I buy cycling shoes a size bigger?
Cycling shoes typically run true to size, although as with brands outside of the cycling industry, sizing can vary between brands and between models, with some companies offering wider options of their standard width shoes to help cater for a broader range of foot shapes and sizes. We would recommend buying a similar size shoe to the one you use day to day. The only exception to this would be winter cycling shoes, where you may want to opt to wear thicker, warmer socks and thus go up half or a whole size.
What is the difference between road and MTB shoes?
There are a number of small but important differences between road cycling shoes and mountain bike shoes. Many of these differences centre around the sole, grip and cleat compatibility. Whereas on the road the amount of time you spend with your feet on the ground is minimal, off road there are many more instances where you may have to put your foot down or get off and walk with your bike. A durable, grippy sole, therefore, is a must, as is a sole with a little more give than a road cycling shoe.
Mountain bikers tend to ride with double-sided, mud-shedding pedals, which use a different cleat to a road cycling shoe. The double-sided aspect puts an attachment for the cleat on both sides of the pedal, making it easier to clip in. The mountain bike cleat is smaller, and recessed within the tread, to make walking in the shoes easier. Lastly, the material of the shoe may differ between the two types of shoe. With the chances of encountering mud, rocks and the undergrowth higher off road, mountain bike shoes will often be made from a tougher, easier to clean material.
What is the best closure system to use on cycling shoes?
There are a number of different closure options available, from Velcro straps to ratchets and dials and even laces. When it comes to choosing what closure system you need, a lot comes down to personal preference. If you plan to wear overshoes with the shoes, accessing and being able to adjust the closure system should also be taken into consideration, with dials and ratchets being easier to operate than Velcro straps or laces.
Dials, laces and ratchets can also often be replaced, prolonging the life of the shoes. The type of closure system and where it is positioned on the shoe can also dictate comfort, with many manufacturers focusing on systems and positions to reduce the chances of hotspots and discomfort.
Is it worth getting clipless pedals?
If you want to get the most out of your cycling investing in cleats is a good move. Cleats vary whether you are predominantly road cycling or mountain biking and also between different brands but the concept always remains the same; to secure your foot on the pedal in the optimum position for power transfer. This attachment enhances the pedal stroke and allows you to pull up as well as push down on the pedals. The result? More power going through to the drivetrain and ultimately a faster ride.
How do you put cleats onto cycling shoes?
Attaching cleats to cycling shoes is a simple task. Cleats are usually supplied with suitable bolts. In the majority of cases an allen key or screwdriver, the size of which will be dependent on the brand of cleat, will be required to attach the cleats to the sole of your cycling shoes. Should you be looking at putting mountain bike pedal cleats onto your shoes, you may need to attach the cleat to an inner plate that sits within the shoe. Road cycling cleats on the other hand typically attach directly to the shoe's sole. In most cases, the cleats are supplied with all the hardware you need to seure fitment.
When attaching cleats for the first time to a pair of shoes, determining where exactly to place the cleats will require a bit of thought. As a rough guide, many people opt to position the cleat under the ball of the foot but we would recommend looking at a wide range of approaches and if you really want to dial in the perfect position, consult a bike fitter who can determine the most effective location for the cleats.
Do I need cycling insoles?
The need for cycling insoles is dependent on a number of factors, most importantly the shape of your foot and how it sits in the shoe. A cyclist may need insoles to improve support, comfort, reduce the chances of injury or to optimise their foot over the pedal. Insoles vary from out of the box products that address arch and metatarsal support to more custom offerings that moulded and personalised to your feet.
What material of sole should I look for on my cycling shoes?
There are predominantly two materials used for the cycling shoe soles, Nylon and carbon fibre. These may be used exclusively or it could be made up of a mixture of the two. The differences between the two materials are stiffness and weight, with carbon fibre the more superior of the two materials. Carbon fibre soled shoes are usually more expensive than their Nylon soled counterparts but with considerable performance advantages.
Deciding on which cycling shoes are right for you shouldn't leave you feeling flummoxed, whether it is road, mountain bike or gravel you are looking to accommodate, summer or winter, there is the perfect option out there for you. Want to get expert advice in person? We are taking bookings for shoe consultations in both our Hampton Wick and Oakham stores.