You can indeed cycle in about any shoe. While an athlete's shoe is sufficient for you to go out for casual rides, you would notice sore feet and slowed cycling rates if you pedal for a little longer, especially on rougher roads. With designated cycling shoes, the pedaling efficiency takes a leap, with a noticeable difference in your cycling performance, as well as comfort.
A stiff soled cycling shoe maximizes cycling power while a flexible shoe allows you to use it for walking and trekking as well. For regular and experienced bikers, cycling shoes provide stability to their ride, all the while saving their feet from numbness, sweating, and pain. Plus, they can ride longer hours without suffocating their feet in a tight-fitted athlete shoe.
Clipless Cycling Shoes vs Non-Clipless Cycling Shoes:
Before diving into the different types of cycling shoes and how each is suitable for distinctive riding purposes, you may want to brush up on your idea about the two main categories of shoes that are available. These are clipless cycling shoes and non-clipless ones, which are also commonly called flat soled shoes. Further, the clipless cycling shoes have different bolting systems as well.
Clipless Cycling Shoes:
When you hear clipless, you probably assume this is without clips or attachments. In fact, clipless cycling shoes are ones that attach or clip with the bike pedals. Remember that a clipless shoe is the same as a clip-in shoe, and both terms are just interchangeable.
Clipless or clip-in cycling shoes are designed in such a way that when your ride your bike, the power distribution from your legs to the pedal is most competent. Because of the cleating system and stiff shoe sole, exerting strength on the pedals is a breeze, both in downwards strokes and upward.
This mechanism helps stabilize your legs for a longer time, ensure that no muscle set is strained during the entire pedaling time.
However, it is crucial to remember that fitting in and using a cycling shoe like a clip in one, can take some practice. Because your feet are fixed to the pedal, you might be prone to falls and stumbles in the beginning, especially during stops and slower turns. For this, learn to use the shoes with light riding, and start slow. It would take a couple of rides to get used to fixed feet position.
2 bolt fastening:
If you’ve heard of the term SPD when looking into cycling shoes, the 2-bolt fastening system is what the term refers to. SPD or Shimano Pedaling Dynamics is an attachment system, that consists of 2 integrated metal cleats located on the base of the shoe. Such a clipless shoe is both flexible and grippy, allowing bikers to enjoy the power and comfort of a typical cycling shoe, wedded with the suitable clasp to go on choppy roads as well.
3 bolt fastening:
As opposed to 2 bolts which are usually deeper into the sole of the shoe, the 3 cleats for this fastening system peek out of the shoe. The plastic, exposed cleats are located in a close triangular shape, which makes them more prone to contact and damage than a 2-cleat cycling shoe. Ideal for fast and long racing games, this cleated pedal attachment generates more power, while relieving the legs of increased compression.
Non-Clipless Cycling Shoes:
A lot of people who want their cycling shoes to be more versatile, opt for non-clipless shoes. Further, some cyclists never get used to the idea of having their feet ardent to the pedal during the ride but still need the comfort of a cycling shoe. Sometimes referred to as flat soled shoes, these should without pedal attachments are much more affordable than the clipless shoes.
The sole of these non-clipless shoes is usually made of sticky rubber material, that ensures the right stiffness and grip. If the sole of such flat shoes is too stiff, your walking experience might be compromised.
Keeping that in mind, the grip of the sole is adjusted to make sure that your feet don’t slip off the pedal, but you also get the maximum comfort during a mountain hike or rough terrain stride. These shoes usually have a considerable height, good ventilation, and are flexible on the feet muscles. However, you might want to keep in mind that clipless shoes are not preferred for long hours of cycling.
Types of Cycling Shoes:
Mountain Bike Shoes:
If you consider investing in a mountain bike shoe, you would be able to enjoy the best of both features. These shoes have both clipless and non-clipless systems, a choice that allows having determined the flexibility of your mountain shoes.
A clipless mountain cycling shoe is generally equipped with 2 bolt cleats, incised into the sole of the shoe. As the cleats are made of metal and don't come in contact with the walking surface, a mountain bike shoe can be used for cross country roads, and trekking trails alike, all the while having incredible flex.
The soles of these shoes are also rugged and non-slippery, specially designed for enhanced grip on mountainous or ascendent pathways.
If you have flat pedals on your bike and wish to use mountain cycling shoes, go for the ones without any cleats. You would get a similar grip and stretch, only with less pedaling powers as provided by a cleat pedal attachment.
Road Cycling Shoes:
Road cycle shoes are specifically designed to be used for cycling only. Naturally, they are not as multipurpose as mountain bike shoes. Thanks to the incredibly stiff shoe base, they are appropriate to be used for long racing roads with the supreme power distribution.
As the sole of such cycling shoes is constructed with lightweight carbon or plastic, they do not feel heavy on the feet. The SPD-SL selection of shoes in the road cycling category are the ones with a 2 or 3 bolt fastening system. For road biking, a 3-bolt system is more preferred.
As the cleats arise out of the sole, a road cycling shoe can be quite uncomfortable if used for walking. A good quality road bike show will be focused on the weight as well as power efficiency, to make even the longest bike rides feel easy on your leg muscles.
Casual Bike Shoes:
If you want a shoe that can be used for recreational biking and indoor cycling activities like exercising, a casual bike shoe has the stylish look of usual footwear but the comfort of a cycling shoe. These shoes are mildly rigid and are focused on the comfort and traction of the feet.
Although such urban cycling shoes have limited stability and power transfer during pedaling, they can be great for a relaxed riding session. What's great about these bike shoes is that they are also compatible with clipless pedal attachments.
Hybrid Bike Shoes:
Hybrid shoes can be best described as a crossover between mountain bike shoes and road cycling shoes. As you can assume, such a shoe has the feature of both. Hybrid shoes are known to deliver the comfort and lightweight feeling of a road bike shoe while having a sole that is flexible enough for trekking or walking.
How should a good cycling shoe feel?
If you are new to cycling shoes, it can be a difficult task to choose the correct type of cycling show for yourself, especially when you are trying them on before buying them. It would be most smart for you to know, what the right “feeling” of a good quality cycling should shoe.
Remember, when you first try on a cycling shoe, it is normal to experience occasional slipping on the heels. The slipping at the beginning is caused because of the rigid sole. As you get used to wearing your bike shoes, the same rigidity helps to increase your cycling stability while improving energy transfer.
A good cycling shoe, whether an MTB shoe or an SPD-SL road bike shoe is, should not suffocate your feet. Your toes would have room to be moved slightly, although this does not mean you'll have a loose fit. Moreover, you would have to look for a cycling shoe that supports your heels, while feeling comfortable on the feet.
More importantly, your heels should have a clasp on the cycling or walking surface, without feeling too heavy. The correct shoe size can play a huge part in determining whether you've decided on the right cycling shoe.
You may be an erratic rider, cycling around the more tranquil roads or just someone who takes their bikes uphill and on rough trekking grounds, a specialized bike shoe can bring about a world's difference. All the different types of cycling shoes are designed to serve a specific category of cyclists.
Whether you go for a mountain cycling shoe or a road bike, we suggest a clipless fastening system for better performance and power. Still, if you are a casual biker, indoor bike shoes, with flat soled and no clips could well be your choice.
You may also like to read: Best Road Cycling Shoes 2021