We Clipped Into 22 Pairs of Cycling Shoes, And These Are Tester-Approved for Your Smoothest Ride Yet (2024)

We Clipped Into 22 Pairs of Cycling Shoes, And These Are Tester-Approved for Your Smoothest Ride Yet (1)

Whether you’re a Peloton devotee or spend your weekends completing century rides outdoors, one thing’s for sure: Your cycling shoes can make or break your ride. Too tight, and your feet might go numb, or you might feel totally uncomfortable. Too loose, and you risk slipping out and potentially injuring yourself. And that doesn’t even take into consideration how easy they are to clip in and out of the bike.

But just like Cinderella, the right cycling shoes can get you further, faster — especially if you’ve been using athletic shoes and toe cages until now.

After consulting with cycling experts, we tested 22 pairs of cycling shoes and scored each one in categories such as comfort, fit, value, and overall performance. After hours and hours of spinning, we settled on these nine winners as the best cycling shoes on the market. Whether you prefer a lightweight shoe or you want to splurge a little, these cycling shoes will have you spinning your wheels — in a good way.

Best Cycling Shoes Overall

Shimano IC501 Indoor Cycling Shoe

We Clipped Into 22 Pairs of Cycling Shoes, And These Are Tester-Approved for Your Smoothest Ride Yet (2)

Our Ratings

  • Fit

    5/5

  • Comfort

    5/5

  • Blister Protection

    5/5

  • Performance

    5/5

  • Value

    5/5

Why We Like It: The mesh-like sock upper flexes in tandem with your foot.

It's Worth Noting: They run narrow.

Our pick for best overall cycling shoe, the Shimano IC501 Women’s Indoor Cycling Shoe, impressed our testers with its thoughtful design and odor-fighting, sweat-wicking materials (no one wants stinky shoes). Testers were particularly impressed by the breathable sock mesh upper, which flexes with the movement of your toes and provides major ventilation (read: no foot sweat). Rather than Velcro or laces, these shoes feature a dial that you turn in order to get your perfect fit. They’re SPD-compatible, so they’re also easy to walk around in off the bike if needed. The material feels premium, and the shoes proved to be incredibly durable over the course of testing.

One notable aspect of these cycling shoes is that they have a slim profile, and they seem to run narrow. If you have wider feet, these might not be the best fit.

Sizes: 5 to 16.5 women | Colors: 3 | Cleats: Delta | Closure: Boa dial

We Clipped Into 22 Pairs of Cycling Shoes, And These Are Tester-Approved for Your Smoothest Ride Yet (3)

Why We Like It: The firm-feeling cycling shoe is comfy without being overly padded.

It's Worth Noting: Like many other shoes, you’ll have to attach the cleats yourself.

For a lower-cost alternative to the Shimano IC501 indoor cycling shoes, consider the Venzo women’s cycling shoes, which come in an eye-catching array of colors and include the cleats with purchase. Our testers called this shoe firm, supportive, and well-structured, and they noted that the fit felt true to size (even for half-sizes). The shoes felt light and breathable, and they’re a no-frills, budget-friendly pick when shopping for indoor cycling shoes.

Heads up that you’ll have to attach the cleats to the bottom of the shoes yourself, but Venzo provides instructions and an Allen wrench to do so. Many other indoor cycling shoes require you to DIY the cleats, so we wouldn’t consider this a major con against the Venzos.

Sizes: 5.5 to 11 | Colors: 7 | Cleats: Delta | Closure: Velcro straps

The Best Commuter Bikes to Upgrade Your Ride to Work

Best Splurge

Soulcycle x Pearl Izumi Legend 2.0 Cycling Shoes

We Clipped Into 22 Pairs of Cycling Shoes, And These Are Tester-Approved for Your Smoothest Ride Yet (5)

Our Ratings

  • Fit

    5/5

  • Comfort

    5/5

  • Blister Protection

    5/5

  • Performance

    5/5

  • Value

    4/5

Why We Like It: The upper is designed to provide increased durability — better for longer rides.

It's Worth Noting: For the price, the features don’t stand out as better than brands.

If you’re devoted to pulling doubles at SoulCycle, their collab shoes with trusted cycling brand Pearl Izumi will catch your attention. Not only are the indoor cycling shoes designed in the signature SoulCycle yellow, but the brand-new upper construction was engineered with long rides in mind, where you need extra durability, breathability, and comfort. Plus, these shoes come with clips (which helps take the sting out of the price a bit).

However, aside from the brand-centric design, we didn’t find that these shoes added anything above-and-beyond from other premium indoor cycling shoes (such as the Shimano women’s cycling shoes). It’s also important to note that our tester rode on a SoulCycle At-Home Bike Powered by Equinox+, which might have enhanced the comfort and overall experience.

Sizes: 5 to 11 Women's | Colors: 1 | Cleats: Delta | Closure: Boa dial

We Clipped Into 22 Pairs of Cycling Shoes, And These Are Tester-Approved for Your Smoothest Ride Yet (6)

Pearl Izumi Quest Studio Cycling Shoe

We Clipped Into 22 Pairs of Cycling Shoes, And These Are Tester-Approved for Your Smoothest Ride Yet (7)

Our Ratings

  • Fit

    4.8/5

  • Comfort

    5/5

  • Blister Protection

    4.8/5

  • Performance

    4/5

  • Value

    4.5/5

Why We Like It: They’re comfortable for long rides and riding out of the saddle.

It's Worth Noting: Newbies might have a hard time clipping in.

For Peloton lovers who can clip in with ease, the Pearl Izumi Quest Studio Cycling Shoe provides everything you need for long climbs, tap-backs, or 20-minute Tabata sessions. Our testers gave these cycling shoes top marks for comfort, noting that they’re a hard-to-find blend of lightweight, flexible, and stable. The soles, in particular, felt stiff enough to handle out-of-the-saddle climbs with ease. We also felt these shoes were roomy enough in the toe box to prevent any numbness that comes with long rides, and the shoes themselves were easy to slip on and off. Finally, you’ll love the versatility of these shoes: They’re compatible with 3-bolt SPD-SL, Delta, and 2-bolt SPD cleats.

However, one tester (who was new to clipping in) felt that she struggled to properly line her cleats up with the pedals. You’ll also want to note that these cycling shoes don’t come with cleats, so you’ll need to buy separately and attach them on your own.

Sizes: 26 to 43 (EU) | Colors: 3 | Cleats: Delta or SPD | Closure: Velcro straps

We Clipped Into 22 Pairs of Cycling Shoes, And These Are Tester-Approved for Your Smoothest Ride Yet (8)

Best for Beginners

Tommaso Pista Indoor Cycling Shoe Bundle

We Clipped Into 22 Pairs of Cycling Shoes, And These Are Tester-Approved for Your Smoothest Ride Yet (9)

Our Ratings

  • Fit

    5/5

  • Comfort

    4.5/5

  • Blister Protection

    5/5

  • Performance

    4.5/5

  • Value

    5/5

Why We Like It: The cleats come pre-installed, a huge perk for cycling newbies.

It's Worth Noting: These shoes were stiff at first and required a breaking-in period.

The Tommaso Pista indoor cycling shoes impressed us with their accessible price point, durability, and comfort — not to mention, you can order them with cleats pre-installed, which can be a major pain point when shopping for the best indoor cycling shoes. Their soles are sturdy and supportive, so you can feel comfortable wearing them for high-intensity cycling classes.

These shoes were a little stiffer upon the first few wears, but luckily, the breaking-in period didn’t result in any blisters. Our tester felt that the shoes were well-suited for small, narrow feet, so consider reading sizing reviews and taking accurate foot measurements to get the best fit possible.

Sizes: 6 to 11 | Colors: 6 | Cleats: Delta or SPD | Closure: Velcro straps

Best for In-Studio Classes

TIEM Slipstream Women's Indoor Cycling Shoe

We Clipped Into 22 Pairs of Cycling Shoes, And These Are Tester-Approved for Your Smoothest Ride Yet (10)

Our Ratings

  • Fit

    5/5

  • Comfort

    4.9/5

  • Blister Protection

    4.9/5

  • Performance

    4/5

  • Value

    4.5/5

Why We Like It: The recessed cleats and rubber outsole make it easy to walk (and train) off the bike.

It's Worth Noting: They’re only compatible with SPD cleats, so you’ll have to do some extra work if you want to use these for Peloton.

One of the biggest pain points of taking in-studio cycling classes is the struggle of walking around the studio before or after class, since many indoor cycling shoes have protruding cleats that force you to penguin-walk on your heels. Luckily, you can avoid the hassle with the Tiem Slipstream indoor cycling shoes, which have recessed, SPD-compatible cleats and a rubber outsole that resembles a regular gym sneaker. In fact, we wore them frequently after cycling classes to brunch, errands, and more — they’re that comfortable.

The design of these indoor cycling shoes is slightly different from the others on this list, thanks to the sneaker-like construction. Regular indoor cycling shoes often have a stiff, sturdy sole, but the Tiem Slipstreams are a little more flexible, which you might feel more when pushing hard through the soles of your feet. We didn’t find this uncomfortable, per se, just different. We also noticed that these shoes had an incredibly breathable upper that prevents overheating — even when we took cycling classes in an infrared studio.

If you’re a Peloton fan who loves the Bike Bootcamp classes (where you alternate between cycling intervals and strength training on the floor), take note: These shoes are SPD-compatible, while Peloton’s included pedals are only for Delta cleats. You’ll have to switch out your pedals if you want to use these shoes with your Peloton.

Sizes: 5 to 11 | Colors: 5 | Cleats: SPD | Closure: Velcro straps

Most Supportive

Adidas The Indoor Cycling Shoe

We Clipped Into 22 Pairs of Cycling Shoes, And These Are Tester-Approved for Your Smoothest Ride Yet (11)

Our Ratings

  • Fit

    4.8/5

  • Comfort

    5/5

  • Blister Protection

    4.5/5

  • Performance

    5/5

  • Value

    4/5

Why We Like It: The upper has enhanced ventilation to prevent excess sweat.

It's Worth Noting: The heel is shallow, and some riders might be irritated by the rear loop.

Our testers loved the firm support of the Adidas indoor cycling shoe, which was engineered with a fiberglass-reinforced midsole plate to help shift power from your legs to your pedals. Plus, there’s extra ventilation along the instep and the outside of the shoe to keep your feet from sweating too much in hot studios or warm rooms. "Ventilation of the shoe is important as cycling is an endurance-based sport which means rides can last several hours," adds Dr. Splichal."This prolonged period with shoes on can increase the risk of foot sweat, odor, and fungus."

We also loved the eye-catching pops of color in the available styles; too many cycling shoes are just plain black or white, but the Adidas indoor cycling shoes have way more personality. These shoes also had one of the widest size ranges of all the pairs we tested.

While the fit was mostly true to size, one tester noticed that the heel felt a little shallow, which might bother some riders. There’s also a loop on the top of the heel to help with getting the shoe on and off quickly; we found this helpful, but it might distract other riders.

Sizes: 4 to 15.5 women’s | Colors: 5 | Cleats: Delta | Closure: Velcro straps

Best Lightweight

Specialized Torch 1.0 Cycling Shoes

We Clipped Into 22 Pairs of Cycling Shoes, And These Are Tester-Approved for Your Smoothest Ride Yet (12)

Our Ratings

  • Fit

    5/5

  • Comfort

    5/5

  • Blister Protection

    5/5

  • Performance

    5/5

  • Value

    3.8/5

Why We Like It: The sole and footbeds are ergonomically designed to optimize hip, knee, and foot alignment.

It's Worth Noting: You’ll have to buy and install cleats separately.

Specialized makes high-quality, thoughtfully engineered cycling gear, so it’s no surprise that these cycling shoes had an incredibly smart design. They were more lightweight than other options we tested, and they had plenty of ergonomic touches to keep your feet comfortable for long durations. One that stood out: was the metatarsal button that lifts and separates the bones of your feet, molded arch support, and a wedge to optimize alignment. This smart feature is approved by Dr. Splichal, since "sensory insoles keep feet stimulated and support circulation to toes."

These shoes don’t come with cleats, so you’ll have to buy and install them separately. Our tester also noted that it wasn’t clear from the website which types of cleats to buy, so make sure you do your research before hitting checkout.

Sizes: 39 to 49 (EU) | Colors: 6 | Cleats: Three-bolt | Closure: Boa Dial

Best for Road Bikes

Giro Cadet Road Cycling Shoe

We Clipped Into 22 Pairs of Cycling Shoes, And These Are Tester-Approved for Your Smoothest Ride Yet (13)

Our Ratings

  • Fit

    4/5

  • Comfort

    5/5

  • Blister Protection

    5/5

  • Performance

    4.4/5

  • Value

    4/5

Why We Like It: The universal cleat mount means these shoes work for indoor and outdoor cycling.

It's Worth Noting: The tops of the shoes are lightweight to the point of feeling flimsy.

For cycling fans who want the freedom to ride outdoors, the Giro Cadet Road Cycling Shoe earned top marks for comfort. The shoes are lightweight yet sturdy, thanks to carbon-reinforced stiffness on the sole of the shoe, and laser-perforated ventilation keeps feet from overheating both indoors and outdoors. They also feature universal cleat mounts, meaning they’re compatible with two-bolt (such as SPD cleats) and three-bolt cleats (such as Delta) — so you have plenty of options, no matter how you choose to ride. Reflective details help keep you visible to others on the road.

We did notice that the upper of the shoes was incredibly flexible, almost to the point of feeling flimsy (although that did ultimately make the shoe more comfortable). Our tester also had a hard time clipping in and out of their indoor bike, which may be solved by using a different brand of cleats.

Sizes: 6.5 to 15 | Colors: 5 | Cleats: Two and three-bolt | Closure: Boa Dial

Our Testing Process

On the road to finding the best cycling shoes, we dug deep to understand what makes cycling shoes stand out, what features are must-haves, and why cycling shoes are better than regular gym shoes in terms of performance. We started by consulting with a few cycling pros: Karen Maxwell, ACE-certified personal trainer, senior master instructor for CycleBar cycling studios, and Liza Solberg Ritter, owner of Spynergy, a beats-based, high-performance cycling studio in Chicago. Maxwell consulted on our testing methods as well to ensure our procedures were sound, while Solberg Ritter offered insight on how cycling shoes should fit and what features are crucial when purchasing. In total, we tested 22 pairs of cycling shoes. Testers took a minimum of three rides of at least 20 minutes each and rated the shoes in categories such as comfort, fit, value, and overall performance. We then analyzed each rating and confidently chose these nine winners as the best cycling shoes on the market.

What to Know About Cycling Shoes

While some bike brands (think: SoulCycle and Peloton) sell their own style of indoor cycling shoes, there are tons of options to choose from at a wide range of price points and varying features. Shopping for cycling shoes can get confusing, especially regarding the different types of cleats and closures. Here’s what to know.

Cleats

Cleats, ICYDK, are affixed to the bottom sole of indoor cycling shoes so you can “clip in” to your pedals. There are two main types of cycling cleats: two-bolt and three-bolt. Two-bolt cleats are often smaller and recessed into the sole of the shoe, meaning it’s easy to walk around in your cycling shoes off the bike. Three-bolt cleats are larger and have more surface area, so they offer a more stable platform on the pedal. You may feel more powerful in your cycling, but they’re not great for walking in. SPD is a common two-bolt cleat system, and Delta is a common three-bolt cleat system (Peloton, FYI, comes with Delta-compatible pedals).

Closures

Cycling shoes offer several different types of closures to choose from, including:

  • Velcro straps, which are easy and intuitive to adjust
  • Laces, which may interfere with your ride if the ends are too long
  • Notched straps with buckles, which offer plenty of security
  • Dials (such as the Boa dial system), which tighten a series of cable laces by adjusting a knob

Fit

Your indoor cycling shoes should feel snug but comfortable. "As much as you want the toes to be able to spread, you do not want the whole foot to slide forward and back in the shoe," says Dr. Splichal."So I'd suggest getting true to size if possible."

Stiff soles in cycling shoes are common and likely won’t change, even after a “breaking in” period, so make sure your shoes are comfortable from the start. Your toes should be able to wiggle slightly, and your heel should feel secure. Cycling shoes are often sold according to European sizing, so measure your foot for the best fit.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do cycling shoes come with cleats?

    Some, but not all, cycling shoes come with cleats. Read the product detail page carefully to understand what you’re getting when buying indoor cycling shoes.

  • Do cycling shoes run small?

    Cycling shoes should run true to size. However, if you’re between sizes, it’s recommended to size up. Cycling shoes may stretch a little bit in some shoes and materials, but they will not stretch significantly.

  • How do you install cycling cleats?

    Cycling cleats can generally be installed on the sole of the shoe with an Allen wrench. Bicycle grease may help as well. If you don’t know how to install cycling cleats, your local bike shop can help.

  • Do you have to wear cycling shoes when cycling, or do tennis shoes work?

    “To ensure a smooth ride I recommend spin shoes,” says Solberg Ritter. “They streamline your pedal stroke so that you are maximizing your output in the turning of the wheel instead of expending energy trying to keep your foot steady.”

    "Cycling shoes are characterized by a stiff midsole that does not flex," adds Dr. Splichal."Sneakers or tennis shoes that flex or twist do not provide the stiffness needed for optimal pedal strokes.This can lead to foot pain caused by excess pressure at the forefoot."

    Plus, regular cyclists may be prone to certain conditions, says Dr. Splichal. "One of the most common concerns for cyclists and their feet is that they often go numb when in cycling shoes.," she explains."This is often associated with shoe fit, restrictive cycling shoes, and the repeated pressure on the forefoot when cycling."

Why Trust Shape

Kristen Geil is a senior fitness editor for Shape with 10 years of experience in the health and fitness industry. She’s been cycling since 2011, trying dozens of bikes and shoes in her hundreds of rides. As a NASM-certified personal trainer, she understands the physiology of the human body and how cycling shoes can impact biomechanics and thus, performance. She recently led Shape’s Best in Fitness Awards, where she helped determine nearly 170 of the best fitness products in the market (including the best cycling shoes). She’s an avid Peloton rider who’s never met a Club Bangers theme ride she didn’t love. Beyond her own personal knowledge, Geil researched all of the products tested and conducted expert interviews to learn more about cycling shoes.

We Clipped Into 22 Pairs of Cycling Shoes, And These Are Tester-Approved for Your Smoothest Ride Yet (2024)

FAQs

Do clip in cycling shoes make a difference? ›

Once you're clipped in, you have more control over your bike and your feet remain in an optimal position on your pedals. This way you can enjoy your ride or focus on training hard without needing to readjust your feet every few pedal strokes.

What type of shoes are best for biking? ›

There are two main types of cycling shoes: flat-pedal shoes, which have flat bottoms like sneakers but also have some cycling specific features; and clip-in shoes (also known as clipless shoes) that clip directly into your pedals.

What are the most popular shoes in the Tour de France? ›

Shimano's S-Phyre shoes (RC901 model) are popular in the peloton. Rigoberto Uran races in Sidi Shots while EF Pro Cycling teammate Tejay Van Garderen uses Giro Imperial shoes.

What are the disadvantages of cycling shoes? ›

Some cycling shoes (notably road bike shoes) can be challenging to walk in. According to Trek Bikes, road cycling shoes have the stiffest soles and widest cleats and probably won't be suitable for riders looking to keep jumping on and off the saddle.

Do you go faster with clipless pedals? ›

Unless you're sprinting, there really doesn't seem to be any clear advantage to riding clipless. A pair of good quality, grippy flat pedals with a pair of stiff soled mountain bike shoes are just as good in every situation apart from flat out sprints.

Do all cycling shoes fit all pedals? ›

Remember that you will need to have a compatible cleat, shoe, and pedal set-up in order for everything to work. For example, an SPD cleat will fit an SPD-compatible pedal and a two-bolt compatible shoe; however, an SPD cleat will not fit a Speedplay pedal, or onto a three-bolt compatible shoe.

Should your toes touch in cycling shoes? ›

Cycling shoe fit

About 1.5 cm of toe room should be plenty. Stiff soles and snug shoes stabilize the foot, but they should not be so tight that they pinch. And even though your toes don't need wiggle room, they should not hit the front of the shoe at any point while riding.

Do you need special pedals for cycling shoes? ›

Clipless pedals are actually a system comprised of special pedals and cleats, devices included with the pedals that attach to the soles of clipless cycling shoes. This means that you need to select pedals and shoes in order to upgrade to a clipless system.

What are the benefits of clip in cycling shoes? ›

On steep terrain, on or off-road, when you are pedaling slowly, being clipped in allows you to pull up on the pedals to keep even power transfer throughout your pedal stroke and maintain your momentum and traction.

What are the benefits of clip on bike shoes? ›

Clipping in also provides a more stable and safer pedaling platform. Your foot is securely connected to the pedal so you can both push down and pull up on the pedals more efficiently throughout the full circle of your pedal stroke.

Do you cycle faster with clips? ›

But an outdoor sprint test showed that clipped-in cycling shoes increased maximum power in a sprint by an average of 16.6 per cent over the trainer/flat pedal combo, while toe clips and straps added 9.7 per cent. So, if you're riding harder you'll probably find a benefit from using cycling shoes and clipless pedals.

How much faster do cleats make you cycling? ›

All of the power goes through the cleat itself, straight into the pedal, then the drivetrain, generating power. However, it probably won't improve your efficiency by anything close to the 20% like some will try to claim.

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