What are Cycling Shoes?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 December 2019
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Cycling shoes are shoes made specifically for bicycling. These are usually lightweight, breathable affairs not particularly suited for walking after bicycling. They closely adhere to the foot, and feature a carbon or plastic rigid sole and often cleats.

Many cycling shoes feature a means to attach the shoes to the bike pedals, which is easier when a person is racing or mountain biking. Usually different cycling shoes are designed for the different types of cycling you might do. Mountain cycling shoes are different in construction than shoes made for bike racing, touring, or for spinning.

One of the key features of cycling shoes is their degree of rigidity. A stiffer shoe translates to easier pedaling and keeps the feet and legs better aligned. Some cycling shoes are purchased with an attachment for the pedal. This is called a clipless pedal system. A cleat on the shoe’s sole attaches to a fitting on the pedal. These are some of the newest forms of cycling shoes and thought most efficient.


Earlier cycling shoes were designed to accommodate a toe clip. The toe clip is a small metal cage on the pedal into which the front of the foot is placed. Some toe clips were adjustable, allowing for the foot to fit securely. Others are looser, which means the foot can come off the pedal with greater ease. This was not always desirable feature, since people might have to readjust the foot to keep it firmly on the pedal.

Certain types of cycling shoes can accommodate walking needs. People cycling on tours have pit stops and may need to be able to walk from one place to another. If you intend to use cycling shoes for touring, consider the type specifically designed for this. They can be recognized by their treads, not a common feature on other cycling shoes, and a small cleat. They are usually less rigid then other types of cycling shoes because a very rigid shoe is not comfortable for walking.

Mountain cycling shoes for the beginner can also feature some treads and a little flexibility in the toe. Again it may be necessary to get off the bike and walk at certain points, especially if you’re new to biking. Ask sports shoe experts for this feature if you’re just starting out as a mountain biker.

Usually, the best cycling shoes are those that very lightweight. Yet if you have no plans to cycle professionally, the cost of the best shoes can set you back several hundred US dollars (USD). If you bike only occasionally, but think you still might benefit from cycling shoes, consider an inexpensive pair, less than 100 USD.

Of course, for the casual cyclist, cycling shoes are largely unnecessary. Wearing any shoes can easily satisfy a kid who just wants to cruise his bike through the park. On the other hand, a child or adult who wants to compete in the cycling world should definitely be outfitted with cycling shoes appropriate to the type of biking he or she wishes to pursue.


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Carbon sole or non-carbon sole?

Any thoughts?

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