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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

18 Models Considered
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best men’s road cycling shoes

Last Updated August 2019

Your road cycling shoes are two of your most important pieces of cycling gear because they’re the interface between you and the pedals. It’s crucial that your cycling shoes are comfortable and convenient and suit your cycling style. Men’s road cycling shoes may seem like an accessory needed only by professionals, but they can greatly benefit even casual cyclists.

The style of shoe you need depends largely on the type of pedals you have. Clip and clipless pedals call for compatible road cycling shoes. But there are several types of clipless pedals and a range of clipless shoe systems to go with them. The right system for you depends on your experience level and personal preference.

The number of options may be intimidating, but our shopping guide breaks down each type to help you choose the right men’s road cycling shoes for you. If you’re ready to pick out a pair, take a look at our top recommendations.

Road cycling shoes are unlikely to stretch over time, so they should fit properly when you first put them on.

Key considerations

Typically, a road cycling shoe is stiff and made of tough, lightweight materials like nylon and carbon fiber. The outsoles are generally flat, lacking the lugs commonly found on mountain biking shoes. Road cycling shoes are designed to work with your pedals so that you waste as little energy as possible as you move the pedals.

Clips vs. clipless vs. platform

The most confusing aspect of choosing men’s road cycling shoes is distinguishing between clip and clipless. If you already know what type of bike pedals you have, you don’t have a decision to make here unless you want to purchase new pedals. Just make sure that the shoes you buy are compatible with your pedals.

Clips: The first cycling pedals used clips or straps to secure the feet to the pedals to enable the cyclist to propel the bike forward by both pushing and pulling on the pedals. These originated as toe clips, which are still used today as a simple method of holding your feet in place. Other systems use straps. Road cycling shoes designed to be used with toe clips or straps typically have flat plastic outsoles.

Clipless: Here’s where things get confusing. Clipless cycling shoes physically clip in to your pedals with between two and four cleats. These shoes are dubbed “clipless” because the pedals lack the plastic clips that were once ubiquitous. Clipless shoes are by far the most popular option for road cyclists. They are convenient and tightly secure the feet to the pedals. A twist of the ankles releases the cleats so you can remove your feet from the pedals. These shoes are supposed to release in the event of a crash, but they can take some getting used to. Some manufacturers also refer to these shoes as “clip-in” shoes.

Platform shoes: If you have platform pedals, also known as “flat” pedals, you can opt for platform shoes, or general cycling shoes, which usually are streamlined with flat outsoles for good traction on the pedals. However, you’ll miss the additional power generated by clip and clipless pedals.

Cleat styles

Road cycling shoes have metal or plastic cleats that protrude from the sole and attach to the pedal. As a result, it’s not very comfortable (or quiet) to walk wearing road cycling shoes. In addition, these shoes won’t work with pedals other than clipless designs.

Cleats aren’t usually included with cycling shoes; they typically come with the pedals. Road cycling shoes have a varying number of holes on the outsole in which to install cleats, and the number of holes determines which cleats are compatible.

Two-hole cleats include SPD and Time cleats. These tend to be the easiest to walk in, but the area of contact is rather small.

Three-hole cleats include Look, Time, and SPD-SL cleats. Due to the wider area of contact with the pedal, these are the most popular options and allow for efficient transfer of energy.

Four-hole cleats include Speedplay cleats. Unlike two- and three-hole cleats, the mechanism that holds your foot in place in four-hole cleats is on the cleat itself.

Practice attaching and detaching your clipless shoes while leaning against a wall or tree. You’ll fall at first, but with practice, you’ll quickly become comfortable clicking in and out.

Staff
BestReviews

Triathlon cycling shoes

Shoes designed specifically for triathlons, also called “tri” shoes, are a good option for anyone looking to shave precious seconds off their time. Tri shoes sometimes have holes on the bottom to allow for drainage, and their pull tabs and single, outward-opening strap make them quicker to put on and take off than traditional road cycling shoes.

All-around comfort and performance

The BOA system makes for a reliable wire-and-dial closure system, and the one-piece construction adds durability and aerodynamics. The perforated Microtex is comfortable and highly breathable, too.

Men’s road cycling shoe features

Choosing the right type of road cycling shoe is important, but you should also consider factors like weight, materials, closure, and appearance.

Weight

Lighter is better when it comes to road cycling shoes. More expensive shoes tend to be lighter, with the weight varying from around 10 ounces to 22 ounces per pair. The weight largely depends on the size of the shoe and the materials used in the uppers and outsole.

Materials

Uppers: Most road cycling shoes have leather or synthetic uppers, with synthetic materials usually weighing less. Some shoes may have areas of nylon mesh to increase breathability and further decrease weight.

Outsoles: Outsoles are usually made of carbon fiber, composite, nylon, or plastic. Carbon fiber is the lightest option and is usually found in more expensive shoes. A good outsole should be stiff, thin, and lightweight.

Closure

There are a few different closure systems on road cycling shoes, and they all aim for a tight fit that gives you the most control possible.

Laces are a traditional choice and can easily be tightened to your preference. Laces can be difficult to use when wet, and they take more time to get into and out of.

Hook-and-loop straps, such as Velcro, are quick to get into and out of and can easily be adjusted. They also function well when wet.

Ratchet buckles are somewhat more expensive but present a simple strap system that can be adjusted easily.

Dial and wire systems feature wire laces that can be tightened by turning a dial. These are convenient because they can be adjusted while you’re on the bike. These are usually found in mid-range shoes.

Color

When it comes to men’s road cycling shoes, there is a narrow spectrum of colors to choose from. Black, white, and gray are the most common, often in combination. You can occasionally find neon yellow or green. Brighter colors can increase visibility, but they may not suit your taste or complement the rest of your gear.

EXPERT TIP

Weight is important in road cycling shoes. Don’t forget to add the weight of the cleats and pedals when looking for the lightest options.


Staff  | BestReviews

Men’s road cycling shoe prices

Inexpensive: Entry-level road cycling shoes range from $50 to $150. These are often heavier than more expensive options and may have laces or hook-and-loop closures. Plastic outsoles are common.

Mid-range: Road cycling shoes that cost $150 to $300 are made of more durable materials and can be lightweight. The outsoles may be carbon fiber or composite. These have various closure systems and will suit the needs of most bikers.

Expensive: Road cycling shoes that cost $300 to $500 can be extremely light and are usually made of high-quality synthetic materials with carbon fiber outsoles. Dial and wire or ratchet buckle closures are common in this price range.

Affordable all-in-one deal

These low-priced shoes are a great option for beginners because the package includes the shoes, cleats, and pedals. The trusted SPD system is a great clipless system to learn on, and the Velcro straps are tough and convenient.

Tips

It’s crucial that your road cycling shoes fit snugly enough to give you plenty of control but loose enough that your feet aren’t constricted.

  • Measure your feet carefully before ordering shoes online. Most road cycling shoes use the European shoe size system.
  • Put on the shoes over thin socks and fasten them so they’re comfortably snug.
  • Stand up. Measure the space between your big toe and the toe of the shoe. There should be no more than half an inch of space, but your toes should not press against the tip of the shoe.
  • Walk in the shoes, taking note of how much your heels move. Some movement is desirable.
  • While sitting, practice a pedaling motion to make sure the shoes don’t chafe or slip in any areas.
DID YOU KNOW?

Road cycling shoes with clip or clipless designs transfer more energy to your pedals with the combined upward and downward pedaling motion.

Other products we considered

While we think our top recommendations represent the best options, there are many variations in road cycling shoes and a wide selection of products to choose from. If you’re looking for something both affordable and lightweight, the Pearl Izumi RACE RD III shoes are fully synthetic and highly breathable. Though the sizes run small, we love these shoes for their compatibility with two-hole and three-hole cleats. Another affordable option is the Tommaso Strada 100 Road Touring Cycling Shoe, which features a fiberglass-reinforced outsole that works well on a road bike or for spinning.

Wearing clip and clipless road cycling shoes uses more muscles in your legs than wearing regular sneakers. This leads to a more varied workout and may be slightly less tiring.

FAQ

Q. Can I install cleats myself or should they be installed at a bike shop?
A.
Most cleats are installed by simply screwing the cleats into the outsole of the shoes. As long as you’re handy with a screwdriver, you should be able to do it.

Q. Can walking around in road cycling shoes damage the cleats?
A.
It’s possible that this will cause extra wear on the cleats. You should avoid walking in your cycling shoes if possible, but you won’t notice significant damage from occasional short walks.

Q. Do clip and clipless pedals increase accidents?
A.
While these pedals can occasionally be difficult to detach from, most accidents happen at very low speeds, usually when you’re standing still and can’t get your foot out in time. With some practice, this will happen less and less often.

The team that worked on this review
  • Austin
    Austin
    Writer
  • Branson
    Branson
    Videographer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer

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