It's easy to get carried away when stocking up on cycling gear with today's teched-out temptations. Stay on the sensible path next time you are in need with these 8 Things to Consider Before Purchasing Your Next Pair of Cycling Shoes.
No. 1 - Ask Yourself This Question
If you could sum up your cycling shoe needs in one word, what would it be? This is probably the easiest way to sort out the general type of shoe you’re looking for. If the word is “stiff,” get road shoes. If the word is “durable,” get MTB shoes. If the word is “versatile,” there are plenty of multipurpose “street” shoes on the market. And if the word is “beautiful,” you may want to consider a different athletic pursuit.
No. 2 - Don’t be afraid to spend a lot of money to get the right shoe.
Think about it. If you’re a serious cyclist — as in someone who rides at least a few times a week — you’re going to be turning over those pedals thousands upon thousands of times. And while your quads and calves may be able to go forever, it won’t matter if your feet can’t take it. Even though you won’t be walking in them, the fit and feel of your cycling shoes is crucially important. Try on lots and lots of brands, and spend that Louboutin/Alden money. Because it’s about something way more important than flossing on Instagram.
No. 3 - Do you want to be able to use the same pair of shoes for all of your bikes?
You do have multiple bikes, right? Of course you do. And while it’s nice to have road pedals on the road bike and mountain pedals on the mountain bike (complete with matching shoes), sometimes that represents too much of an investment. Most MTB shoes these days are plenty stiff enough to serve double-duty — and as a bonus, allow you to grab that post-ride latte without waddling on slippery carbon fiber soles.
No. 4 - Have you ever ridden clipped in before?
Maybe this should have been the first question. Clipless pedals aren’t for everyone. Yes, they provide the best power transfer, if you’re into that sort of thing, and the stiff (but not completely inflexible) soles keep your feet from getting fatigued on long rides. But there’s also a learning curve, which generally involves either not being able to clip out at all, or — even more entertainingly — unclipping the wrong foot, both of which lead to you falling over in a heap of carbon fiber and Lycra while motorists laugh. These things happen. There’s no need to get entry-level shoes just because you’re a beginner, though — it doesn’t take too many spills to learn.
No. 5 - Learn the terminology… then forget it.
Every company has its own names for their own technologies and such. Good for them. Focus on what things do, not what they’re called — a ratcheting strap is a ratcheting strap no matter what company offers it. Same with a carbon-injected sole, or whatever else the selling point is. If there’s a brand you prefer, by all means stick with it, otherwise try everything you can.
No. 6 - Are you a pro?
Not to get all retrogrouchy here, but everyone doesn’t need the latest and greatest in clipless technology. And if you ask someone like Grant Peterson, he’ll say that pretty much no one does. True, it will be hard to smoke that Strava course record in Chucks; on the other hand putting a foot down at stoplights won’t be a risky proposition. Petersen’s larger point — and it’s a valid one — is that race technology trickling down to recreational cyclists hasn’t been the best thing for said cyclists. At least try riding in your regular sneakers once in a while just to remember how it feels.
No. 7 - Is it hard for you to find the perfect size?
It really shouldn’t be, but hey, feets come in all shapes and sizes. It’s gonna be tough if you’re a real sasquatch, but if you’re just a between-sizes type, there’s a process of thermo-forming and vacuum-fit that should theoretically work for anyone. And, in a case where trickle-down is good, it’s not just available on the highest-dollar shoes. Oh yeah, and it can all be done at your local shop. Beats putting your old SIDIs in mom’s oven.
No. 8 - If you have to choose between summer and winter shoes, choose summer.
It’s much easier to take a lightweight, highly ventilated shoe and bulk it up for winter — whether it be with heavier socks or shoe covers — than it is to strip down a winter-specific shoe for summer. For starters, you won’t need to use an X-Acto knife. Seriously though, there’s no real reason to have multiple shoes for different seasons. Eddy Merckx didn’t.