Important Things To Know About Cycling Shoes

May 18, 2022 0 Comments

Black-and-white cycling shoe

Serious cyclists put thought into every aspect of their ride. A small improvement in comfort, whether it’s in what they wear or the saddle they use, can make for significant improvements in the cycling experience. 

That’s why serious cyclists know that they can’t just slap any pair of sneakers on and hit the road. They need a good pair of cycling shoes —  and they need to know how to maximize their shoe comfort — to have the best possible ride.

Coach Darryl MacKenzie has been cycling for more than three decades. In that time, he has done bike fits for nearly 1,000 cyclists and learned a few things about cycling shoes along the way. Here are a few things he notes about finding, wearing and caring for your cycling shoes.

Common Shoe-Related Cycling Problems

The tricky thing about cycling shoes is that you only tend to notice them when they’re causing problems. If you do have issues, you’ll know it.

Uncomfortable shoes can make cycling difficult to unbearable,” Coach Darryl says. 

The most common shoe-related cycling issues are: 

  • General pain in your foot
  • Hot foot — a problem where you’ll feel localized pain in one spot
  • Uneven pressure — when you have more pressure at the cleat but less along the rest of the shoe

The larger your feet are, the more likely you are to have any of these problems. However, they can affect any cyclist. And, more important, they can all be cured by proper shoe selection and fit.

The Most Important Feature for Cycling Shoes

Your first consideration for cycling shoes is construction.

Its important to have well-designed and well-constructed shoes,” says Darryl. “When thats the case, youre much less likely to have problems with your feet.”

When it comes to shoe comfort for cyclists, one factor matters more than anything else: sole flexibility. The stiffer the sole, the better off you’ll be. 

When you’re considering a new pair of cycling shoes, pick one up and put one hand on the toe and the other on the heel. Try to push the two together like an accordion. If it’s a poorly developed shoe, it will flex more than a quarter of an inch. The best shoes are, as Darryl puts it, “as stiff as a two-by-four.”

Why is sole stiffness so important when searching for comfortable cycling shoes? The more rigid the sole is, the more evenly it will distribute pressure across your foot while you pedal. This prevents problem pressure points from developing.

Darryl notes that, while mountain bike cycling shoes can afford a little more flexibility, road cycling shoes should consist of a solid, stiff sole to ensure maximum comfort. 

How Tight Should Your Cycling Shoes Be?

After shoe construction, this is your next important question. Even with the right shoe, improper tightening can cause problems.

Tightening of the shoes is part personal taste and part pedal efficiency,” Darryl explains.

What he means is that there’s a degree to which you can choose your cycling shoe tightness based on your own personal preferences. That’s especially true for the traditional style of shoes, which have three straps for adjustments. The two lower straps are really up to you in terms of how tight you want them. That top one, though, needs to be tight enough to ensure your foot doesn’t move up and down inside the shoe when you pedal.

That’s the pedaling efficiency part. Because a cyclist pedals around 5,000 strokes per hour, any extra foot movement in the shoe adds up. That quarter-inch on each stroke takes away a lot of pedaling power over the course of the ride. Plus, the heel blister you get from all that movement can be a doozy. 

If you use the newer style of cycling shoes, which have a single tensioning cord that runs through the whole shoe, you won’t have as much freedom to adjust different points. You just need to ensure the shoes don’t move on your feet. 

How Often Should You Have To Replace Your Cycling Shoes?

This question is less about comfort, but it’s an important one when you’re considering cycling shoes because they aren’t cheap. Of course, you’d like to get the most out of them without spending an arm and a leg.

As a general rule, if you take care of your cycling shoes and don’t ride in the rain too much, they should last you around 10,000 to 15,000 miles. However, that also assumes you spend a little more and get good shoes with some key replaceable parts.

Good cycling shoes, like the SIDI brand Darryl prefers, allow you to replace buckles and straps if they break. They also have a replaceable heel counter (the piece that attaches to the heel where your foot meets the ground). If you replace that regularly, it will prevent unnecessary wear on the heel of the shoes themselves and extend their life.

If you choose the newer cord-tightening model of shoes, Darryl recommends having a replacement cord kit on hand. Otherwise, if that cord snaps, you’ll likely be unable to tighten the shoe without swapping in a new kit.

Take Care of Your Shoes

Cycling shoes and cleats are one of the many expenses that can add up for a cyclist. Once you’ve selected the right pair and learned how to wear them, take care of them! Cleaning cycling shoes helps extend the longevity of your shoes. Don’t carelessly leave them out to get wet, and don’t leave them behind after a ride. 

When you do get a new pair of cycling shoes, don’t throw the old ones out, either. You never know when a strap might break on a ride or something else may cause a shoe problem for you. Having an old, well-worn backup pair is never a bad idea. 

Most of all, remember that happy feet will make a happy cyclist.

Having trouble getting a comfortable ride? Like pedals, saddles are one of the most significant causes of cycling discomfort. Read more about the medical benefits of our saddles and contact us to learn how Selle Anatomica can make your ride as comfortable as possible.


Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.

Image by Jonas Olsson from Pixabay