While clothes make the man, shoes make the cyclist. If you’re riding in flimsy, uncomfortable shoes, or experiencing foot discomfort which you can’t relieve then keep reading because it’s time for a change. A properly fitted cycling shoe increases your delivery of power and will keep you comfortable over a long day in the saddle.
Remember that you’re going to be wearing these shoes for multiple hours with your foot locked in position and in varying weather conditions so they’ll need to be comfortable.
Let’s start from the top.
A pliable upper with adequate ventilation is the starting point. You’ll need to be sure that there are no pressure points because time spent wearing the shoe will not make this better, it will only get worse. A well ventilated upper assists your foot in cooling down on warm days when feet tend to swell in your shoes. An adjustable closure system (a ratchet strap or dial) will also allow you to adjust the fit of your shoe in the saddle, relieving any pressure on your foot. The ability to increase the tension when you want your foot to stay as still as possible like when you climb a hill or lead into a sprint will improve your performance as well as your comfort.
A firm, well-fitting heel cup will help your foot to stay in the right position in your shoe assisting in that all important pedalling technique. Some manufacturers have incorporated an adjustable heel cup into their shoes, which is a great asset for those of us with narrow feet.
On to the sole – your shoes serve a specific purpose when you’re on the bike; the transmission of power from your legs to the drive train. Rigidity is the key to ensuring that your power output receives minimal dissipation through interaction between shoe and pedal. A good quality cycling shoe will have either a carbon sole or a composite sole. Carbon soles are generally more rigid, thinner and lighter weight than the composite version, but if you’re not strong enough to flex the composite sole then carbon is a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘need to have’.
A replaceable heel pad for the inevitable walks from the street to the espresso counter and the (hopefully) not so inevitable walks due to mechanical failure or inability to climb that hill, will prolong the life of your shoe. If you can’t replace the heel pad you may need to replace your shoes more often – a dollar saved now may well be false economy.
All shoes are not created equal and you get what you pay for – considering that your shoes are your connection with your bike, spending a bit extra on your cycling shoes will definitely pay off in terms of performance. And a final note – Fashion over function is definitely not the way to go with cycling shoes, comfort is paramount!