Road bike shoes are the crucial connection between bike and rider. This makes it all the more important to choose them carefully. Fit, closure, sole. What is important and what is not.
According to a current survey by the IfD Allensbach (January 2024), almost six million Germans over the age of 14 get on a racing bike at least now and then in their free time. In 2023, around a third often pedaled across the country on narrow tires. The fact that the German professional cycling team Bora-hansgrohe has been at the forefront of the world’s most important cycling races for several years is likely to further fuel the racing bike boom.
If you regularly wear racing gear and cycling shorts, you can’t avoid getting a pair of solid racing cycling shoes. Why? In order to put proper pressure (and pull) on the pedal, there must be a firm connection between man and machine. And because a road bike ride can often take a few hours, road bike shoes should not only be stable, but also as comfortable as possible. In other words: the matter is complex.
To ensure that road bike shoes fit well from the first kilometer, they should be selected carefully. The article explains which questions need to be clarified in advance and what is most important when looking for the perfect shoe.
1. What criteria should a good racing bike shoe meet?
It may sound a bit banal: but a good racing bike shoe should, above all, fit. In contrast to running shoes, bike shoes have to be compact and tight all around. Otherwise the power transmission will not work or will only work to a limited extent. That’s why the fit of road bike shoes is the be-all and end-all. Important: Dive into the search with an open mind. Slip into models from different manufacturers to find out which fit is best for your feet. Only when the shoe fits perfectly can you think about the closure and ventilation.
2. Why is the closure so important?
If your feet are one with the shoes, you should focus on the closure. And there is one thing in particular that needs to be kept in mind: the midfoot. A significant part of the force that is put on the pedal takes place right there. Therefore, the metatarsal must be optimally fixed with the five metatarsal bones. But also in such a way that nothing presses or sticks, because in the long run this is not only painful, but is also reflected in the wattmeter.
But what closures and closure systems for racing bike shoes are there?
- Classic lacing: A closure that had been forgotten for years. The lacing system is currently returning to racing cycling. Like this model of . It even plays a role again in the professional field. This is due to the low weight of the laces. In addition, you can adjust the pressure perfectly to the respective foot using lacing and thus avoid possible pressure points. On the minus side it says that a stop is necessary if the lacing doesn’t fit perfectly.
- Velcro: The Velcro fasteners familiar from children’s shoes are also popular. Especially with three straps, the pressure can be distributed very well across the instep. Depending on how tightly you fasten the Velcro straps. Disadvantage: To readjust, the Velcro fastener has to be completely removed, repositioned and closed again. This is possible while driving, but not recommended.
- Ratchet closure: Essentially an upgrade from the Velcro I just described. The ratchet, which usually replaces one of two or three Velcro straps, allows the shoe to be configured more precisely and the pressure to be increased or decreased in small increments. And without having to interrupt your training. The small weight disadvantage compared to pure Velcro fasteners is negligible for hobby drivers. Comfort clearly comes first here.
- Twist lock: Very common, but also by far the most expensive variant of the four racing bike shoe closures. 300 euros and more are nothing special here. The pressure can be distributed over the foot more precisely and finely than with any other closure using minimally indented rotary wheels like those from Boa. Clear advantage: Even during training, fine-tuning is child’s play.
Important: Here too, try out how you can get along with the different closure systems. A combined system may also be best for your foot shape, which could consist of lacing or Velcro with a twist lock.
Speaking of foot shape. As with noses and ears, no two feet are the same. At least some manufacturers have responded to this by offering racing bike shoes with lasts for narrow and wider feet. This means that the lasts in the models for women are tailored specifically to their smaller feet. The lasts for women are usually slightly narrower in the forefoot and have a lower instep.
3. Do road bike shoes have to be well ventilated?
To put it briefly: the more air and wind that gets to your sweaty feet, the better. For autumn and winter, get a pair of solid overshoes that not only keep out rain, but also wind and cold. Functional socks that at least partially remove sweat from your shoes are a must for every season.
4. Crucial point sole: What you should pay attention to when buying
How expensive a racing bike shoe is depends not only on the closure but also on the sole. For shoes with soles made of carbon, you have to dig a lot deeper into your pocket than for shoes with soles made of plastic. The carbon fiber substructure is not only lighter, but also extremely torsion-resistant and thin. Why is that important? The thinner the sole, the closer the foot comes to the pedal axis. The kick becomes more efficient. For beginners and hobby runners, a shoe with a plastic sole is also suitable. However, make sure that the model of your choice cannot be twisted in the sole area with your bare hand. Stiffness is essential, even if it comes at the expense of weight. Heavier cyclists in particular should make sure that the sole of their racing bike shoe is as stiff as possible.
The interior of a racing bike shoe is no less important. Unfortunately, the standard insoles tend to fall off against the outside. When cycling, it also plays a role whether the feet are naturally twisted. As with running shoes, appropriate ones help to position overpronators or supinators stably in the shoe.0 The former place their foot on the outer edge of the heel, but then rotate strongly inwards. This is popularly known as the X-legged position. Supinators also land on the outside edge of the heel. After that, the foot rotates inwards little or not at all. Footballers in particular are familiar with this bowlegged phenomenon. The appropriate insoles then support the arch of the foot on the corresponding side.
5. Which record is right for me?
Finally, we come to the question of faith among cyclists. Which plate do I screw under the shoe? First of all, you will find three holes in standard cycling shoes to which the three most common cleats can be attached. These are the systems from the manufacturers Time, Look and SPD-SL from Shimano. If you swear by Speedplay, you need an adapter or a shoe to which the 4-hole cleats can be mounted directly. However, these are only offered by a few manufacturers. Important: Each cleat comes with the right pedals.
Further information are available here.
I am Pierce Boyd, a driven and ambitious professional working in the news industry. I have been writing for 24 Hours Worlds for over five years, specializing in sports section coverage. During my tenure at the publication, I have built an impressive portfolio of articles that has earned me a reputation as an experienced journalist and content creator.