Cycling shoes are an essential to any cyclists wardrobe whether you are a road cyclist or a mountain biker. Design to make sure all the power of your stroke goes into the pedals, cycling shoes come in various types and styles. They can be divided into two main categories: cycling road shoes and mountain bike shoes.
Road cycling shoes
A proper cycling road shoe is essential to establish a good connection between the rider and the bike. The road shoes transfer all the power from the rider to the pedals while being comfortable to wear. They are usually made of a stiff sole and softer upper.
There is 4 types of fastening system:
Velcro: being the most cost effective solution, it is usually find on entry level road shoes but this doesn't mean it doesn't have advantages. Velcro is light and quick to put on. However, it is not necessary the best to hold your foot securely.
Ratchet: Second on the list, the ratchet system offers a more precise adjustment and hold the foot tighter. It is also easy to tighten while riding. However, it requires two hands to loosen making it impossible to do while riding.
Dials: There are many types of dials but the Boa dial is considered the gold standard. The dials use a cable to tighten and loosen the shoes offering a precise level of adjustment with just one click making it easy to do while riding.
Laces: although considered old fashion, the laces have made a small come-back as they allow to fine tune the fit of the shoe through its entire length. However, it takes longer to put on and cannot be adjusted on the go.
The next thing you need to consider when buying a road cycling shoe is the sole. Cycling shoes soles are stiff to ensure a better transfer of power. Soles come in different materials from the entry level plastic to the fully carbon sole and the composite (carbon/plastic) in between. The stiffer and lighter the sole is, the more power you get out of your pedal strokes.
Next, you need to have a look at the cleat system on the shoes. There is two different types: 3 and 2 bolts. If you are planning to go off road or do a bit of walking in your cycling shoes, then you should look at the 2 bolts system. If you are purely and simply road riding, then the 3 bolts system is the way to go as it offers a wider platform to increase the power transfer to the pedal.
Finally, the upper of the cycling shoe is important too. Made with a variety of material, the upper can be more or less stiff. Stiff upper are design for sprinting while more supple upper are perfect for longer rides.
Mountain Biking Shoes
Only developed in the 1990's by Shimano, the mountain bike shoes have now become an essential of any off road cyclists.
Mountain bike shoes can be divided in two categories: the casual rider shoes and the more serious rider.
If you are a casual off road biker, two options are available to you:
Shoes that hook up with flat pedals: These are designed in the same way as an outdoor shoe with good grips on the sole and water-repellent material to make it easy to keep clean. The main difference with an outdoor shoe is the sole stiffness of the MTB shoes to allow for better power transfer.
Clipping shoes: Similar to the flat shoes, the clip on pedal have a stiff sole with an outdoor shoe design. The main difference is the cleat recess on the sole to fit a cleat in while allowing the rider to walk on it. Usually, these shoes come with hook and loop straps for proper adjustment.
If you are a little more serious about your MTB activities (XC rider, Gravity rider), you will be looking for a more aggressive shoe with similar features from the casual mountain biker shoes: stiff rubber compound sole, comfortable padding and ventilation to keep moisture away from the shoe... However, the sole will have more grips for scrambling up and down anything while carrying your bike.
Mountain biking shoes are also ideal for the commuting as they allow you to clip on and get the most out of your pedal stroke without having to carry a second pair of shoes for your work day.