If you’re riding a road bike without clipping your shoes in, then you’re wasting half your power. By using a pair of road bike shoes you transfer more motion to your bicycle for better speeds, better torque, and a better workout. See, lifting your leg is part of the cycling action. When you use a pair of cycling shoes, you can leverage that extra movement to add energy to the bike and give your quads and calves a little extra oomph, which will get your stems in shape faster.
Using cycling shoes makes you more in tune with your machine. When you move, it moves with you, creating a seamless blend of the human and the mechanical which turns you into a bit of a cycling cyborg. Shoes built for road bikes come in a wide array of prices and styles, made from nearly every kind of material. So that you don’t end up paying too much for bicycling gear that won’t fall apart on the 50th mile, will give you comfort along with performance, and look snappy on your cycle, we ran down the 7 best road bike shoes.
Pro: Extremely high value
Con: Tend to be warm with mediocre ventilation
Entry Level: It’s easy to watch a few hundred dollars disappear into shoes for your road bike if you aren’t careful. Anyone new to the game will probably want to see if they even want to bother, and these are the best litmus test we’ve found. They have a performance sole borrowed from the more expensive (but not better) Lake CX160. The toe box is spacious, which is better for beginners but will annoy professional pedalers. Using a triple strap design, they’re easy to slip on and take off, look decent, and are fairly light. Be wary of hot days as they do not breathe very well.
Louis Garneau Revo
Pro: Sole is ventilated
Con: Screws can be felt through sole
Best Balance: The Revo is a middle-of-the road cycling shoe that draws in a lot of features from more expensive models without inflating its own price tag. A nice mesh and synthetic leather upper gives you full summertime airflow that will keep your feet cool and free of funk even when you’re spending all day in the saddle. It has an incorporated HRS90 heel retention system wherein a piece of fabric runs around the heel and connects to the sole for a better grip that transfers force during the upstroke to the pedal. Not stiff enough for real racing, but perfect for the daily commuter bike or intermediate level rider.
Shimano R320 shoes
Pro: Removable insoles allow arch modification
Con: No replaceable sole pads causes heel to wear quickly when walking
Cool Customer: It should be noted that Shimano road bike shoes, like all other Shimano equipment, are a safe bet. If you want to spend less, you can get their R078 or drop a few dollars more for their R260 and ride away happy. We like the R320 because it seems to be a better overall fit for more levels of expertise. The bottom is made of carbon and more than stiff enough for light or intensive riding, so they don’t flex like a mountain bike shoe meant to double as a hiking boot. Massive air intakes and mesh all around give you lots of ventilation at all points for a cooler ride. Velcro straps and a ratched closure fit snugly, the rubber heel feels great, and they can be heat molded for a custom fit if you so desire.
Pro: Race-grade power transfer
Con: Heavy for a road bike shoe
Racing Clone: Innumerable road bike shoes are made with racing in mind, but they’re not really made for anything other than dropping your time trial numbers. The rank amateur, or those who are looking for a more casual experience than professional grade will find the Audax has enough racer DNA to be fun without being solely built with speed in mind. The name itself comes from the French for an untimed race, showing the attitude behind it: Racing speed without the pressure. Mesh and plush synthetic leather comprise the upper and are loaded with vent perforations to allow air movement. Closure is handled by both Velcro straps and Boa steel laces and the footbed can be swapped out. Big enough to add thermal socks during cold days yet secure enough for all-terrain use.
Dromarti Race Shoe
Pro: Comfortable, molded heel cup
Con: Lace closure isn’t as effective as straps
Fashionable Footwear: At first blush, it’s easy to confuse these with a pair of dress shoes, since they are built with hand made leather that seems more at home on a set of natty driving gloves than resting on your feet as you churn away. Don’t be fooled by their dapper appearance, these are indeed race shoes that are capable of handling a multi-day trip right out of the box. The supple leather requires no time to break in and are ready for action the minute you slip them on. Heel and toe guards help keep your feet safe, the sole is as stiff as the uppers are buttery soft, and the superb stitching coupled with the standard front lace make them fit like a dream.
Northwave Extreme Winter GTX Boot
Pro: Thermoplastic polyurethane shell
Con: Limited breathability
Cold Climate: Winterized cycling shoes are normally reserved for the mountain biking industry, but merely because you prefer to venture along paved roads when the snow flies doesn’t mean you should be condemned to cold feet. The Extreme Winter from Northwave borrows from their impressive mountain bike shoe line and transfers over the Gore-Tex lining full of moisture wicking and impermeability. They employ a speed lacing structure that is reminiscent of snowboard boots more than standard shoes. The outsole has a nylon chassis injected with fiberglass and dotted with rubber studs for a stiff feel, strong grip, and added protection. Just know that these abhor sunlight and retain a lot of warmth.
Sidi Wire Carbon Vernice
Pro: Generously padded instep and toe box
The Omega: A glance will tell you these are meant for serious work, since they are vented backwards and forwards, with the synthetic mesh upper, tongue, and midsole all riddled with holes like Scandinavian cheese. An additional vent sits on the toe and can be used open or clasped closed. Their advanced Techno 3 wiring closure system works with a simple flick and a flip to have them batten down. The wire system lets you not only tighten or loosen the shoes, but change how they fit around the instep and forefoot. They can easily be adjusted from your seat in the saddle, so no need to stop for fiddling. Included in the price of admission are slightly flexible toes that don’t interfere with your ride but do make clopping around between bouts more comfortable.