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Wondering what cycling shoes you should buy? It can be a bit of a minefield out there, especially if you're not sure of the differences between road and mtb shoes and pedals.

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Here we've gone into detail about the options you have and provide some advice on how cycling shoes should fit and feel.

And if you're going clipless for the first time after reading this article, good luck! May your falls only be a little bit painful!


Road cycling shoes are made to make you go faster. It's as simple as that.

They have incredibly stiff soles to ensure maximum power output and pedalling efficiency – they're usually made of plastic or carbon. The sole will be baby-bum smooth and the cleats, when installed, will stand very proud of the shoe. Both of these factors make them incredibly difficult to walk in when off the bike.

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They'll also tend to have a lot of mesh and holes to keep your feet fully ventilated while you're riding the Tour of California. Obviously.


Most road shoes will have a three-bolt cleat mount, meaning they are compatible with road pedals like Shimano SPD-L, Time and Look. If you want to use a different pedal system, it's best to read all the information about the shoes you're buying so you can be sure you'll be able to make it work. You can read our Beginners Guide to Road Pedals here.


Your road shoes are most likely to be fastened with buckles, velcro or BOA lacing. BOA is interesting because it's so light and is minimises the amount of contact points. The other options mainly fall down to personal preference. Just make sure to try on a number of different shoes so you know what you prefer.

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Mountain bike shoes are all about compromise – maintaining the efficiency of pedalling offered by road shoes, but with extras that enable you to actually walk in them.

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For one, the soles won't be quite so rigid, allowing for more natural walking. Secondly, they have grips on the sole that provide a platform away from the cleat that you can walk on.


Mountain bike cleats work with two bolt shoes and are not compatible with road bike systems. The most popular MTB clipless systems are Shimano SPD, Look and Time MTB.

What to consider

MTB shoes have a lot to do with what kind of riding you do – if you ride off-road competitively, for instance, you'll want a stiffer sole that's more similar to a road shoe. But if you love getting off your bike to clamber over obstacles, you'll need to be able to walk like a real person.

The kind of riding you do will also effect the level of ventilation you choose: those who love the mud will probably prefer winter shoes that minimise the likelihood of wet feet!


Triathlon shoes are essentially road shoes, but they're designed to be incredibly easy to take off so the transition between your bike and your running shoes.

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Look for elements like velcro and loops of fabric on the ankle to help you pull these off at lightning speed!

These are also three bolt shoes, like road shoes, due to the fact they use the same cleat systems.

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Commuting is a tough call. It's quite common to see people commute in their road shoes, and that can be because that's what the rider is most comfortable in, or perhaps because they use their commute as a chance to train.

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It's also common to see people commute in mountain biking shoes. That's what this author does – I want to be able to stop off for a quick pint on the way home without having to change out of my cycling shoes, and therefore mtb soles are perfect for me.

There's also an element of style to take into account here. When you've spent a period of time with cyclists, you tend to get desensitised to how ugly cycling shoes actually are. But then you see a beautiful mtb commuter (above) and realise that it doesn't have to be this way!

It's also really down to personal preference. Just don't forget to carry flats so you don't end up clip-clop-ing around the office!

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It's a great idea to go to a shop to try on a number of different cycling shoe brands before buying, as cycling shoes are quite a personal choice. You'll want them to fit closely and securely to give you plenty of pulling power. That means that the prettiest, or the cheapest shoes might not be right for you. You don't want to be sliding around inside your brand new pair. But remember to leave space for winter socks if needs be!

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Also be wary of discrepancies – this is cycling and nothing is simple. European and American companies will have different ideas of what a size 6 looks like, for instance.