Cycling shoes for beginners: a shopper’s guide

Are you shopping for good cycling shoes? If so, do you know what the best cycling shoes for you are? Regular running shoes or sneakers work in a pinch. But cycling shoes provide improved grip, increasing stability, better balance and higher speeds.

You should consider cycling shoes if you:

  • Are serious about cycling.
  • Are a spin-cycler.
  • Have an interest in all-terrain cycling such as dirt biking or mountain biking.

But may you don’t know the ins and outs of different kinds of shoes. Yes, there are different kinds. And which kind is optimal for your needs depends on your specific cycling activity. And your personal preferences come into play too. If you’re confused, we’ll help you find the right shoes for you.

What are cycling shoes?

Cycling shoes are like regular sneakers and come in two common types: clipless shoes and flat shoes.

Clipless shoes have a design that let’s them fit with clips that attach to your pedals, whereas flat biking shoes have a flat, textured surface. While both shoes work for all types of cycling, their differences better suit the needs of certain biking activities.

Cycling shoes are best for those who are serious about cycling as they can be pricey, and often aren’t usable outside of cycling. Regular running shoes or sneakers work fine, but running shoes with good grip and traction work better to keep your foot on the pedal.

Clipless shoes vs. flat shoes

You can break all cycling shoes down into two categories: clipless and flat. Clipless shoes provide more safety. They attach your feet to the pedals of your bike. Flat shoes allow for more maneuverability, which you need for certain techniques.

  • Clipless shoes have a design that allows you to attach clips, which then connect to your bike pedals. Most clipless shoes don’t come with clips. If you don’t have clips already, you’ll need to buy them. Even without the clips, the grooves on the bottom of clipless shoes provide an improved grip on your pedal compared to a regular running shoe. Besides safety, the increased stability allows for better balance and higher speeds.
  • Flat shoes have a flat, textured, sole which provides more control over foot position on the pedal. While clips ensure you stay on your bike, flat shoes allow for more maneuverability. The ability to be precise in your food placement is necessary for certain techniques and tricks. And it’s often vital when you need quick footwork while off-road biking.

Best shoes for road cycling

Clipless shoes, flat shoes, regular sneakers or running shoes all work for road cycling. But deciding which is right for you depends on how serious you are about cycling.

Casual bike riders can rely on their regular sneakers and running shoes. More serious cyclists find certain benefits in both clipless and flat shoes, but most road cyclists opt for clipless. The traction provided from attaching the shoe to the pedal can improve control and speed. That’s ideal for those looking to improve their cycling performance.

Best shoes for mountain biking

There is some debate about whether clipless or flat are better for mountain biking, but it comes down to personal preference. Here are the pros and cons of each.

Clipless shoes:

  • Are recommended for those biking on more horizontal roads and mountain paths.
  • Improve safety by providing grip and optional attachment to your pedal.
  • Provide extra traction between your feet and your bike’s pedals. (This is useful when mountain biking over bumpy paths, but can be a determent if biking over more extreme inclines.)

Flat shoes:

  • Allow for more precise foot placement on the pedal (necessary for some biking techniques and vital when you need fancy footwork).
  • Are helpful when traversing steep inclines as you may need your feet accessible to brace yourself or execute a sudden brake.

Best shoes for spin cycling and indoor bikes

Clipless shoes are a great upgrade for spin-cyclers or those with indoor bikes. You don’t need cycling shoes for indoor bikes. But they can help improve performance and stability the same as they would for road cycling.

Best shoes for BMX, all-terrain and bike tricks

Flat shoes are ideal for those interested in BMX or any type of cycling that requires bike techniques and tricks.

Flat shoes allow for precise weight placement for specific balance needs. Bike tricks such as popping a wheelie or bunny hopping need specific foot placement to pull off. For that, the maneuverability of flat shoes is better.

Clipless shoes can prove dangerous when on terrains other than smooth roads or paths. That’s because you may need quick access to your feet to prevent falling or crashing. Most BMX competitions have banned or placed heavy restrictions on clipless shoes.

Deciding what shoes to buy

Some cycling shoes can stretch the wallet, but there are many affordable options on the market. Most have prices around the same that you would pay for a regular pair of running shoes.

The price difference comes down to how much you plan to bike, as there are options to get your money’s worth even if cycling is a once-in-a-while hobby for you.

Deciding which type of cycling shoe to buy depends on what type of cycling you plan to do. For most cycling, regular sneakers will do the trick. But those looking to improve their performance, or who are serious about cycling, will want to invest in cycling shoes.

The best top clipless cycling shoes

The best top flat cycling shoes

Clipless shoes on their own provide traction with their built-in grip soles, but they can’t attach to your pedals without clips. There are a few different types of clips, though the most common and generally used is SPD, which attaches to most standard bike pedals. For advanced road cyclists, other clip types may be preferable. LOOK, and Speedplay provide better performance for higher-end road cyclists. But note that the latter requires specific pedals.

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