Choosing Touring Shoes for Cycling

By Shular Scudamore

Growing up and into my adult years I wore all kinds of shoes and boots to ride my bike. I wore tennis shoes, running shoes, loafers, chukka boots and other types of shoes. Before I switched to "clipless" pedals, I bought a pair of lace up cycling shoes. I rode with Sidi mountain bike shoes on some long distance tours. I tried old fashioned mountian bike pedals and even platform pedals. Watch for more later. I tried trail running shoes for the gravel GDMBR, because there are significant sections of hike a bike.

Does it even matter what type of shoes we wear for cycling? You can find many articles about the need to have stiff soles on cycling shoes and the merits of racing shoes versus mountain bike shoes. I seen plenty of traveling cyclists wearing sandals with Shimano SPD cleats. The current Shimano SD5 sandals are about $120.00. The toe is open. I've seen riders with and without socks. For me, the risk of sunburn and the risk of cutting or abrading a foot cycling and camping are too hihg. Here are a few things to consider before choosing touring shoes for cycling.

Pedaling Efficiency

Cycling shoes for road riders or mountain bikers today are designed for clipless pedals. The cleats on these shoes attached your feet to the pedals. This is supposed to lead to improved efficiency in pedaling. You can push through the top of the stoke with one foot while pulling through the bottom of the stroke on the other foot. You would in theory be using different muscles and providing more uniform power through the full rotation of your crankset. As a cyclist who spins around 100RPM most of the time, I like to be connected to the pedals. I was never comfortable with toe clips and straps. At times I even spin up around 120RPM for brief periods. I don't think I could do this without clipless pedals. Wearing regular shoes you will only be able to transmit force to the pedals on the downward stroke.

Mountain Bike Shoes

SPD style cleats

SPD style cleat The SPD style invented by Shimano, used on mountain bikes and many touring bikes has the advantage of a small cleat on the bottom of the shoe. The photo on the right shoes the cleat being installed with a small allen wrench. A recessed cleat makes walking Sidi cycling shoe with SPD cleat in this style cycling shoe easier than road bike shoes. When you take a break or walk into a store for some refreshment, this style shoe will be comfortable. You will be less like to slide on smooth floors Notice that the cleat is recessed so that it does not contact the floor. This pedal is one of many newer pedals that are referred to as "clipless" pedals.

Road Bike Shoes

road bicycle shoe My road bike shoes currently have Look style cleats. They are not as easy to walk on as the SPD style. You can see in the photo that the cleat raises the front of your foot. There is a small rubber insert near the rear of the cleat. It is almost flush after one season. Test the pedals before you take off on a long trip. Some designs distribute the load better than others. When I rode from Champaign, Illinois to Boston, my cleats raised my toes far more than I preferred for walking.

Which Cycling Shoe is Best

Which shoe should you choose? After considering these thoughts, it is still up to you. You can wear a pair of Crocs, or a pair of sandals if you are comfortable. One author suggests that your foot will stay stiff on its own when you pedal, just like walking up a flight of stairs. He may be right. I plan to continue with Mavic road cycling shoes on my road bike and the Sidi mountain bike shoes on longer days where we stop for breakfast or go to a convenience store. As I thought about this I have decided to put some old fashioned pedals on this winter for two reasons. First, I will try riding with a pair of hiking boots that will allow a heavy pair of wool socks and second, I won't have to swivel the cleat out of the pedal to get a foot down on a slippery patch of road.

Links of Interest