Cycling Shoes: A Buyer’s Guide

Investing in the right pair of cycling shoes not only make you look as if you know what you’re doing, but they also get you where you’re going more efficiently. So, if you want to fly down the road, here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for your next pair of bike shoes.

cycling shoes - a buyer's guide

Backroads Pro Tip

When choosing cycling shoes, comfort should be paramount. Take care of any discomforts early on because the alternative is unhappy blisters, and those aren’t fun!


To Clip In or Not to Clip In?

Commuters, mountain bikers, trick cyclists and cycle tourists wear street shoes because they’re easier to use when off the bike. You can get your feet off the pedals quickly, and you don’t have to carry an extra pair of shoes to wear when off the bike. Many brands make cycle-specific “flat” shoes both for mountain and city riding. Brands like Giro, 510, and Specialized have options that provide excellent grip, power transfer, and style without using a cleat and pedal (clipless) technology.

However, there are some awesome benefits to using clipless cycling shoes and pedals.

Your feet won’t fly off the pedals when you’re cycling. You can pull up and push down on the pedals when spinning. Which helps on climbs, and it can even out your muscle tone. Finally, clipless shoes are most efficient at transferring your effort directly into the bike which means you go faster!

The biggest downside to clipless pedals is the learning curve related to how to use them properly Remember, it’s good to familiarize yourself with your pedals before starting that 100-mile ride or showing up on the first day of your bicycle tour. The best place to do this is somewhere easy to ride, and you’ll also want lots of time to practice clipping in and out of your new pedals. Being patient and diligent during this initial period can really pay off. You’ll learn faster and fall less!

That being said, you might be curious about how to engage and disengage your new pedals. The basic movement looks like this: clip in with your toe first, and unclip by swinging your heel out and away from the bike. Pedals are designed to be easy to get into and out of, so the motion should become second-nature after a few tries.

If you’re about to buy your first pair of clipless cycling shoes, consider investing in a pair of mountain bike shoes. The cleats on these are usually recessed into the shoe, making walking easier, and it’s a more versatile, learning-friendly shoe. They’re also great shoes for cycle touring, when you’re likely to get off the bike for a quick espresso, photo or lunch and don’t want to change shoes.

Backroads Pro Tip

Unlike clipless mountain bike shoes, racing shoes have their cleats exposed, making them awkward to walk in. Keep this in mind when deciding what pair of cycling shoes best fits your riding style and needs.​​​​​


There are a variety of clipless shoe and pedal combinations. You should always ensure that that the shoes you like are compatible with the pedals you want. Your local bike shop can always help you make the right decision. At Backroads, we love Shimano’s SPD platform as it is an awesome mix of performance gains, and versatility off the bike.

Backroads Pro Tip

For the best chance at biking success, know your terminology. “Clips” refer to pedals with cages, baskets or toe clips. With this style of pedal, riders wear regular shoes and slip their toes in and out of metal or plastic holders for riding. “Clipless pedals” refer to clip-in pedals. (Yes, it’s confusing!) These require shoes with corresponding CLEATS that actually do  clip in and attach to the pedal.


Whatever you decide to do, have fun with your shoes! And, remember, the best shoes to wear on a bike are the ones that get you spinning. Enjoy the ride!

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