Cycling is an interesting sport where the proper equipment can make a great deal of difference in the overall performance of the athlete. Even a world champion might have a hard time competing with a lesser opponent if he does not have a top quality ride as well as accessories.
With this in mind, one of the most important pieces of equipment is the cycling shoe, but there are many options which can make the task of choosing the best cycling shoes more difficult.
The myriad of shoes available all generally have stiffness as a shared feature across the spectrum. This allows a more efficient energy transfer from the rider to the pedals, and as such the shoes are also generally paired with a set of pedals so that the cyclist's feet stay in contact at all times.
The footwear can be generally classified into three main categories: road bike shoes, mountain bike shoes, and city bike shoes. (If you are interested in competing in triathlon, check out our triathlon shoes review page instead) The road shoes usually work with a 3-hole system that protrudes from the sole for excellent handling, but they are not great to walk in. The latter categories generally use a 2-hole system recessed for using off the bike as well. There are also many other options which will be covered below.
Best Cycling Shoes Under $100
The prices for cycling shoes vary greatly. It is easy to spend a fortune on a pair of shoes in order to wear the greatest and latest technology. However, a pair of great shoes can be had for a budget under $100 as well. In this range shoes will usually have laces or a basic strap design. Some older models will have special offers so that a great deal can be found without having to break the bank.
Pearl Izumi is one of the leading names as a manufacturer of cycling equipment and accessories. The Select Road III cycling shoe has a plethora of features for a price tag of under $100.
To begin with, the material is 74% synthetic leather and 26% nylon mesh which gives these shoes the necessary stiffness to handle even long road trips with ease. There is a patented Direct Vent technology which helps to keep the foot cool while also draining sweat through a system that other shoes simply cannot duplicate. The set of three adjustable hook-and-loop straps ensure that the shoes fit tightly so that all of the cyclist's effort is directed towards the pedals.
A 1:1 anatomical enclosure means that there is less likely of a chance of developing those annoying hotspots that sometimes occur during rides. Pressure is removed from the instep as well so that comfort is maintained throughout the journey.
These clipless road bike shoes are SPD compatible which means that they work with either SPD or SPD-SL type pedals. So, if the rider is interested in using the SPD clipless pedals which allow entry from either side and integrate with the two-hole cleats, then he or she is able to do just that.
On the other hand, SPD-SL with its 3-hole version can be used as well in order to take full advantage of the more efficient power transfer. The versatility can be a wise consideration for anyone looking for road shoes in this price range.
Pearl Izumi Select Road III Summary
Overall, these shoes look and feel great with a few different color options to choose from. The versatile compatibility with both SPD and SPD-SL means that one pair of shoes can perform multiple tasks as needed.
Pros: They are gorgeous, budget friendly cycling shoes that offer a unique degree of versatility when compared to other comparable shoes. They provide the increased power output most cyclists look for when selecting a pair of road bike shoes.
Cons: They tend to run small, so if you are considering buying a pair online, you will want to pay close attention to the sizing chart to make sure you get the best possible fit.
Bontrager is another great company that offers a myriad of products to cyclists in order to help them improve their performance. The company is named for Keith Bontrager who helped pioneer much of the development of the modern mountain bike, however the great shoes under review here are geared towards road enthusiasts instead.
As with the Pearl Izumis, these Bontragers are able to handle both types of pedal attachments SPD and SPD-SL. This means that a plethora of pedals can be chosen to match up with them, including everything from Look, Time, and Crank brothers as well.
The enclosure mechanism includes Velcro straps with a ratchet system that allows the rider to perform that extra bit of tweaking in order to keep everything snug enough so that the shoe should be the least or a rider's worries.
Many highly trusted review sources say that these DLX Road Cycling shoes from Bontrager are some of the most comfortable ones that they have worn. Bontrager uses their proprietary PowerTruss system so that the shoes makes the most of the sole by splitting it into two different levels making it one of the best nylon composites available on the market. Carbon fiber would be the next level in the hierarchy. Shoes which incorporate carbon fiber are almost going to be at a price range which may put them out of the practical range of the beginner or occasional rider.
The heat moldable inForm Footbed is also a welcome addition as it allows for a truly customized and individual fit for the rider. It molds to match the unique profile of the arch in the foot after a few rides to wear them in. The metatarsal bones of the foot are also likely to thank the designers for their inclusion of a metatarsal pad which gives a moderate amount of support that will help to eliminate nerve pain and pressure that a rider will often encounter in some of the less thoughtful models of shoe.
Bontrager Race DLX Road Summary
Pros: The Bontrager Race DLX Road Cycling shoes are nothing short of a steal for the price. They are one of the most comfortable cycling shoes you will find in the price range. They do not compromise on materials or power output, making them a great choice for a beginner or advanced road cyclist.
Cons: Even though in a cycling shoe, a stiff bottom is great, these are very stiff. They make walking awkward. However, since you will be spending most of you time in these shoes on your bike, this shouldn’t be too big of a concern.
Best Cycling Shoes Of 2018. Period.
If price is not the limiting factor when looking for a pair of cycling shoes and performance and top-level comfort are critical to the purchaser, then there are a host of other shoes which then become feasible on the list of potentials.
These higher priced and better performing models are going to include a myriad of proprietary and innovative technologies from the shoe manufacturing company's secret handbook. Things like Boa tightening, Dynalast, and carbon fiber soles all combine to provide some of the most competitive cycling shoes on the market.
Louis Garneau is a known name in the sport of cycling for his participation in the Olympics and other races where he performed quite well. Similarly, his eponymous company manufactures and sells a nice variety of footwear which ranks at the top of the line in many categories and according to various metrics of comparison.
The Carbon LS-100 is one such shoe which is versatile enough to be used for shorter intense races as well as for long distance marathon cycling. The stiffness to weight ratio is outstanding due to the collaboration of synthetic leather upper material and microfiber throughout in order to not sacrifice any performance.
The Boa L4 single rail controls help keep the fit adjusted properly and in place throughout even the most strenuous of rides.
The Boa company alone is one of the premier names in the industry whose products have been used by the upper echelon of cyclists for a great deal of time now. Their control system includes a micro-adjustable dial coupled with super strong lightweight laces weaved through guides which are designed to eliminate friction and optimize fit. The single-hand fine tuning system can be a little awkward to operate at first, and so it may take a bit of getting used to, but the overall quality is hard to beat with a custom fit making the shoes feel like they were designed with only the rider's foot in mind.
These are some of the best shoes available with all of the already mentioned great features as well as adjustable bolt holes and excellent ventilation throughout. A carbon-fiber sole and 3-hole road cleat compatibility means that they target riders on the asphalt.
Louis Garneau Men's Carbon LS-100 Summary
Pros: They are extremely versatile and can be used for short sprint races as well as long-distance cycling. They are made of premium synthetic leather and microfiber material which creates a lightweight, high performance shoe.
Cons: Very narrow toe box. These shoes will not not be a good choice for those with wide feet. Make sure if you are considering buying a pair that you examine the size chart carefully. If you know you have wide feet, you may want to consider a different pair all together.
The Giro Factor ACC Bike Shoes are another product which makes the list of top cycling shoes of 2018, and for good reason. They look great with multiple color combinations available, and with the leather construction providing the ruggedness necessary to tackle difficult sections and rough conditions they offer longevity that is difficult to surpass.
A proprietary Evofiber upper material means that the rider's feet will stay cool and comfortable so that the focus can be on outdoing the competition rather than how to handle discomfort.
They are held in place through the incorporation of 1 ratcheting buckle and 2 hook-and-loop straps which provide some of the most customizable fit feelings without actually having to pay the astronomical price that professional athletes can dish out for their one-of-a-kind shoes.
Easton EC90 ACC carbon fiber makes up the sole and the inclusion of the SuperNatural Fit Kit and an X-static lining keep the foot comfortable with ratings high from the majority of users in all categories of comparison. 3-hole road cleat compatibility when joined with these lightweights means that every ounce of energy is going to be going into the bike for great rides.
Giro Factor ACC Summary
Pros: They are made of high quality, lightweight materials which makes them a highly effective cycling shoe. They are beautiful shoes. Although there are not many colors to choose from, the design of the shoe is very good, and you can tell it is high quality.
Cons: The main strap on the shoe is very stiff. For some cyclists, this means that you will not be able to get the perfect fit. The original Factor’s had a much more broken-in feel than the ACC.
Completing this lineup of best cycling shoes 2018 is the Shimano SHR065 that can hold its own with all of the others listed. The material is a high-density synthetic leather with a mesh upper for top-grade ventilation and drainage.
A fiberglass-reinforced polyamide sole gives excellent fit without reducing the necessary power transfer so that what the muscles put out can be forced through the pedal mechanisms and nowhere else.
Shimano has always been a leader as a company when it comes to proprietary technologies that improve performance, and there are a number of such innovations included in the SHR065 cycling shoe.
Shimano Dynalast is one such feature which optimizes the shoe last for excellent pedaling efficiency so that the rider is less likely to tire during the longer sections of a race or ride. With Dynalast the shape is optimized, and in particular it is the toe spring section of the last which gets the most attention.
It is built just right in order to avoid the too high problem which can lead to excessive increased tension in the muscles of the leg and also to avoid the too low problem where a bad form causes poor bowlegged pedaling. There is an integrated intake and exhaust system so that the cyclist's feet are receiving the fresh air that they need while also eliminating the expired air and sweat.
These are just as great for hardcore training rides and tours as they are for the more settled atmosphere of weekly club or fitness ventures. They are ideally matched with Shimano's own pedals such as the PD-R550, PD-R540, PD-540-LA, and PD-A520 products which are SPD-SL attachments that are made to handle what the rider is able to produce with the accompanying shoes. Almost universally the ratings and reviews on these shoes have been top of the line with nearly 5 stars being recognized after numerous respondents.
Shimano SHR065 AllAround Summary
Pros: They are designed to be highly efficient. This means that all the power coming from your legs is transferred to the pedals. They generally fit as expected and are an overall great pair of cycling shoes.
Cons: While they are a great overall shoe, there are other comparable shoes at a lower price point. You are paying mostly for Shimano’s proprietary systems.
Choosing The Best Cycling Shoes For Your Needs
Modern cycling shoes have come a long way since their initial introduction into the market. This review of the best cycling shoes of 2018 has captured the essence of the greatest models available today, and so anyone who is serious about their cycling needs to make a serious consideration of the brands and models listed above.
If increased performance is what you’re looking for, purchasing a high quality pair of cycling shoes can make a drastic difference in your speed and efficiency.
Do you have experience with any of the shoes mentioned in this review or think we missed one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.