Taking it to the next level- investing in cycling shoes.

I could write a book about what shoes and cleats to get for indoor cycling, but I will keep it to a blog post for now.  If you are considering buying a pair of cycling shoes or have bought a pair and aren’t happy hopefully this post will serve as a tool kit and buying guide to finding the right shoe for you.

Investing in a pair of cycling shoes is an exciting and wonderful step to take if you are new to cycling.  For many who have never tried road biking (or even thought of doing road biking for that matter) buying cycling shoes can be a bit daunting and even confusing when sales associates start asking about cleats, pedals, styles, brands, etc.  Hopefully, if you are new to the shoe buying experience this will help you.

First of all know that….

There are many types of cycling shoes for many types of activities:

Road Shoes, Indoor Cycling shoes, Mountain Biking shoes and even Triathlon shoes.

There are many types of cleats to put on your different kinds of shoes too:

LOOKS, SPD, Speedplay, Crankbrothers, etc.

Now, let me tell you what you (most likely) will want and why…

1. A Road Shoe.

I always recommend a road shoe with a hard sole that is both LOOK and SPD compatible.  Why? This will give you flexibility in choosing cleats and I also find the road shoes to be lighter, with better ventilation and more comfortable for indoor classes. Be sure to try on several pairs to find something that fits your foot.  Watch out for pinching on the ball of the foot and for claustrophobia in the toes.  Also, ladies, do NOT be afraid to venture into the Men’s selection of road shoes.  I don’t have a wide foot by any means, but I have found the women’s road shoes to be too tight and the men’s shoe to be far more comfortable.

2. Red LOOK Delta. (See image of what you want to the left)

What is this for? You need a cleat to attach to the bottom of your shoe and secure your shoe to the pedal. With that said, our preferred cleat is thered Delta LOOK cleat.  Why?  Not as many gyms have this cleat option available on their bikes, but we at SYNCSTUDIO personally believe that it has its advantages.  With the LOOK Delta you are locked in on a triangular base that helps to distribute the weight across the ball of your foot as opposed to one central location.  This is not the same if you were to use an SPD cleat because thesize of an SPD cleat is so much smaller the weight can feel pin pointed to the center of your foot.  Furthermore, with the LOOK Delta you have quite a bit of “float” on the pedal, which means you can adjust the positioning of your foot on the pedal with out clipping out.

If for whatever reason you do end up getting SPD cleats then the Shimano SH-51 cleats are the best investment. The Wellgo 98-A cleats are about $10 cheaper but they are NOT SPD patented and I have seen them not work on SPD clips before.

These are SHIMANO SH-51 Cleats.

What to avoid?

1. Avoid getting locked into only being able to use SPD cleats. I (and many others) have found that these cleats are not as comfortable to use as the LOOK cleat.  Usually when you tell the sales associate you do indoor cycling they will try to convince you to buy a shoe that you can walk around in (ie. an indoor spinning shoe or a mountain biking shoe with rubber soles).  This is useless, are you really going to wear your cycling shoes to walk around in?  Probably not, most people change into them right before class begins. If you really do want to walk around in your cycling shoes then by cleat covers.

Check it….ROAD SHOES SOLE is hard, flat and compatible with many types of cleats.

Check it… MOUNTAIN BIKE SHOE SOLE is rubber like the bottom of a sneaker with limited cleat compatibility.

2. Don’t let the sales associate force you into buying something. Use the information from here to go in as a knowledgeable customer.  You know the shoe, you know the cleat and you know your feet…make them find what YOU want.

Where to buy?

DURHAM based store: Durham Cycles on 9th Street has a smaller, but great selection with super qualified and educated staff to help you.  Check them out at: http://www.durhamcycles.com

If you want to purchase online REI and Performance typically have great deals and great products with very good return policies.  Their in store selections are also pretty good.



If you are a bit more of a risk taker then try Amazon.com or nashbar.com, I would recommend trying shoes on before buying.

The above information is provided based on trial and error as well as opinion and observation.  As always questions, comments and concerns always welcome!

See you in class with your cycling shoes on!





5 responses to “Taking it to the next level- investing in cycling shoes.

  1. Matty

    Thanks for the great info and guidance, Ashley! It’s going to be of great help when choosing my cycling shoes this month.

  2. You are wellcome Matty! Can’t wait to see the kicks when you get them! XO

  3. mark

    great info! i got put into the SPD only shoe due to sales guy. i tried a pair of Delta Look cleats that are on the shoes provided at the studio because i forgot mine. OMG ! what a difference in support. unfortunately i cant change my cleats over and will buy new shoes as a result. thanks for the great blog!

  4. APL, great info here. I have been mixing in indoor cycling into my workouts for a couple years now. It’s great all year round and the winter months. Good point about the mountain vs. road soles. This is very true and not often discussed in many online articles about how to choose the right shoes for spin class. I would also add that getting shoes with velcro straps is really convenient for gym use, but of course, lace ups are fine as well. Also, another option for cleats are SPD-SL, which I use and are very similar to the LOOK style ones.

  5. I have read so many posts on cycling shoes but yours is the most informative by far as it tells readers things to avoid too. Keep up the good work!

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