Cycling shoes come in two main varieties: mountain shoes, which are designed to suit the gruelling conditions faced by cyclists racing on rocky terrain, and road shoes, ideal for touring on developed roads.
In an age when bicycles, helmets and other bike accessories tend to be as light and portable as possible, the general specification for both kinds of cycling shoes is that they be thin and lightweight. This is not to say that cycling shoes aren’t extremely elaborately designed and intricately crafted: on any pair of specialist bike shoes, everything from the sole to the velcro serves its purpose in the most efficient and technologically advanced way.
Mountain cycling shoes need to be able withstand the toughest conditions: blazing heat, pouring rain, and constant, intensive use over rocky terrain. As a result they are designed to be as comfortable and as durable as possible, and to support the feet in the most essential places. The sole of the shoe will usually be very hard, light and thin, in order to minimise the distance between foot and pedal whilst protecting the cyclist from injury. Due to the harsh riding conditions faced by mountain cyclists, the soles of the best mountain shoes will offer extra traction, while the upper can be made from quick-dry synthetic leather in order to provide as much water resistance as possible. It may be worth your while to ensure your mountain cycling shoes have a reinforced tip that will protect your toes from rocks.
Road shoes can differ from mountain shoes in that they are designed specifically to endure long periods of intensive cycling rather than particularly horrendous conditions. They are also very light and have thin soles, but one notable feature vital to long-distance cyclists is the easy-to-adjust strap and buckle, which allows riders to maximise their comfort and support whilst racing.
Cycling shoes will fasten either with hi-tech velcro or with laces. All good lace-up bike shoes will have some sort of strap to hold the laces out of the way of the pedals.
There is a subtle but important difference in the design of men’s cycling shoes and women’s cycling shoes. Women’s shoes are made on special lasts that match the form of women’s feet. The shoes tend to be narrower and more lightweight than men’s shoes.