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The Road Footwear Guide

Choosing the right shoe depends entirely on your personal needs. This guide outlines what you need to know to identify your best options, then presents a few of our picks for this year’s standouts.

Categories

Race

Racers and high-mileage riders should seek out what we’d consider a premium Race shoe, which packs plenty of tech into a comfortable package that’s easy to wear all day.

Lightweight

For hot conditions and/or the gram-conscious among us, the Lightweight category has exploded with a number of minimalist options pushing the boundaries of what we expect from cycling footwear.

Performance

We’d recommend the shoes in our Performance category to cyclists of any stripe, as these options offer fantastic durability and comfort.

Recreational

We’ve also assembled a few of our favorite Recreational-level shoes, which are very impressive in their own right, even before considering their approachable asking prices.

Sizing and Fit

The width of your foot is the primary consideration, and the need for a narrow, regular, or wide shoe will help you zero in on brands most likely to work for your feet. Keep in mind that many brands known for narrow fit, like Sidi and Giro, also offer dedicated wide versions of their most popular shoes.

Look for a fit that’s snug, not tight, and keep in mind that any pressure points will quickly turn into hot spots. Leather uppers are more forgiving in this regard, as they break in over the course of a few rides. If your shoe has a synthetic upper, be especially mindful of pressure points when you’re trying them on.

If your rides regularly exceed three hours, consider sizing up a half size. The additional room will accommodate the inevitable swelling that occurs when the miles add up.

Sole Construction

Carbon Fiber

For those seeking maximum power transfer, Carbon Fiber soles offer unsurpassed efficiency, making them the natural choice for most brands’ high end shoes.

Ventilated

In sweltering summer weather, Ventilated soles drive additional airflow, helping to regulate body temperature.

Carbon Composite

Found on lower priced offerings, Carbon Composite soles offer stiffness with a bit of added flex that many riders find more comfortable on longer rides.

Technical Details

Dial

If you need on-the-fly adjustability, go for a shoe with a Dial retention system. Many shoes use the BOA system, while Sidi uses its proprietary Tecno 3 Dial System, both of which allow you to easily tweak your shoes while in the saddle.

Traditional Laces

For those wanting a customized fit, Traditional Laces offer maximum comfort, at the price of being a less secure closure than the alternatives.

Ratcheting Buckles with Hook and Loop Straps

Tried-and-true Ratcheting Buckles with Hook and Loop Straps are still widely trusted as a reliable and comfortable option.

This is only a slice of the available options, which is why we’ve selected just a handful of our favorite shoes below.

Ventilated Uppers

If you’re after long term durability, a leather upper remains your best choice. However, if you’re after a lightweight, quick drying shoe, a synthetic upper will be a better choice.

For warmer climates and summer riding, you may appreciate a shoe with enhanced ventilation.

Shop Our Favorites

Giro Imperial Shoe

  • Narrow-to-Regular Fit
  • Secure and Adjustable Dual BOA Closure
  • Minimalist One Piece Synchwire Synthetic Upper
  • Extremely Responsive EC90 Carbon Fiber Sole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 219g (Size 42)
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Shimano S-PHYRE SH-RC9 Shoe

  • Regular Fit (Also Available in Women’s and Wide Versions)
  • On-The-Fly Adjustable Dual BOA Closure
  • Breathable Perforated Synthetic Leather Upper
  • Stiff Carbon Fiber Midsole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 242g (Size 42)
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Sidi Wire 2 Carbon Shoe

  • Narrow Fit (Also Available in Women’s Version)
  • Adjustable and Replaceable Tecno 3 Dual Dial Closure
  • Extremely Durable Synthetic Microfiber Upper
  • Stiff Carbon Fiber Midsole with Cooling Vents
  • Weight Per Shoe: 297g (Size 42)
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Giro Empire SLX Shoe

  • Narrow-to-Regular Fit
  • Traditional Laces for Fine Tuned Fit
  • Ultralight One Piece Synchwire Synthetic Upper
  • Extremely responsive EC90 Carbon Fiber Sole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 203g (Size 42)
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PEARL iZUMi PRO Shoe

  • Narrow-to-Regular Fit
  • On-The-Fly Adjustable Dual BOA Closure
  • Breathable Yet Water Resistant Knitted Synthetic Upper
  • PRO Carbon Fiber Sole with Generous Cooling Vents
  • Weight Per Shoe: 236g (Size 42)
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Fi’zi:k Vento Powerstrap R2 Ventoweave Shoe

  • Regular Fit
  • Minimalist Dual Hook and Loop Straps
  • Highly Ventilated Aeroweave Synthetic Upper
  • Stiff and Responsive R2 Carbon Fiber Sole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 231g (Size 42)
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Giro Empire ACC Women’s Shoe

  • Narrow-to-Regular Fit (Also Available in Men’s and Wide HV Versions)
  • Traditional Laces for a Personalized Fit
  • Breathable Perforated Synthetic Leather Upper
  • Race Worthy EC90 Carbon Fiber Sole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 199g (Size 39)
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Lake CX403 Shoe

  • Wide Fit
  • Secure and Adjustable Dual BOA Closure
  • Rugged Kangaroo Leather Upper with Carbon Fiber Stabilizer
  • Responsive Carbon Fiber Sole with Supportive External Heel Cup
  • Weight Per Shoe: 303g (Size 42)
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Louis Garneau LS100 III Women’s Shoe

  • Regular Fit (Also Available in Men’s Version)
  • Reliable and Secure Single BOA Closure
  • Rugged Synthetic Leather Upper
  • Cooling Vented Carbon Fiber Sole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 231g (Size 39.5)
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Sidi Alba 2 Shoe

  • Narrow Fit (Also Available in Women’s and Wide Mega Version)
  • Replaceable Single Tecno 3 Dial Closure with Hook and Loop Straps
  • Long Lasting Politex Synthetic Upper
  • Stiff Yet Comfortable Carbon Composite Sole
  • Weight Per Shoe: 343g (Size 42)
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PEARL iZUMi Attack Shoe

  • Narrow-to-Regular Fit (Also Available in Women’s Version)
  • Reliable Single BOA Closure
  • Lightweight Synthetic Upper with Breathable Mesh Panels
  • Comfortable Composite Sole with Ventilation
  • Weight Per Shoe: 276g (Size 42)
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Shimano SH-RC5 Women’s Shoe

  • Regular Fit (Also Available in Men’s Version)
  • Easily Adjustable Single BOA Closure
  • Quick Drying Synthetic Leather Upper
  • Moderately Stiff Carbon Reinforced Nylon Sole with Ventilation
  • Weight Per Shoe: 220g (Size 39)
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