Listen up: if you're serious about cycling, you need to have a separate pair of shoes exclusively allocated to your cycling adventures. Whether they're non-cycling waterproof athletic shoes or dedicated clipless cycling shoes, your footwear is key.
Competitive cyclists like to go all in and use cleats, clipless pedals, and complementary clipless shoes. Basically, all this pedaling gear helps you optimize your pedaling efficiency by ensuring that you're bolted down to your pedals.
The whole point is to make it so that the pedals are an extension of your legs. But the thing is, the perfect cycling shoe is one that fits your requirements.
So, do you want a cycling shoe or a non-cycling shoe? Should you go clipless? Do you prefer an off-road shoe that can also facilitate you in walking on uneven ground?
If you're turning your gears trying to figure out the answer to all these questions, don't worry- we've got you covered.
What’s Different About A Dedicated Cycling Shoe?
Cycling, like most sports, has its own type of dedicated footwear to help you enhance your performance.
But what is it about a cycling shoe that makes it so special?
Basically, these specialized shoes help you secure your feet onto the pedal and make sure they don’t slide off.
While there are many different types of cycling shoes, they all have one single purpose: to keep your feet attached to the cycle’s pedals at all times.
Old cycling shoes would use actual straps to secure your feet into the pedals- kind of like a dog muzzle. The only problem was that buckling in and out of these top-clip shoes- as they were called- was extremely time-consuming.
For this reason, most modern cycling shoes use a “clipless” mechanism. Basically, clipless shoes allow you to clip on and off the pedal with a simple twist of your feet instead of having to fumble around with the straps.
Another defining feature of these cycling shoes is that their soles are way more rigid and stiff than running or hiking shoes. The stiffness of the sole ensures that there is equal force distribution across the pedal when you’re pushing down on them.
While the jury’s still out on whether the stiffness actually makes a difference, the fact is that most cycling shoes are noticeably stiffer than regular waterproof athletic shoes.
There are many benefits of dedicated cycling shoes:
- They maximize energy transfer to the pedals.
- They help you utilize energy on upstrokes as well as downstrokes.
- They give you more control on downhill descents.
- They ensure that your feet don’t slip off the pedals.
- They’re more comfortable than regular shoes since the stiff soles equalize pressure distribution.
- They’re more durable and can outlast regular shoes.
Non-Cycling Shoes For Cycling
As we’ve seen, cycling shoes are completely different from regular shoes; they’re more rigid with a smooth tread and plastic soles.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t use regular athletic shoes for cycling.
On the contrary, some modern waterproof athletic shoes can double as high-performance cycling shoes.
There are many reasons why you should opt for a non-cycling shoe. The primary reason is that non-cycling shoes are better for walking on all surfaces. Even an off-road clipless cycling shoe can’t provide the same level of traction that a non-cycling shoe can.
So, if it’s versatility you’re looking for, there’s no harm going for non-cycling waterproof athletic shoes such as running sneakers. That being said, you should definitely look out for the following features for the best non-cycling cycling shoe:
- The soles need to have a good amount of grip, but the tread shouldn’t disrupt your pedaling.
- The soles should have a stiffness to them.
- The upper needs to be waterproof and breathable for off-road adventures.
- The toe boxes should be narrow.
Top 5 Versatile Cycling Shoes
It might surprise you to learn that there are actually many different types of cycling shoes- each with its own purpose.
Here, we’ve included the most common types of cycling shoes.
1. Rumble VR Shoe- Best Overall Cycling Shoes
While there are plenty of high-performance cycling shoes on the market, the Rumble VR Shoe has no competition. And at under $100, that’s really saying something.
These feature-packed shoes are the most versatile cycling footwear leaving you prepared for any situation. Whether you’re cycling off-road or commuting to work, the Rumble VR Shoes will serve you well for any occasion.
The surprising thing is that these shoes don’t resemble cycling shoes at all. If anything, they look like waterproof athletic shoes made for running or everyday wear. With a breathable mesh upper, laced closure, and minimal design, these casual-looking shoes can blend into any environment.
But once you turn them over, you’ll notice the three-bolt cleat pattern for clipless pedals- a characteristic feature of road shoes.
At the same time, the Vibram outsole and the light-trail lug pattern provide excellent traction for almost all surfaces.
So, if you’re looking for an all-rounder cycling shoe, the Rumble VR is the way to go.
2. Loom Waterproof Sneakers- Best Non-Cycling Waterproof Athletic Shoes
If you’re looking for a versatile shoe that can give you high-performance levels both on the wheel and on the road, then look no further than these waterproof running shoes by Loom Footwear.
The most gripping feature about these waterproof athletic shoes is their tread.
Loom sneakers are primarily running shoes, but they’re meant to facilitate off-road treks as well. For this reason, the tread resembles that of a light trail walking shoe. This means you’re going to get impressive levels of traction on practically any surface- be it paved, gravel-y, or muddy.
But while the tread of a hiking shoe weighs it down, Loom shoes are actually pretty lightweight. And the less weight is on your feet, the more comfortably you can pedal.
In this way, Loom sneakers are the best non-cycling waterproof athletic shoes for urban as well as mountain cycling.
Additionally, Loom sneakers boast a four-way-stretch merino wool interior. This makes the shoes flexible enough for a comfortable fit and snug fit, but not so pliant that they get in the way of your pedaling.
So, if you’re not a fan of the stiffness of standard cycling shoes, then these lightweight flexible shoes will be more up your alley.
3. Pearl Izumi X-Alp Elevate- Best Off-Road Cycling Shoes
For most off-road cycling shoes, the addition of heavy treads usually defeats the purpose of otherwise smooth-soled cycling shoes. What’s more, the treads add on too much weight, which makes pedaling harder.
Luckily, The X-Alp Elevate strikes that perfect balance between a tread-heavy off-road shoe and the functionality of a flat-soled cycling shoe.
When you’re cycling along rugged trails, you can use the cleats to clip into the pedals. But since the cleats are recessed, you can easily switch to walking and let the protruding treads take over.
But is the grip really on par with hiking shoes?
For a cycling shoe, yes- the traction on these cycling shoes is the closest you’re going to get to a high-performance hiking shoe. An aggressive Vibram rubber outsole guarantees an unwavering grip, both on the ground and the pedal.
Additionally, the X-Alp Elevates are waterproof, durable, and protective, which is crucial for any kind of off-road trekking.
4. Adidas Five Ten Free Rider Pro- Best Flat Pedal Shoes
The Five Ten free Rider Pro has swiftly become the benchmark for all flat pedal cycling shoes. And it’s no surprise why.
When it comes to flat pedal mountain bike shoes, the grip is crucial. That’s why Adidas offers these no-nonsense flat pedal shoes for people who are wary of the clipless mechanism.
In fact, these shoes are the closest thing you're going to get to off-road clipless cycling shoes without the actual cleats.
And the secret lies in the soles.
The Five Ten Free Rider Pro features the notorious Stealth S1 Dotty rubber outsole. The extra-adhesive material grips onto the pedals without being too restrictive. This way, your feet remain fastened to the pedals, but you can also readjust your footing mid-pedaling.
In terms of comfort and durability, the Five Ten Free Rider leaves little to be desired. Well-cushioned and water-resistant, they have the same capabilities as any high-end waterproof athletic shoes.
Additionally, the impact-resistant urethane toe box keeps your feet safe from serious injuries- it’s like a hiking boot, cycling shoe, and running shoe all combined into one!
5. Torch 1.0 Road Shoes- Best Road Cycling Shoes
The Torch 1.0 cycling shoes are the perfect companion for your urban cycling adventures. These waterproof athletic shoes boast an array of road-friendly features with an urban-appropriate style.
Firstly, the shoes use a three-bolt cleat pattern which makes them compatible with most road pedals.
But we haven’t even gotten to the good part.
The Torch 1.0 emphasizes the importance of a good cycling form for maximum energy efficiency and safety. That’s why the sole construction and footbeds boast an ergonomic fit so that you can adjust your foot alignment without any discomfort.
Rest assured, these lightweight flexible shoes are the pinnacle of comfortable cycling footwear.
But while the upper is mostly flexible, the soles are far from it. The injection-molded nylon soles rate 6.0 on the Stiffness Index.
So, if you appreciate a stiff outsole for more efficient pedal strokes but still like to have a little bit of flexibility, then it doesn’t get better than this.
Whether you use regular waterproof athletic shoes or dedicated cycling shoes, your footwear is an essential part of your cycling adventures.
With the right shoe, you will maximize both performance and safety.It’s about time you mount your bike with the unwavering confidence that only the right cycling footwear can inspire.