While road cycling shoes can vary a lot in terms of price and performance, you don’t need to pay Manolo Blahnik prices to get some decent footwear. Paying a premium doesn’t always get you relative returns, either.
We’ve tested a lot of road shoes and in a range of pricing brackets, and compiled a list of the best to help you find the right pair for your needs.
We’ve ridden these shoes in plenty of different scenarios: long rides, hilly rides, cool spring mornings, in wet weather, and during sweaty, flat-out sessions on the office Wattbike. We’re confident that the selection below can handle anything you care to throw at them.
The Bont Riot Road+ shoes are riotous by name and riotous by nature, with their distinctive colour scheme. Black is also available for the more covert cyclist.
The main thing we liked about these shoes was the heat-mouldable carbon sole, which moulds to the shape of your foot for long-term comfort. It’s really stiff — even more so than most other carbon soles we’ve tested — and so thin it requires its own shorter screws to attach cleats (included with the shoes).
Other nice features include a wide toe box and a replaceable heel bumper, though they seem to run small, so we’d recommend sizing up.
The Giro Sentrie Techlace shoes look great, feel comfortable and come with an EC70 full carbon sole, providing the amount of stiffness you’d expect at this price point.
With these shoes, Giro introduced its Techlace system, which combines laces, Velcro and Boa dials for an almost full-house in a game of closure Bingo. This means you can really clamp them down for aggressive riding.
The stiff heel cup does its job, and we didn’t experience any slippage while climbing or sprinting. The flat plate allows for more ‘spillover’, which Giro claims is better for a wider range of feet.
While they don’t come with an in-built arch support, the Sentrie Techlace shoes do include Giro’s Super Natural insoles with replaceable arch supports. Finally, they’re constructed from Giro’s Exofibre, which is both breathable and water repellent, making them a good three-season option.
The Specialized Torch 3.0 shoes have the fit, feel and performance of shoes that would normally cost a whole lot more. While the price tag isn’t to everyone’s budget, you’re certainly getting some great tech for that price.
They’re secured with a combination of Velcro strap and two Boa S2-SV Snap dials. These dials work in a two-way tightening and loosening fashion, so there’s no chance of them accidentally popping open while making on-the-fly adjustments.
Extra comfort comes from the well-padded and semi-rigid tongue that’s designed to stay in place and protect the foot from lace pressure.
The thick Body Geometry footbed and snug heel grip prevent heel slipping and keep your foot firmly in place, while the FACT unidirectional carbon sole is very stiff. Ultimately, they’re a great option if you’re looking for lightweight pro-level shoes that are robust enough for daily use as well as race days.
Fizik’s Infinito R1 Knit shoes are designed to be supportive, comfortable and ideal for three-season use. The knitted fabric is high-stretch and highly breathable, and is central to the comfort they provide.
Particularly in hot weather, where feet are likely to swell, the stretchy knit fabric accommodates that swelling, so you remain comfortable throughout the whole ride. The upper is also water-repellent, but we wouldn’t advise using them in heavy rain. They’re certainly not summer-only shoes though.
And they’re not just about comfort, we found them to provide great power transfer as well, with a stiff exoskeleton bonded to a stiff and light carbon sole. If your budget can stretch this far, you’ll get premium technology and comfort for your money.
We found the Shimano RP5 shoes to be versatile and roomy, making them ideal for wider feet.
They feature trickle-down technology from Shimano’s pro-range, including the ‘Surround’ upper that wraps around your foot rather than the traditional tongue. They’re secured with a pair of Velcro straps and ratcheted anchor, which pulls the shoe in for an even and comfortable fit.
They’re compatible with all pedal systems and make a good choice for cooler days, though we’d recommend using toe covers when it rains. At this price too, you’re getting a pretty decent stiff carbon sole.
The Shimano RP9 is a premium road performance shoe that is endurance-focused, rather than race. We found them immensely comfortable, making them ideal for long days in the saddle. The carbon sole is rated 10/12 on Shimano’s stiffness scale.
They don’t compromise on performance either. Secured with a single Boa dial and the traditional tongue, they provide a slightly aggressive fit that locks your foot in place. The heel-cup has a sizeable lip that gives an almost suction-cup-like fit. With the heel locked, the Boa doesn’t need much tension, which is why the shoe feels so comfortable.
The main difference between the RP9 and the top-end S-Phyre is that the forefoot here is less sculpted in the upper and the arch support. This gives them a more relaxed fit for endurance rides. They’re also about 7g lighter than the S-Phyres as well, surprisingly.
And now for something completely different. These winter boots are warm, dry and comfortable, and great value for money compared to similar shoes on the market. By having an all-in-one winter boot, you don’t need to strap on overshoes as well, which gives you one less piece of kit to worry about.
These shoes are all about warmth during the colder season, but they don’t compromise in other areas. They share the hybrid nylon-carbon sole with the Shimano’s RP range, and they’re rigid over the cleat, right where you need them to be. But obviously they’re not ultra-race stiff, because that’s not what they’re about.
The boot has a soft, fleece-like lining, and the upper is protected by a wetsuit-like neoprene wrap-over Velcro flap. Add the impenetrable Dryshield membrane and you’re in for superior rain protection.
At 800g a pair, they’re quite a lot heavier than the other shoes listed here, but remember there’s no need to wear a heavy-duty overshoe as well, which can often add to the overall weight. Really, these are ideal for winter commuters, since they’re compatible with all pedal types.
The S-Phyre RC9 is a super-lightweight shoe that achieves the rare balance between stiffness, adjustability, support and comfort. That’s if you can swallow the cost, of course.
Superior adjustability comes from the combination of interchangeable foam arch support wedges and Boa IP-1 dials for an accurate fit. Other shoes at this price point have been known to prioritise performance over comfort, but Shimano has found a true balance between the two here.
They’re extremely stiff, with the upper made from Teijin synthetic leather, and the 12/12-rated carbon Dynalast sole. The silver one-way thread in the heel lining prevents slippage, while the Surround upper provides supreme support and comfort, while remaining breathable.
The Sidi Shot may be the most expensive pair of shoes on this list, and perhaps even on the market, but there’s a good reason. They come stocked with some unique technology in the form of an adjustable heel closure. Plus they’re Italian-made, which can only be a good thing, right?
They’re extremely stiff, thanks to the semi-stiff upper material combined with the plastic mount on the tongue to provide a protective layer between the foot and the two Techno 3 Push System dials.
These only tighten with micro-adjustments and work well to give you a comfortable fit. Finally, let’s not forget the thick carbon sole, although this does give a fairly high stack height.
Mildred’s a utilitarian cyclist at heart, determined to do everything on two wheels, whether it’s commuting or moving house. Her ideal ride covers long distances through remote countryside, on mixed terrain that offers a bit of crunch. Easily won over by steel frames coupled with a 650B/plus tyre combo.