Your feet are one of the most important contact points on a bike, so it’s vital to choose your cycling shoes carefully. There’s a lot of choice though, so it can be hard to know what’s best.
Do you need to spend big bucks to get the latest pro model or can a cheaper option perform just as well?
Some love a gleaming white pair of disco slippers, but these can be hard to keep clean (especially in the UK). Others prefer classic black, but some might say that black shoes are boring.
Cycling shoes can also vary wildly in fit and intended use. It would be easy to throw lots of money at the problem and end up with a set of shoes that don’t suit your unique foot shape or riding style.
We’ve put in the hours and crunched all the numbers, so you can find the best cycling shoes for your performance requirements and budget. Once you’ve considered all of the options, keep reading to the end for our buyer’s guide to road cycling shoes.
The best cycling shoes in 2020, as rated by our expert testers
Shimano S-Phyre RC9: £320 / AU$499
Bont Riot Road Boa: £150 / $182
Fizik Tempo R5 Powerstrap: £110 / $120
Giant Surge Pro: £275 / $385
Giro Sentrie Techlace: £220 / $250
Mavic Cosmic Ultimate SL: £340 / $360
Sidi Wire 2: £330 / International pricing TBC
Specialized S-Works 7: £340 / $400 / AU$500
Specialized Torch 3.0: £200 / $200
Suplest Edge3 Pro: £310 / International pricing TBC
Bont Helix: £349 / $399
Bont Riot Buckle: £99 / $129
Bontrager Ballista Knit: £270 / $325
DMT KR1 Knit: £310 / $419
Fizik R1 Infinito Knit: £350 / $376
Fizik R3 Aria: £265 / $300
Scott Road Comp BOA: £100 / $120 / AU$150
Shimano RC7: £170 / $225
Shimano RP9: £174.95 / $221.45
Shimano RW5: £109.99 / $145.49
Sidi Shot: £359 / $549
Specialized S-Works EXOS: £450 / $500 / AU$600
Triban RC 520: £70
Shimano S-Phyre RC9
Shimano’s S-Phyre RC9 shoe. Shimano
- £320 / AU$499
- Our top-rated road shoe
- Brilliant all-round performance
Shimano has quietly been making some of the best cycling shoes for a while, and the S-Phyre RC9 is one of our absolute favourites – indeed it’s the only pair of shoes on this list to receive a five-star rating.
Dual BOA IP1 dials and the wrap-around, microfibre uppers offer a secure overall hold, without any overly tight areas. Arch support is customisable via included changeable inserts, so you shouldn’t need to shell out for custom insoles either, unless you’ve got really specific fit requirements.
Built around Shimano’s stiffest carbon sole, these are Tour de France proven race shoes. They’re not cheap, but we found the fit, performance and comfort to be seriously impressive. We think they look great too, and the electric blue is particularly lovely, if you like lairy shoes.
Bont Riot Road+ Boa
Bont’s Riot Road+ Boa shoe. Bont
- £150 / $182
- Heat-moldable fit
- Supremely stiff carbon sole design
With their supremely stiff, heat-moldable carbon soles, the Riot Road+ Boa shoes bring Bont’s distinctive design philosophy to a lower price point.
The tub-shaped carbon soles are supremely stiff, making for a strikingly efficient and supportive pedalling platform.
Bont claims its last offers a more anatomical fit straight out of the box, compared to other cycling shoes. But that fit can be fully customised at home by simply popping them in the oven for 20mins at 70°C/160°F, before putting them on and tightening them up.
Our tester found them to run slightly smaller than other shoes, so check the fit carefully when buying (a good reminder not to just rely on the stated sizes with shoes).
Fizik Tempo R5 Powerstrap
The Velcro straps do a great job of keeping even tension across the feet. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £110 / $120
- Very comfortable with even tension
- A great choice for longer rides
As some of the most comfortable road shoes we’ve tried these make a superb choice for longer rides.
The soles are the same as used on Fizik’s more costly R5B, meaning they aren’t the stiffest and their toe and heel bumpers are non-replaceable.
The even tension provided by the twin Velcro straps meant we didn’t miss Boa dials.
At 626g for a pair of EU45s they’re not the lightest but the asking price is very reasonable given the performance on offer here.
Giant Surge Pro
Giant’s Surge Pro shoe. Giant
- £275 / $385
- Innovative carbon sole design
- Freedom of foot movement
The Giant Surge Pro shoes use an innovative carbon sole design, where stiff plates on the forefoot and heel are linked what Giant calls an ‘ExoBeam’. This allows for a stiff, efficient pedalling platform without restricting the uppers at the sides of the shoe, like a traditional, flat sole.
The upside of this design is an increased range of movement for your midfoot and ankle, adding comfort without compromising performance. A choice or arch inserts adds an element of customisation.
They’re only available in all black or white, so if you’re looking for something spicy, this might not be for you. Otherwise, they’re a pro-level shoe at a good price.
Giro Sentrie Techlace
Giro’s Sentrie Techlace shoe. Giro
- £220 / $250
- Comfort and aesthetics
- Stiff carbon soles
Sitting just below Giro’s top of the range shoes, the Sentrie Techlace nevertheless has the wonderfully rigid soles Giro shoes are renowned for. The shoes are also a bit cheaper, which is always welcome.
The combination of Velcro, Techlace and a Boa dial means the aesthetics might be a little divisive, but we think they look great – they’re certainly unique anyway.
Giro contends the Techlace system brings the best of laces and on-the-fly adjustability, and while we don’t think it’s necessarily a game-changer, we’re nevertheless inclined to agree.
A roomier fit and water repellant Exofibre upper mean these might be an ideal road shoe for winter riding, when you want to put on thicker socks and the risk of getting soggy feet substantially increases.
Mavic Cosmic Ultimate SL
Mavic’s Cosmic Ultimate SL. Mavic
- £340 / $360
- Incredibly lightweight yet efficient
- Extremely well ventilated
The Mavic Cosmic Ultimate SL shoe is billed as a pro-level climber’s shoe, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Weighing in at just 436g per pair in a size EU45, these are seriously light shoes. Mavic achieves this using seamlessly constructed uppers, consisting of a TPU skeleton bonded to an ultralight mesh, and a single Boa dial to tighten the shoe. This sits on Mavic’s Full Carbon SL sole, which has a stack height of just 6.5mm.
The upshot of this construction is that it makes for an incredibly well ventilated shoe – if you make a habit of climbing Mont Ventoux in July, you’ll really appreciate this… But if you live somewhere a little cooler, you might find your feet get chilly more often.
Available in black, white or yellow, but we recommend the yellow because it’s the colour of Le Tour and therefore better.
Sidi Wire 2
Sidi’s Wire 2 shoe. Sidi
- £330 / International pricing TBC
- Excellent power transfer
- Comfortable fit
The Sidi Wire 2 shoes aren’t the lightest shoes on this list, but they look, fit and perform brilliantly – you’ll likely be very happy with a pair of these unless you’re a weight weenie.
Our tester found them to have quite a narrow fit, but was able to easily find the right size by simply going a half size larger than usual, which is something not offered by many other brands.
Sidi persists with its own closure dials, but these work just fine. The only drawback is that they can be a little fiddly to operate with gloves on, compared to a standard Boa dial.
Overall, these shoes quietly go about their business, providing great performance across the board.
Specialized S-Works 7
Specialized’s S-Works 7 shoe. Specialized
- £340 / $400 / AU$500
- Wider fit
- Excellent security and comfort
Specialized has poured a lot of resources into developing its shoe range recently, and the S-Works 7 shoes are the result of all that development.
A roomier toe box and more generous Form Fit last, compared to the previous generation, make these a better fit for slightly wider feet.
We found them to be very comfortable, with the Dyneema Mesh uppers and Body Geometry designed footbed providing a secure fit without restricting your feet in any way.
Specialized says the FACT Powerline carbon sole is the stiffest it’s ever produced, and it certainly seems to be good enough for Peter Sagan’s monstrous power levels.
They look the business too, with a classy finish and lots of colour options available.
Specialized Torch 3.0
Specialized’s Torch 3.0 shoes. Specialized
- £200 / $200
- Performance, weight and comfort
They might lack the S-Works moniker, but the Specialized Torch 3.0 shoes perform like shoes costing £100 more.
Taking clear design inspiration from the S-Works 7 shoe, the Torch 3.0s have a similar fit system of two Boa dials and Velcro strap across the forefoot. This makes for easy and precise fit adjustments.
We did find that we had to unhook the top Boa lace from its anchor in order to get the shoes on however, which is a minor inconvenience.
Once on, though, they feel great. The fit is generous, with good arch support and there’s plenty of support around the heel cup to prevent any slippage while climbing or sprinting.
Specialized says the FACT carbon sole rates as 8.5 on its stiffness index, compared to 15 for the S-Works shoe, but we found them plenty stiff enough for everything.
Suplest Edge3 Pro
Suplest’s Edge3 Pro shoe. Suplest
- £310 / International pricing TBC
- Small brand novelty
- High quality finish
Suplest might be a small Swiss brand, but it makes shoes that can compete with cycling’s leviathans. The Suplest Edge3 Pro shoe is its top of the range model, worn in the WorldTour by Swiss time-trial champion Stefan Küng.
An ultra-stiff Ergo 360 carbon sole provides an efficient pedalling platform, while the microfibre upper uses a wraparound design that integrates the tongue for a consistent fit.
Fit adjustment is managed by dual Boa dials, so you can customise fit across the length of the shoe. A thin layer of carbon is also incorporated into the uppers to alleviate localised pressure from the Boa laces and dials.
They gain a little weight over other high-end offerings, but their performance, fit and high quality finish leave little to be desired.
Bont Helix / Helix Reflex
Bont’s Helix shoe. Bont
- £349 / $399
- Custom fit
- Lightweight and extremely stiff sole
The Helix is Bont’s top of the range racing shoe, with a design focused almost entirely on generating maximum power transfer from your feet to the pedals.
As with all Bont cycling shoes, they are heat moldable for a completely custom fit. They also have the tub style sole design that lends them such extraordinary stiffness. Should you require a bit of extra visibility without sacrificing style then Bont also produces this shoe in a reflective Reflex version.
Bont has thankfully moved to a Boa closure system, which makes for easy adjustment before and during your ride.
The price is high, but these shoes genuinely feel unlike anything else on the market. The level of stiffness is a bit bonkers, to be honest, so they’re not really an endurance-focused shoe. If you’re looking for pure performance though, look no further.
Bont Riot Buckle
The Riot Buckle gives you a lot for a surprisingly modest price. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £99 / $129
- Heat moldable soles
- Bargain price for the performance
At 632g for a pair of EU size 45s, the Riot Buckle from Bont is one of the lightest and best performing shoes available at its price.
The tub-style sole design is similar to that used on Bont’s top-end Helix shoe but is formed from carbon-reinforced fibreglass rather than carbon fibre. This material change shouldn’t worry you because the Riot’s sole still makes for a very efficient power transfer.
Baking these is the way to truly optimise the fit, so be sure to take the time to do so. Once ours had been customised to our feet they were very comfortable and we had no issues with the closure of the Velcro strap and ratchet system. The uppers are a touch on the stiff side though.
Bontrager Ballista Knit
The Ballista Knits are a great option for long rides, especially in warmer conditions. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £270 / $325
- A top fairweather choice
- Ideal for longer rides in warm conditions
Fully embracing the woven trend, Bontrager has produced a winning shoe in its Ballista Knit.
The use of a single Boa dial and lightweight materials throughout make for a pair of shoes weighing just 554g for a pair of EU 45s. The underside of the Ballistas feature a V-shaped vent that sits forward of the cleat with a rubber toe bumper, meaning you shouldn’t scuff the super-stiff carbon soles.
Bontrager does give the Ballistas a DWR (durable water-resistant) coating and provides a pair of rubberised waterproof overshoes designed specifically for the knits.
We found these to have a slightly strange fit if you’re used to close, stiff-fitting shoes, but once we were on the bike the fit in conjunction with the material really worked.
DMT KR1 Knit
The carbon sole is phenomenally stiff, with a feeling of connected power delivery. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £310 / $419
- Super-stiff soles
- Supple, sock-like uppers
Experienced tester Robin Wilmott declared these to be one of the finest blends of high performance and all-round comfort of any road shoe he’s tried.
Praise went to the KR1’s supportive fit, excellent performance of the stiff soles and generous ventilation.
These are a seriously accomplished, comfortable performance road shoe. They’re serious money though and the unprotected toe area can quickly lead to unsightly scuffs.
Fizik R1 Infinito Knit
Fizik’s R1 Infinito Knit shoe. Fizik
- £350 / $376
- Race shoe stiff
- As comfortable as slippers
Right on trend, the Fizik R1 Infinito Knit uses a stretchy, highly breathable, knitted fabric in its construction. The idea is to complement traditional synthetic materials to allow for a more comfortable fit and greater breathability.
A water repellent treatment also stops them from letting in too much moisture if the weather takes a turn, but they’re definitely still more of a fair weather shoe.
We found them to be at their best while riding hard in hot temperatures, where the stretchy knitted fabric can accommodate your foot swelling with the heat. The sole is plenty stiff enough for racing and the uppers provide a very comfortable fit with great foot stability.
Fizik R3 Aria
Fizik’s R3 Aria shoe. Fizik
- £265 / $300
- Sleek aesthetics
- Effective wraparound upper design
Fizik uses its renowned Microtex material for the uppers – the same material it uses on its saddles. It lends the shoes a very sleek appearance and supple fit, but is also highly durable, easy to clean and resilient in bad weather.
The front Boa dial controls the fit across the forefoot, while the rear dial adjusts the overlapping heel surround, creating a snug, even fit without any fabric bunching or pressure points.
Tiny laser cut perforations and dedicated vents in the sole make for better ventilation than you might expect. Pedalling stiffness is also impressive for the price.
Scott Road Comp BOA
Scott’s Road Comp BOA shoe. Scott
- £100 / $120 / AU$150
- Great price
- Good fit and performance
Despite being Scott’s lowest priced road shoes with Boa fasteners, the Scott Road Comp BOAs are still great performing shoes.
They have a nylon and glass fibre composite sole, which helps bring the cost down. It isn’t as stiff as a full carbon sole, but it’s perfectly adequate for everyday use.
Comfort is good and the fit is more generous than Scott’s higher end, racier shoes, making them a better fit with thick socks.
They look very classy for an entry-level shoe too, with a good range of colours available.
The RC7s can easily perform as well as more expensive shoes. Jesse Wild
- £170 / $225
- Very light for the money
- Trickle-down tech makes these a real bargain
The RC7s replaced Shimano’s outgoing and much loved RP7 shoes.
There’s more than a strong resemblance between these and the range-topping S-Phyre RC9s that top this list and we were shocked to find just a single gram of difference in weight between size 45 RC7s and RC9s.
The RC7s punch well above their weight and perform as well as more expensive shoes. They’re easily stiff enough to compete in, without being too highly strung for daily use.
Getting the tension spot on with the twin Boa dials can be a little trickier than those used on more expensive shoes, but this is really a minor detail.
Shimano’s RP9 shoe. Shimano
- £174.95 / $221.45
- Endurance focussed design
The Shimano RP9 shoes sit in a rather unique position as a high-end shoe designed specifically for endurance riding and comfort, rather than outright stiffness and racing performance.
A redesigned heel cup means the shoe fits so well around the rear of the foot that the rest of the shoe only needs minimal tightening to achieve a secure fit.
Up front, the fit is roomier than Shimano’s more race-focussed shoes. Our tester did note that arch support could ideally be more aggressive, but interchangeable foam supports are included, so it’s possible to tune this to a degree.
Shimano’s RW5 road shoes. Dave Caudrey
- £109.99 / $145.49
- Warm, dry and comfortable
- Good value
They might not be sexy, but there’s no denying the difference that a dedicated set of winter cycling shoes can make to your riding.
The sole is constructed from reinforced nylon, with a carbon plate added at the cleat interface for additional pedalling stiffness. The cleat fittings are also compatible with three-bolt road and two-bolt SPD cleat systems, so these are perfect if you want to use double-sided pedals on your commuter bike, for example.
Shimano’s Dryshield membrane covers the whole of the uppers and the inners are fleece lined, so your feet will stay dry and warm in even the harshest of conditions.
Yes, they’re more expensive than a pair of overshoes, but they perform so much better. If you have to regularly ride in cold and wet conditions, you owe it to your feet to try these shoes out.
Sidi’s Shot shoe. Sidi
- £359 / $549
- Classic Italian styling
- Solid construction
The Sidi Shots might be one of the most expensive shoes on the market, but it’s hard to deny their appeal.
They’re not the most technically advanced shoes out there, but they have a sturdy construction that makes them feel like they’ll last for ages. And, of course, there’s that classic Italian styling. With a lot of cycling shoes all starting to look very similar, we love that Sidi continues with its classic euro-pro aesthetic.
Fit across the shoe can be adjusted in a novel way, with an adjustable heel enclosure and two of Sidi’s own dials across the front. It makes for a shoe with plenty of adjustability, but Sidi’s dials are slightly more complex to use than Boa dials.
The carbon sole isn’t the thinnest, but it’s plenty stiff. This might not be a lightweight shoe, but it’s certainly made for racing, and a young Colombian by the name of Egan Bernal recently won a pretty big bike race wearing these shoes.
Specialized S-Works EXOS
Specialized’s S-Works EXOS shoe. Specialized
- £450 / $500 / AU$600
- Unique design
- Amazingly light
We know aero is everything these days, but it’s always cool to see ultra lightweight bits occasionally come around.
The Specialized S-Works EXOS shoes are one of those products that elicits a “Wow” and our test pair (size EU45) weighed an astonishing 347.2g. That’s just 173.6g per shoe.
Fortunately, considering the price, this drop in weight doesn’t come at the expense of functionality. They use a Dyneema mesh upper, which is a synthetic fabric that is lightweight and supple but doesn’t stretch.
The sole is thinned, relative to the Specialized S-Works 7 shoe. This also helps shave a few grams, but it’s still a very stiff sole. Specialized rates it as a 13 on its Stiffness Index, which is the same as its S-Works 6 shoe.
Our tester found them to be ideal for riding in hot weather and on long climbs where the breathable mesh uppers and light weight makes them ideal. Sadly, such cutting-edge tech doesn’t come cheap, though.
Triban RC 520
There’s little cutting-edge technology on display here but these are a tough pair of road shoes. David Caudery/Immediate Media
- Superb value
- Versatile enough to ride gravel or commute in
These low-priced shoes from Decathlon are tough and comfortable enough for long rides and commuting. We’ve even found them fine for gravel riding, providing things don’t get too rough or muddy.
Simple laces and straps make for an effective closure, but we did have to do them up tight to stop the heel from raising slightly when walking.
They’re far from light but at this price still represent superb value for money.
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Road cycling shoes buyer’s guide
Shopping for cycling shoes can be a bit of a nightmare with so many options, and your local shop probably doesn’t stock everything you might want to try on.
Once you’ve been cycling for a while, you might have an idea what works for you, but if you’re just starting out it can be daunting. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a short buyer’s guide to help you get to grips with the basics.
Cycling shoes, like any other shoes, are built around what’s called a ‘Last’. This is essentially a mould, shaped like a foot, that brands use to shape their shoes. Every brand has a different last, based on their own fit philosophy. Finding a shape that works for you is obviously very important, but the only way to find out is really to try shoes on. So make sure you either go in to a shop in person or buy from an online retailer with a good returns policy.
As with most things bike related, carbon is the material du jour when looking at cycling shoe soles. It does make sense though; prized for its ability to be stiff yet lightweight, carbon really is an ideal material for making cycling shoe soles.
The downside is, of course, cost. Entry level shoes tend to use nylon or glass fibre composite soles in a bid to save money. These are likely to be slightly more flexible than full carbon soles, but will still be streets ahead of standard training shoes, so it’s certainly not a huge loss if your budget doesn’t stretch to carbon.
There are three main closure systems in use today. The most popular are Velcro straps or wire laces with micro-adjustable dials (Boa and similar).
Occasionally you even get a combination of both. Velcro straps have the advantage of being cheap, effective and easy to use, so you’ll often find these on lower-end shoes. On higher end shoes, Boa and other similar dial systems tend to dominate due to their ability to precisely control fit.
Traditional laces have also had a bit of a renaissance in the last few years, so if you like a classic look you’ll have a few more options now, just remember you won’t be able to adjust your shoes on the bike.
It’s always worth considering what type of riding your shoes are designed for. A lot of road cycling shoes are designed to be ridden in hot weather, for example, meaning they’re very breathable and won’t offer much protection from the elements.
If you live somewhere where the weather is invariably cold and wet, it’s worth considering if those sort of shoes are really the right choice or if you’d be better off with something more robust.