Cycling’s obsession with technology and fashion reaches its apotheosis in its attitude towards finding the right shoes. One of the three crucial interfaces between rider and bicycle, locating the correct pair and getting them well set up is essential if you want to be both comfortable and fast.
Yet, if our decisions when hunting down new shoes were guided solely by utility and ergonomics, all cycling shoes would come in easy-to-clean black. And once we’d found the right brand we’d stick with it for life.
Instead, practicalities of fit, function, and features aside, we’re only really happy with our purchase if it makes us look cool too. Easily as tricky as choosing the right bike, below we’ve rounded up seven of the most lust-worthy pairs that should be on any cyclist’s shortlist.
£229, Shop Giro
Despite making the even posher Empire models, we reckon Giro's slightly cheaper Regime shoes are a good pick for everyday use. Lovely looking, their uppers are composed of ultralight monofilament mesh Synchwire material with thermal-welded structural support for increased stretch resistance.
Peppered with laser-cut perforations, it should be plenty breathable, while being made in one piece also leaves it easy to wipe-down post-ride. Equipped with a low stack height Easton SLX2 carbon sole, two separate Boa dials allow you to tailor the volume and fit, while also giving you something to crank up ahead of the final sprint.
Specialized S-Works Ares
£375, Shop Specialized
Specialized claim these shoes will make you a handy 1% faster when sprinting. Sharing technology with the brand’s ridiculously light Exos models, they’re also feathery enough not to slow you down uphill either.
To manage this Specialized uses uppers made of something called Dyneema Mesh, which is supposedly the world's strongest fibre and is also employed to make astronaut’s parachutes. Unsurprisingly this material doesn’t stretch much, which when combined with twin Boa dials and a stiff carbon sole results in a shoe that’s disinclined to roll about when you stamp on it. Benefiting from the brand’s Body Geometry system, the fit can also be finely adjusted to further lock you in.
Fizik Vento Stabilita Carbon
£375, Shop Fizik
The Dynamic Arch Support 2.0 system on Fizik’s Vento Stabilita shoes promises a tailored fit of the plantar arch. It’s that vivid yellow bit picked out in the middle of the shoe and crossed over by the broad, Boa-dial-adjusted strap. Supposedly resulting in better power-transfer, if it works half as good as it looks, Fizik should clean up.
Generally pretty wild in design, the Vento Stabilita’s upper is made of a polyurethane-laminated mesh material. Resulting in a light and breathable top half, the volume of both the instep and forefoot areas can also be adjusted separately. Complemented by an uber-stiff carbon sole with gulping great vents, this is finished with minimalist bumpers - about the shoes’ only concession to life off of the bike.
Mavic Cosmic Ultimate
£319, Shop Mavic
There's something unique about a yellow shoe. If it were any other brand, you would hear cries of protest that yellow is the colour of the yellow jersey, but Mavic is an exception.
Mavic has been the iconic yellow of the Tour de France neutral support for eons, though this year that mantle has passed over to Shimano. Yet yellow continues to be the brand’s iconic colour – so offers a rare opportunity to enjoy a yellow shoe. Best known for its wheels, Mavic has a long and impressive history in shoes. In recent times, the Mavic Comete Ultimate caught the most attention when it almost broke the internet with its £630 price tag, and its carbon exoskeleton. The Cosmic Ultimate is a more modest offering that draws on the same philosophy – using ultralight mesh panels laser welded to a rigid TPU fabric frame, rather than a carbon fibre frame on the Comete.
The Cosmic Ultimate shoes also use a set of Boa dials, rather than Mavic’s in-house Ergo Dial system. That makes for more intuitive closure alongside micro-adjustments of only 1mm. For the Cosmic’s probably hit the neatest sweet spot between comfort, light weight and rigidity while not costing €1,000.
Shimano S-Phyre XC9
£319, Shop Shimano
As favoured by Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and Mathieu van der Poel, Shimano’s S-Phyre XC9 shoes are racing kicks for cyclocross or gravel aficionados.
Minimalist and aerodynamic looking, Shimano hasn’t compromised on comfort when creating the XC9s. Roomier than you might expect from a race-fit shoe, most riders will find very little friction and plenty of space, especially in the hotter weather.
The construction of the XC9 shoe also aids comfort, with a one-piece upper allowing the wearer full control of the fit via a pair of BOA-dials. With MicroVent perforations, hundreds of tiny holes aid in ventilation.
Not made for extensive walking or running, the S-Phyre XC9 are probably most at home on the feet of racers rather than wanderers. Their carbon soles are incredibly stiff and deliver palpable power transfer, whether climbing or sprinting. You can find our full review here.
£290, Shop Gaerne
I’ve no idea how to ask for them, but I do know that I want them. Gaerne’s unpronounceable G.STL shoes are expensive, good looking, and handmade in Italy. They’re also very light and stiff enough to bring along to your next Grand Tour. Using the firm’s ESP Carbon Sole, this has a stiffness index of 12, which is one more than eleven. Protected by a minimalist toe guard at the front and diminutive grippers at the heel, the result is a shoe that weighs very little, but is best saved for short walks between team bus, start line, and podium.
Sidi Shot 2
£375, Shop Sidi
For a long time, Sidi were the only cycling shoes worth lusting after. Tougher and more serviceable than average, their adjustability and hardwearing nature mean they’re a tad heavier than some. But unless you like replacing your shoes every season, who really cares?
These Shot 2 models feature twin ratcheting closures located in the centre of the shoe. Paired with an adjustable heel retention device at the back, the result is a tailored fit that’s unlikely to budge when sprinting or climbing. With customisable insoles and a full range of spares, it pays to dial them in, as if you look after them they could last as long as your bike.
Adidas Road Shoes
£130, Shop Adidas
Ok. So these shoes are pretty basic tech-wise. But they do have three reflective Adidas stripes down the side, which being honest is the reason you’re going to buy them. However, sneaker geek or not, if you’re looking for some road cycling shoes to kick about in and aren’t fussed by the lack of carbon sole or replaceable pads, these could be a good bet.
Made with a minimalist woven upper, they’re breezy and fast drying. Their traditional laces also look good and do a surprisingly solid job of locking the shoes in place. Possibly due to having made plenty of football boots, they clean up nicely too.
Bont Vaypor +
£270, Shop Bont
I’ve heard people describe Bont’s boxy profile as ugly. Buddy, wait till you see the feet inside. The only shoes that comfortably accommodate my platypus-like feet, Bont’s ergonomic shoes break the mould by being foot-shaped.
This might sound revolutionary, but most cycling shoes still follow the medieval fashion for pointy toes. Making lots of shoes to match lots of different feet, these minimalist, heat mouldable, Vaypor+ models top the Australian brand’s extensive road-racing range. Hardwearing and rebuildable, you’ll find them strapped to a surprising number of elite athletes given the brand’s relatively low profile. They’ll even make you a custom set if you shove them enough cash.