The best cycling shoes: top road cycling shoes reviewed

Tighten up with a pair of the most stylish cycling shoes

Cycling shoes are 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.

As with everything else in cycling though, there’s now more choice of shoes than is comprehensible. Cycling shoes have come a long way, even in the last 10 years, and finding the right pair at the right price point can become an arduous task, particularly if you’re relatively new to cycling.

Here we’ve put together a guide to the very best road cycling shoes, each of which has been worn, tested and reviewed by a member of the Rouleur team.

In some of our articles you will find links to buy products from various external retailers. These links contain an affiliate code, and it means that Rouleur may receive a small percentage of the money you spend if you choose to buy that product via the link. This does not affect the amount you pay. All products are independently reviewed and selected on our judgement of them, not on whether they offer us affiliate revenue.

S-Works Torch road shoes

The newest replacement for the S-Works 7 in the Specialized shoe line-up, the brand’s S-Works Torch shoes are stiffer, lighter, more comfortable and there's no velcro.

S-Works Torch shoes

Released by Specialized midway through 2022, the S-Works Torch is the latest in the brand’s range of racey, premium road shoe options. Specialized marketed the shoe as an improved version of the S-Works 7 road shoe, with the S-Works Torch seeing a range of new features including a new carbon base plate, heel cup and upper, as well as the removal of the velcro strap and new boa cable routing. While I’ve worn the S-Works 7 Road Shoes for the last year, I did see a marked improvement when switching to the S-Works Torch, and they’ve been my go-to road shoe ever since.

Like most people, it took me a while to get used to the S-Works 7 shoes, but I didn’t have the same problem with the S-Works Torch, and I found them comfortable almost straight away. I put this largely down to the repositioning of the BOAs. They have now been shifted downwards, ensuring that the shoe gives no pressure over the dorsal bump on the foot and they are now angled to prevent the ball of the foot lifting out of the shoe when putting the pressure on or getting out of the saddle. With this, there is no need for the velcro strap on the bottom of the shoe like we see on the S-Works 7 shoes. 

Specialized has also made a change to the material used in the tongue of the shoe. Now a much softer, flexible material, it doesn’t dig into the front of the ankle or hold odour as it did in the S-Works 7 version. The stiffness of the S Works Torch feels similar to the S-Works 7 versions, but I’d say the Torch shoes are a real upgrade in terms of comfort. The new Torch shoes are priced RRP £385.

Pros: 

  • 20 grams lighter than that in the S-Works 7
  • More comfortable due to improved BOA cabling
  • Improved aerodynamics with removal of velcro strap

Cons: 

  • High price point

Buy now at Specialized

Reviewed by: Rachel Jary

Read our full review on the Specialized S-Works Torch road shoes

Sidi Shot 2 road shoes

The Sidi Shot 2 shoes are Sidi’s high-end performance shoes. Beautifully crafted, the super-stiff sole and expert fit adjustment will suit racers looking for excellent power transfer.

The Sidi Shot 2 shoes are thoroughbred race shoes, and are an ideal choice for anyone looking for a high-quality build with a performance feel. For the day to day rider or those heading out on the weekends, these may take some getting used to and while their superior stiffness is great for big efforts, it can be tough on your feet over long rides if you aren’t used to it. 

Nevertheless, the Shot 2 shoes are built to perform and there’s some neat touches included in the design to aid that. The multiple vents mean there’s little chance you’ll overheat, and the dual tongue dials paired with the heel retention tool really enables you to find the perfect fit.

They’ll be on the narrow side for those with wide feet and the inability to loosen them in micro adjustments on the fly is a bug bear, but all in all these are as good as any of the top racing shoes you’ll find on the market. Of course, that means they aren’t cheap, and at £410 you’ll be making a significant investment. If you’re a Sidi fan though you’ll be getting one of the best shoes they’ve created yet.

Pros: 

  • Great power transfer via stiff sole
  • Excellent fit adjustment
  • Well ventilated

Cons:

  • Tough to loosen on the move
  • Need getting used to for longer rides
  • Pricey

Buy now at Sigma Sports

Reviewed by: Richard Windsor

Read our full review of the Sidi Shot 2 shoes

Giro Empire SLX road shoes

Some of the lightest shoes on the market, the Giro Empire SLX shoes not only boast great performance, but also incredible comfort.

Giro Empire SLX shoes

The Giro Empire SLX shoes are billed as pro-level kicks paired with comfort out of the box you won’t find with other shoes. They are undoubtedly lightweight thanks to their mesh upper paired with laces to close, which also provides excellent breathability and zero hot points on the top of the foot. These are certainly the most comfortable shoes I’ve used from ride one, experiencing no issues at all even on initial long rides with lots of climbing. They may not have a sole which feels as pure in stiffness as perhaps the S-Works Torch or the Sidi Shot 2 shoes do, but they still provide great power transfer that feels more usable on endurance rides thanks to the extra comfort.

The drawback of this thin ‘second skin’ upper is that these shoes won’t be the best for winter riding, and really thrive in warmer climes. I did wear them in the rain and the upper tried much quicker than the Empire SLX version that preceded these, but in the cold I can't see these offering too much protection. The laces won’t be for everyone, particularly if you regularly need to make adjustments while riding, but they keep these as some of the lightest road shoes on the market. At RRP £329, these are priced at the top of the market but do come in slightly cheaper than the likes of the S-Works Torch and Sidi Shot 2 shoes.

Pros:

  • Ultra-light
  • Superb breathability
  • Supremely comfortable

Cons:

  • Not ideal for winter use in colder countries

Buy now at Sigma Sports

Reviewed by Richard Windsor

Rapha Pro Team shoes

The Rapha Pro Team shoes are a stylish and thoughtfully designed set of shoes with a carbon sole stiff enough to rival the more established shoe brands. With a few minor tweaks Pro Teams would be almost perfect.

Rapha Pro Team shoes

(Image by Benedict Campbell)

After some tentative incursions into the shoe market, Rapha jumped in fully with its Pro Team Shoes, released in 2020.

The upper is made of Rapha’s bespoke woven Powerweave fabric which I’ve found malleable and breathable as well as comfortable around the top of the foot. There were no out of the box discomforts from the upper at all and having ridden these in the rain numerous times, the fabric does seem to dry out a lot quicker than other materials. The carbon sole is very stiff and is definitely competitive amongst other top end shoes, and combined with the secure fit provided by the dual Boa dials, the Pro Team shoes are perfect for sprints and big efforts.

From a personal standpoint, the fit isn’t ideal for me as I found them a bit narrow and the arch too high compared to other shoes, so those with wider feet may find some discomfort. However, I’ve grown to use them more and more over years of use. A more general drawback of the Pro Team shoes is the tongue, which I have found struggles to stay in place and can fall to either side while riding. If that minor annoyance was fixed, these shoes would be close to ideal for any type of road riding. At £280 these aren’t cheap, but they do price lower than comparable top-end road shoes.

Pros: 

  • Comfortable and supple upper
  • Stiff carbon sole
  • Breathable
  • Good looks and colours

Cons:

  • Tongue moves while riding
  • Narrow fit

Buy now at Rapha

Reviewed by: Richard Windsor

Specialized S-Works 7 road shoes

The Specialized S-Works 7 shoes are an all out racing shoe and have some of the stiffest carbon soles you’ll find on the market. They’re not immediately the most comfortable, and the high performance comes at a high price. 

Specialized S-Works 7 Shoes

(Image by Benedict Campbell)

The Specialized S-Works 7 shoes may not be the American brand’s latest top-end release, but they still have everything you need for a high-performance, professional level shoe. I’ve been wearing a pair of these since their launch in 2018 and, while initially I found uncomfortable spots, particularly on long rides, the more I’ve worn these the more I’ve enjoyed wearing them. The narrow heel has exceptional hold, so no slipping, and the shoes widen nicely towards the toe box so you don’t feel crammed in. Those with wider feet may prefer to look to the newer S-Works Torch shoes.

These are extremely stiff and if you make the jump from some lower priced shoes to the S-Works 7s that will be the first thing you’ll notice. However, that stiffness does equate to excellent power transfer. The Dyneema outer is super-supple and durable and I really like the S3 Boa dials, even if they lack the pull up to release function. I would say these can get a bit hot when riding in sweltering conditions (and is perhaps why Specialized released the Vent version), but you’ll be hard pushed to find a shoe that can master every temperature. The S-Works 7 shoes are expensive (even as they go on sale), but are a worthwhile investment if you want a high-performance road show that will last.

Pros: 

  • Stiff and light carbon sole
  • S3 Boa dials
  • Look great

Cons: 

  • Expensive
  • Not immediately comfortable

Buy now at Specialized

Reviewed by: Richard Windsor

Cover image courtesy of Rapha

Quoc M3 Air

These are Quoc’s high-performance road shoe with a focus on breathability and comfort, as seen on the feet of Ineos Grenadiers’ Geraint Thomas

In the new M3 Air shoe, Quoc has done away with the tongue of their previous models of road and off-road shoes, instead opting for an asymmetrical design whereby two sides of the synthetic TPU upper overlap, eliminating a separate tongue. In order to aid ventilation, the new upper also features large cutouts and perforations with a mesh underlayer. Big changes have been made inside the M3 Air too, with Quoc claiming that the model now offers increased support around the ball of the foot, as well as extra space in the toe box. 

From the all-white aesthetic, to the focus on stiffness, ventilation and comfort, Quoc has really thrown its hat in the ring for a high-performance shoe to rival some of the biggest brands out there. Geraint Thomas is currently using the shoe to ride three-week Grand Tours, which is perhaps enough of a confirmation that the M3 Air shoes are good enough for the professional peloton, but we can also vouch that they do a fantastic job for the mere mortals among us too.

At £320, the shoes are expensive but not out of line with the market rate for high-performance road shoes. Quoc could make some improvements with more colour and size options, but if you’re looking for a shoe that looks great and is made for riding long and fast, the M3 Air is a good option.

Pros: 

  • Extremely breathable
  • New upper shape ensures no pressure points
  • Classic all-white aesthetic

Cons: 

  • Limited size and colour options

Buy now at Sigma Sports

Reviewed by: Rachel Jary

Read our full review on the Quoc M3 Air Road shoes

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