Jenson USA carries one of the most extensive selections of curated bike gear online. We’ve developed learning guides to aid you in making informed decisions and we have backed this up with our expert Gear Advisors who are available by phone, chat, or email 7 days a week.
When it comes time for a new pair of cycling shoes the number of options, brands, styles, and tech can be hard to sift through. Maybe you are riding with clipless pedals and have been curious about what it would be like to ride flat pedals? Perhaps you are just starting out and everything you just read in the previous sentence makes no sense to you. Read our guide to buying cycling shoes and hopefully we will answer all your questions. If you have more questions, please call our Gear Advisors at 888-880-3811 to get more help.SHOP CYCLING SHOES
Before you begin, you need to determine what kind of pedals are on your bike. There are two styles of bike pedals to choose from: clipless (clip-in) and platform (flats.)
Platform (flat) pedals are similar in style to the pedals most people used on the bikes of their childhood. They look like a standard flat pedal with two sides to place your foot. But, don’t be confused into thinking that flat pedals are only for “entry level” riders or the very young. Platform pedals range from basic entry level pedals all the way up to high-end, ultralight setups with tons of traction. Unlike clipless pedals, platform pedals do not have an additional cleat and do not connect the mountain bike shoe to the pedal in any kind of mechanical way. These pedals use friction to keep your foot in place. (Flat mountain bike shoe and pedal)
Flat pedals are most popular with aggressive trail and downhill mountain bike riding. Platform-specific Mountain bike shoes for flat pedals from manufacturers like Five Ten, Giro and Afton offer mountain bike shoes with high-friction rubber outsoles that are engineered to “stick” to the pins of the flat pedals. This “stickiness” allows your foot to stay planted while riding rough terrain or jumping and helps to increase pedal efficiency much like a cleat does for clipless pedals. In fact, Five Ten athlete Sam Hill has finished in the top 10 of elite men in a 100km XC race, proving that you don’t need clipless pedals and clipless mountain bike shoes to be competitive in a cross-country race.
CLIPLESS PEDALS AND SHOES
Clipless (clip-in) pedals allow the cycling shoe to click into the pedal using a cleat that is attached to the sole of the cycling shoe. Cleats come in a few different styles depending on the pedal brand and are sold separately from your cycling shoes. Cleats are included when you purchase your pedals. The main advantage of the clipless pedal system is being connected to the pedal throughout the entire pedal stroke. This adds efficiency to pedaling as the rider is able to pull up on the back side of the stroke. Some riders also like the controlled connection to the bike when riding in rougher terrain. Clipless pedals are common for road or mountain biking, especially where efficiency is key. Clipless pedals can be divided into several subcategories depending on their intended use. These subcategories may affect the cycling shoes you will choose. (Clipless pedal and cycling shoe).
Allows your foot to stick to the pins of the pedals for efficiency and controlFIRM OUTSOLE
Minimizes power loss and absorbs trail riding vibrations or big hits. Should be stiff, but supple enough to give you good pedal “feel”.PROTECTIVE UPPER
Downhill riders will want a beefier upper with more protection from rock strikes and big jumps. XC riders will want lighter weight uppers that minimize protection in place of breathability. Trail riders will want something that balances breathability and protection.
Road bike shoes usually have a 3-hole pattern while most mountain bike shoes have a 2-hole pattern. Some cycling shoes that crossover in style (cyclocross, gravel, commuter) have both the 2 and 3-hole patterns.STIFF OUTSOLE
Stiffer outsoles allow the most efficient power transfer. They also tend to increase the durability and lifespan of the cycling shoe.COMFORTABLE/ADJUSTABLE UPPER
Match to a stiff outsole, this will allow you to ride for miles. Closure systems of various types will allow you to dial in the fit of your cycling shoe in different ways and with varying precision (see Closure Systems).
Most entry level road bike shoes will utilize a thicker synthetic upper and nylon or composite outsole. To keep prices low, these cycling shoes will have Velcro strap closures or a combination of Velcro straps and a buckle. The thicker upper may hinder breathability but offer more durability. The nylon or composite outsole will offer a degree of stiffness, but since the stiffness comes from the thickness of the material, the stiffer the cycling shoe, the more weight it will have.
The high-end road bike shoe will offer the best combination of light weight and stiffness. But, this comes at a price. Not only will the high-end cycling shoe cost more, it may not be more durable than the entry level cycling shoe. In order to shed weight, high-end cycling shoes will use exotic materials like microfibers and carbon fiber. Carbon fiber allows the outsole of the cycling shoe to be stiff, strong and lightweight. This ensures that all the power you put into the pedals is not lost in the process. Thin microfiber uppers with exact tolerances make certain that the cycling shoe is lightweight and feels like a second skin on your foot. Because of these materials, manufacturers use perforated holes and vents to add breathability. This is an advantage during warmer weather but could be too breezy in cool weather (see shoe covers). Additionally, closure systems on high-end cycling shoe offer more exact fit. You will find combinations of Velcro straps, micro-buckles and wire retention systems.SHOP ROAD BIKE SHOES
Much of what applies to the materials and construction of road bike shoes applies to the clipless mountain bike shoes, as well. Similar tech, materials, and construction mean that mountain bike shoes, however, can be subcategorized even further to cater to the needs of various riding styles and disciplines.
Riders that ride and/or race cross-country will be looking for very similar traits in their mountain bike shoes as the road rider. They want cycling shoes that are stiff, lightweight and ventilated. The primary difference between that of their road bike shoe siblings will be the addition of tread or rubber/nylon blocks on the outsole that allow riders to walk on uneven off-road surfaces. As cross-country riders/racers aren’t looking to jump off their bikes too often, the aggressiveness of the tread doesn’t need to be extreme.
Trail - Gravity:
More aggressive trail or downhill riders that want to be clipped in are looking for much different traits in mountain bike shoes than their XC cousins. These riders are looking for outsoles with grippy rubber not necessarily for the pedals, but to feel surefooted when they need to hike over terrain (hike-a-bike) or are sessioning a line. These riders also look for uppers with more protection and will sacrifice weight and breathability for protection. Further, some manufacturers have a setback cleat position to give the rider a more planted and controlled feel during aggressive riding and jumping. Generally, the outsoles of downhill mountain bike shoes are firm, but not stiff to help dissipate vibrations and impacts.SHOP MOUNTAIN BIKE SHOES
Sizing for cycling shoes is very similar to your normal shoes. Generally, what you wear normally will match closely what you will wear while riding. We do have size charts on all our cycling shoes product pages to help you fine-tune your selection. Brands or specific cycling shoes can sometimes run big or small. We highly recommend checking out the reviews on a given cycling shoe to see what others are saying, and please leave your feedback to help others find the perfect fit. Shop with confidence with our Free Returns on Apparel Items, including cycling shoes
Much like your normal shoes, your cycling shoes will function best when they are in good condition. If you have holes, broken closure systems, worn out soles, etc., it’s probably time to replace your cycling shoes. Road bike shoes don’t see much wear and tear unless you frequently walk in them and can last for several years. Mountain bike shoes are similar, but mountain bike shoes for flat pedals do tend to wear out a bit quicker due to the sole of the shoe providing the grip to your pedals via pedal pins. We recommend hand cleaning with mild soap and water so as to not affect any materials or glues.SHOP CYCLING SHOE ACCESSORIES