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Here are the best road cycling shoes, from budget to premium, suitable for people with narrow to medium feet.
Visit my other article on the best road cycling shoes for wide feet if you struggle with finding shoes with enough toe room.
I compared and assessed over 100 pairs of shoes for men and women from well-known but even less-known brands. I read hundreds of reviews to find out which shoes are better for what type of feet, their durability, comfort, and much more.
In this article, you learn all the info you need.
You will also learn the benefits of using road cycling shoes, their fastening systems, and what road cycling shoes pros wear.
Let’s dive in.
What Are the Best Road Cycling Shoes from Budget to Premium?
Below, you will find road cycling shoes ideal for narrow and medium feet riders. They have narrower heel and toe boxes than wide cycling shoes.
I recommend using cycling insoles to improve your riding comfort further and prevent injuries because most shoes offer poor arch support.
NOTE: The weight of the shoes is given for one shoe.
The Best Budget Road Cycling Shoes
This category contains road cycling shoes for under $100. They are suitable for beginners and casual riders.
Santic Road Bike Shoes
- Fastening system: a ratchet buckle combined with 2 velcro straps
- Well ventilated
- Modern design
Santic road shoes are one of the best road cycling shoes for beginners with narrow feet. They are affordable yet modern-looking and durable.
The fastening system combines a ratchet buckle and 2 velcro straps. It’s more durable than a dial, for example.
The Santic road cycling shoes offer good support and stability to prevent twisting your ankles.
They are decently ventilated, thanks to ventilation holes in the sole and the upper, so your feet won’t get too sweaty during hot days.
The sole is made of plastic with protective rubber on the heel and on the toe. It also ensures you won’t slip on when walking.
The Best Value for Money Road Cycling Shoes
This category contains road cycling shoes from around $100 to $300. They offer a good price-to-value ratio and are suitable for most people, including beginners and advanced riders.
Fizik Tempo Overcurve R5
- Weight: 246 g / 0.54 lb (size 42 / 9 US)
- Fastening system: 1 BOA dial combined with a velcro strap
- Clean and modern design
- Balanced comfort and efficiency
The Fizik R5 Tempo road cycling shoes are some of the best-looking shoes out there. They immediately caught my eye when I was searching for a new pair of road shoes.
These shoes are reasonably priced and come with a BOA dial fastening system for a precise fit and a velcro strap. They’re especially great for riders with narrow feet, as they tend to run narrow themselves.
The sole of the shoes is made from a nylon composite, which strikes a good balance between comfort and efficiency. Unfortunately, the sole has no air vents that could also help drain water when it rains.
However, I learned a useful trick from a pro rider. You can drill 1-3 holes in the sole to let water drain away when it starts to rain.
One small drawback is the velcro strap, which doesn’t allow for as much adjustability as the BOA dial. Additionally, the cleat bolts are positioned a bit too far forward.
Overall, the Fizik Tempo Overcurve R5 shoes are stylish, comfortable, and quite stiff, especially considering their affordable price.
Also available at wiggle.com
You may also be interested in my selection of the best road bike pedals.
Giro Empire E70
- Weight: 250 g / 0.55 lb (size 42.5 / 9.5 US)
- Fastening system: laces
- Original design
- Very comfortable
- Breathable knitted upper
Personally, I am not a huge fan of cycling shoes with laces. But based on my research, people who used them are very satisfied. They don’t untie, and the feet hold well in the shoes.
Giro Empire E70 are the best road cycling shoes with laces. Their owners highly praise their comfort and good fit.
The sole of these road shoes is made of carbon, so it is stiff and ensures good energy transfer to the pedals. The rubber on the heel and toe of the shoe protects it from damage when walking.
You will appreciate a breathable knitted upper in summer. It ensures good airflow, so your feet won’t get too sweaty. On the other hand, the sole has only 1 air vent.
Their main disadvantage is that it takes you longer to put them on and take them off because of the laces. Shoes with BOA are more convenient, and you can tighten them while riding.
The Best Performance Road Cycling Shoes
This category contains road cycling shoes above $300. Pros and the most demanding riders often pick these models for their stiffness, lightweight, and comfort.
Sidi Wire 2
- Weight: 323 g / 0.71 lb (size 44.5 size)
- Available for men and women
- Fastening system: Tecno-3 Push and Single Tecno-3 Push dials
- Adjustable heel retention and instep closure system
- Replaceable pads
- Stiff & ventilated soles
Wire 2 are one of Sidi’s highest-end models available. Yes, they are pricey. But let me explain what you get for your hard-earned money.
Wire 2 use two Tecno-3 push dials that work on a similar principle as BOA dials. They tighten a steel cord to fasten the shoes.
The difference is that Tecno-3 dials allow you to do micro-adjustments, so you always get a perfect fit.
Speaking of fit, you can also tighten both sides of the heel retention. It is nice to have a feature that ensures the heel cups will hold your heels securely and won’t slip during sprints or ride out of the saddle.
Sidi 2 Wire are durable, so they will last you for years. And if you walk more than usual in your cycling shoes, you can replace the pads that protect the super-stiff carbon sole when they wear out.
Yes, these shoes are stiff to maximize the power transfer you put into every pedal stroke. So if you like to compete and hunt KOMs, you know what to do.
Wire 2 are pretty comfortable. They have a ventilated sole which is ideal for hot days. Their upper is perforated to provide ventilation for your feet.
But Sidi Wire 2 are not only about benefits. They have their flaws too. Their weight is higher than other high-end cycling shoes (Giro Imperial weigh just 430g/pair in size 42.5). Honestly, I also think that Sidi Wire 2 are a little bit overpriced.
Sidi Genius 10
- Weight: 313 g / 0.69 lb (size 45 size)
- Available for men and women
- Fastening system: Tecno-3 and Single Tecno-3 dials
- Adjustable instep closure system
- Replaceable heel pads
- Stiff & ventilated soles
Sidi Genius 10 are similar to Wire 2 but more affordable and use different dials.
Genius 10 shoes come with Tecno-3 dials that don’t have the iconic red “push” button. It means you release the fastening by “unclipping” the whole dial. It doesn’t seem the most user-friendly way, but it works well.
Another difference is the heel retention system. You can’t adjust it with Genius 10. On the other hand, these are a little bit lighter.
Other features, like stiffness, comfort, and ventilation, are similar. So if you want performance-oriented Sidi shoes that are less expensive than Wire 2, go for Genius 10.
The good news also is they are available in multiple colors, so you can match them with your kit or bike.
- Weight: 215 g / 0.47 lb (size 42.5 / 9.5 US)
- Fastening system: 2 BOA dials
- Very comfortable (3 adjustable arch wedges included)
As the name of these road shoes suggests, the Giro Imperial are high-end road shoes for the most demanding riders. They are super lightweight yet stiff and comfortable.
The fastening system is made of 2 BOA dials that allow you precise and quick fastening.
Although the sole ventilation is weak, the upper is so thin in some parts that you can see through (choose your socks wisely!), allowing enough airflow.
SuperNatural Fit System will allow you to choose low, medium, or high arch support. This is perfect because you can adjust it and improve your comfort.
The main downside of these shoes is the thin outer material that can scrape up relatively easily.
You might also be interested in my selection of the best road bike helmets.
|Road Cycling Shoes||Weight per Shoe||For||Price Range||Buy|
|Santic Road Bike Shoes||n/a||Narrow to medium feet||$||Check Price|
|Fizik Tempo Overcurve R5||246 g||Narrow to medium feet||$$||Check Price
Check Price (wiggle.com)
|Giro Empire E70||250 g||Narrow to medium feet||$$||Check Price|
|Sidi Wire 2||323 g||Narrow to medium feet||$$$||Check Price|
|Sidi Genius 10||313 g||Narrow to medium feet||$$$||Check Price|
|Giro Imperial||215 g||Narrow to medium feet||$$$||Check Price
Check Price (wiggle.com)
I selected the best pair of road cycling shoes from each price range (budget, value for money, and performance) based on reviews from riders worldwide.
The following stand out from the rest:
- Best budget – Speed Road Cycling Shoes feature a dial fastening system combined with Velcro, a perforated upper, air vents in the sole, and a large color selection.
- Best value for money – Fizik Tempo Overcurve R5 look like premium, high-end road cycling shoes but cost a fraction of the price. Thanks to the perforated upper, they are well-ventilated. They provide good comfort and fit thanks to the BOA dial. You can choose from 5+ different colors.
- Best performance – Sidi Genius 10 combine two Tecno-3 dials fastening to ensure a great fit for narrow or medium feet. They are very stiff so that you won’t lose any precious watts. You can also replace the heel pads once they wear out to extend their longevity.
You can also check out my other article that includes the best road cycling shoes for wide feet if you belong among riders with wide feet.
Why Should You Get a Pair of Road Cycling Shoes?
Road cycling shoes can get costly. If you are a beginner, you probably don’t even have road clipless pedals. Depending on your budget, you can spend tens to hundreds of dollars on pedals and shoes.
But why should you invest in road bike shoes in the first place? The answer is simple.
If you want to ride regularly, enjoy your rides, and be competitive, you won’t be able to meet these goals without a pair of cycling shoes.
The authors of this study found that using stiff-soled cycling shoes combined with clip-in pedals improved the maximum sprint power by 10.2% compared to running shoes with classic aluminum quill pedals with toe clips and straps.
The following table shows the pros and cons of road cycling shoes compared to non cycling shoes.
|• They improve pedal stroke efficiency thanks to the stiff soles and fixed position on the pedal.|
• They improve comfort. Road cycling shoes are made to be lightweight, ventilated, and comfortable.
• They improve your safety because your feet won't slip off the pedals and you can control your bike more easily.
|• It takes a while to get used to clipping in and clipping off.
• They tend to be more expensive compared to non cycling shoes.
• They are not suitable for walking.
How to Choose the Best Road Cycling Shoes?
Let me explain what you should know before buying a new pair of road cycling shoes.
I am also going to explain to you the important features that road bike shoes offer.
If you are not sure whether or not road cycling shoes are right for your riding style, read my How to Choose Cycling Shoes guide first.
You can spend much money on road cycling shoes, but you don’t have to.
Before I started riding, I bought one of the cheapest pairs on the market for about $50. I hadn’t even had road bike pedals then, so I had to buy them too. My wallet was down by another $50.
These were some of the cheapest cycling shoes. Yet, they improved my riding experience by a mile.
In this selection, you can choose road bike shoes from 3 price categories:
- Budget (Under $100) – these shoes are suitable for beginners. They usually only offer velcro strap fastening, but you can also find models with a ratchet buckle. Shoes from this category are heavier and not as stiff compared to more expensive models.
- Value for money ($100 to $300) – an ideal compromise between cheap and high-end road cycling shoes. This category is ideal for most road cyclists. The shoes in this category offer an excellent price/performance ratio. They are relatively light and comfortable. They use a combination of velcro straps and ratchet buckle, velcro strap and BOA dial, or BOA dials only.
- Performance (Above $300) – this price category offers high-end shoes that pros and the most demanding riders wear. The soles of these shoes are made of carbon, so they are very stiff. The shoes are lightweight and fit well, thanks to BOA dials or similar fastening systems.
There are 4 main types of fastening systems used on road cycling shoes. Velcro straps, laces, ratchet buckles, and BOA dials (or their alternative).
Velcro is used on the cheapest models of road bike shoes. My first road shoes had 3 velcro straps. This system is relatively simple and inexpensive, but it is not as convenient as other fastening systems.
On the other hand, velcro straps are lightweight and not prone to damage. For example, if you crash, you don’t have to buy a new pair of shoes because your fastening system will break.
Giro introduced its first cycling shoes with laces for the first time in 2012. Laces are a stylish and cool-looking fastening system we know from noncycling shoes.
Laces are the lightest fastening system. They are also not prone to damage. However, their main disadvantage (and this one is a no-go for many people) is that it is almost impossible to tighten them while riding.
Ratchet buckles are a compromise between velcro straps and BOA dials. They are used in combination with velcro straps. They can be tightened while riding and provide relatively good shoe tightening.
On the other hand, they are heavier than other fastening systems and are also prone to damage if you crash. They are very difficult to replace because they are attached to the shoe.
From my experience and discussions with fellow cyclists who used ratchet buckles and BOA dials, I recommend paying more for road cycling shoes with BOA dials.
High-end road cycling shoes are nowadays equipped with BOA dials. This technology is the most effective fastening system on the market. And, of course, the most expensive one.
Did you know that every ‘click’ adjusts the fit by 1 mm? This feature makes BOA dials the most precise fastening system on the market.
I also like how the system works. To engage it, you have to push the dial. Then you can tighten or loosen the lace. To quickly release, simply pull up the dial. How cool is that?
BOA dials may be prone to damage. On the other hand, you can replace them easily, so you don’t have to buy new shoes.
Some brands don’t use BOA dials but their own mechanism. For example, Sidi uses the Tecno buckle/push system.
Pros & Cons of Different Types of Fastening Systems
The following table shows the pros and cons of individual fastening systems.
|Type of Fastening System||Pros||Cons|
|Velcro straps||• They are cheap and you can fasten them while riding.|
• They are not as prone to damage when crashing as ratchet buckles or dials.
|• They don’t provide you with as precise and comfortable fastening as BOA dials.|
|Laces||• They look cool.|
• They provide you with effective fastening.
• It is the lightest fastening system.
|• It takes time to tie them.
• It is almost impossible to tie them while riding.
|Ratchet buckles||• You can fasten them while riding.|
• They provide you with relatively effective fastening.
|• They are heavier compared to other types of fastening systems.
• They are prone to damage when crashing.
• The buckles are hard to replace.
|Dials (BOA, Tecno...)||• Quick, effective, and precise fastening also while riding.|
• They are easy to replace.
• They are lightweight.
|• They are more expensive compared to other fastening systems.
• They are prone to damage when crashing.
Comfort, Fit & Ventilation
Road cycling shoes have to provide you with enough comfort. If you spend more hours in the saddle, which is common in road cycling, your shoes should not push you anywhere or be too loose.
It is always better to try them in person to ensure you buy the right size and fit. If you shop online, make sure you measure your foot before you order the selected size. Return the shoes if they don’t fit and try a different size or model.
TIP: Use cycling insoles. They will support your arches and improve your overall comfort.
Proper ventilation is important, especially during hot summer days. The ventilation helps to cool your feet so you won’t sweat as much.
You will also feel much more comfortable, and you will perform better because you won’t feel like your feet are burning.
RECOMMENDED READING: Tips on How to find the right cycling shoes.
Pedal & Cleat Type Compatibility
The MTB shoes are manufactured in a 2-hole configuration. They allow you to attach MTB cleats, which are much smaller than road cleats and compatible with the MTB clipless pedals.
Unlike MTB bike shoes, road cycling shoes are usually manufactured in a 3-hole configuration (see the picture below). This allows you to attach cleats compatible with road bike pedals like Shimano-SPD SL, Look Keo, Time Xpresso, etc.
A separate category consists of 4-hole configuration cycling shoes designed specifically for Speedplay pedals. You can use a 3-hole configuration for Speedplay pedals, but you have to use special adapters to make a 3-hole configuration look like a 4-hole configuration.
READ MORE: When should you replace cycling cleats?
Cleats Fore & Aft Position
One feature of cycling shoes that is often overlooked is the fore-aft position of the cleats. Different shoes allow for different positions.
The question is, which position is better? This study found that for triathletes, for example, a more rearward position (i.e., closer to the middle of the foot) is better because it reduces strain on the calf muscles.
According to bike fitter James Thomas, midfoot cleat position also results in lower pressure on the forefoot and improves foot stability. He recommends lowering saddle height to keep the movement during the top of the pedal stroke smoother.
Lower saddle height also usually results in a lower riding position and better aerodynamics.
The downside of midfoot cleat placement is toe overlap. I also recommend watching the following video for more info.
Some road cycling shoe manufacturers that allow more midfoot cleat placement include Lake, Shimano, Giro, and Bont. Fizik shoes allow more forefoot placement. But, it’s not a rule. See the following picture.
Cycling shoes, especially those for road cycling, have stiffer soles than noncycling shoes. The stiffness is important—the higher the stiffness, the lower the energy losses with every pedal stroke.
Did you know? During a four-hour road ride, you do 21600 pedal strokes in total if you pedal at an average cadence of 90 RPM.
Riders who experience painful or inflamed balls of their feet (metatarsalgia) or lack of oxygenation of the toes due to blood shortage (ischemia) should be careful when using stiff shoes. The study showed that shoes with carbon soles increase peak plantar pressure, which may aggravate these foot conditions.
Every bike shoe manufacturer uses its own stiffness index. It isn’t very easy to compare them. Yet, the higher the number, the higher the stiffness. You can check this Shimano stiffness index chart.
Top-end road cycling shoes are stiffer compared to cheaper models. Their sole is made from carbon fiber that is 42% stiffer in longitudinal bending and 550% in three-point bending than plastic.
The cheapest cycling shoes have a sole made from plastic. It is heavier than carbon and, of course, much softer.
There are also road cycling shoes that combine carbon and plastic. They are a good compromise between the above-mentioned 2 categories.
Road Cycling Shoes FAQ
BONUS: What Shoes Do Pro Road Cyclists Wear?
The following table shows an overview of pro riders and their cycling shoes in the 2020 cycling season.
|Rider Name||Top Results||Road Shoes|
|Peter Sagan||3× Road World Champion|
7× Points GC winner at Tour de France
12× winner of stages at Tour de France
14× winner of stages at Amgen Tour of California
|Primož Roglič||1/2× La Vuelta GC winner|
3× winner of stages at Tour de France
5× winner of stages at La Vuelta
3× winner of stages at Giro d'Italia
|Shimano S-Phyre RC9|
|Chris Froome||4× Tour de France GC winner|
2× La Vuelta GC winner
1× Giro d'Italia GC winner
|Alejandro Valverde||4× winner of stages at Tour de France|
12× winner of stages at Vuelta a España
1× La Vuelta GC winner
1× Road World Champion
|Fizik Infinito R1|
|Tadej Pogacar||1× Tour de France GC winner (he was 21 y.o)||DMT KR1|
|Egan Bernal||1× Tour de France GC winner (he was 22 y.o)|
1× Amgen Tour of California GC winner
|Wout van Aert||One of the most talented riders of these days||Shimano S-Phyre RC9|
|Diego Ulissi||8× winner of stages at Giro d'Italia||Gaerne G. Stilo|
|Mathieu van der Poel||One of the most talented riders of these days||Shimano S-Phyre RC9|
|Julian Alaphilippe||1× Road World Champion|
1× Amgen Tour of California GC winner
This post is regularly updated to provide the most up-to-date product tips. If you find a product that is not up to date, please, contact me.