How Should Cycling Shoes Fit? 7 Easy To Follow Tips

How should cycling shoes fit: Detail on Tim Declerq's cycling shoes while he rides his S-Works bike

Cycling shoes are not like standard or other sports shoes. Because of the regular motion when pedaling, choosing cycling shoes requires a little different approach.

In this article, you learn (almost) everything you need to know about how cycling shoes should fit, what to be aware of when trying them, and more.

I learned these tips from a professional bike fitter during my bike fit, and I thought it would be a shame not to share them with you.

Let’s dive in.

7 Cycling Shoes Fit Tips to Follow

By following these tips, you increase the chance of choosing cycling shoes that will fit you and be comfortable even during long rides.

1. Choose the Right Shoe Length

The shoe length should be a few millimeters larger than your foot length (measured from heel to toe). But not by full shoe size.

In cycling shoes, you don’t need to have an extra room like in other sport’s shoes because your foot motion remains the same when pedaling.

Properly fitted cycling shoes shouldn’t allow your feet to drift, so you don’t need the extra space between your toe and the end of the shoe.

2. Choose the Right Shoe Width

The shoe width should allow you to have some wiggle room in the toe area. If the toe area is too tight, it will cause squeezing the forefoot. This can lead to numbness, as explained in the following video.

If you have wide feet, look for wide cycling shoes. For example, Bont regular shoes tend to be wider than regular shoes of other manufacturers.

Some shoes are available in two options (regular and wide). This applies to manufacturers like Shimano, Sidi, Giro, and more.

3. Consider the Shoe Shape

Cycling shoes also tend to differ in their shape. Some copy the natural shape of our feet. Some have more artificial or less natural shapes. But again, this depends on your feet’ shape.

Finding the brand that fits you may not be easy, but it pays off in the long run. When spending long hours in the saddle, you have to prevent any source of discomfort you can.

The following picture shows a few examples of different cycling shoe shapes.

Shapes of Bont, Shimano, and Lake road cycling shoes
Bont Vaypor S vs. Shimano RC9 vs. Lake CX 218 shape comparison | Product Pictures Sources: bontcycling.com, shimano.com, lakecycling.com

Additionally, some cycling shoes are “heat-moldable.” This means that you can adjust their shape to a certain extent.

Here is an excellent tutorial on how to mold cycling shoes. Naturally, this feature is available among high-end shoes, and you have to pay extra for it.

4. Consider the Fit of the Heel Area

The proper fit of the forefoot is important, but you shouldn’t forget about your heels either. The heel cups should be snug and not tight or loose.

Too tight heel cups may cause excessive pressure, it will be more difficult for you to put the shoes on and off, and you also risk feet numbness.

On the other hand, if it is too loose, you risk twisting your ankles when riding out of the saddle, the shoes may slip off when walking, and the friction can cause blisters.

5. Stiffer Soles Are not Always a Better Choice

Stiff soles are essential, especially for road cycling. They help transfer the energy you put into every pedal stroke. However, super-stiff cycling shoes may cause more harm than good.

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.

This study showed that shoes with carbon soles increase peak plantar pressure that may aggravate these foot conditions.

Unfortunately, every manufacturer uses its stiffness index, and sometimes, the stiffness of the shoes is not even available. So, you have to rely on reviews of other customers.

The general rule is that performance cycling shoes tend to be the stiffest to provide the most effective power transfer. On the other hand, low-end and recreational shoes are softer and more comfortable.

Shimano cycling shoes stiffness index chart
Example of cycling shoes stiffness index | Source: shimano.com

6. Don’t Forget About the Closure System

When choosing cycling shoes, you will encounter different closure systems like laces, dials, Velcro straps, etc.

The following table summarizes the pros and cons of different closure systems used on cycling shoes. Choose the one that works the best for you.

Type of Fastening SystemProsCons
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.
The pros and cons of individual fastening systems

7. BONUS TIP: Use Shoe Insoles

Unless you buy expensive cycling shoes, the stock shoe insoles won’t provide you with enough arch support.

Quality insoles are important for ensuring your riding comfort and preventing injuries.

Therefore, I recommend you check out these cycling insoles where you learn more about this topic and find tips on insoles worth buying.


Cycling Shoes Fit FAQ


Conclusion

Choose cycling shoes that are just a few millimeters longer than your foot’s length. Their width should allow you to have some wiggle room for your toes.

Try to find a cycling shoe brand that manufactures shoe shapes closest to the shape of your feet.

If you don’t mind spending more (a few hundred dollars) on cycling shoes, buy heat-moldable shoes for a custom fit.

Remember that super-stiff soles may cause more harm than good, so don’t put performance over comfort.

Get shoes with a closure system, depending on your visual or practical preference and available budget.

And last but not least, wear your cycling shoes with insoles. They will improve your comfort and prevent injuries.

Did you find these tips helpful? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to share this article with your friends.

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