Shoes: Worth the big bux?

I’m always blown away when I look at the various types of biking shoes in catalogs or online.Not because there are so many different types, but because some of them are so expensive.

What does the typical road cyclist really need in the way of a shoe? (What’s a “typical” cyclist, Bike Noob? I dunno. Insert yourself.)

Number 1 — stiff soles. Inexpensive bike shoes have soles made of plastic. It’s stiff, but not as stiff as soles made of carbon fiber. Plastic can flex. Mid-range shoes may have fiberglass or carbon fiber added to the plastic — or maybe all carbon fiber. The high-end shoes have carbon fiber soles.

Uppers. Expensive shoes have uppers made of leather. It breaks in quickly, and is generally considered more comfortable. Less expensive shoes may be made of synthetic leather, or plastic.

Fit. Summed up in one word: snug. The heel should stay put, and not come out during the pedal stroke. At the same time, you don’t want shoes so snug that they cause numbness in the foot. To fasten shoes, velcro straps, buckles, or shoelaces all work. Most road shoes seem to use two velcro straps and a buckle for the top strap. Of course, be sure to leave some room at the end of the toes.

The Sidi Genius. Carbon fiber sole. MSRP: $299.99.

If I averaged 30 mph over a 100-mile ride, maybe I’d want to pop for some shoes like the Sidis, and pay the big price. But I’m guessing you know me better.

My shoes, the Exustar sr421.

I ordered my shoes from Nashbar, and paid about $40 (on sale). Nylon-fiberglass soles, coated leather uppers, velcro closures for all three straps. But they fit well, with the right amount of snugness. Sometimes the little toe on my left foot goes numb, but that’s usually because I pulled the small strap too tight. I’ve had these for nine months, and I have no complaints.

From just cursory observations of organized rides, club rides, and individual cyclists, it seems that many people are willing to pay for quality. Lots of Sidi shoes on cyclists’ feet around here. Maybe someday — but for now, the money I save on fancy shoes can go to buy well-padded shorts, or maybe a really garish jersey.

(Thanks to for providing much of the info contained in this post.)


  1. says

    Let me just start by saying I have cheap shoes, less than $80. Also, since September when I bought them I’ve sent them back twice, so I’m on my third pair. The first pair the metal loop that the velcro goes through broke off, the second pair the velcro seperated from the strap. While I was waiting for my 3rd pair I tried on some Sidi’s. I must say they were the best feeling shoe I’ve tried on. One thing that the salesman pointed out with the Sidi I was looking at (not sure the model, but they were carbon and in the $400 range) was the fact that they were handstitched. What this means is if the stitching or anything with the shoe needed to be repaired if I didn’t want to send it back to Sidi to be fixed any local shoe repairman could fix it. With other shoes that are machined he said the shoe repairman wouldn’t be able to help. Not sure how true that is, and I’m not even sure if there are shoe repair shops around anymore.

    Something else to think about is that the foot is a contact spot with the bike and it is where power is transferred so money here is probably well spent. For me at some point I’ll save enough money to spring for a nice pair of shoes, but until them my el cheapos will get me by.

  2. says

    Ray –

    You and several others have inspired me to do more riding. Here in Spokane, WA we have been participating in the Bike To Work week. Apparently, something I wrote somewhere came to the attention of Good Morning America. I was included in a story about rising gas prices and it aired this morning. What a good time and what an awesome way to bring more people into the fold! Thanks for the great posts!

  3. philosoraptor says

    The size of my feet means that — if I’m going to wear cycling-specific shoes in the first place — I have to wear Sidis, because they’re the only ones who make cycling shoes in a size that fits me. However, I did try to wait until I could get them on clearance. And, more to the point, the two pairs that I bought four and five years ago are still going strong. So, to me, they are worth the cost, but I’d love to have less costly options…

  4. says

    I have sidi dominators for mtb. They are awesome, but expensive. i have used $75 mtb shoes and wore them out in less than a year. the sidis are 5 years old and going strong.

  5. says

    I think a lot of people like to buy the expensive stuff just for the looks – All the gear and no idea.

    I just use plain simple MTB shoes that also make it easy to walk around off the bike – I have had them for 6 years and they have been great.

    Believe me, the shoes are not the limiting factor in my cycling.

  6. says

    I wear Sidi Genius (exactly like your photo) and I love them. I wore less expensive shoes for a long time and enjoy the superior fit I get from my Sidis. My feet used to slide around in a pair of Nikes I got on sale.

    I agree with thePig in that shoes wont really make you go much faster (or slower), but I think they do make me more comfortable – especially at the longer mileages (50+). And that helps.

  7. John says

    I have always wanted Sidis because I thought if so many people wear them they must be great, but the cost has deterred me. I “settled” for Specialized Elite shoes that are about 1/2 the cost and I love them. They are snug but comfortable even on long rides (e.g., centuries), and stiff enough when you need to ride hard. I’d prefer they reduce the graphics on them, but I am completely satisfied with their fit, comfort, and performance. Also, when I ruined a buckle in a crash, Specialized sent a replacement free.

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