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 BicycleApparel.com for providing much of the info contained in this post.)