Cycling Shoe Guide – Differences Between Bike Shoes Explained

If cycling is more than just a casual recreation for you, the best way to take your game to the next level is by investing in a specialized bike shoe.

While the regular shoe is good enough for riding around, serious cyclists around the world swear by the difference a cycling shoe can really make. From better power to more control, a shoe designed uniquely for feet that cycle for hours does much more.

Cycling Shoe Purpose

The main purpose of bike shoes is to make a cyclist’s overall performance and experience of cycling better. The build of a cycling show is much lightweight compared to a regular show.

Moreover, the sole is also quite rigid in the material. The stiffness of such a sole enhances the way energy transfer occurs from the cyclist’s legs to the pedals and vice versa. This means the overall strain on the muscles is much better distributed. Such shoes allow the cyclist more control, stability, and power while riding at higher speeds.

Cycling shoes don’t come in one kind. Depending on what type of cycling you enjoy, there are different types of bike shoes:

Related reading: How To Lace Cycling Shoes?

Road Cycling Shoes

Road cycling shoes are specifically designed for cyclists that don’t need to walk on their feet during their ride. Thus, these shoes have stiff carbon or plastic soles and are mainly a 3-hole cleat system. Such bike shoes require great power, resulting in better peddling competence for cyclists.

Mountain Bike Shoes

Mountain bike shoes are made to be great for both cycling and trekking on rougher pathways. These shoes come in two kinds: The more common type is clipless and has a rubber sole, so they can be docile and have better walking traction. The other type is made without cleats and is designed to be used with flat pedals only.

Cyclocross Shoes

Cyclocross shoes are a crossover between mountain bike shoes and road cycling shoes. So, they are designed in a way that these shoes are lightweight and have a sole that is flexible enough for walking or running, with enough traction.

Indoor Cycling Shoes

Shoes that are designated to be used indoors are designed with workout and exercise routines in mind. That’s one reason indoor bike shoes have rubber soles and are pedal clipped so you can pedal with maximum efficiency, all the while having enough traction for a treadmill walk.

Pedal Attachment Types

The pedal attachment type has a large impact on overall cycling. It is an important factor to consider before going for a cycling shoe.

Flat Soled Shoes or Casual Bike Shoes

Flat soled shoes are a kind of mountain bike shoes that are made for pedals that don’t have any clips. While these shoes are made without any additional attachments, their soles are made of viscid rubber for better grip. Casual or flat-soled bike shoes are usually more flexible and have less height to the sole.

Clipless Cycling Shoes

The other types of mountain bike shoes are clipless cycling shoes that are designed to have a rigid sole and a certain degree of stiffness. These shoes are also called clip-in or cleated shoes as they have partially spaced holes that can be attached to the pedal. While a flat soles shoe promises comfort, a clipless one delivers great control and longevity.

2-bolt or 2-hole System

The clipless cycling shoes come in two different bolting systems. One of them is the 2-bolt system, which comprises of two recessed fastening cleats under the sole of the shoe. Also called SPD, or Shimano Pedaling Dynamics, these bike shoes have metal cleats having them suitable for casual riding as well as rough riding on gravel or rocky grounds.

Related reading: How To Keep Shoelaces Out Of Bike Chain?

3-bolt or 3-hole System

The 3-bolt system in a clipless cycling shoe is commonly called a Delta system or Shimano SPD-SL. The 3-hole cleats are made with rubber and designed to provide maximum power when riding. Unlike 2 bolt systems, these are not suitable for indoor riding and work to keep your feet secured during long, fast, and serious cycling hours.


Now, let’s discuss an essential factor of bike shoes, functionality.


Clipless shoes are mainly categorized and manufactured with two functions in mind. One of the bolted shoes is made to be versatile and can be used for both walking and power pedaling.

For such shoes, the cleats are placed into the shoe sole with some depth, so that when the cyclist plans to walk, the cleats and untouched. The clipless walkable cycling shoes are idle for everyday riding, and indoor or off-road cycling.


Another type of clipless shoe is made principally for road biking. These shoes are incredibly lightweight and have a thinner sole thickness. For this reason, the cleats underneath stick out of the soles, which in turn also makes it unsuitable for walking. This design is comfortable on the feet and can produce absolute power and proficiency for heavy duty biking.

Related reading: How to Clean Cycling Shoes?


If cycling is your game, a good bike show would make a world’s difference in your riding experience. An important factor in determining what cycling shoe would be most suitable for you would depend on what kind of cycling you are into.

Mountain biking demands more versatility and ease of walking, compared to road biking. Whilst riding on gravel surfaces could be more comfortable with a crossover shoe.

There are clipless pedal adjustments and flat-soled ones. Individually each of these bike shoe types is suitably designed for different grounds and specialized riding.

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