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While regular running shoes or sneakers work in a pinch, cycling shoes provide an improved grip on your pedal, increasing stability, and ensuring better balance and higher speeds. Those serious about cycling, spin-cyclers, or who are interested in all-terrain cycling, such as dirt biking or mountain biking, should highly consider cycling shoes for improved performance and safety.
WHAT ARE CYCLING SHOES?
Cycling shoes are similar to regular sneakers and come in two common types: Clipless and Flat. Clipless shoes are designed to be fitted with clips that attach to your pedals, whereas flat biking shoes have a flat, textured surface. While both shoes work for all types of cycling, their differences better suit the needs of certain biking activities.
Cycling shoes are recommended for those who are serious about cycling as they can be pricey, and often aren’t usable outside of cycling. Regular running shoes or sneakers work just fine, however, running shoes with good grip and traction work better to keep your foot on the pedal.
CLIPLESS VS. FLAT
All cycling shoes can be broken down into two categories: clipless and flat. Clipless provides more safety, attaching your feet to the pedals of your bike, whereas flat shoes allow for more maneuverability needed in certain techniques.
Clipless shoes are designed for clips to be attached, which then connect to your bike pedals. Most clipless shoes don’t come with clips and have to be purchased separately. Even without the clips, the grooves on the bottom of clipless shoes provide an improved grip on your pedal compared to a regular running shoe. In addition to safety, the increased stability allows for better balance and higher speeds.
Flat shoes have a flat, textured, sole which provides more control over foot position on the pedal. While clips ensure you stay on your bike, flat shoes allow for more maneuverability. The ability to be precise in your food placement is necessary for certain techniques and tricks and is often vital when quick footwork is needed while off-road biking.
Clipless, flat, and regular sneakers or running shoes all work for road cycling but deciding which is right for you depends on how serious you are about cycling. Casual bike riders can rely on their regular sneakers and running shoes. More serious cyclists can benefit from both clipless and flat, but most road cyclists opt for clipless. The traction provided from having the shoe attached to the pedal can improve control and speed, which is ideal for those looking to improve their cycling performance.
There is some debate about whether clipless or flat are better for mountain biking, but it comes down to personal preference. Clipless shoes improve safety by providing grip and optional attachment to your pedal. Extra traction between your feet and your bike’s pedals is useful when mountain biking over bumpy paths but can sometimes be a determent if biking over more extreme inclines.
Flat shoes allow for more precise foot placement on the pedal, which is necessary for some biking techniques and vital when fancy footwork is required. Clipless shoes are recommended for those biking on relatively horizontal roads and mountain paths, whereas flat shoes are advantageous when traversing steep inclines as you may need your feet accessible to quickly brake or brace yourself.
SPIN CYCLING AND INDOOR BIKES
Clipless shoes are a great upgrade for spin-cyclers or those with indoor bikes. While cycling shoes are not required for indoor bikes, they can help improve performance and stability, just as they would for road cycling.
BMX, ALL-TERRAIN, AND BIKE TRICKS
Flat shoes are ideal for those interested in BMX or any type of cycling wherein bike techniques and tricks are required. Flat shoes allow for precise weight placement for specific balance needs. Bike tricks such as popping a wheely or bunny hopping, need specific foot placement to pull off, and benefits from flat shoe maneuverability. Clipless shoes can prove dangerous when on terrains other than smooth roads or paths, as you may need your feet to be quickly accessible to prevent falling or crashing. Most BMX competitions have banned or placed heavy restrictions on clipless shoes for their dangers on non-paved surfaces.
DECIDING WHAT TO BUY
While some cycling shoes can stretch the wallet, there are many affordable options on the market, most priced around the same you would pay for a regular pair of running shoes. The price difference comes down to how much you plan to bike, as there are options to get your money’s worth even if cycling is just a once-in-a-while hobby.
Deciding which type of cycling shoe to purchase depends on what type of cycling you plan to do. For most cycling, regular sneakers will do the trick, but those looking to improve their performance, or who are serious about cycling, will want to invest in cycling shoes.
TOP CLIPLESS CYCLING SHOES
- Vitatalpa Men’s Road Bike Clipless Cycling Shoe – $39.99
- Bontrager Solstice Road Clipless Cycling Shoes – $75.00
- Bontrager Cambion Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe – $224.99
TOP FLAT CYCLING SHOES
- O’Neal Pinned Flat Pedal Shoe – $79.99
- Five Ten Freerider Flat Mountain Bike Shoe – $100.00
- DZR S240 Navy – $149.00
Clipless shoes on their own provide traction with their built-in grip soles, but they can’t attach to your pedals without clips which are sold separately. There are a few different types of clips, though the most common and generally used is SPD, which attaches to most standard bike pedals. For advanced road cyclists, other clip types may be preferable. LOOK, and Speedplay provide better performance for higher-end road cyclists, although the latter requires specific pedals.
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