Cycling shoes are, without a doubt, the most important piece of equipment in a cyclist’s arsenal, as they have the most impact on overall performance.
The reason for that is because your feet are the most crucial contact point. After all, it’s through the pedaling motion that you can propel the bike forward. And since cycling shoes enhance that motion, choosing the right pair of cycling shoes is tremendously important, especially if you’re a competitive cyclist and want to ensure optimal performance.
Below you can find some of the best vegan cycling shoes in 2020.
Best Vegan Cycling Shoes
Giro Empire SLX Cycling Shoes
The Giro Empire SLX cycling shoes are old-fashioned in the sense they have a traditional closure system: laces.
However, while that doesn’t provide you with the ability to micro-adjust fit mid-ride, the pressure the laces apply combined with Giro’s Evofiber SL microfibre upper, give birth to an extremely comfortable shoe.
The lack of fastening hardware makes the shoes weightless, which is what you essentially obtain from exchanging the adjustability of other closure systems with old-school laces.
Fizik Infinito R1 Cycling Shoes
The Fizik Infinito R1 cycling shoes are often featured in the World Tour, as they’re used by prominent figures in cycling such as Geraint Thomas (from Team Inode) and the Movistar Team.
Equipped with the Infinito outsoles, they provide you with a supportive platform that enhances your pedaling ability and provide you with optimal comfort throughout the entire ride.
Sidi Shot Cycling Shoes
The Sidi Shot are all-round perfomance race shoes, and use a closure system that pre-dates the Boas— the Tecno 3 Push system.
A closure system that is built into the center of the tongue to provide you with an even closure throughout the foot, but also enables you to speed up wearing and taking off the shoes.
The Sidi Shot cycling shoes also come with an Adjustable Heel Retention Device that reinforces the top of the heel cup and essentially improves the fit of the shoes.
Specialized S-Works 7 Cycling Shoes
The S-Works 7 is constructed with a wider toebox and soft heel support that provides you with comfort without sacrificing safety, specifically heel-wise.
They feature custom CNC machined S3 Boa dials that have been designed especially for the S-Works 7.
These Boa dials not only add panache to your pedaling but also feature spring clutch internals and one-millimeter micro-adjustments.
Sidi Wire 2 Carbon Cycling Shoes
Like the Sidi Shot, the Sidi Wire 2 are highly customizable shoes at the expense of carrying a bit of extra weight. Each pair weighs 630g, which is slightly heavier than most.
That being said, they do feel like they’ve been broken into before reaching our hands.
Sidi double down on the comfort, and the Sidi Wire 2 are a pure reflection of that, thanks to the two retention dials, upper foot closure strap, and the soft, yet adjustable heel cup.
Giro Imperial Cycling Shoes
Compared to other Giro’s in the market, this is not the lightest version, however, at 224g a pair, it is certainly lighter than the Sidi Wire 2.
If you feel like wearing weightless shoes, the Giro Imperial is a pretty wonderful choice, especially when it’s armed with the Easton EC90 SLX 2 carbon-fiber soles which are very stiff and feel responsive when thrusting your feet on the pedal.
Despite the soles not being flexible (quite the contrary), this does not affect comfort, even if you spend hours riding.
What to Look For in Vegan Cycling Shoes
1. Comfort and Fit
When buying cycling gloves or shoes, fit and comfort are the most important factors to consider, especially when you take into account the fact that cycling is a brutal sport that requires a tremendous amount of endurance.
For that reason, aspects like comfort and fit are highly important.
That being said, you’re bound to find people with different measures, some with narrow feet, other with wide feet, and of course, varying foot sizes. If you’re not familiar with widths, letters are used to reference different widths.
For instance, B stands for extra narrow, C for narrow, D for regular, E for wide, EE for extra-wide, and EEE for triple wide.
However, not all types of shoes are sold in different widths.
Unlike running shoes, cycling shoes only use the E measure to avoid having too many variants of the same shoe.
2. Closure System
There are three main types of closure systems used in cycling shoes. Each one with its own unique benefits, but all of them have proven, over time, to be quite reliable.
- Velcro Straps
- BOA Dials
Let’s see the difference between them and what each one has to offer.
Proponents of the lace-up closure system claim that there are legitimate aerodynamic benefits to the system. However, in our opinion, what sets this system apart from the others is its simplicity.
The mechanical complexities and tight tolerances of the BOA dial system make it less reliable because small contaminants may easily clog or break the dials, and they’re also less resistant to extreme wind pressure. Velcro straps, in the same measure, are also less reliable because they delaminate over time.
Something that certainly doesn’t happen with laces, and if anything were to happen, they’re easily replaceable.
However, keep in mind that laces are not perfect. Laces lack the adjustability other systems offer, especially if you’re in a competitive environment and need to lace-up on the fly.
Velcros have been around for a while and still are a popular choice.
Unlike the ratchet buckles or boa dials we’ve mentioned, they’re unlikely to be damaged in a fall or crash. Plus, they’re very easy to adjust mid-ride, unlike the lace-up system.
If you’re searching for the snuggest fit possible to prevent any loss of efficiency or foot slippage inside the shoe while pedaling, the velcro straps are the way to go.
The same can be said for the Boa dials, as they can exert the right amount of pressure on a shoe’s overall structure to ensure you have a really snug fit without any discomfort.
Plus, they also have another convenient aspect in their favor, something that the lace-up system doesn’t have. They give you the ability to adjust the shoe mid-ride. With a lace-up system, you’d have to unmount your bike and waste precious seconds.
With the boa dials and velcros, you can easily stall your cadence and go into a cruising posture before reaching down to adjust your shoe’s tension.
3. Sole Materials
There are three types of sole materials you’ll see being used on cycling shoes, all of which are considered vegan, albeit not entirely environmentally-friendly.
- A mixture of carbon and plastic
Typically, high-end and performance-based shoes come with carbon soles, and a good example of this is the Sid Wire 2 cycling shoe. They’re lightweight, durable, and stiff, qualities that make carbon-based shoes more expensive than most other shoes.
Carbon cycling shoes can be rated based on the amount of stiffness they have. For example, shoes with a carbon stiffness that goes from 11 to 13 are considered high-performance shoes, and those with a rating from 8 to 10 are mid-range shoes.
Mid-range shoes either use fewer carbon materials or are created with both carbon and plastic, which oftentimes companies refer to these shoes as carbon injected or carbon-reinforced.
Beginner cycling shoes are typically made from plastic materials, and while they’re quite comfortable and appealing for recreational cycling, they’re way less durable. The positive aspect of plastic-based shoes is the fact they’re quite cheap in comparison to carbon shoes.
If you intend to cycle seriously, then a more durable option might be ideal.
By standard, cycling shoes come with ventilation to help you withstand long circuits without the accumulation of sweat that is created after the non-stop pedaling.
That’s usually achieved by the mesh holes that are spread through certain areas of the shoe.
If you feel like your feet tend to overly sweat, then look for shoes that are known for their ventilation, especially during the summer. Plus, if you intend to wear the same shoes come winter, you can always use a shoe cover to protect you against the elements.
5. Pedals and Cleats
Great cycling shoes are known to have two main systems of clip-in pedals, which are identified as ‘three-bolt’ and ‘two-bolt’ cleat systems.
The main advantage of these systems is that they give you increased control over the bike, as well as the confidence of knowing that your feet won’t slip off the pedals, especially in wet conditions.
Also, clip-in pedals allow you to cycle more efficiently by helping you transfer your power more effectively.
However, keep in mind that these two systems are used in different scenarios.
The three-bolt system, also known as the SPD-SL under the Shimano brand name, is used for road cycling. It uses a large plastic cleat that is attached to your shoe with three bolts.
Because the clip-in mechanism is one-sided, you need to make sure the pedal is correctly placed to clip-in. The three-bolt system provides you with a more stable platform on the pedal because the contact area is simply more spacious, which enables you to transfer power more effectively.
However, because the cleats are large and come out of the thread on the shoe, they’re not that great for walking in.
The two-bolt system is used for off-road cycling, commuting, and touring.
It uses a smaller metal cleat that is attached to the cycling shoe with two bolts. Since the clipping mechanism is on both sides of the pedal, it’s easier to clip in.
Unlike the three-bolt system, these are less protruding and thus much easier to walk around in.
Shoe, Pedal, and Cleat Compatibility
Some shoes will be compatible with both two-bolt and three-bolt cleat systems, but many, including shoes that are directed to performance, will only use one or the other.
Before you decide to buy cycling shoes, look carefully at the product’s description to ensure you’re purchasing shoes that are compatible with the pedals and cleats you own or vice-versa.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the Difference Between Clipless and Flat Pedals?
Clipless pedals (or clip-in pedals) might seem intimidating due to the way your feet are locked in place, which might induce you with the fear of falling sideways, but you should be fine if you’re proficient in riding a bike.
There are some clear advantages to using clip-in pedals, which is why most cyclists wear clip-in pedals instead of flat pedals.
- Better Power Transfer: Having your feet clipped-in allows you to have a more solid connection between you and the bike’s “engine”. Every motion on the bike is directed to propelling the bike forward, something that is often wasted when you have flat pedals.
- Efficient Pedaling: Besides pushing through the first pedal stroke with your quads, the clip-in system allows you to lift through the second half of the pedal stroke using your hamstrings, making it more efficient and easier to apply energy to pedaling motions.
- No Slipping: Another obvious advantage to the clip-in system is the fact your feet are locked in place, preventing any sort of slippage that might occur when you’re riding in a wet climate.
In essence, clip-in pedals are specifically designed to increase your efficiency when cycling.
Do Cycling Shoes Come with Cleats?
No, cycling shoes do not come with cleats.
Cleats typically come with the pedals, and if you already have existing pedals, you can buy cleats separately. However, keep in mind that NOT every cycling shoe is compatible with every pedal or cleat system, so you need to keep that in mind when purchasing your cycling shoes.
Are Cycling Shoes Hard to Break-in?
Plastic-based shoes are easier to break-in because the material is more flexible in nature, but way less durable, making plastic-made shoes a cheaper alternative.
However, if you’re looking for high-performance cycling shoes, you’ll probably go with shoes made from carbon, which is a highly-durable and stiff material.
That being said, you need to keep in mind that these might take longer to break-in. It can vary between a couple of days to a couple of weeks, but once you’re beyond the break-in stage, you can expect a tremendous level of comfort.
Can Female Cyclists Wear Male Cyclist Shoes?
Yes, female cyclists can wear male cyclist shoes.
However, if your feet are very narrow or small, then you should actively look for female cyclist shoes, as they come in smaller sizes of 35 and onwards, and are modeled after the average female’s feet.
Brands that have high-quality female shoes are Sidi, Giro, Fizik, and Specialized.
Perhaps the most important weapon in a cyclist’s arsenal — cycling shoes are a piece of equipment that has a tremendous impact on performance, providing users not only with comfort but also features that enhance the transfer of energy in crucial pedaling motions.
The shoes on this list are designed for a better cycling experience, however, they’re only a smart investment if you intend to cycle for a prolonged period. If you’re a beginner a simply want to dip your toes in the water, then you should definitely go with cheaper shoes.
That being said, if cycling is something you really want to do, then the shoes on the list are among the most popular and sought after shoes in the cycling world.
*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you purchase through these links. See my full disclosure here.
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