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News / How to Choose the Best Cycling Shoes

HOW TO CHOOSE
THE BEST
CYCLING SHOES

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a road rider, gravel grinder, singletrack shredder, commuter, or just cruising for fun; every rider has one thing in common: the importance of a comfortable and confident connection between your feet and the pedals.

There are many types of pedal systems, and a variety of shoes available to match both the pedals and your riding style. So how do you choose the right shoe with the best technology, fit, and performance to suit your needs? We’re here to help you determine the best choices, so you can get the most out of your pedal-pushing power.

Pedals:
Flat Versus
Clip-In (Clipless)

Pedals fall into two basic categories, either flat or clipless (sometimes called “clip-in”). It’s worth noting that there are also some pedals on the market that combine a flat side with a clipless side, giving you the option to use either depending on your shoe preference or riding style.

FLAT PEDALS

Flat pedals are popular among a wide span of riders, from first-time recreational cyclists to serious mountain bikers. The pedals are flat on both sides, allowing you to just jump on and go instantly. The system works with the pins of the pedal and rubber of the shoe outsole creating a connection to transfer power.

Flat pedals also make it easy and intuitive to get off the bike in an instant and allow you to adjust the position of your feet on the pedals as you like. Flat pedal shoes are not designed to “clip-in” to the pedal, since (as the name suggests), they’re flat on the bottom.

CLIP-IN (CLIPlESS) PEDALS

Clipless (or clip-in) pedals are used by riders who appreciate the connected feeling that allows higher cadence and higher power efforts required for performance riding and racing. Clipless shoes are designed with a stiffer sole, and to “clip-in” to the pedals via a cleat that’s attached directly to the bottom of the shoe. They require a little bit of practice to use, but they’re designed to release in case of a fall, and the benefits are appreciated when performance is your goal.

Why are they called “clipless” since you clip in? In the early days of cycling, road racers used metal cages and leather straps, called clips, on the pedals to keep their feet connected for maximum efficiency. The reference to “clip-less” is a throwback to the old days when these kind of “clips” were required.

There are two main types of clipless pedal systems, and each has unique benefits outlined below:

CLIP-IN (CLIPLESS) PEDALS:
2-bolt

The 2-bolt system (sometimes called “SPD” or “SPD-style”) is most commonly used for mountain bike-style pedals and shoes. The cleat and pedal can be small and designed to clear mud and debris that are commonly encountered in mountain biking, gravel, and mixed-surface riding. The smaller, 2-bolt system also allows for the cleat to be recessed within the sole of the shoe. This makes it easier to walk, and it also allows for shoes with different sole types and their needs and terrain, from aggressive trail riding to indoor spin classes.

CLIP-IN (CLIPLESS) PEDALS: 3-bolt

Cycling Shoes: The Differences between Road, Recreational, and Mountain

ROAD CYCLING SHOES

Generally speaking, the stiffer and lighter they are, the better. Since they originated from racing, dedicated road cycling shoes are made to be light and stiff enough to provide maximum pedaling efficiency. The fit is meant to be snug with a firm heel to stabilize the foot inside the shoe, and they have a smooth outsole—usually made of tough nylon, carbon fiber, or a combination of those materials. While not designed for extensive walking, there are small heel and toe pads for some grip and protection.

Dedicated road cycling shoes are only designed for clipless pedals, using either 2- or 3-bolt cleats on the bottom that clip directly into the pedals.

Since they have very little flex and the cleats protrude from the soles, they shouldn’t be used for off-road riding or for any riding where extended periods of walking might be needed (bicycle touring, mountain biking, bike packing, etc.).

RECREATIONAL BIKE SHOES

Recreational shoes are designed for urban cycling, indoor cycling, or leisurely riding (or for anyone who likes to hang at the brewery or café along the ride without swapping shoes or having to look like a bike racer). They can be thought of as a hybrid between everyday casual shoes and dedicated cycling footwear, hitting a sweet spot between familiar comfort, versatility, and pedaling efficiency. They are not as stiff as dedicated road cycling or mountain bike shoes, so they are easier to walk in. They are also designed with a supportive and durable upper to stabilize the foot while pedaling, while shrugging off rocks and dirt, and will avoid wearing out as quickly as your normal kicks. And finally, they feature a grippier sole, intended to help provide traction when you’re not pedaling.

Casual bikes shoes are offered in both flat and clipless (clip-in) variety, and the benefits of each system are the same as you get with mountain bike shoes as described above. In general, flat pedal shoes can be easier when you need to take your feet off the pedals, while clipless setups can offer more power and efficiency.

Mountain bike shoes are stiffer than an athletic shoe or skate shoe, but generally not as stiff as road cycling shoes. Whether you choose a clipless or flat style shoe, the outsoles are designed for great traction and grip on the pedals and in dirt, so that you ride or walk confidently on dusty, muddy, or wet trails and terrain.

Like road cycling shoes, you’ll want to choose a pair that fits properly to provide good support and comfort when you’re riding. Your foot should feel stable in the shoe, with good arch support and your heel firmly in place.

Clipless Mountain Bike Shoes: The benefits of clipless mountain bike shoes are the same as road cycling shoes. Being clipped-in to the pedals can make it easier to power over rocks and roots, and can also make it easier to bunny hop, or control your bike in technical situations. Additionally, you can perfect your “lower half fit” so your feet, knees, and hips are all aligned, making it easier to maintain a higher or more powerful pedal stroke for racing or training.

If you choose a clipless shoe/pedal combination, it’s important to make sure you set-up the cleat position properly for best comfort and performance. If you’re not sure how to do this, or if you’ve had issues with knee pain, foot discomfort or similar concerns, check with a professional bike fitter or your local bike shop.

Flat Pedal Mountain Bike Shoes: The most obvious benefit of flats is that they can feel super natural and they’re intuitive to use. Your feet naturally know where to go on the pedals and you can make small adjustments whenever you need to. It’s also easier to put a foot down if you need to for a tight corner, emergency stop, or to avoid a fall.

There are some tradeoffs with flat pedals. Since your feet aren’t clipped-in to the pedals, slipping or bouncing off the pedals can happen, especially in wet or really rocky terrain. Unless you’ve spent time mastering some skills, moves like bunny hops and side hops, and lifting your rear wheel, can also be harder to execute since you can’t rely on the clipped-in connection to help you snap up the wheel. And last but not least, it can be difficult to maintain a high cadence for extended periods of time.

Our recommendation? Each system has its benefits. Ultimately, learning how to be comfortable with both styles will keep your skillset sharp, and after you’ve given both a chance, you’ll be able to decide what works best for you.

OUTSOLES

The foundation of any cycling shoe is the outsole. From a flat pedal mountain bike shoe like the Jacket II or the pro-level Imperial, Giro cycling footwear is designed to deliver efficient power transfer from your legs to your pedals. Carbon fiber outsoles deliver unrivaled strength and rigidity without adding weight, but this performance comes at a cost due to carbon fiber’s labor-intensive manufacturing. True carbon plates require layering sheets of material by hand, heating the material in a mold, then sanding and/or painting the finished material. Injected composite plates offer impressive stiffness with a simpler manufacturing process.

EASTON® EC90™ CARBON

Our Easton-engineered outsole features EC90™ high modulus carbon for class-leading stiffness-to-weight, with a flat perimeter edge that allows your foot to conform naturally to the shoe’s upper for greater comfort.

CARBON FIBER COMPOSITE

This unconventional design boasts impressive performance, with a stiffness-to-weight ratio that rivals some hand-laid carbon outsoles at a more accessible cost.

CARBON REINFORCED COMPOSITE

By injecting short carbon fibers with glass fiber, the outsole stiffness can be tuned for different levels of pedaling performance. We also inject the toe and heel pads directly into the outsoles for a permanent, durable bond.

FIBERGLASS REINFORCED COMPOSITE

Entry level cycling shoes with nylon and glass injected composite outsoles offer great performance and stiffness in a way that’s less labor-intensive and at a better value. Glass-filled nylon has a stiffness that’s up to 80-percent greater than standard nylon.

DUAL-INJECTED

The dual-injection molding process fuses a stiff sole plate with a high-traction rubber outsole to provide the best of both worlds — superior pedaling performance with confidence-inspiring traction when you’re hiking or pushing the bike. Because the sole and the outsole tread are permanently fused together, there’s no chance of delamination, and no compromise made between traction and durability.

Rubber

Rubber outsoles engineered for mountain biking provide the most durable, dependable grip on the pedals with enhanced traction when you’re hiking or pushing the bike. Advanced rubber compounds like our proprietary Sensor rubber or the acclaimed MegaGrip rubber from Vibram are combined with tread patterns and supportive midsoles to optimize performance and confidence, helping you to get the most from every ride.

CLOSURE SYSTEMS

LACES

As the most tried-and-true system, laces provide a customized fit and comfort level throughout the top of your foot. They’re also light, easily replaced if needed, and you can customize the look of your shoes with a wide range of colors. They are not as fast to adjust as a dial system, and it helps to tuck them into the lace keeper, to avoid getting them caught in your chain.

FASTLACES

Fast laces combine the benefits of a traditional lace with a pull tab, allowing you to simply pull on the laces to tighten, then lock the pull in place to keep tension. They’re light, simple to use, and provide a reliable closure even in tough conditions.

HOOK-AND-LOOP STRAPS

Hook-and-loop straps (a.k.a. Velcro® straps) allow for quick, intuitive closure, and they stretch less than laces. The performance of these straps can sometimes be compromised by extremely muddy, wet conditions so it’s important to keep them clean.

DIALS

Dial systems, such as the BOA® system used on Giro shoes, allow you to effortlessly turn the dial to tighten the shoe through a system of cable laces. Premium versions allow micro-adjustment in both directions for a fast, precise fit. They’re easy to adjust on-the-fly and have a quick-release system that untightens them when the ride is over. Like hook-and-loop systems, the performance can sometimes be compromised by extremely muddy, wet conditions so it’s important to keep them clean.

TECHNOLOGIES

All Giro cycling shoes have a wide range of high-performance technologies and features to make your ride the best it can be. We also work with market-leading partners like Boa®, Vibram®, and more to make sure every Giro shoe is the best it can be.

BOA® IP-1 DIALS

BOA® IP-1 dials offer fast, effortless, and micro-adjustment in 1 mm increments at the forefoot and the instep, allowing you to get a precise fit with the ability to adjust each zone of the foot on-the-fly. Boa® Fit System dials and laces are guaranteed for the lifetime of the product.

BOA® L6 DIALS

The Boa® L6 Fit System provides fast, micro-adjustability with the turn of the dial. The combination of the dial, lace, and guides reduces weight and provides effortless adjustment (1 mm increments) compared to traditional buckles, and it offers an incremental release function too. Boa® Fit System dials and laces are guaranteed for the lifetime of the product.

XNETIC™ KNIT

Xnetic Knit uppers feature a TPU skeletal system bonded to a knit material, providing support where you need it while the knit offers suppleness and breathability for sock-like comfort and superb ventilation. Xnetic Knit is also DWR-treated for water repellency and easy cleaning and is reinforced with rubber or TPU toe/heel guards to enhance abrasion resistance and durability.

EVA MIDSOLE

EVA is a lightweight, flexible material that helps to disperse pressure and absorb shock, enhancing comfort and stability over rough terrain. It's also lightweight and resists "packing out", making it an essential part of your footwear that helps create a better connection to the pedals.

VIBRAM® RUBBER

Vibram® is the world leader in high performance rubber soles, with technologically advanced compounds developed specifically for riding in dry and wet conditions with durability that is best-in-class.

X-STATIC®

X-Static® is a fiber made with a layer of pure silver, which is permanently bonded to the surface of a textile fiber. It is an antimicrobial fiber that is 100% natural that helps reduce odor and regulate heat.

ROCKPRINT

Rockprint reinforcement along the toe and heel offers abrasion resistance and enhanced durability.

SENSOR RUBBER

Our own proprietary rubber compound design for maximum grip and long-term durability.

FASTLACE

The durable Fastlace system offers closure with a cord lock and soft lace guides.

SUPERNATURAL FIT KIT

The Giro SuperNatural Fit System combines a cycling-specific footbed with an adjustable arch support kit. By simply choosing from any of the low, medium and high arch supports included in the kit, riders and fitters can independently adjust arch support to enhance fit and pedaling efficiency while reducing or eliminating common discomforts like hotspots, numbness, and cramping. The system is available in men’s and women’s sizes and incorporates X-Static® fibers in the footbed to fight odors and other bacteria.

EVOFIBER™

Evofiber takes the best attributes of mesh and microfiber and fuses them into a single fabric that repels water and improves breathability throughout the shoe. By eliminating the extra seams and adhesives required to insert mesh panels, the durability, comfort, and weight of our shoes can all be dramatically improved. Evofiber also holds shape exceptionally well and is fast-drying and easy to clean.

SYNCHWIRE

Synchwire construction is a stitch-less upper that’s vented and reinforced to create a lightweight cycling shoe with incredible airflow and structural integrity. Synchwire is an advanced composite of thermo-bonded film that provides overall durability, a non-woven internal sheet for distributing the force from the BOA® system to the upper for direct power transfer, and mono-filament mesh for ventilation.

READ THE FAQS

SHOES

If your shoes are equipped with our adjustable SuperNatural Fit Kit Insoles, you can choose from the different arch supports supplied to customize fit and feel of the shoes to meet your needs:

• Large arch support = maximum height and support
• Medium arch support = medium height and support
• Small arch support = lowest height and support

Figure 1:

NOTE: We recommend that you start by choosing the arch support that most closely matches to the contours of your arches or the insole of your existing cycling shoes, and provides you with the most comfortable fit in the shoe. You should always consult with your local bicycle fit expert to tune your fit for maximum comfort and performance, especially if you experience any significant or consistent pain while riding.

To Start
Start by trying the shoe with the installed Medium (orange color) arch support, which works well for a majority of riders. You may want to ride with the stock setting to see how it feels during a normal ride.

To Adjust the Arch Support
To change the level of support, simply remove the insole from the shoe and peel off the arch support attached to the bottom of the insole. Then install a different arch support based on your desire for more or less arch support.

Arch Too High
If the arch support presses uncomfortably into your foot or if you are experiencing any lateral discomfort (on the outside edge of your feet), try a lower arch support.

Arch Too Low
If you are experiencing cramping or hot spots under the feet, or the arch of your foot feels unsupported or flat, try a higher arch support. Once you’ve set the arches to your preferred level of support, we recommend that you take the extra arch supports along on a test ride in case you want to make changes once you’re on the bike.

If your shoes feature a footbed with non-adjustable arch support, you can purchase our SuperNatural Fit Kit as an upgrade. The benefits are a more customized fit, and support for comfort and efficiency.

Giro shoes have been designed to be compatible with the most popular clipless pedal and cleat systems or flat pedals, depending on the type of riding they are intended for. To ensure compatibility, please read the instructions provided with your pedals to confirm specifications and proper installation, maintenance recommendations and adjustment of the cleat and pedal system. Note that some pedal systems may require the use of an adapter.

If you have additional questions about pedal compatibility, please contact your authorized Giro dealer or our Customer Service group for assistance.

The instructions below are a guide. We recommend that you consult the owner’s manual or instructions that come with your pedals to be sure your cleats are installed correctly.

Cleat Installation
Install cleat system as described in the drawings below or follow the instructions provide with your pedals.

See Diagram 1.

Cleat Positioning
Cleat positioning is a matter of personal choice, and can affect your riding comfort, power and efficiency. Positioning the cleat over the ball of the foot or slightly forward should maximize your power output. Positioning the cleat slightly behind the ball of the foot may increase comfort.

When you first attach cleats to the shoe sole, temporarily tighten cleat bolts to 22 in. lbs. (2.4Nm).

Once you have determined the optimal cleat position, firmly tighten the cleat mounting bolts. For final mounting, recommended cleat bolt torque is 41-52 in. lbs. (5-6Nm). Do not over-tighten bolts! We recommend that you follow the torque instructions for the cleat system and use those specifications if they indicate lower torque settings. 6Nm should never be exceeded when attaching the cleats!

Before You Ride
Before riding in your new shoes with cleats and clipless pedals, you should practice using the shoe and clipless system. Practice clipping-in and -out of the pedal while keeping one foot on the ground to maintain balance. When riding for the first time, find a clear area to practice clipping-in and -out of the pedal system until the motion becomes familiar.

When properly cared for, your new Giro cycling shoes will offer many miles of performance.

• To clean shoes covered in mud, dirt or road grime, wipe them clean with a damp sponge or cloth.
• Never clean shoes in the washing machine.
• Do not clean your shoes using strong detergents or abrasive pads or brushes.
• Do not expose your shoes to extreme heat. Using a fire, radiator, blow dryer or other heat source to dry your shoes can damage them and void warranty.
• Shoes and pedals may not engage properly in cleats that are dirty or worn. Regularly check cleats and cleat area for dirt or debris and replace worn cleats as needed or recommended by pedal manufacturer.
• If shoes become wet, you can stuff them with newspaper to help absorb moisture and maintain shape. In most cases newspaper will dry wet shoes overnight.

We offer replacement part kits for the ratcheting buckles and straps, as well as the pedal cleat inserts and toe spikes (for MTB shoes). We also offer replacement parts for the walking pads on some models. You can order these parts through your local authorized Giro® Footwear dealer, or through our customer service group directly. Note that you should only use Giro® replacement parts and/or those available via Giro, since other parts can void the warranty on your Giro shoes.

Giro™ cycling shoes are intended for cycling. (“Giro™”), located at 5550 Scotts Valley Drive, makes the following Limited Warranty concerning Giro™ cycling shoes. This Limited Warranty is made only to the original purchaser. It is not transferable, and is void to any subsequent owner.

Giro™ cycling shoes are guaranteed to be free from defects in materials and/or workmanship for a period of one (1) year from the date of purchase. Giro™ will, at its option, replace or repair defective shoes. To receive warranty service, within one year the original owner must return the shoes to an authorized Giro™ dealer along with the original sales receipt.

This warranty does not cover defects, damage, malfunctions, or failures resulting from abuse, neglect, improper assembly of the pedal or pedal cleat, improper maintenance, alteration, collision, or a crash.

Please see www.giro.com/Contact-Us for contact details and information about initiating a return authorization if necessary. Thank you!

The 60 Days to Decide Program is Giro’s Comfort Guarantee. Every Giro cycling shoe is designed to offer a supportive, comfortable fit on the bike. With our 60 Days to Decide comfort guarantee, you have 60 days from the date of purchasing a Giro cycling shoe to evaluate the fit and comfort for yourself. So, try us on! If the fit or feel isn't right, we'll work with you to find the right solution. Speak with your retailer or a Giro customer service representative if you have questions regarding this program or Giro products.

Please note:
• This Comfort Guarantee program is only valid for original purchaser.
• This Comfort Guarantee program is not available in all regions. Customers outside of USA should check with their local Distributor regarding this program.
• You must provide proof of purchase to make an exchange or return under this program. All returns must be processed through the authorized Giro retailer the product was originally purchased from.
• Purchases made through Giro.com must be processed directly through Giro. See Giro.com or contact our Customer Service group for assistance with returns and exchanges.
• Comfort Guarantee is good for 60 days from date of purchase. Items received after 60 days will not be processed under this policy.
• Shoes must be cleaned and in good condition as determined by Giro. They cannot be modified or damaged from crash or abuse.
• Product defects in materials or workmanship are not covered under this guarantee. See our Warranty Policy for details.
• Replacement shoes are subject to stock on hand. Giro reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to make product substitutions or refund the purchase price.
• Giro reserves the right to change or cancel this program at any time.

Product Warranty

(“Giro™”), located at 5550 Scotts Valley Drive, makes the following Limited Warranty concerning Giro™ products. This Limited Warranty is made only to the original purchaser. It is not transferable, and is void to any subsequent owner.

Giro™ products are guaranteed to be free from defects in materials and/or workmanship for a period of one (1) year from the date of purchase. Giro™ will, at its option, replace or repair defective products. To receive warranty service, within one year the original owner must return the product to Giro or an authorized Giro™ dealer along with the original sales receipt. This warranty does not cover defects, damage, malfunctions, or failures resulting from abuse, neglect, improper care, alteration, collision, or a crash.

Scope and Duration of the Warranty
Giro warrants to the original purchaser of this product that the product is free of defects in material and workmanship for the duration stated above, except to the extent prohibited by applicable law. This warranty does not apply to product damage due to heat, defects or physical damage resulting from abuse, neglect, improper repair, improper fit, alterations, or use unintended by the manufacturer. This warranty is in lieu of all other agreements and warranties, general or special, express or implied and no representative or person is authorized to assume liability on behalf of Giro in connection with the sale or use of this product. This warranty program covers all parts of your Giro product and applies to all types of defects or failure, except for loss.

Please see www.giro.com/Contact-Us for contact details and information about initiating a return authorization if necessary. Thank you!

If you are in the U.S. and need to file a Warranty claim, please fill out the Warranty Claim form here www.giro.com/Contact-Us or call 1-800-456-2355 to speak with a representative. Once you’ve completed and submitted the Warranty Claim form, a Warranty Service representative will contact you with instructions on how to properly return your Giro product.

Note: Giro’s warranty policy as noted here extends to residents of the United States only. For further information on claims outside of the United States, please call our Customer Service team at 1-800-456-2355, or contact your local Giro Authorized distributor.

Once a claim is filed, please send us the product with your Warranty Claim form or file number, proof of purchase and contact information. We encourage you to send your product to us by a traceable method (such as FedEx or UPS). Giro is not responsible for lost or misdirected packages.

Ship to:
Giro Customer Service
1001 Innovation Road
Rantoul, IL 61866

Please allow 1-2 weeks for delivery. For non-delivery or further information, call us at 1-800-456-2355.

If the exact product or style you originally purchased is not currently available (i.e. discontinued, limited edition, etc.), please choose a comparable new product and indicate the substitution model in your communication with us. The new product should be equal or lesser in retail value than the style you are returning.

If you are unsure about your choice in comparable products, please contact a Customer Service team member at www.giro.com/Contact-Us for details and information. Thank you!