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Triathlon Cycling Shoes

All You Need To Know To Make The Right Choice

triathlon cycling shoes

Your triathlon cycling shoes are the most important point of contact between you and your bike. It allows the transfer of power from you to the bike. Triathlon cycling shoes are essentially modified cycling shoes.

The most important factor is getting the right fit.

They should feel very snug, allowing pretty much no movement of your foot in the shoe – though not so tight that they pinch or you lose circulation!

Any movement of your foot in the shoe means you lose the transfer of power.

The symptoms of cycling shoes being too big are actually similar to those you would expect to see from a normal shoe that is too small – rubbing, blisters and so on. If the shoe was smaller and movement was restricted you wouldn’t have these problems.

Because getting the correct fit is so important, you should aim to try on cycling shoes at the same time of day as you usually ride. This is because feet tend to swell throughout the day so if you usually ride first thing but buy a shoe you have tried on in the evening, it may end up being too big.

Different brands will fit differently, for example some are narrower than others.

When you try your bike shoes on, don’t stand up and walk around in them. This is not what you will be using your shoes for, the weight distribution will be different to when cycling and so they will feel too small and uncomfortable.

So sit down, and check you have no movement of your feet, other than possibly a little room to wiggle your toes slightly. Try to move the heel cup of the shoe – it shouldn’t move at all – otherwise it will do so when you ride, and you will not transfer power efficiently, and probably end up with blisters!

triatlon cycling shoes

Triathlon cycling shoes are generally worn without socks, so bear this in mind when trying them on.

Another key feature of cycling shoes (both triathlon and cycling shoes in general) is the stiffness of the sole. A stiff sole allows effective transfer of power to the pedals. A carbon fiber sole is stiffer and lighter than molded plastic, and will last longer.

The main difference between triathlon cycling shoes and normal cycling shoes is the fastening.

There is a variety of different fastening systems for cycling shoes, such as velcro, wire and ratchet systems. They have varying degrees of secureness, but which you choose is really a matter of personal preference.

Triathlon cycling shoes generally open up a lot and use quick fastening Velcro, to speed up entry and exit. They tend to have one big strap or a big strap plus a smaller one down by the toes. One big strap means you can open the shoe up really wide so you can get your foot in quickly and easily.

Cycling shoes for triathlon also fasten in a different direction to cycling shoes.

On cycling shoes, you would pull the strap down towards the outside of shoe, whilst a lot (but not all) tri shoes pull the strap in towards the middle of the bike, because it is easier to adjust when on the bike, and the strap is less likely to get caught up in the chain during transition.

triatlhon cycling shoes

Triathlon cycling shoes often have a loop on the back of the heel to help you pull it on, but also so you can use elastic bands or another fastening system to hold the shoes in place on the pedals for a quick transition.

Obviously your triathlon cycling shoe will need to fit with pedals. 99% of shoes fit 99% of pedals. It really doesn’t matter which type of pedal you use – it is just down to personal preference. Remember you don’t have to match the brands of pedal and shoe.

Cycling shoes for triathlon come in a wide range of prices. You can get relatively cheap ones but also very expensive ones.


The biggest difference between the two ends of the price range is in materials and weight.

Expensive shoes will usually be much lighter. They will also be stiffer, and be made of better quality materials.

Better quality material can provide more supple uppers and better ventilation whilst maintaining good structure and fit. Also the soles and inner soles will be of much higher quality in more expensive shoes.

At the end of the day though, getting a good fitting shoe is the most important factor. If you buy a pair of triathlon shoes that don’t fit properly, it doesn’t matter how much you spend, they will still be no good.

Some of the main brands of triathlon cycling shoe are Shimano, Time, Pearl Izumi, Lake, Bont, Mavic and Sidi, and you can see some of these on the left of this page.

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