Riding inside brings with it a whole new set of rigours and, while your current shoes will probably work just fine, you might be more comfortable in something else.
Whether you're looking to prolong the life of your high-end kicks, or maybe you're after something a bit more forgiving as you plug away at indoor miles, a second pair of shoes may improve your indoor cycling experience.
Read on for Cyclingnews' picks of the best indoor cycling shoes, as well as a rundown on what you need to know.
Two- or three-hole cleats
For the most part, road shoes use a three-bolt mounting system (unless you're using Speedplay), and mountain-bike shoes will use a two-bolt setup. If you're looking to get shoes for a spin class or something like a Peloton bike, all spin bikes have pedals that work with two-hole SPD cleats, while some will also have a Look Delta pedal on the underside.
Your road bike will already have pedals screwed into the cranks, but if you're putting together a dedicated indoor setup, it might be worth looking at a pair of MTB shoes. With lugs designed for scampering up steep inclines, and over rocks and roots, MTB shoes have considerably more traction than road shoes; something you're likely to appreciate if you've ever tried to run to the bathroom mid-workout and hit the tiles with a bit too much speed.
It's well established that carbon-soled shoes are stiffer and lighter than their nylon or carbon-reinforced cousins. However, when you're spinning on the trainer, weight is hardly a consideration, but comfort should be.
The vast majority of us can't flex the board-stiff carbon plate on a top-end race shoe, and shoes that are too stiff can cause undue stress on knees and ankles – especially when the bike is essentially bolted to the floor. A small degree of flex vastly improves comfort and helps alleviate overuse injuries without sacrificing much, if any, power transfer or efficiency.
Nylon soles on offer today are plenty rigid enough to make for efficient power transfer, but, with a bit more flex than their carbon compatriots, they can offer improved comfort and don't leave quite as big a dent in your wallet. During long indoor sessions, you're not moving around on the bike the way you do riding outside, and so some areas that otherwise wouldn't bother you can get a bit irritated – which is something less-rigid shoes can sometimes help with.
Riding inside is a sweaty proposition at the best of times, and the airflow keeps your feet cool as you spin down the road is of course gone. A shoe that relies on pin-prick perforations, therefore, is going to become a sauna.
To keep your little piggies from becoming crispy bacon, look for shoes that have lots of mesh and an open design.
Best looking of the bunch without sacrificing performance
Giro's Apeckx shoe features a dual velcro closure and the brand's N1 ratchet strap, which allows the fit to be adjusted in 3mm increments. The mesh upper is bonded and welded together to reduce the number of seams and potential hot spots, while also efficiently stabilising your foot throughout the pedal stroke.
The sole is made from DuPont Zytel nylon, which is also used for car-engine housings, in railway technology and cylinder-head cover gaskets. It's plenty stiff enough when you push on the pedals; not quite to the level of carbon, but it's in the upper echelon of composite-soled kicks. Plus they are great looking and don't cost a boatload.
Premium comfort without the pricetag
While these aren't necessarily indoor-specific, the two fat and stretchy velcro retention straps make the Fizik Tempo Powerstrap R5 one of the most comfortable you can buy. Fizik calls this closure technology the Powerstrap, and it allows the shoe to be tightened evenly around your foot, using dual straps tailor-fit around the instep and midfoot.
The outsole is made from carbon-reinforced nylon and, inside the heel cup, silicone dots keep your foot from slipping without the need for dramatic shaping, and so eliminating any kind of pinching.
Airy shoes with provisions for two and three-bolt cleats
With large mesh panels and a single L6 Boa Dial, the seamless upper of the Pearl Izumi Attack shoe wraps around your foot to provide support during high-intensity intervals but allows your feet to breathe.
The cleat plate itself is made from carbon fibre and has holes for both two- and three-bolt cleat systems to provide a stable base, while the rest of the outsole is made from reinforced nylon to keep the price down and add a degree of flex for added comfort.
Knit kicks with supreme breathability and comfort
When we talk about breathability, these knit shoes outperform the rest when it comes to airflow and cooling – ideal considering the heat generated by indoor riding. While the Empire E70 Knit shoes are probably on the upper end of how much you may want to spend on a pair of dedicated indoor shoes, the laced closure combined with the supple Xnetic knit fabric conforms to your foot like a warm hug – or maybe a cold hug. To prevent the shoes from being about as supportive as an old sock, Giro added an internal TPU skeleton.
The sole is Giro's second-tier EC70 carbon sole, which is plenty stiff enough to stand up to even the most vicious sprint intervals but still maintains a degree of comfort for those long-haul rides. Giro also makes them in a men's and women's version.
Added traction for walking
While the Mavic Crossmax shoes are mountain-bike-specific, off-road kicks are a good option for riding inside because the lugs offer a bit of extra traction as you walk through the house. Walking on tiles wearing road shoes can feel a bit like ice skating when you head to the kitchen to fill your bottles or run to the bathroom mid-workout. They also prevent the cleat from touching the ground, which is ideal if you have wooden floors.
The Crossmax uses a speedlace-style closure that cinches the shoe down with a simple pull and the Energy Grip Terra sole is plenty rigid enough to provide a stable pedalling platform. Big mesh panels throughout also allow for plenty of cooling.
Basic shoes to get the job done
These budget-friendly cycling shoes from Hiland make an excellent entry-level option for those new to indoor cycling. Whether you’re running Shimano SPD-SL road pedals, or hopping on the Peloton Bike, they’re compatible with all major pedal systems, making them pretty versatile.
The vented sole helps to keep your feet cool, and features an extra bolt for added strength and durability. All the while the ventilated microfiber upper is constructed from quick-drying and highly breathable mesh and synthetic leather. Fastened with three classic hook-and-loop Velcro straps, you can achieve a firm hold, while keeping things simple and easy to use.
Unique sole allows the right type of flex
Scott's Road Comp shoes are essentially a toned-down version of the brand's RC race clogs. There might be only one Boa, a nylon sole rated 6/10 on the brand's stiffness scale, and they are a bit heavier, but the major design features are all present and correct.
Most notable is the brand's torsion fork on the rear half of the sole, which allows for a bit of lateral flex to alleviate some of the strain on knees and ankles to stave off overuse injuries. It creates a floaty feeling as you pedal – one which we've come to appreciate in the brand's more expensive kicks. Inside the shoes, the insole has removable arch supports and a metatarsal button.
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Mildred is a Reviews Writer for Cyclingnews who loves all forms of cycling from long-distance audax to daily errand-running by bike. She does almost everything on two wheels, including moving house, and started out her cycling career working in a bike shop. For the past five years she's volunteered at The Bristol Bike Project as a mechanic and session coordinator, and now sits on its board of directors. Since then she's gone on to write for a multitude of cycling publications, including Bikeradar, Cycling Plus, Singletrack, Red Bull, Cycling UK and Total Women's Cycling. She's dedicated to providing more coverage of women's specific cycling tech, elevating under-represented voices in the sport, and making cycling more accessible overall.
Height: 156cm (5'2")
Rides: Liv Devote, Genesis Equilibrium Disc 20, Triban RC520 Women's Disc, Genesis Flyer, Whyte Victoria, Cotic BFe 26, Clandestine custom bike
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