As commuter cycling is set to challenge conventional urban public transport in a post-pandemic world, riders are desiring cycling shoes which are functional and fashionable.
Minimalist carbon cycling shoes might look great during your coffee stop on that weekend outride, but they don’t go particularly well with jeans or office wear. Nor do they walk with great aplomb on most indoor office flooring surfaces.
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Commuter shoes are a compromise between the stiffness and ventilation of a dedicated road cycling shoe – and the comfort of a walking shoe. Fashion adds yet another dimension to this equation - lurid team colours are out, subtle hues are in.
Laces are the most popular securing method, as opposed to Boa dials and straps, although this does mean that any adjustments require you to come to a complete stop.
We have listed the best options if you are going to be embracing your bike, as an active transport participant.
Best commuter cycling shoes
A casual canvas slip-on
Size: 40-48 | Weight: 308g | Colours: 2
A legendary shoe name in climbing and mountain biking, FiveTen also offers (very) casual riding shoe options. Now owned by German apparel giant, Adidas, FiveTen is expanding into the leisure and commuter cycling shoe market.
Its slip-on Sleuth isn’t going to be your choice for a 20-mile roundtrip commute, but if you seek riding shoes for that Saturday morning coffee or neighbourhood café ride, these are wonderfully appropriate.
The Sleuth’s construction blends a canvas and mesh upper, which allows for excellent walking comfort, due to its inherent fabric flexibility. Colours and overall design are both quite muted, which should make FiveTen’s slip-on Sleuth easy to pair with most of your urban daywear.
FiveTen built its reputation in the climbing and mountain biking communities with outstandingly grippy rubber sole compounds, and the Sleuth is no different. It features a Micro-Dotty sole which has tremendous flat pedal grip.
The only debit on these shoes would be that their slip-on design means you sacrifice a touch in terms of structural rigidity in the uppers. This could lead to some foot movement in the shoe if you are climbing out of the saddle.
Giro Rumble VR
Pedalling dynamics and striding comfort in one
Size: 39-50 | Weight: 425g | Colours: 3
It looks like a casual activity sneaker, which is not surprising, as this Giro draws much of its inspiration from the company’s mountain bike product line.
If you wish to ride as a clipless commuter and like the appearance of hybrid sneaker/running shoe, you’ll love the Rumble’s design. Its upper is a combination of breathable synthetic material, with mesh inserts, to keep you cool and comfortable in summer.
Stride comfort is supported by an EVA footbed and midsole, whilst traction on all surfaces benefit from an Italian sourced Vibram outsole.
Configured for clipless riding, the Rumble SPD-compatible cleat box has generous fore-and-aft adjustability, to help you find the most comfortable contact point, whilst on the bike. There’s a tidy lace keeper loop, to prevent drivetrain suck.
A typically solid Shimano product
Size: 36-48 | Weight: 332g | Colours: 4
Need shoes to brand-match your drivetrain or brakes? Shimano is best known for its enormous cycling component range, but the Japanese company also has a broad shoe portfolio.
Its CT5 is a sneaker-style commuter shoe offering good value. Optimized for use with Shimano’s SPD and Click’R pedal systems, the roomy cleat box section allows for fuss-free clipless installation.
An EVA midsole provides walking support, whilst Shimano has added an integrated shank, to assist with power transfer when you are on the pedals. It also has a broad spread of mesh around the upper, to aid ventilation - although this could be a water ingress issue, if you are going to be doing a lot of heavy-weather winter commuting.
Chrome Industries Truk
Durable cycling-specific urban kicks
Size: 40-46 | Weight: Unpublished | Colours: 3
Chrome Industries has been making durable cycling kit aimed at urban riders and professional bike messengers who demand durability and a casual style.
Chrome's Truk shoe is a flat pedal shoe that has a cycling-specific PowerPlate nylon shank inserted in the sole to enhance pedalling stiffness to improve power transfer. The toe and heel are capped with rubber to fend off scuffs and a rubber crash pad in the heel softens the blow if you find yourself bailing off the bike.
The uppers are made from durable 1,000 Denier Cordura and have a slim profile for a better fit when using toe clips or straps. The Truks have a clean look but if you prefer a slip-on or hi-top trainer, Chrome does a range of their shoes fitted with the PowerPlate sole.
For you formal flat-pedal rider
Size: 40-48 | Weight: 295g | Colours: 1
Formal leather shoes and cycling are not usually a great partnership, with pedals often creating pressure points.
Rockport has recognised that some of its customers require a formal leather shoe which can also turn those commuter bike pedals. Its solution is the Slayter.
Designed with all the subtle low-profile formalism hat you’d expect in a traditional office attire shoe, Rockport has made the Slayter cycling appropriate too. It has an EVA outsole, delivering both flexibility and impact absorption, whilst the truTECH is a heel insert, boosting walking comfort.
They might look like the last thing you'd want to step on a pedal with, but the Slayters can hold their own for those inner-city commutes.
An unrivaled winter weather casual clipless shoe
Size: 37-46 | Weight: 480g | Colours: 1
If you need a leather clipless commuter shoe for winter riding, look no further.
DZR has made a name for itself, by combining cleat box soles with stylish urban footwear design. The H20 is true to its naming convention, by being waterproof – and perfect for those urban commuter cyclists who don’t always dodge puddles.
Aside from using a full-grain leather upper, DZR’s designers also integrate a waterproof membrane into the shoe’s structure, to provide comprehensive waterproofing.
There is little point in having a clipless pedal interface if your shoes are too flexy. DZR’s H20 features a metal reinforced nylon shank, for improved power transfer when you are cranking away.
Safety features include an elastic lace catch and reflective heel badge. If you want an SPD-compatible all-weather leather riding shoe, the DZR H20 is excellently suited to that purpose.
Trail style for your hectic urban commute
Size: 36-48 | Colours: 1
Another activity shoe that has a multisport appearance, Bontrager’s SSR is a great option for those who need an off-road capable walking shoe with a cleat box.
Bontrager’s designers have created a generously shaped shoe, which is claimed to the brand’s comfiest for both riding and walking. The rubber outsole has strong grip for scrambling over off-road terrain, but it is also great if you need to run some stairs to be on time for that appointment.
Compatible with two-bolt SPD cleat, Bontrager reinforces the SSR’s structure with a nylon plate to resist pedalling flex. If you choose to ride flat pedals or wish to use the SSR as more of a multipurpose shoe, there are plugs available to fill-in the cleat box.
Ventilation is good, with comprehensive mesh inserts, and the SSR’s fit is secured with laces and a single Velcro top strap.
Superb multi-use sneakers
Size: 41-45 | Weight: 275g | Colours: 1
An unobtrusively styled shoe, with some typically clever design details, from the big red S.
Although the Skitch looks like a casual sneaker, which was Specialized’s design intent, it features a number of dedicate ergonomic features. The sole and footbed are both shaped according to Specialized’s proved Body Geometry principles, to prevent joint aggravation whilst riding.
Pedal traction and security is good, thanks to the SlipNot soles, which prevent you painfully slipping a pedal, even in wet conditions. Riders who are going to remain committed winter commuters will appreciate the Skitch’s waterproof toe box.
Off the bike, walking comfort is high. Specialized has used their soft Lollipop inner sole, which sits on an EVA foam bed, providing excellent step damping – regardless of the surface you are traversing.
Dynamic safety features include a Lacelock system, which keeps your chainring from gobbling laces, whilst the Skitch’s heel and side-panels, are finished in reflective material – to make one more visible to motorists, at dusk and dawn.
How to choose a commuter cycling shoe
1. How they look – matters a lot
Exterior design, proportions and colourways are hugely important for any commuter shoe choice – with most riders preferring to err on the side of subtlety.
The purchasing bias is more influenced by traditional casual shoe fashion sensibility, than outright pedalling dynamics and conventional cycling metrics – such as weight, ventilation and sole stiffness.
If you buy commuter shoes which do not adequately match with your office or social wear, there is little point, as you’ll feel uncomfortable wearing them.
2. Steps are more important that pedal strokes
Walking is not a design objective of conventional road cycling shoe design. You might pace from the garage to pavement, or around the local coffee shop waiting area, but with your cycling shoes on, steps away from the pedals are usually kept to a minimum.
With a commuter cycling shoe, it is very much the opposite. You’ll be walking up and down stairs, often carrying the bike. And along corridors or across a variety of floor space surfaces or public parks. To ensure that is accomplished without discomfort or the risk of slippage, commuter cycling shoes have a different cleat profile and more flexible sole design.
You also want a shoe that has an exceptionally grippy sole, especially if you’ll be riding flats.
Although pedalling efficiency is always desirable, you don’t need a carbon sole – which would be agonisingly uncomfortable to walk in for a few hundred steps a day. With a reinforcement shank in a flexible sole, you should have adequate pedalling support for your active commute.
3. Traditional fastening systems are best
Although fastening systems which allows for mid-ride adjustability whilst you are on the bike are desirable, laces rule the commuter shoe market. For good reason.
The tension properties that laces can enact on a shoe’s upper, make for the comfiest fit if you are going to be walking a great deal. Velcro straps and Boa-dials are less prevalent on casual shoes for reasons of appearance, cost, repair complexity and comfort.
A flexible walking shoe is best secured with laces, instead of straps or dials. The most important consideration with your commuter shoe lacing system is how the ends and loops will be secure atop the shoe, to prevent potentially dangerous engagement with your chainring(s).
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