During the lockdown, many of us became well acquainted with cycling indoors, and with cold and gloomy winter weather on the way, it’s likely that'll continue for a while longer. Indoor cycling shoes may not be an obvious purchase to make, but they can really transform your training. You’ll be well aware by now of how much hotter the room can feel while training indoors, since there’s a total lack of breeze to help your sweat to evaporate, leaving it clinging to your skin like moss on a damp rock.
That’s why it’s crucial to stay cool and hydrated while cycling indoors, and one of the best ways of turning down the heat (aside from setting up a decent fan) is choosing some indoor cycling kit that helps your skin to breathe. That goes for footwear, too.
You may already be using your high-end road kicks, and of course, the best cycling shoes for riding outdoors will do the job indoors too. However, investing in some indoor-specific cycling shoes will offer your feet the chance to really breathe, and you won’t wear out your favourite cycling shoes in the meantime.
Whether you're looking to prolong the lifespan of your best shoes, or are looking for something that’s more forgiving as you churn away at indoor kilometres, a second pair of shoes could do a lot to improve your indoor cycling experience. Plus if you’re new to all this, why not check out our comprehensive guide to indoor cycling? Or if you’re thinking about upping the ante with your indoor workouts, our ultimate guide to Zwift will tell you everything you need to know about virtual training, as well as how to get the cheapest Zwift setup. Or if that’s not your bag, there are plenty of other indoor cycling apps to choose from.
Read on for our picks of the best indoor cycling shoes, or skip to the bottom for our guide to what you need to know before you make your choice.
In addition, with Black Friday looming, we expect many of the products below will see discounts over the coming days. The prices below should reflect the best available deals right now, but be sure to also check out our roundup of the best Black Friday cycling shoes deals to see if there are any other deals to take advantage of.
Best women’s indoor cycling shoes
Shimano IC5 cycling shoes
Ideal for spin class and studio sessions
Sole: Nylon | Closure: BOA | Cleat mount: 2-bolt | RRP: £99 / $141.16
Shimano’s IC (indoor cycling) shoes are designed to provide maximum ventilation, thanks to the mesh fabric which makes up pretty much the entire upper. Cinched together with a Boa L6 dial and synthetic leather tongue that wraps around the upper foot, it’s easy to achieve a precision fit that feels comfortable for sessions with the turbo trainer.
That precision also helps reduce any excess movement in the foot, which can lead to wasted energy. Combined with a rigid nylon sole, the overall stiffness is rated five on Shimano’s scale. Being a two-bolt compatible shoe, the sole features small lugs to help with walking, while the SPD cleat is protected from touching the ground.
Scott Road Comp Boa Lady Shoe
Incredibly breathable and performance-focused
Sole: Nylon | Closure: BOA | Cleat mount: 3-bolt | RRP: £109.99 / $109.99
These women-specific road shoes from Scott are designed with all-day comfort in mind. Built around a pre-shaped ErgoLogic insole which offers a stable foundation, they make use of Scott’s anatomic ‘wrap fit’. This comprises a synthetic leather layer which conforms to the foot like a second skin, combined with a series of internal straps which wrap around and support key areas of the foot.
The nylon outsole is reinforced with fibreglass, making it more comfortable and compliant than a carbon sole, while also retaining a stiffness index rating of six. This makes these Scott shoes an ideal option for any woman wanting to comfortably train indoors without sacrificing power efficiency. The sole is finished with an outer coating of rubber compound for traction when walking.
The upper is made from synthetic polyurethane and 3D Airmesh, a highly breathable fabric constructed from two layers spaced apart by fine polyester fibres to maximise airflow. The whole thing is sealed with a Boa dial to help achieve a precise fit.
Maximum ventilation, minimal stiffness
Sole: Nylon | Closure: Velcro | Cleat mount: 3-bolt and 2-bolt | RRP: £104.95 / $120
Earlier this year, Nike announced the launch of the SuperRep Cycle, designed specifically for indoor cycling, namely spinning and Peloton classes. While these shoes are listed on the website as a women’s version, the fact that the sizing only goes as small as a UK size 5 indicates that they’re actually unisex. This means that women with larger feet will be catered for, but these won’t be suitable for the more petite among us.
The nylon sole has mounts for both two-bolt and three-bolt cleats, while the upper is made from a combination of mesh outer and a perforated sock liner, with vents through the bottom of the plate, channelling airflow towards the toes. There’s no denying that these shoes from Nike are highly breathable, however they do lack adequate torsional stiffness for anyone wanting to retain a level of power efficiency while training indoors.
Giro Empire E70 Knit women’s
Knit comfort with supreme breathability
Sole: Carbon | Closure: Laces | Cleat mount: 3-bolt | RRP: £199.99 / $263.99
Technically the Empire E70 Knit shoes from Giro were not developed specifically for indoor cycling, and they have a carbon sole which is something we have advised against in our guide below. However we’ve made an exception for these because the breathability and ventilation they offer is second to none, and the sock-like comfort that comes with wearing them means they’ve made the list anyway. If your priority is maximum power, and if you’re not likely to be training for long periods of time, then why not splurge?
To anyone new to the game it might seem strange to have knit technology in cycling shoes, which require a blend of supple comfort and strong performance. However the Giro engineered Xnetic Knit upper was developed specifically for the sport. It envelops a TPU skeletal system and nylon core, both of which provide the support needed to maximise the pedal stroke.
Meanwhile, the reinforced heel and toe area enhances the shoes’ durability and abrasion resistance. The breathable and quick-drying upper feels light and airy, helping to keep your feet cool and comfortable, and it’s DWR-treated which, while the water-resistance it offers isn’t a necessary feature of indoor cycling shoes, it does also make them easier to clean, especially if you’re a pretty sweaty mess by the end of your session.
Finally, the lacing system is unique, in that it’s designed to eliminate specific areas of the upper foot that are prone to overheating or high friction when using traditional Velcro straps.
Liv Macha Comp Women’s Road Shoes
Faultless design for outdoors and indoors
Sole: Nylon | Closure: Boa and velcro | Cleat mount: 2-bolt, 3-bolt | RRP: £129.99 / $195
Originally launched as the sister company to Giant, Liv Cycling is now in a league of its own, leading the pack as one of the only cycling brands (producing bikes, clothing and accessories) for women, by women, with women. With women present at every stage of the design and production process, you can rest assured that whatever you buy from Liv will be optimised to work with your body.
The Macha Road Comp shoe is technically designed for both indoor and outdoor cycling, but it was impossible not to include them on this list for the sheer performance they offer to the indoor cyclist. Blending stiffness with torsional flex, they hit the sweet spot between comfort and efficiency, cradling your foot while you maximise your power output on every pedal stroke.
The nylon and fibreglass composite outsole features injection moulded TPU elements in the heel and toe areas for added durability and protection while off the bike.
Meanwhile, the overall construction holds the front of the foot firmly in place while allowing torsional movement of the mid- and rear foot. This is how it provides both motion efficiency and a relaxed fit. Finally, we’d be remiss to not mention the TransTextura Plus sockliner, which Liv claims to let heat escape while keeping your feet feeling fresh.
Specialized Women’s Remix Shoes
Comfort-oriented ergonomic design
Sole: Rubber | Closure: Laces | Cleat mount: 2-bolt | RRP: £90 / $110
These women-specific shoes from Specialized are designed with indoor cycling in mind, featuring the brand’s best comfort technology without sacrificing performance. The soles and footbeds are constructed with the brand’s Body Geometry design, aimed at enhancing performance while providing ergonomic comfort. The construction helps to align the hip, knee and foot to optimise power output, as well as reducing the risk of injury.
For comfort and breathability, the upper is constructed from welded mesh for ventilation and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) for high elasticity, low-heat performance and anti-abrasion. This results in fewer seams against the foot, eliminating the risk of irritation or chafing. A nylon sole offers a degree of comfort while retaining all-important rigidity, and features a rubber outsole to aid with walking and prevent slipping.
Liv Regalo Road Shoes
Cooling road shoes from a women-specific brand
Sole: Nylon | Closure: Velcro | Cleat mount: 2-bolt, 3-bolt | RRP: £74.99 / $116
The Liv Regalo road shoes use global body dimensions data and a specially designed foot last to create a women-specific fit that is both snug and relaxed at the same time. They are designed to keep your feet cool and dry, with a four-vent cooling system that mimics an airflow effect. This works with a honeycomb-esque air mesh fibre on the upper part of the shoe, which results in superior cooling ideal for indoor cycling sessions.
Meanwhile, the ForceDrive nylon outsole provides all the required stiffness for efficient power transfer, while being compatible with both two-bolt and three-bolt cleat systems. Walking ability is enhanced by anti-slip studs in the front, middle and rear of the sole, making it easy to move about regardless of which cleats you opt for.
How to choose indoor cycling shoes
Before you go ahead and splurge on something fancy, there are several factors you should consider before making a decision. Indoor cycling shoes need to fit well - snug, but not too tight - and adhere to the shape of your foot. As a woman, your foot may be shaped differently to the 'unisex' appendage that most brands cater to when producing women's footwear.
1. Women-specific design
In terms of design and manufacturing, there’s not a huge distinction between women’s cycling shoes and men’s (or unisex, for that matter). The main difference in the production process is that a female foot last - a shaping tool used by shoemakers - forms the base around which the shoe is created.
This is important because anatomically, women’s feet aren’t just scaled-down versions of men’s. They differ in shape, especially in the ankle, the arch, the ball, the toes and the outer side of the foot. The female foot last will reflect this, and therefore women-specific cycling shoes will accommodate these intricate differences.
Of course, this is all based on average dimensions and you should follow your own knowledge of your body when choosing indoor cycling shoes. If you’ve always found unisex or men’s shoes comfortable, then you may not need a women’s fit at all.
2. Two- or three-hole cleats
With exception of Speedplay cleats and pedals, the majority of cycling shoes use either a two-bolt (SPD) or three-bolt (SPD-SL) mounting system. SPD shoes are more geared towards off-road riding, in that they offer some slight flexibility, and the cleat is tucked away into a recess, making the shoes much easier to walk in. SPD-SL shoes, on the other hand, are optimised for road cycling and will feature a stiff sole for better power transfer. If you’re training to power, you will most likely want to opt for this version, however be warned that due to the cleat protruding out from the sole, these shoes are extremely difficult to walk in. Not only are you more likely to slip, but the cleats themselves can be worn away over time, not to mention the damage that can be done to a delicate carbon sole. Whichever option you choose, will need to be compatible with the pedals on your indoor bike.
If your indoor cycling involves spin classes or something like a Peloton bike, the most commonly used pedals are likely to work with the two-bolt cleats. Some may also have a Look Delta pedal on the underside, which works with the three-bolt cleats.
If you’re setting up your well-loved road bike indoors, then you’ll already have your pedals installed, so all you need to do is opt for some indoor cycling shoes that are compatible. However, if you’re starting up a brand new indoor setup, we’d advise you to look into MTB shoes and pedals. They’re much easier to walk around in, making them ideal for when you need to suddenly duck out for a bathroom break and hit the tiles with a bit too much speed.
Carbon soles may be lighter than the alternatives, but weight isn’t the biggest consideration when you’re training indoors. What you should prioritise here is comfort. Stiff carbon soles can put undue stress on knees and ankles, which is magnified two-fold when the bike is basically bolted to the floor. During long indoor cycling sessions, you won’t move around on the bike as much as you would outside, which means some areas of your foot can become irritated through overuse.
That’s why we’d recommend opting for shoes that come with a degree of flexibility. Not only will they provide much-needed comfort, but they can also help alleviate overuse injuries. Plus they really won’t sacrifice much, if any, power transfer or efficiency.
Most indoor cycling shoes will feature nylon soles, which are rigid enough to offer efficient power transfer, but also have some natural compliance for improved comfort. They’re also more cost-effective as well, which is an added bonus.
For indoor cycling, one of the most important things to consider is airflow. You need to keep your skin feeling cool and dry, otherwise you’re in for a slog that feels much harder than it needs to.
Look for shoes that offer lots of ventilation, through mesh panels and an open design. There’s nothing worse than feeling like your feet are in a sauna, which is exactly what will happen if you rely on outdoor shoes that only need pin-prick perforations to provide a little cooling while the outside air does the rest.
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