Tour tech: Fancy footwear at the Tour de France

Next to the bikes themselves, shoes are the next important piece of equipment to the riders: they're the first point of contact with the most important part of the bike, there's often a fair bit of work put in to make them fit perfectly, and given the amount of time the riders spend strapped into them it's no wonder that it's the one piece of gear that they travel with 24/7.

We've long noticed the trend of highly personalized shoes at the Tour de France and this year's running has been no different with shoemakers providing custom colors and styles to both teams and individuals. Cadel Evans (BMC) gets world championship stripes on his Diadoras, Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) has a pair of gold-hued Specialized S-Works shoes, Carlos Sastre's (Cervélo TestTeam) Lake CX401s get special yellow-themed graphics to celebrate his 2008 Tour de France victory, and Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) gets the Union Jack proudly emblazoned across the top of his Bonts – and those are just a few examples.

Sidi also outfitted the Euskaltel-Euskadi, Liquigas, and Team Sky squads with custom colored shoes to match the rest of their team livery, and Gaerne has done the same for Katusha – and in case you're so inclined, those are also available to the public.

Though we weren't lucky enough to catch them ourselves, Sidi even outfitted Thomas Rohregger (Milram) with a pair of Ergo 2 Carbon Lite shoes covered in Swarovski crystals.

One of the growing trends we've noticed this year, however, is not just customizable graphics but also customizable fit – after all, shoes should fit riders' feet, not the other way around. Shimano, Lake and Bont have offered heat moldable uppers for years now but they are notably more prevalent these days with the Australian company seemingly enjoying the biggest share of the growth.

Cervélo TestTeam now has Bont as its official footwear sponsor but a number of individuals are using them as well, including Wiggins, Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia), Française des Jeux's Wesley Sulzberger, and Garmin-Transitions duo David Zabriskie and Julian Dean.

Nike continues to play a role in the cycling footwear world, too, but only for a handful of riders as the company hasn’t offered any models to consumers in years. Among the lucky few are HTC-Columbia sprinter Mark Cavendish, Daniel Moreno of Omega Pharma-Lotto, and none other than Lance Armstrong (Team Radioshack).

Gaerne has provided the Katusha team with its own color scheme for its G.Myst Plus shoes.

Cavendish's and Moreno's are reminiscent of models Nike once offered, but Armstrong's are an as-yet unidentified model. Some have claimed it's a camouflaged Bont and while there are a few similar design elements, it's clearly not a stock model dressed up in different colors. Distinguishing features include a full carbon sole with wraparound heel cup, three wide Velcro straps, and a protective toe cap. We've no further information at this point but as of now, there's no indication yet that Nike has any plans to return to the cycling market.

Helmet, glasses, and glove company Giro is, however, making the jump into cycling footwear. New models are set to officially debut just before Eurobike but Team Radioshack's Levi Leipheimer is already using them at the Tour de France. Details are still slim at the moment but the shimmering silver shoes look to include three wide and offset Velcro straps, generous metallic mesh around the toe box, a deep heel cup (with a synthetic lining by our eyes), and a full-length carbon fiber sole.

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