A good pair of shoes can go a long way toward improving your comfort and performance on the bike. If you’re in need of an update, check out these eight road-cycling shoes that are some of the best available in 2016.
The redesign of the P.R.O. Leader model from Pearl Izumi has lowered overall stack height by 1.5mm — a difference you’ll definitely be able to feel on the bike. Other than this performance detail, the other big plus of the P.R.O. Leader III is the full-mesh second-skin upper, which is by far the best ventilated shoe on this list. The extremely soft insoles do add a bit of comfort as well, which is welcomed after a few hours on the bike. The stiffness index rates a 13 out of 14, and overall weight is 235 grams.
A good pair of shoes can make a big difference in your performance. While there are plenty of options on the market that are likely to suit your needs, you probably won’t find a pair better than the R1B Uomo from Italy-based Fizik. The Microtex Laser Perforated upper feels a lot like a soft, supple leather while being extremely durable. The offset dual boa closure makes for a really nice, snug fit without compressing the top of the foot and becoming uncomfortable after hours on the bike. It’s also stylish, has an extremely stiff carbon outsole and weighs just 227 grams. The R1B Uomo isn’t just one of the top shoes tested in 2016 — it’s one of the best we’ve ever put on our feet.
With most shoe companies, high-end race models are often reserved for men. That means women looking for the best of the best either have to wear a men’s shoe or settle for a lesser piece of equipment. The S-Works 6 bucks this trend by offering Specialized’s best road shoe in both men’s and women’s models. Thankfully, both are quality options and have been tested thoroughly in the pro peloton before being released to the public. Of all the shoes we tested, these are probably the best fitting of the bunch — particularly if you have a regular to narrow foot. The FACT Powerline carbon is also a new update, which makes for an even thinner footbed without compromising in overall stiffness.
The extremely popular SH-R170 has been updated to this model. While improvements in stiffness of the outsole, comfort and heel protection are noticeable, there’s also a $50 bump in price from the previous model — which puts the R171 in a different range of road shoes where there are plenty of excellent options. The buckle closure here isn’t the best of the bunch, nor is the upper the most breathable. That said, it’s a remarkably durable shoe for less than $200 and should last for quite a few seasons under heavy use.
By using a carbon fiber/fiberglass composite, the Velocis is a shoe able to maintain race-level performance without rising into the $300 price range common with high-end models. With a 10 on the stiffness index scale, it’s efficient at transferring power and won’t flex much unless you’re a big-gear sprinter. The boa closure allows for a custom, snug fit, and the synthetic mesh panels on the uppers breathe well — which is ideal for conditions you might face during a century or Gran Fondo during the summer months.
Much of what the Apeckx II does well has been stolen from Giro’s higher-end racing shoes. In fact, it doesn’t feel that much different from the more expensive Giro Factor ACC ($300), which costs twice as much. While it isn’t quite as stiff or light because of the lack of carbon outsole, the recreational rider isn’t likely to notice much of a difference. The DuPont Zytel sole and EVA-molded footbed make for a comfortable, durable shoe that’s a great buy on a budget.
The Giro Empire created quite the stir a few years ago when it reintroduced the cycling world to shoestrings. While some may have thought this to be a fad, shoestrings have stayed around because, well, they work. The Signature 84 from Louis Garneau is the latest model to jump into the “old school” trend, using a lace-up closure to form a fairly inexpensive, lightweight racing shoe. Total weight is just 230 grams, and the Ergo Air Carbon sole provides a level of stiffness you don’t often see at this price point.
Combining forces with Lake, Assos has created the Cycling Slipper — the company's first-ever venture into footwear. For customers who know Assos for the quality and tailored fit of its bibshorts, it should come as no surprise that these shoes are built to mold to your feet. After a short break-in period, the kangaroo leather uppers and thermo-formable carbon soles will take to the shape of your individual foot to form a slipperlike feel. While the fit and performance of these shoes are unquestioned, the price tag certainly hurts.
Marc Lindsay is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.