Yanto's Pro Guide to: Cycling Shoes
Cycling shoes are a nice way to add a bit of sparkle to your outfit. It could be something to do with the kind of material that they are made of, but I like to think of them like dancing shoes. They’re smart, shiny and offer a chance for you to show off some personality and attitude.
Admittedly this was more true in years gone by, when cycling kit was plainer than it is now. If you’re wearing plain kit then you can get away with shoes that are as loud and as brash as you like. Nowadays, cycling kit has now moved on in design, and there are more colours flying around - so you might want to be a bit more cautious in your shoe selection.
What should your shoes match?
The first rule of choosing a cycling shoe style and design is that it should (at worst) compliment the rest of your outfit, and (at best) do a good job of bringing it all together. At a minimum, you should aim for your shoes to match your helmet and /or glasses. I have a friend, let’s call him Curly Dan, who owns 3 bikes, 3 helmets and 12 pairs of shoes. Naturally he chooses whichever pair of shoes match the bike and helmet he’s using that day.
Curly Dan is one of the most well turned out people I have ever seen on a bike, everyone is impressed when he rocks up for a ride. He also smells amazing (thanks to whatever he’s using to wash his kit), but that’s another story….
Even if you don’t have the budget to ‘do it like Dan’ you can still make an effort to match your shoes with your bike and kit. A white shoe is the most versatile all-round colour to go for, and it’s guaranteed to match whatever you’re riding in. That said, if you’re wearing white shoes, they’ve got to be clean. Dirty white is never a good look.
Black shoes used to be a no-no, but in recent years have become more acceptable, probably linked to the fact that there's bright kit readily available. If you're brightly clad on your top half, the shoes can be toned down so that not every inch of your body is competing to shout the loudest. The added bonus with black shoes is that they also don’t show up the dirt quite so badly.
Straps, fasteners, laces or ratchets?
How your foot is held in place during the ride is another important point to consider when you’re buying shoes. I have seen guys get left behind on a club run because they’ve stopped to re-tie their lace up shoes.
The other downside to laces is that if you get the tension slightly wrong in one area of the foot, you can end up in a lot of pain for the duration of the ride. Your feet naturally swell and shrink quite a lot at different temperatures, so it’s good to be able to adjust your shoe throughout the ride.
If you're only concerned with the aesthetics of a shoe, then laces certainly look smart. I have a pair of Bont GB flag (Brad Wiggins) design that are lace ups, and I loved them for the period that I wore them. Now I use a Boa fastener however - it’s just so much more convenient and versatile for riding, and really easy to adjust on the move.
As a professional bike rider you get used to putting up with a huge amount of discomfort, you can tolerate a high level of pain, so having sore feet doesn’t make too much difference when it’s compared to the pain you are already experiencing on a regular basis in your legs. At slower speeds however, in training or on leisure rides, discomfort in your feet will be more noticeable, and has the potential to ruin what is otherwise a lovely ride.
Taking it to the next level
To round things off – let’s get personal. We all like a bit of personalisation, and some have taken this much further than just adding their initial to the sole in permanent marker.
Adam Hansen from Loto Sudal has made a business out of manufacturing personalised custom build shoes, which he uses himself in races. Interestingly, there is a UCI rule that says all kit used in races (including shoes) must be commercially available to purchase. So to find a way around this Adam has made his shoes available to purchase, but for over $1,000. I get the feeling that he’s not interested in making and selling hundreds of pairs…
At the end of the day, the type of shoes you go far is a very personal thing. It comes down to a combination of style and comfort, and a decision around whether you want to blend in or stand out from the crowd.