I love those cycling classes at the local gym. The community. The high energy. The Rhythm. The sweat. The Challenge of not puking (more of a challenge for some of us than others)
There really is no sport like it. Not even road riding.
Whether you are trying to out-pedal the class instructor or sit unnoticed all the way through the class while enjoying the low-impact aspect of this sport, there is really no way not to love it.
There is something in those classes for everyone.
It doesn’t matter what your skill level is.
You may have noticed that the class instructor uses special shoes for pedaling.
If you’ve got a chance to look at them up close, then you are better-informed than 90% of my readers. For all of the rest of us, I’m going to give a quick overview.
Stiff Sole: Fewer hot spots and better power transfer when pedaling.
Cleat: Two slots in the bottom allow you to mount “cleats”. Cleats help your feet stay in position and you can pull up while pedaling to work your opposing muscles.
As you can see, they are quite simple. The downside shows itself when you are pulling up on the pedals. the “up” motion that cycling shoes are used for.
Too many manufacturers cut corners and produce one with too weak of an upper to handle the strain of a robust workout. You find them pulling apart at the sole after nine months of use(or less).
There really is only a handful of high-quality options on the market, and so, in a way, it makes it easy to choose from.
The one thing that sets these apart from a lot of the mountain bike shoes, is that these look a lot more like, say, a normal tennis shoe.
In addition, the cleats are often recessed to help keep you from “clacking” around the gym and scuffing up the floor.
Here’s my comprehensive buyer’s guide and a few of my favorites to choose from.
If you are just starting out, they are not a “must have”.
Any pair will do.
However, the reason you would choose (and spend extra money on!) a special pair for cycling class is typically two-fold:
Stiffness. Like I mentioned, these are stiffer. This means that when you push down, all of your efforts are delivered to the pedal. In contrast, a tennis shoe is a “wet noodle” that simply “folds” over the pedal every time you pedal, and actually unnaturally stresses the foot. Your feet can get pretty sore if you do this a lot.
Efficiency. Secondly, being able to clip into your exercise bike lets you push and pull on the pedals. This develops those well-rounded, sexy, legs we all want and helps prevent muscle imbalances. Sure you could use toe cages, but they are cumbersome to adjust and leave you feeling much more “attached” to the machine.
Which Ones To Buy?
For gym class, you can use either special footwear or mountain bike gear. Both versions have the required two grooves in the bottom for accepting the required cleat (see image).
Road shoes, on the other hand, have a three bolt pattern on the bottom and will not work for these cleats.
What Is The Right Size?
When fitting your footwear, you only want your toes to “lightly touch” the ends — or even not touch at all. It is critical that your toes do not feel cramped in the toe box since these won’t stretch out like others will.
Basically, you want to get a size where your foot is as loose as possible without feeling like it is “swimming around” in the shoe. Thankfully, most of the options that you’d get for cycling class run pretty close to traditional sizing, making it easy to get the right size.
If you are buying online, make sure that you read the policies and that the store will let you return your purchase if it does not fit.
Women’s Shoe Options
There are so many great options to chose from. I tried to take into account style and availability in the rankings as well. Many of these manufacturers tend to run out of stock mid season, so I try to dig up some great clogs that are actually available (and typically refresh this list 2-3 times throughout the year)
Top Pick – Shimano SH-WM53 Reviewed
You won’t hang out on this blog very long before you’ll discover that I absolutely love Shimano.
They were one of the first to offer a wider toe box so we cyclists could actually have some “wiggle room” for our feet.
And their durability has been unparalleled in my experience. I have drug their products through mud, rainy rides, neglect, and then pulled them out of their dark corner for more nastiness.
And this abuse has continued for years.
I’m starting to wonder if it is more likely that my feet will change size than that my Shimano will wear out.
So I stand behind these guys 100%. Love them.
This option is so very not flashy.
But if you can get past the lack of fashion statement, I love everything else about it.
Plenty of ventilation to keep your toes cool.
Easy velcro straps.
Vented soles for even more airflow.
Stiff fiberglass bottoms to make sure you get the most out of every workout.
Plus, it has just enough tread that you can walk around the gym — or your house — without scuffing your floors. (Just don’t try wearing them all day. I made that mistake with a similar pair of Shimanos, once. Let’s just say these stiff soles work much better on a bike.)
Finally, I love the price. I know some of you might have sticker shock, but these are actually a really good deal. Unless you expect to buy a new pair every year, you will probably have to spend at least $60, anyway. So just jump up a little bit and snag these guys.
Bottom line? Slap a pair of these on your feet and bust out a calorie burn like none other.
Pick #2 – Pearl iZUMi Women’s W X-Road Fuel II
What I really like about Pearl Izumi, however, is their penchant for creating usable style.
These are a perfect example of a good style. Look at the white and silver colors with the dash of teal! Eye catching.
No one will have any idea that this is a cycling shoe until you clip in and start pedaling. It’s Pearl Izumi at its finest: form + function + fashion = fitness.
Color choice aside, they are also a top-notch shoe with that stiff power plate that supports your foot to deliver during the most punishing workout. These guys are actually one of the only brands that use carbon fiber in their sole at this price point.
Unlike the dedicated cycling shoes featured on this page, this one gives up a tiny bit of stiffness and power in exchange for more rubber and walking comfort. So if you wanted to do some warm up deadlifting before cycling class, you could feasibly do that in these (Ok, so you are probably doing lunges instead of deadlifts, but you get the idea.)
Unfortunately, these guys sell out fast. So grab them while you can.
Pick #3 – Shimano Women’s SH-MT3W Multi-Sport
Shimano is once again at the head of the pack with this classic gym class option.
The sole on these is primarily a nylon and rubber construction. It’s very similar to the Izumi’s above, except that the Izumi’s seem to me to have a little more comfort built into their sole. However, the sole is ample enough that you will enjoy the added comfort if you will be doing some walking on them.
As you can see, they aren’t nearly as stylish. But the black hides dirt well, and I hear the 1980’s color schemes are coming back into style.
I find Shimano’s to have very accurate sizing. So if you know your size, it should match the Shimano size almost exactly (just convert to their EU sizing).
An added plus is the vibrant, fun, color combinations. In our opinion, this is the best women’s cycling/touring options.
The Best Indoor Cycling Shoes For Men
Top Pick – All-Road Men’s
Do be aware, Pearl tends to run a little narrower on sizes. If you have wide feet, you might skip this option…
I’ve Already reviewed this one for the ladies, but I’ll go over it again here.
Now, you have likely run across their products before. They make great clothes, shorts, gloves… and probably have some of the best-priced stuff in the industry.
Their shoes are no different. I’m having triathletes who train hundreds of miles a week seeking out their shoes and dying to get their latest wares. These are going through hundreds of hours of road abuse and are holding up just fine.
So durability is a huge win for this design.
The other thing I absolutely love about these is that it uses a carbon fiber and fiberglass and nylon sole. Most of their competitors don’t make a sole this stiff until you get up to the $200 range. Pearl Izumi does it for half of the price, letting you get a better workout for less money.
You can’t go wrong there.
The three velcro straps across the top allow you to easily adjust the fit if you need to during a workout. In addition, they help deliver the load all across the top of the foot to help prevent hot spots.
In short, this shoe could easily be ranked #1 on our list. If you are planning on also doing a lot of bike riding, I would definitely recommend this shoe for you.
#2 – The Louis Garneau Multi-RX
Louis Garneau is well-known to triathletes. They put a lot of care into their products, and have some of the most comfortable clothes on the market.
Their shoes are no different.
What wins these a top spot on our list is that they have so much breathability built into them. All of that mesh upper really creates a comfortable “cocoon” for your foot and lets you stay cool no matter how hard you get pumping.
At the same time, the uniquely designed, carefully-placed straps are perfect for keeping your foot in place in allowing you full access to the power from your quads.
If all of that isn’t nifty enough, the cleats are recessed enough to let you walk around with no difficulty. These shoes also have a heel retention system that helps keep your heel in place when you try walking around. (Excellent if you decide to use this shoe for commuting)
This is not the most expensive shoe on the market, but it does everything you need it to. Hence, the top spot.
The Best Wide-Width Shoes
And my feet are actually narrow compared to some of yours.
So, if you’ve been frustrated at not finding cycling shoes that are wide enough for your feet, you are in good company.
For the longest time, there has not been a lot of options for cyclists needing wide widths. About the best you could do is just get a shoe that was created on a wider-than-normal last (hit-or-miss at best)
Shimano has always been at the top of my list fit-wise. Their last seems a tad wider than many of the others and their shoes are built to last. However, this year they actually introduced a “wide” shoe that gives a wider toe box than their “regular” shoe. They don’t offer it on all of their models, just some of them.
The SH-M089 is a great shoe for cycling class. Mostly sold as a mountain bike shoe, it has the same cleat design you need for class — with the added durability that only comes with being a race-level mountain bike shoe.
And, the snazzy red and black looks even better in person. The micro-adjustments make it easy to adjust as you ride and keep your foot comfortable. It’s really hard to go wrong with this shoe.
Is There A Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Versions?
Not really. You’ll see more white-clad feet in gym class then you will for outdoor cycling. And a lot of the outdoors shoes do not have strings, opting to only use velcro to prevent anything from getting caught in the chain.
The other thing is that a lot of riders choose to have separate shoes for their inside riding. After all, outside footwear tends to get grimy really quick. Having a devoted pair for inside means that you don’t have to clean your outside shoes every time you hit the gym.
Finally, I know people that just have one pair and do all of their riding on them.
So, it is really up to you.
Common Types of Indoor Cycling Class:
Due to trademarks, each gym will have its own version. Find one near you!
A Video Guide To Sizing The Right Shoe
- Women’s Shoe Options
- The Best Indoor Cycling Shoes For Men
- The Best Wide-Width Shoes