How Cycling Shoes Should Fit? Read This First!

By Rachel Lee
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It’s true that cycling may be done in an old pair of sneakers or clogs. However, if you take it as a sport and wish to feel the adrenalin rush of biking on rough terrains then you need well-fitting cycling shoes. They are one of the essential gears each cyclist must have to deliver optimum performance and prevent any injuries while riding.

So, if you are planning to get a new pair of cycling shoes to improve your control on the pedals and ride with enhanced authority on any type of road then you have come to the right place. In today’s post, we will tell you how cycling shoes should fit to add more power to your performance and fuel up your races or just make casual cycling more enjoyable.

Let’s discuss the important parameters to consider when looking for the right fit.

Shoe Length

Unlike the running shoes that have some extra space to bend and prevent your toes from hitting the front, the cycling shoes are more compact and well-fitting. Just a little bit of space to ensure that your toes do not get cramped inside is enough. We suggest a few millimeters in between the big toe and the insole.

A quick tip is to match your shoe against the insole to get a perfect fit as cycling does not involve any rolling motion. Put the back end area of the insole lined to the back of your heel to see how much space is available in the front.

Shoe Width

You will need to check the front area of your feet where the toes fan out to check the fitting of the shoes. The top half of your feet is the main portion that connects to the pedal to exert force and propel the cycle forward. This is also the widest area of your feet.

When trying out the fitting of cycling shoes, make a pedaling motion to check if you can feel any kind of abnormal pressure in this area. The inner sole should hold your feet compactly without any extra spaces remaining on the sides. Your feet should not be allowed to make any side-to-side motion inside the shoe to prevent potential injuries.

Heel Support

The best cycling shoes will offer a firm and snug fit particularly in the heel area. Do a simple walk test – as you walk, the heel should not slip out the shoes nor should it pinch you or cause any kind of discomfort. When the heel is perfectly seated inside the shoe, there should not be any movement inside. 

The back portion of the shoe should provide support to the entire heel and keep it snugly in one place. Good heel support not only improves your performance and keeps you comfortable, but also prevents any injuries when cycling. Look for the shaped heel cups to hold your feet securely while you pedal.

Fasteners or Locking Systems

If there are fasteners on your cycling shoes then they should not put any undue pressure on your feet. While they are helpful in ensuring a snug fit and keeping your feet in place, they should not be so tight that they compress your feet. At the same time, you must make sure that the shoes are not too loose and your feet do not slip out while cycling.

This is an important thing to consider when looking for cycling shoes in order to prevent injuries. The old school laces have slowly gone out of fashion and they have been substituted with buckles, dials, Velcro straps, and a combination of these. We recommend getting shoes with fasteners and some of the expensive models like these come with ratchet buckles that replace the Velcro straps.

Shoe Design

After you find the perfect fit, you may move on to the other features such as the design. While we strongly agree that looks do matter, you must never compromise with the perfect fit for a cool color, unique pattern, or design.

Placing design over proper fit can make you vulnerable to potential risks if you plan on cycling on the mountains or rough terrains. As cycling involves a lot of feet movement, you can damage you feet if you go cycling for extended periods wearing ill-fitting shoes.

Quality Materials

The type of materials used for making cycling shoes can define comfort and durability. We would suggest that you give priority to comfort without compromising with the durability. The shoes should allow your feet to retain their natural movement and also provide stability.

In most cases, the upper part is made from suede or real leather, synthetic leather, and nylon mesh. They may either be stitched together or moulded in one piece, especially in the expensive ones to reduce weight.

Shoe Insoles

The main responsibility of the insoles inside the shoes is to cushion your feet and distribute the load around so that you don’t feel heavy. They vary widely in make and design, from a basic layer of foam to liners comprising of various layers of multiple densities.

When looking for cycling shoes, you may also come across insoles with adjustable support for enhanced comfort, or the heat-mouldable insoles that can be shaped to perfectly match the contours of your feet. You can always change the insoles to get a better fit and improve the comfort level.

Ventilation and Waterproofing

If you like cycling for long hours, perspiration on your feet can make it uncomfortable and slippery inside. Hence, we suggest that you look for shoes with vents in the middle and at the front to allow air to pass through it. This will keep your feet dry and comfortable no matter how long you go cycling.

Some shoes use lightweight mesh material on the front to allow air to pass through and keep the feet cool during summer. It also helps in keeping the feet light. In some brands, you may find ventilation holes in the sole area.

Winter Cycling Shoes

In colder regions or when it’s winter, you may use shoes that are specifically designed to keep your feet dry and comfortable. They are mostly made of a waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex liner with a thin layer of insulation to keep your feet warm. We would suggest that you get these shoes (see Amazon) during the Spring season when they are heavily discounted and keep them for next winter.

5 Checklist To Ensure Your Cycling Shoes Fit Well

  • You can say that a cycling shoe is good when it fits your heel area snugly and gives you even pressure with every step.
  • The shoe should not make your heel or toes feel pressed against the end. There should be just a ‘little toe’ space at the front end.
  • The cycling shoes should hold the forefoot with stability and not cause any pinching or restriction of movement.
  • When you walk in a pair of cycling shoes, it should not create any folds or gaps in the material. If it does then it’s not a good fit.
  • The ball portion of the foot should be positioned at the widest area of the shoe allowing enhanced cleat positioning.
  • In a well-fitting cycling shoe, your feet should stay in a stable and neutral position. For some users, a custom-built cycling footbed may be needed to achieve the right alignment.

Related Questions

Do cycling shoes run small in size?

A few brands have shoes that run small and you may need to order one size up in order to ensure a good fit. Most others will be true to the size and offer a snug fit without being tight. If your toes touch the toe cap when you apply pressure with your full weight, this means the shoe is small.

A common mistake people commit is opting for a small size hoping that the shoe will stretch in time. While a little stretch may happen in some materials, the length of the shoe usually remains the same.

What’s the difference between a $60 and $500 cycling shoe? 

Some inexpensive shoes may be available for less than $100, while the may go up to $500 and more. The main aspects that cause the difference in price are materials, features, fit, and level of workmanship.

The high-end shoes are designed and made by skilled craftspeople to give the best of both fit and feel to the riders. Extra features like ratcheting buckles, stiff soles, premium quality materials, can add up to the cost but deliver enhanced durability and better performance.

Are there different requirements for women cycling shoes?

Women have smaller feet and narrower ankles than men, hence the requirements will vary slightly. As a result, the women cycling shoes are shaped differently and you may find some models even less than 36 size, which is the lowest limit for men’s shoes.

Why is compatibility so important in cycling shoes?

Unlike your regular shoes, the ones designed for cycling connects with the pedals through a system that uses cleats. The outdoor bikes usually come with SPD cleats or ones with a three-hole design, the two main standards for the industry.


When you are in the market looking for cycling shoes, don’t just go with the type designed for the style of cycling you prefer. Instead, ensure that the shoe you get fits your feet correctly. No matter how expensive and well-designed a shoe is if it does not fit you well then you are exposed to potential injuries.

As mentioned above, the proper length and width of the shoe are extremely important to give you a comfortable and snug fit. Get a pair that hugs your wide or narrow feet, with proper insoles and heel/toe bumpers for protection. Don’t forget the fasteners because they play an important role in keeping the feet firmly in place.

Just like running, walking, hiking, or any other outdoor sport, professional cycling requires proper fitting shoes to help you deliver your best performance. It’s when your feet and shoes blend together as one, they create that magic with pedals to give you an adrenalin rush!

See Also:
Do You Wear Socks With Cycling Shoes?
How Long Do Indoor Cycling Shoes Last?
18 Benefits Of Wearing Cycling Shoes
Do You Wear Socks With Cycling Shoes?
Can You Put Boa Laces On Any Shoe?