Why are Cycling Shoes So Expensive?

By Rachel Lee
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For any athlete to get the best performance, it is important to have the best equipment. The same is certainly true for cyclists, and arguably the most important piece of gear is a pair of cycling shoes. This means they can also cost quite a bit of money.

So, why are cycling shoes so expensive? Cycling shoes that are more expensive use high-end materials to maximize comfort, protection, and efficiency. They also minimize the weight to help the rider go as fast as possible for as long as possible. These high-end materials and various options available for cycling shoe customization are the main contributors to the high cost.

Cyclists keen on shoes must think, why are cycling shoes so expensive? Some shoes are pricey for many reasons, such as materials. Read more for details.

Why Are Cycling Shoes Expensive?

A few main materials contribute to the cost of a cycling shoe. They make up the upper, interior, and sole of the shoe, and are a major determinant of the shoe’s overall quality.

In the sole of the shoe, carbon is lighter and stiffer than injected molded plastic. Carbon is also more expensive. A mid-range option would be a blend of plastic and fiberglass.

Cyclists, especially those who compete in races, look for a shoe that is as light as possible to maximize speed and efficiency. Generally, the lightest shoes are the most expensive.

Cycling shoes are so expensive because they are in high demand from cyclists who want to get the most out of their performance. They are willing to pay high prices for the comfort, safety, and competitive advantage that cycling shoes can provide.

Another remarkable difference between the two is the closure system. The cheap varieties use a Velcro system for fastening, while the expensive models will mostly have a ratchet mechanism or Boa-style dial. While both secure well, the later gives more precision and adjustability ease to the biker.

The upper material of both these types of shoes is also a critical point of difference between the two. Entry-level cycling shoes have a mix of PU leather and low quality nylon, while the pro-level ones are made of breathable or pliable materials such as lightweight synthetic microfiber or real leather.

Are Cycling Shoes Worth It?

Whether or not cycling shoes are worth it depends on who you are as a cyclist as well as your goals. Since there are so many options available at different prices, everyone should be able to find a cycling shoe that is worth it for their situation.

For example, an entry-level rider who uses cycling shoes only for spin class may opt for a cheaper pair because they don’t need all of the additional performance features that come with a high-end model.

Alternatively, a competitive cyclist who trains very hard and needs to get the absolute most out of every ride would likely be willing to pay for the features of a more expensive shoe.

In the end, cycling shoes provide a long list of benefits to riders of all ability levels. Every rider should be able to find a pair of cycling shoes that are effective and worth it to them. 

Differences Between Cheap and Expensive Cycling Shoes

The main difference between cheap and expensive cycling shoes is their weight and the materials they are made of. More expensive shoes have maximal stiffness and comfort while minimizing weight and providing advanced features with a slick and stylish design.

A cheaper, heavier pair of shoes will weigh around 800-900 grams. It may also use cheaper and less comfortable materials throughout the interior of the shoe, such as cotton or polyester. These are better suited for entry-level riders or cost-conscious riders.

A more expensive, high-end pair of shoes will weigh around 400 grams or less while still maintaining a high level of stiffness. These shoes use carbon soles and high-quality uppers made of synthetic plastics. They also have temperature-regulating features and plush interiors.

What is the Purpose of a Cycling Shoe?

Overall, the purpose of a cycling shoe is to secure the rider’s foot to the pedal to ensure a safe and efficient ride. For safety, it ensures that the cyclist’s foot will not slip off the pedal, leading to injury.

For performance, a cycling shoe allows the rider to maximize their effort in both the downstroke and upstroke of the pedaling motion. This allows the rider to increase speed and maximize energy exertion.

How do Cycling Shoes Connect to a Bike?

A major part of the cycling shoe is the cleat. This goes on the bottom of the shoe and is what connects the shoe to the pedal. Your cycling shoe cannot attach to a pedal without the proper cleat.

Be sure to check the model of your bike’s pedal to find out what type of cleat it needs, as there are a few different types.

Popular Cycling Cleats and Where to Purchase Them

  • CyclingDeal bike cleats can be used for indoor or outdoor riding. They offer 4 degrees of float, which refers to the angle at which the foot can move away from the bike before the cleat will detach.
  • LANNIU bike cleats offer 9 degrees of float and are compatible with bike shoes that have a three-hole design.
  • SPD cleats also fit a three-hole design and allow for 6 degrees of float.

Why are Cycling Shoes Important for Cyclists to Own?

There are many reasons that cycling shoes are important for a cyclist to own, and each one contributes to the high cost of the shoe. They can increase performance, add safety benefits, and keep riders comfortable.

To do so, they use the lightest and most advanced materials, such as leather, suede, nylon mesh, carbon, and high-end rubbers and plastics.

1. Attaching Your Feet to the Pedals Increases Performance

By attaching their foot to the pedal via a cycling shoe, riders can increase their speed and power.

On a traditional pedal without a clip or cycling shoe, only the downstroke of the pedal powers the bike. This causes the rider to constantly use the same muscles and can lead to injuries or fatigue on long or difficult rides.

Instead, with a cycling shoe, riders can utilize the power of both the downstroke and the upstroke.

That is, while one foot is moving the bike forward by pushing the pedal down, the other foot is propelling the bike forward by pulling the opposite pedal up. It is this combination of the two pedals working together that can offer riders a higher level of performance.

2. Cycling Shoes Prevent the Foot from Flexing

Cycling shoes also keep the sole stiff, which helps the rider transfer as much energy as possible from their foot to the pedal. If the sole of the shoe was too flexible, it would result in an inefficient pedal stroke, discomfort, or injury.

To keep the sole stiff, cycling shoes use very hard and durable materials that are simultaneously very light, such as carbon or plastic.

3. Cycling Shoes Add Comfort and a Snug Fit

Cycling shoes are also designed to keep the rider comfortable on long rides. This helps prevent issues like blisters and chafing, which can inhibit a rider for days or even weeks at a time.

They use soft and plush materials such as suede and microfibers to ensure comfort. They also help regulate temperature to prevent your feet from getting too cold or sweating too much.

It is also important for a shoe to keep the rider’s foot securely locked in so that it cannot break free while peddling. To accomplish this, cycling shoes feature a variety of closures. Each one’s goal is to be lightweight, comfortable, and secure:

  • Traditional laces – these are still available on more casual-style cycling shoes.
  • Triple Velcro strap – features three secure Velcro straps across the top of the shoe, with no laces.
  • Double Velcro and Ratchet – Includes two Velcro straps near the toe and midfoot, with a ratchet closure that snaps shut nearest to the ankle.
  • BOA dial and single Velcro strap – includes one Velcro strap near the to. The midfoot and upper are secured by a very thin wire that tightens and loosens with the turn of a dial.

4. Toe Bumpers and Heel Cups Offer Protection

Most cycling shoes feature rubber toe bumpers as well as plastic heel cups to protect the rider’s foot.

Rubber toe bumpers surround the end of the shoe and protect the rider’s foot from the ground and other hazards.

The heel cup does the same thing, except it surrounds the back of the foot. The toe bumper and heel cup are designed to offer lightweight protection from damage.

Different Types of Cycling Shoes by Price

Many cycling shoes have a great reputation for being effective, high quality, and long-lasting. Some are available for under $100, but others can be several hundred dollars.

It all depends on the materials used in the shoe, how light they are, and how they fit the rider. Here are some examples at a few different price points, as well as links to purchase them on amazon.

Cycling Shoes For A Lower Price

  • Sanyes Cycling Shoes feature a BOA closure and single Velcro strap and come in a variety of colors.
  • This Shimano model features a double Velcro closure. They also include a reflective strip on the toe and heel for increased visibility on the road.

Cycling Shoes For A Middle Price

  • This Tommaso model uses a triple Velcro closure and comes with a cleat for each shoe.
  • The Sidi Men’s Alba 2 Mega utilizes advanced materials such as Polytex and a millennium 4 carbon composite sole.

Cycling Shoes A Higher Price

  • The Sidi Ergo 5 Mega uses a twelve-carbon composite sole for minimum weight and maximum comfort.
  • The Pearl Izumi Pro Road v5 cycling shoe is one of the most advanced shoes available. It uses a dual boa closure as well as a 22% lighter carbon power plate.

See Also:
Why Are Cycling Shoes So Narrow?
How Long Do Indoor Cycling Shoes Last?
8 Regular Cycling Shoes for Men and Women
18 Benefits Of Wearing Cycling Shoes