Cycling shoes are not for hiking or even walking because they are purpose-built to do one job exceptionally well.
The point of a cycling shoe is to hold your foot against the pedal, so it puts more of your energy directly into the drivetrain to power the wheels of your bike.
It takes a lot of skill to create good cycling shoes. Why are cycling shoes so expensive?
Cycling shoes are expensive because of supply and demand. The cost of skilled labor that goes into the ergonomic design, and engineering needed to create and test high-quality cycling shoes is expensive. All that work pays off in efficiency gains from your energy output, so naturally, cyclists all want good cycling shoes for better performance.
To see all of my up-to-date recommendations for bikes and cycling gear, check out this resource that I made for you!
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How Are Cycling Shoes Made
There are three crucial parts of a cycling shoe to look at when considering how they’re made. First, you have the sole of your shoe.
Second, there’s the upper, and lastly, the closure system. I’ll explain what each one is made from and the options below.
- The Sole – This is where the ‘magic’ happens in a cycling shoe. Whether they’re plastic, carbon fiber, or a combination of the two, this part of a cycling shoe is built to be rigid and unyielding. That lack of flexibility is what puts the most power from your legs into the pedals and really drives the bike forward.
- The Upper – Your cycling shoe’s upper is where all the visual appeal lives. This part of your shoe is the top side that goes over your foot. Typically, these are made from stiffer synthetic materials or tough, high-quality leather. The lining should fit your foot comfortably and is usually a variety of foam while the outer body comes in any color you can imagine with a distinctive look that makes cycling shoes stand out from other styles.
- The Closure – Closure systems are precisely what the name sounds like. They close your shoes. Some people prefer an old-school set of laces, but cycling shoes often have a velcro strap and ratchet buckle system instead. A few newer and more high-end brands even utilize the cable and dial system where you turn a small knob to set the closure around your foot.
If you want a more in-depth look at how cycling shoes are made and assembled, that’s easy. I recommend watching this episode of How It’s Made.
Difference Between Cheap And Expensive Cycling Shoes
A company that makes a cheap or knockoff product often cuts corners in production. After all, they have to save money somewhere if the prices are low.
Meanwhile, the more costly cycling shoe companies are usually known for their devotion to the sport, pride in their quality products, and customer service for the users.
You could say the whole experience is better as you move up to more expensive cycling shoes.
The sole is one area where you see a huge difference. Cheap cycling shoes use heavier injection-molded plastic soles that bend and flex more than their mid-to-high level competition.
A middling cycling shoe usually has a carbon and plastic sole. Finally, the more expensive cycling shoes use a carbon fiber sole that is incredibly light weight.
The better shoes might end up at (literally)half the weight of a cheap shoe. Even when they look the same on the outside, it’s easy to tell which cycling shoes are fake or cheap without needing to be an expert.
Are Expensive Cycling Shoes Worth It
Expensive cycling shoes are lighter, which means less foot fatigue if you’re in the saddle for an extended period.
Moreover, an expensive pair of cycling shoes typically have better breathability to keep your feet from overheating.
Small details like the exact fit in the ankle will also be made more thoughtfully. It is worth buying expensive cycling shoes for the comfort they provide.
Do Good Cycling Shoes Make A Difference
Good cycling shoes can make you more comfortable on long rides. More importantly, the stiff soles can improve your power transfer between your legs and your bicycle.
Plus, you can take advantage of cleats that clip you into professional pedals if you use them or opt for clipless or convertible shoes for an even better ride.
As USJ Cycles explains, “Running shoes are more emphasis on the push and less on the pull, you put a lot of stress on the quadriceps. Cycling shoes with SPD compatibility enable to clip it on clipless pedals (also known as SPD pedals), which create no slipping while pushing down pedals. In addition, wearing cycling shoes take advantage of energy efficiency of push & pull of pedals.”
Are Cycling Shoes Worth Buying
Buying a decent pair of cycling shoes can do more than convert your energy and prevent fatigue.
Because they’re designed to stay on the pedals, proper cycling shoes can help prevent injury. If your foot slides forward and moves off the pedal, you can damage your shoe or your foot.
How Much Difference Do Cycling Shoes Make
If you could go ten percent faster or use ten percent less energy just by changing your shoes, would you do it?
A good cycling shoe makes a significant difference. They make at least a ten percent difference, which is enough to win a race or travel a lot farther before you get tired when you’re cycling.
Even casual riders and those who commute for work could use ten percent more energy in the pedals. That is what a cycling shoe gives you.
To put it in oversimplified terms, you get eleven miles for every ten you pedal. Even if you only bike 10 miles a week, you’d still be getting the equivalent of more than 53 miles per year because you would have wasted that energy without your cycling shoes.
Helpful Tips To Know About Why Cycling Shoes Are So Expensive
Cyclists need high-quality shoes to help them save energy, stay comfortable and ride safely.
Anything people need is high-value, and when you combine that with the level of engineering and design that it takes to make the shoes, it only makes sense that they’d cost a pretty penny.
Here are more helpful tips to know about why cycling shoes are so expensive.
- You can often tell the quality of a cycling shoe based on its closure system. Laces are the lowest rung, with velcro-only coming next, velcro and ratchet, ratchet-only, and finally, the fancy dial shoes often coming in at the highest price point. The easier it is to adjust your shoe accurately and quickly while you ride, the more likely it is that you’re looking at a top-end shoe.
- Cycling shoes made for mountain biking outdoors are a little bit different from other cycling shoes. While most are for riders who intend to stay on their bike ninety to a hundred percent of the time until their ride is over, an MTB rider may need to do a little hiking. Lifting a mountain bike over an obstacle on a trail means you need more flexible shoes. Resultantly, MTB shoes are the only type made with an intentionally flexible sole.
- A stiffer, more rigid cycling shoe sole is beneficial up to the point where it gets you the typical ten percent energy efficiency gain. However, there’s little point in creating or wearing a stiffer shoe beyond that since it doesn’t appear to improve your energy output beyond that limit significantly.
Every aspect of cycling gear, from the helmet on your head to the wheels on the pavement, results from decades of trial, error, and improvement.
High-end cycling shoes are no exception. Designers and engineers have built on past successes to create footwear that is a marvel of both science and art.
Good cycling shoes convert ten percent more energy into powering your bike and cut down accidents and foot fatigue.
As a result of these benefits, they are sought after and highly desirable, which is why cycling shoes are so expensive.