The SPD shoe has now been around for 25 years now. A shoe that fixes directly to the pedal to improve the dynamic between rider and bike.
Cycle specific shoes offer a stiffer sole to transfer much more power to the pedals and cranks and are also often lighter and more secure around the foot than a running shoe for example.
A cycle shoe will have fixings for cleats, in order that they can be used with clip in pedals. When the two are used together, the pedal stroke is far more efficient and more power can be transmitted to the drive train of your bike. All professional cyclists will use a clip in pedal and many commuters, recreational riders and even BMX racers also favour the system.
There are a number of different types of shoes:
- - Mountain bike shoe - Made with a grippy sole for mud, some higher end shoes also have studs at the front for improved traction when pushing the bike through muddy, tricky sections. The 2 bolt cleat used on a mountain bike shoe is metal and about the size of a 50p coin. This is so they don't wear out in the mud or when walking on rocky ground.
- - Road bike shoe – Most are flat soled as there is little requirement to walk on them however the cleat can come with rubberized edges to help grip when you do have to walk a little. Road shoes usually have lots of air vents to keep your feet cool and there are a number of fixings, the most common being Velcro or ratchet style systems similar to a ski boot which allows micro adjustment easily whilst riding. Very few have laces. The cleat for a road shoe is made of plastic usually has 3 mounting bolts (Speedplay have 4) and can wear quickly if you walk on them a lot. Cleat covers are available for these occasions. The cleat is larger than the mountain bike cleat, about the size of your palm. Road shoes tend to be much stiffer soled than mountain bike shoes so all of the pedal power is pushed through the bike.
- - Recreational / Commuter bike shoe - stiff grippy sole and more comfort oriented design, such shoes can often be worn around town and also be used for cycling. These shoes are often laced and / or Velcro by way of fastening. They have the appearance of a walking shoe or trainer and some come with reflective strips at the back for added road safety.
- - The more expensive shoes have carbon soles which are super stiff, lightweight and comfortable. Many high end shoe can be moulded to your foot after being heated in the oven and are a popular pro team choice.