More and more cyclists seem to benefit from using clipless shoes and pedals while riding. Many would argue that you’ll pedal more efficiently and place more power on the pedals giving you an advantage in cycling. I would even agree that upgrading from regular shoes and pedals to clipless ones made a world of difference for me.
But what about those that don’t really care for clipless pedals and shoes? Are there any options that will suit their needs and ease their anxiety about going clipless? Especially for a beginner cyclist clipless pedals can be scary and expensive so we bring you a full list of the best shoes without clips.
Trust me, I get your anxiousness. It happened to me and every other cyclist before. The classic falling over when stopping move.
From what I’ve found researching the topic of non cycling shoes for cycling is that many cyclists ask for suggestions on non cycling shoes but are just not finding the answers. Although I’m not covering in detail specific brands of what shoes to wear for cycling, I can assure you that after you read this it may help point you in the right direction to find what you’re looking for.
1. Stiff Soled Shoes For Cycling
Just because you cycle on the road, doesn’t mean you necessarily need special cycling shoes.
Look for shoes that are comfortable for biking and walking. You especially want something with a stiff sole.
Shoes that look and have more aggressive treads like mountain bike shoes will be great for platform pedals like these pedals.
If you can find a stiff shoe that is also breathable and wick away moisture, that will be a plus.
You want a comfortable-fitting shoe but also not too flexible if you’re going to go on longer rides. Stiffer soles make riding while standing up easier, too.
Aim for flat bottom shoes that provide plenty of toe room. Avoid shoes that are too bulky on the outside soles so they don’t interfere with your riding.
2. Mountain Bike Shoes
It’s very convenient the way mountain bike shoes are made with the recessed clip that can be taken off.
The soles on mountain bike shoes are flat and stiff. But you will find that it’s still easier to walk in them than wearing road cycling clipped shoes.
The fact that mountain bike shoes are comfortable doesn’t take away from the way they hold up while biking.
Also, depending on the brand and how the shoe is made you may find them very stylish.
In my opinion this is the best footwear for cycling if you don’t want to be riding clipless pedals. Another benefit is most mountain bike shoes can be upgraded to a clipless pedal system so you won’t have to buy new shoes if you start liking clipless pedals.
3. Skateboard Shoes
They tend to have soft but sticky soles.
Some skateboard shoes hold up to most road conditions without wearing out quickly.
Vans is a brand that often carries shoes that are more durable than casual shoes and have this criss-cross sole that’s good for gripping bike pedals.
These are definitely the best regular shoes for cycling because you might already have them in your closet and can start riding right away.
You may find that these shoes are great for casual riding around town. Sneakers for biking are also great because you don’t look like you just did a bike ride.
On another note, some people find that the soles on these shoes tend to get harder over time and may become less grippy.
4. City Bike Shoes
Another term used to describe these shoes is “urban bike shoes”.
These are a cross between shoes for bicycling and casual footwear. The toe area is usually flexible but still provides enough stiffness for pedaling.
Rubber outer soles make walking in them comfortable.
Some city bike shoes are tear-resistant, made of nylon uppers, and fit the foot securely.
Overall, these shoes are best for urban cycling, recreational cycling, and indoor spin classes.
You’ll find these types of shoes to be favorable among bike commuters and bike messengers.
5. Indoor Soccer Shoes
I have to admit that I found this suggestion to be completely out-of-the-box for me. I’ve never really looked into wearing soccer shoes before but there are some who say these are the best non cycling shoes to wear for cycling.
Indoor soccer shoes are like tennis shoes but with harder soles. To be more specific they are actually slightly stiff.
Most of the popular brands feature a gum rubber flat outer sole.
They give you more control and help to support your feet during any activity. Furthermore, the soles are thinner and may not provide as much cushioning like running shoes for instance.
Also, you will find that these shoes have a slim but have an aero design which enables you to be quick on your feet.
6. Bike Sandals
Depending on the climate in your area or the season, wearing bike sandals may suit you best.
There will be no need to change shoes when going to the beach.
Some sandals have dual straps that secure the foot while cycling.
One added benefit of wearing bike sandals is that it allows the feet to breathe during warmer weather.
It’s not always the most stylish footwear to wear while biking but it’s definitely more comfortable to ride with these on especially as the temperatures get hotter in the summer.
7. Touring Shoes
Along with the shoes noted earlier this shoe can also be worn on and off the bike.
One of the negatives with this type of shoe is that it might not have as stiff a sole.
Some shoes are made with a mesh material that is very breathable.
Touring shoes double as a casual or walking shoe but are even better for bike touring rides if you are into that type of riding.
The toe front tends to be flexible which makes them comfortable for walking.
These shoes may last longer than regular shoes and they are made more durable for various terrains.
8. Trainer Shoes
These types of shoes are typically your running shoes or shoes you train in. They also tend to be more flexible than cycling shoes and have more of an athletic look.
The benefit of wearing these shoes is that the foot can move more freely while walking and running in them.
Due to a wider soled shoe, trainer shoes may feel more comfortable.
Many trainers also provide a good grip for pedaling.
In my experience the Under Armour Charged Assert 8 is one of the best trainers for cycling. I’d advice going to your local shoe retailer and testing different models to see which one has the stiffest sole that fit your foot type.
9. Trail Cross Shoes
The only hybrid shoe that performs like a mountain bike shoe is good for trail running and great for flat pedals.
One specific maker of this type of shoe that I have researched is Adidas. (Known as the Adidas Terrex)
Like a hiking boot, trail cross shoes will have a lugged sole, meaning they will be made of thick rubber.
The tread and grip pattern on these shoes will be solid on spiked pedals.
Usually, trail cross shoes will work better with mountain bike pedals, versus wearing skater shoes since trail cross shoes will be more durable in the long run.
Trail cross shoes will be your go-to if you are looking for more of a multipurpose shoe.
10. Golf Shoes
Probably, the very last resort, you might end up trying out some golf shoes.
Now I know what you might be thinking. Golf shoes are probably as bad as wearing lugged hiking boots!
But hear me out on this as I have come across a handful of cyclists saying that they have tried wearing golf shoes or have recommended them as an alternative.
In fact, it might surprise you how decent golf shoes hold up, considering that they are an upgrade from the traditional dress shoe, spiked hard sole shoes.
I don’t like shoes for biking. What about barefoot cycling?
Believe it or not, barefoot cycling is actually a thing. I know as kids we used to do this all the time and not think twice about it.
But I was surprised to learn in my research that there are benefits of cycling barefoot, even as adults.
Here are some of the benefits:
- Your feet shape naturally
- Move differently
- Become stronger and tougher
The idea of cycling barefoot doesn’t mean you don’t wear shoes or protective gear for your feet. This is more of a minimalist or naturalist approach.
You can definitely go barefoot on the pedals but that’s not exactly what I’m implying here.
There are unconventional platforms as well as DIY platforms (See Youtube video below) that allow you to go barefoot on the pedals.
You also have the option of buying barefoot cycling shoes that are similar to five-finger-toe socks.
If you really don’t care about purchasing anything in order to ride barefoot, then just consider riding with smooth platform pedals.
For some of you who will try this approach to cycling, you may find it very liberating and more natural while riding.
Can you use “regular” shoes or non cycling shoes with clipless pedals?
It would depend on how far you’re riding and the type of riding you’re doing whether it would make sense to do that.
Whenever I ride my road bike, wearing regular shoes with clipless pedals, it’s typically to ride a short distance.
That distance would probably be as short as riding from my local bike shop in Midtown to my parked car since parking spaces are distant.
Any long-distance riding with normal shoes would just not be an efficient way to ride on clipless pedals.
The main thing I would be concerned about on longer rides is the pain of having your feet slip off the clipless pedals and the shoe not planted comfortably. There is also the issue of developing hot spots under your foot and numbness.
Your best option for longer rides with clipless pedals would be to invest in cycling specific shoes that would support this. But then if you are not into wearing those type of shoes you may have to consider other options.
What other alternatives are there if you don’t want to purchase cycling shoes?
If after considering the above 10 suggestions and you are still not convinced that you want to invest in non cycling shoes or cycling shoes then your best option is to focus on investing in good platform pedals.
At least with flat or platform pedals, your shoes will not be an issue. You can wear whichever shoe your heart desires.
There are different types of flat pedals out there. I would recommend something that has spikes, pedals with straps, and or toe clips.
You may want to go without the fancy attachments to the pedals, but I personally feel more in control of my bike and ride more confidently with toe clips.
Are running shoes good shoes for cycling?
Running shoes are very flexible and they comfortably cushion the feet for impact while running.
These shoes tend to flex all over the place, which is important during running or other activities where being quick on your feet is needed.
Whenever you’re walking or doing basic activities, you need your arch to flex.
But some setbacks with riding in running shoes is that there is little to no stiffness in the sole.
Some bike shop experts will tell you that from the ball of the foot to the heel, it’s best to have stiffness so you’ll pedal more efficiently. The best running shoes for cycling will be the ones that have a stiffer sole.
You can ride your bike with running shoes and toe clips, but as far as being a good shoe for riding, in my opinion, I would say no.
Words of caution wearing non cycling shoes for cycling
When it comes down to riding your bike, what you choose to wear will ultimately be a personal preference.
Like with anything that you may read online or even on this blog, take it with a “grain of salt”.
Speaking of which, there are some things to consider if you will be riding in regular shoes.
If you are riding with laces, be sure the ends are short or able to be tucked away from getting caught in the cog or chain.
It’s very likely that the shoes you’re wearing do not wick away sweat as well as cycling specific shoes do. It would be wise to have multiple pairs of shoes to rotate through so you allow them to dry.
Wet shoes can harbor bacteria and germs that you don’t want to let linger around. One tip you could make a habit of doing is taking a Clorox disinfecting wipe and wiping the inside of your shoes after each ride to stop bacteria from even growing.
I’m not convinced and I’d like to wear special cycling shoes. Why are cycling shoes so expensive?
If my selection of shoes presented here doesn’t convince you to keep cycling in non cycling shoes you might be asking yourself: Why are cycling shoes so expensive and are expensive cycling shoes worth it?
From personal experience I can say, yes. Cycling shoes are expensive because they are usually made out of carbon fiber which means they are very lightweight. They are also ridged and waterproof which makes a huge difference riding.
Of course you can start with some cheaper cycling shoes if you’re just getting started in the sport. The difference to high end expensive cycling shoes will be the quality of the materials and the craftsmanship.
Cheaper cycling shoes soles might just be made out of plastic and not carbon fiber. The drawbacks to that is a heavier shoe, more prone to flex and a similar feel to tennis shoes.
The more expensive the cycling shoe the longer lasting they will be as well.
Advantages of Using Cycling Shoes
- The soles of a cycling shoe are more rigid and stiff to allow more pressure and force on each pedal stroke.
- Using cycling shoes with clipless pedals allows even more targeted power throughout the whole pedal stroke. Therefore your feet make better contact with the bike.
- You eliminate hot spots that develop under your feet versus regular footwear.
- With proper positioning, the shoes don’t slip around.
- Cycling shoes place your foot in a more comfortable position on the pedal.
- You get more use out of cycling shoes as they do not wear out as easily compared to other footwear.
Disadvantages of Using Cycling Shoes
- There is a learning curve on how to clip in and out of clipless pedals.
- Every time you come to a stop you will have to clip out of them or surrender yourself to the asphalt.
- You can only use them with specific cycling pedals.
- It’s not as comfortable walking around in them as with other shoes.
- Your feet are locked into the bike making it difficult to avoid things when having to bailout.
You will have to decide if the benefits of cycling shoes outweigh the disadvantages.
In the end the best shoes for biking are the ones that make you feel the safest and get you riding your bike the most!
Troy StampsTroy Stamps is an avid cyclist based out of California. Road cycling is his passion which he's been doing his whole life and he has even competed in some local races. He loves getting new people into the sport and teaching them how to change their life through cycling.
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