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Sidi women's road cycling shoe using three-bolt cleat.

Cycling shoes are shoes designed for cycling. They come in a variety of designs depending on the type and intensity of the cycling for which they are intended. Key features include rigidity, for more-efficient transfer of power from the cyclist to the pedals, weight, a method of attaching the shoe firmly to the pedal and adaptability for use on and off the bicycle. Most shoes can be adjusted while in use, via quick-adjusting straps that have largely replaced laces.

Cycling shoes come in four basic variants, for road racing, touring, off-road or mountain biking, and spinning . Shoes for road cycling have an extremely smooth, rigid and inflexible sole, bent slightly at the ball of the foot to allow power to be transferred and focused at that point. Quality is generally measured by the shoe's rigidity, durability and lightness. Road shoes normally have no treads, and a protruding cleat for attaching to the clipless pedal which makes them unsuitable for walking. Touring shoes sacrifice some rigidity for traction and add treads and a recessed cleat, so that the rider can both walk and cycle effectively. Mountain biking shoes have a recessed cleat and studs along the sole so that riders can negotiate difficult terrain off their bikes. Mountain-style cleats are generally smaller than road-specific cleats. Spinning shoes, a recent development, are a hybrid of road and touring shoes, with a firm sole and limited traction. The material of the spinning shoe is lighter and thinner, to maximize comfort, coolness and breathability.

Modern cycling shoes are designed to work as part of clipless pedal systems. Such systems directly attach the shoe to the pedal for maximal efficiency of power-transfer, using a cleat on the bottom of each shoe and a matched fitting on the pedal. Several manufacturers produce these systems; consequently, modern shoes usually have threaded holes in the sole in various arrangements to attach cleats from different manufacturers.

1980s cycling shoe with leather and nylon mesh uppers, leather sole, and adjustable shoeplate, for use with quill pedals

An older system is the toe-clip and toestrap. A toeclip is a metal cage attached to the front of the pedal, into which the rider inserts the shoe. There are two methods for using pedals with toeclips. The first is a cycling shoe with a slotted shoeplate. Before the introduction of the clipless pedal most racing shoes had a hard leather or plastic sole to which a metal or plastic shoe plate or cleat was attached. The shoeplate had a slot that fitted into the pedal. The shoeplate along with toe clip and strap keep the rider's feet firmly attached to the pedals. The drawback is that a rider had to reach down and loosen the toestrap by hand to take their foot out of the pedal, and for this reason toeclips have been made largely obsolete by clipless pedals. The second is to use a cycling shoe with a smooth sole or a non-cycling shoe. This had the disadvantage of the rider's feet not being firmly attached to the pedals but had the advantage of being able to release from the pedals without having to loosen the strap by hand, and also any shoe can be used.

Adidas mountain cycling shoe using two-bolt SPD-style cleat for clipless pedal.

Contents

Float and tension

"Float" is defined as the degree of movement offered by the cleat within the pedal before release begins. This can be highly important to prevent damage to knees, as most peoples' pedal stroke does not occur along a single axis. Many standard road pedal systems ship with a 6 degree float cleat. SPD-SL, Look Delta, Look Kéo, and Time cleats are also available in 3 degree and 0 degree float. Road pedal systems commonly colour-code cleats by the amount of float offered (red, black, etc). Some pedal systems have a fixed non-adjustable float, such as 6 degrees for Crank Brothers and 4.5 degrees for the Kéo Easy. Most cleats develop more float as they wear.

Sole material and shoe quality

Soles for cycling shoes are usually divided into three categories. Inexpensive shoes mostly use an injection-molded plastic sole, which is economical but heavier and prone to flexing. Mid-range shoes may use a combination of plastic and carbon fibre, plastic and fibreglass, or an all carbon fibre sole. All manufacturers' high-end competition level shoes manufactured post-2002 use carbon fibre soles. The sole material and amount of tread used in a shoe affects its weight; an expensive pair of road shoes with carbon fibre soles can weigh 650 grams, while a budget-priced pair of mountain bike shoes might weigh 850 to 900 grams.

Some mountain bike shoes have a little engineered flex in the toe area forward of the cleat mount. This assists in walking and in climbing obstacles while carrying the bike. More expensive shoes usually have less frontal flex.

Overshoes

Overshoes are flexible waterproof shoe coverings for use in wet weather. They are typically made from rubber or a stretchy synthetic and have a zip on the inside of the ankle. The fabric continues under the sole but is not intended for walking on, which would wear it out quickly. Most overshoes have a hole in the sole for clipless pedals. Overshoes are not to be confused with cleat covers. Overshoes go on the top of the shoes, while cleat covers go on the bottom.

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