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How Should Cycling Shoes Fit?

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Cycling shoes are designed to give extra benefits to athletes, in terms of grip, propulsion, and stability. A good pair of sports shoes often make a significant difference in a cyclist’s performance. However, this only works, if the shoe really fits.

In fact, the best-designed cycling shoes from the most expensive brand, might not feel all that comfortable, if the size doesn’t match the cyclists’ feet. It could even hold them back or cause some unnecessary mishaps.

So how should cycling shoes fit? And would all types of cycling shoes fit the same way? Read on to know the answers to all that. Also, we added our tried and true tips on finding the right fit as you buy new cycling shoes.

Expert Advice on How Should Cycling Shoes Fit

As you move your feet on the pedal with that downward push, circling around, then the full lift up, you need a shoe that helps, not hinders, that dynamic. Cycling shoes are much like any specialized sports shoes. They come with certain additions to enhance the athletes’ performance.

For example, football shoes have studs adapted for hard running and maneuvering on the grass. Tennis shoes are light and made for agile movements. As for basketball shoes, these are supposed to help with running, jumping, and quick movement. Additionally, they should protect the players from skidding on the polished floors. Hence, the popularity of the Air Jordans!

Cycling shoes have a more focused job: keeping the cyclists’ shoes attached to the pedals. That’s why they have cleats on the shoe bottoms. They should naturally feel comfortable and easy to walk on if needed. But the most important thing is that they should never ever slip off while cycling.

Here’s how the correctly-sized cycling shoes should feel exactly.

  • Unlike running shoes; cycling shoes rarely expand with usage. It’s best then to pick one that feels comfortable from the outset.
  • Your toes should never feel squeezed at the front part. Leave half an inch between your toe-line and the shoe.
  • You shouldn’t leave more than half an inch, as this would spoil the fit, and the shoe would feel too loose.
  • The heels should have some moving space too, but keep that to less than a quarter of an inch.
  • Some people have narrow feet, while others have wider feet. That’s why you need to find a shoe with a width that matches your foot nicely.
  • The arches of the shoe sole should also mirror those of your foot. Cycling is all about footwork. And this point really makes all the difference in terms of comfort and boosting performance.

What if Your New Cycling Shoes Don’t Fit Correctly?

Poorly fitting shoes that feel too tight can really bother the cyclist and hurt his feet. Actually, this is the easiest way to get blisters and sore heels. It could also cause, or aggravate, plantar fasciitis, which manifests as painful persistent pain in the feet and heels.

Cycling shoes with too much wiggle space in front of the toes, or the heel, can also be disastrous. They cause the cyclists to exert extra effort as they press their feet down on the pedals as well as while lifting them up.

This inefficient use of muscle power will definitely affect the cyclist. Additionally, the shoe could fall off derailing the exercise entirely.

Tightness or looseness on the sides can also be problematic. The arcs of the feel need reliable support while they push down. The incorrect fit would fail to provide that cushioning, which eventually causes pain in the feet, knees, and hips.

Tips on Getting the Right Fit for Your Cycling Shoes

Now that you know what a good fit feels like, and the consequences of not finding the right size, it’s time to talk about getting the right fit.

Here are some fool-proof ways to get the shoe sizing correct.

  1. Shop for your new cycling shoes after exercising, or late in the evening. That’s when your feet are at their biggest size.
  2. Put on new cycling socks while trying on the new shoes. This would make the size more realistic and accurate.
  3. Ask if the shop attendants could measure your foot and suggest the right size accordingly.
  4. Check the front, back, and sides of the shoe as you try it on. The front should have half an inch clearance, the back quarter of an inch, and the sides should be snug with your foot.
  5. Make sure that the width of the shoe matches that of your foot. Get extra wide or extra narrow models if you need to.
  6. Check the places of the seams and laces, and see whether they press easily or excessively on your foot. If they feel too tight, they could cause blisters later on.
  7. Try on half a size larger and half a size smaller to make sure that the fit is perfect.
  8. Try on a few other models to see what fits best with the shape of your feet.
  9. Walk around with the shoes to get a feel of the sole support and overall comfort.
  10. Finally, repeat this process every time you shop for new cycling shoes. Different types of cycling shoes may need to fit differently.

Power Racing, Triathlons, or Mountaineering?

This is a critical decision that would dictate the type and fit of your cycling shoes. Power racing means that you’d spend 99% of the time pedaling, and only do a little walking. Thus, a shoe with pronounced cleats would be good.

These shoes wouldn’t expand with usage, so get one that fits comfortably from the outset.

Triathlons, on the other hand, require running as well. Thus, the shoes you use should have less protruding cleats. These shoes often expand a bit with all the road pounding, so keep that in mind while fitting.

Riding in the mountains is another variation, which doesn’t involve running, but still, you’d need to walk a lot. Here too the cleats would be barely there, and the shoes have to be safe for offroad activity.

Safety shoes are quite rigid to take on the rough trail. Thus, they wouldn’t expand much. So get them comfortable from the outset.


Some athletes view shoe shopping as an ordeal, as there are many factors to consider. However, buying new cycling shoes should be fun. There are tons of new models, and each one would bring with it new features that you can benefit from.

The important thing is to follow a simple procedure that would make finding the right fit a breeze. You can use the 10 points mentioned in this article as a checklist, and that should get you the best cycling shoes!

With that out of the way, you can focus on your next big race!

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