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What Are the Different Types of Cycling Shoes?

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Still, riding your bike in trainers? Now is the time for a change!

Trainers are good old fellows, but nothing feels worse than constantly slipping your leg on the pedal because of the shoes you’re wearing.

Aside from comfort and protection from injuries, cycling shoes also account for an enjoyable experience, where you have nothing to worry about but the finish line.

So, what are the different types of cycling shoes? Here’s a roundup!

1. Road Cycling Shoes

fizik vento infinito knit carbon 2 cycling shoe

If you want maximum efficiency out of your pedaling, you need a pair of sturdy road cycling shoes.

These shoes only have one use: riding road bikes.

You can’t use them for walking because their soles are too stiff with cleats sticking out. You’d have to put toe and heel blocks, and the shoes still won’t be comfortable enough. And, you can’t use them on mountain bikes because they don’t provide enough traction.

If you need to walk for a second at a stop while riding, you’ll be fine, but you’ll feel awkward walking in them. You don’t want these if you’ll be making a lot of stops on your route.

All that said, they’re the best choice for road cycling.


Road cycling shoes have rigid soles, usually made of carbon for durability and scratch resistance. Some cheaper options are made of nylon and plastic.

On top of that, these shoes have cleats sticking out that connect to clipless pedals. But, of course, the cleats don’t come with the shoes; you’d have to buy them separately, as with all cycling shoes.

The most prominent feature of road cycling shoes is their lightweight frame. That’s why the higher you go with the price, the lighter shoes you get.

While choosing yours, keep in mind that road cycling shoes designed for SPD-SL pedals will have three bolts. Meanwhile, the ones designed for SPD pedals will only have two.

2. Mountain Bike Shoes

shimano mtb shoes

Mountain bike shoes are the most durable cycling models. They’re often made of rigid materials to handle muddy trails without a hitch.

Because mountain bikers may have to hike during their ride, mountain bike shoes are comfortable to walk in. Instead of sticking out cleats, the cleats on these shoes are smaller and sit inside the grips. That way, you can walk through mud and rugged terrains without getting feet aches.


Mountain bike shoes have slightly more flexible soles than road bikes. They’re also often made of water-resistant, highly durable materials to withstand tough conditions. Additionally, grips on the bottom offer traction for slippery surfaces.

There are different kinds of mountain bike shoes for different pedal styles. For one, there are flats, which come with rubber soles and are suitable for platform pedals. On top of those, there are clipless shoes, which come with recessed cleats and are suitable for clipless pedals.

Flats are more comfortable to wear for walking, but clipless shoes offer better-pedaling efficiency when going downhill.

Although not all shoes come with the same cleat configuration, all mountain bike shoes have a two-bolt system.

3. Triathlon Shoes

louis garneau triathlon shoe

Triathlon shoes are a bit similar to road shoes in the sense that they’re lightweight and have stiff soles. They’re also an excellent choice if you want to maximize pedaling efficiency because they have protruding cleats on the bottom.

However, they have a different design because the riders usually have to take them off and wear them in a hurry.


Triathlon shoes have an odd closing mechanism, usually consisting of only one strap. Although that may not seem convenient to you, it’s perfect for triathlon riders because their time is precious.

These shoes slip out of your feet quickly and without a hitch, thanks to the soft lining that often adorns their insides.

You can also wear triathlon shoes without socks, contrary to the other types on this list.

Like other cycling shoes, triathlon ones are often made of nylon, carbon fiber, and similar materials. However, the body is often breathable because riders sometimes tend to mount their bikes with their feet wet.

4. Hybrid/Urban Shoes

shimano hybrid cycling shoes

If you go into a cycling store, you’re likely to find cycling shoes labeled hybrid. That means they have designs similar to mountain bike shoes, but they’re more suited for walking and casual use. They’re also called urban shoes in some stores.


Hybrid shoes are strikingly similar to mountain shoes. They have flexible soles for walking, and they offer decent traction. The soles are mostly made of rubber, with some high-end models made of carbon fiber.

Some models have recessed cleats, and some don’t have cleats at all. In both cases, you can use the shoes for walking comfortably when you’re not cycling.

Can You Use Road Cycling Shoes for Mountain Bikes, and Vice Versa?

I know that’s the question on your mind after reading about the types, and the answer is a big fat no. Road cycling shoes have a different cleat configuration from mountain shoes. They also come with very rigid soles.

You won’t handle walking for more than five minutes in these shoes, let alone hiking and walking through muddy trails.

Likewise, you can’t use mountain shoes for road bikes because their recessed cleats won’t be of much help when pedaling. Plus, the flexible soles may set you back, contrary to the hard soles of road bikes.

Keep These Factors in Mind When Buying Cycling Shoes

Before choosing your cycling shoes, it’s good to have these factors in mind:


All cycling shoes have different grades of ventilation. For example, winter shoes aren’t very breathable because they don’t want to let the water in. They should also have enough insulation to keep your feet warm.

On the other hand, summer shoes have mesh uppers to offer enough breathability.

If you’re going for a mountain bike, make sure the shoes are breathable, but preferably without any mesh to protect your feet from muddy trails.

For triathlon riders, the mesh is essential to offer enough breathability.

If you ride a road bike, your choice will depend on the weather conditions.

Cleats & Pedals

An essential factor to consider when choosing cycling shoes is the compatibility of cleats and pedals. Each type has a different configuration.

For example, both triathlon and road shoes have three-bolt mounts, which pair them with clip-in systems, like the SPD-SL.

Meanwhile, mountain bikes have two-bolt mounts, putting them in a pair with clipless systems, like the SPD.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are four main types of cycling shoes. Hybrid shoes may be referred to as city shoes or urban shoes. Meanwhile, you’ll find the other types with their names intact.

Remember to keep cleat compatibility in mind when choosing your pair.

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