Non-clipless Bike Shoes: What to Look For
This entry was posted on May 29, 2015.
Many cyclists choose to use cycling shoes -- clipless shoes that match to specialized pedals. We've written about these shoes before, and they are a phenomenal option for many riders. They increase the efficiency of your pedal stroke, help balance the muscles of your legs, and add power.
But some folks just don't want to use bike shoes, for various reasons. Some don't want the added expense, while others aren't comfortable with the feeling of being attached to the bicycle and not being able to put out a foot rapidly to catch a fall. Many people just want to be able to walk around comfortably when riding from place to place.
It's all about sole
The most important thing to look for in a cycling shoe that isn't clipless is a stiff sole; a shoe that is too flexible will be inefficient and uncomfortable. In general, look for shoes like hiking shoes that provide a solid platform for you to push on. Really stiff soles will be more expensive and provide more comfort on the bike, but be aware that the stiffer they are for biking, the less comfortable they will be for walking and daily wear. The most expensive models feature a carbon fiber sole that provides maximum pushing power.
A grippy sole will also be very helpful. In fact, a sole like this is essential; slipping off a pedal accidentally while you ride can be a major safety risk, so avoid shoes with smooth soles. Your shins will thank you. A little lugged tread is very helpful for staying in place.
Basic hiking shoes, like those made for day hikes (rather than full on hiking boots) are quite ideal for this purpose, but unless you are only taking slow rides for a couple of miles at a time, you will want to avoid running shoes, sandals, and that type of softer, thinner shoe. While these are comfortable for walking, they are not the best for riding.
Bike shoes for platform pedals
If you want maximum comfort, look for non-clipless shoes made for mountain biking or urban riding. Some mountain bikers (like downhillers) don't want to use clipless shoes due to the dangers of quick falls on trails, so instead they use shoes specifically designed for this type of riding: durable, stiff soles with wide and comfortable footbeds to be used with platform pedals. They either tuck-away laces or use shoes with alternative closures, like Velcro or zippers that won't catch in your chain.
While these shoes can be just as expensive as clipless shoes, they tend to be more comfortable and make a great fit for the folks who don't want clipless shoes. Some models are quite affordable, and many feature a rubber plug in the center of the shoe that can be removed to reveal an SPD cleat attachment point. If you want to get into clipless riding later, you can do it with these shoes.
A little pedal security goes a long way
If you want a bit more control for commuting or riding around town, use pedal straps or toe clips to help hold your shoes in place. These will help with efficient riding while still allowing easier bailing in the event of a crash.