The draw: Feather-light power
Jan Frodeno’s customizable shoe of choice, the golf ball-like Zero+ shoes almost look like incomplete prototypes. The dimpled upper is stitched straight into the carbon fiber soles, and there’s no visible cushioning. But they provided the best power transfer of any shoes tested and the most natural foot shape. Stiff arch support may aggravate prominent navicular bones, but it also prevents pronation to keep knees in line. They’re not tri-specific, though, so they’re best used for longer races when a few extra seconds to put them on and take them off won’t cost you a podium.
The draw: Luxe comfort for long distances
As close to heaven as your feet will ever get on a bike ride. A super soft, well-cushioned interior made these bright blue beauties the most comfortable we tested. They were also the fastest to get on and off and worked well for flying mounts. Perfectly stiff out of the saddle, they also felt a bit heavier than the rest, so we recommend them for long courses where comfort is key.
The draw: Narrow feet-friendly
These shocking green shoes fit snug and are easy to cinch down on even the narrowest feet. The straps go against convention and open toward the bike, but it doesn’t matter; they’re short enough that they won’t hit your spokes. Little arch support means you’ll have to add our own if you need it—which could be tough given the tight fit. Some cushioning in the forefoot will keep the balls of your feet happy when you’re pushing hard against the not overly stiff soles.
The draw: Easy on
We’ll call these the “party in the back” shoes. The toes are sleek and highly vented, but the women-specific Flynts get wide at the mid-foot—on purpose, so they’re easy to get on and off—and stay that way through the super-padded heel. They cradle the feet well, but a rough tip of the tongue may aggravate sockless feet. Athletes who find their Achilles ache with super stiff soles will want to give these a try; power transfer is solid, but they have some give. Men will want to check out the Inciter Tris, which are roughly equivalent to the Flynts at the same price point.
The draw: Flying mount-friendly
The funky, futuristic Trivents are made for flying starts and dismounts. The company calls that weird-looking heel the Drawbridge because that’s exactly how it works: Leave it down to get your foot in, then twist the dial to snug them up and you’re ready to go. Pop out the dial to release your heel from the vice grip that we love because it won’t let your foot slip a millimeter, but it may aggravate sore Achilles tendons. Stiff soles make these feel fast while those with sweaty feet will appreciate the near-naked design.
The draw: Adjustable insole
It can be tricky to add arch support to a cycling shoe without adding bulk. Scott solves that problem on the Tri Carbon with integrated, Velcro-on inserts so you can swap them out for more or less support. The Boa closure ensures a snug fit and quick exit, but can take two to three pedal strokes to get it dialed down. Power transfer is excellent, and these’ll keep even the narrowest feet from slipping—but the stiff top of the shoe may aggravate bonier sockless feet.
*Best in Class*
The draw: All-around awesomeness
The Ferraris of tri shoes, the Tri-400s are the ideal blend of venting and stiffness, comfort and style. Pictured and tested in the women’s version, they feature a one-way neoprene membrane that lets your heel slide in but won’t let it slip out, even when you’re hammering. The antimicrobial Ice Fil footbed helps sweat evaporate fast, keeping feet cool in the process. The Boa closure system gives a dialed-in fit. Combined with the super-light feel and stiff soles, the Tri-400s feel like they waste no energy for a fast, efficient ride. Just enough cushioning underfoot makes them a perfect choice for any distance.