Bike

Spring 2021 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Cycling Shoes

Check out our expertly reviewed 2021 guide on a wide range of cycling shoes for triathletes of any level.

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Fizik Transiro Powerstrap R4 cycling shoe

Fizik Transiro Powerstrap R4 | $130

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ | Weight: 237g (size 42)

Basics

A tri-specific shoe that pays close attention to detail with velcro straps designed for hassle-free transitions.

Pros

  • The Powerstrap velcro closure is superb, especially for short-course athletes
  • Great power transfer with a stiff sole
  • Comfortable and breathable

Cons

  • Sizing seems a little funky; consider ordering a half-size up
Giro Regime cycling shoe

Giro Regime | $225

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ | Weight: 265g (size 42)

Basics

A carbon-composite soled road shoe with a molded footbed, featuring a double BOA ratcheting system for a precision fit. The shoe also has ventilation from toe to heel with a laser-perforated mid- and fore-foot outer shell.

Pros

  • Two separate high-quality BOA closures make in-ride tightening adjustments simple and precise
  • Excellent breathability, especially for indoor high-sweat riding
  • Super lightweight and incredibly responsive under foot

Cons

  • Do NOT try to do a flying mount in these; hard for a tri transition unless you plan to sit down in T1
  • BOA system is “all or none”—cannot loosen tension just a touch, once you pull the pin
  • Leather requires breaking in; our testers would have given five stars except for the ankle blisters the first few rides

Louis Garneau Chrome II | $100

Rating: ★ ★ | Weight: 272g (size 38)

Basics

This shoe features three velcro closures from ankle to toe, in addition to a full mesh seamless outer construction. These shoes accommodate all varieties of cleats with both SPD and 3-bolt cleat compatibility. The silver outer also offers high visibility for riders.

Pros

  • Thermobonding eliminates uncomfortable seams
  • Velcro straps offered plenty of fit versatility, while being incredibly easy to transition
  • Stiff sole with plenty of hardware for pedal compatibility

Cons

  • Cost-efficient plastic soles are heavier, less responsive, and slippery on wet surfaces
  • Some rattling and extra hardware had to be removed when Speedplay system installed
  • No heel loop, despite being a tri shoe
Specialized S-Works EXOS cycling shoe

Specialized S-Works EXOS | $425

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ | Weight: 150g (size 42)

Basics

One of the highest-end road shoes Specialized makes, these are designed for the high-performance cyclist. Ultra light, stiff, and molded to your feet, while the quick-release BOA system makes it feasible for triathlon transitions.

Pros

  • By far the nicest cycling shoe we tested
  • Extremely lightweight upper makes it super flexible and breathable
  • Carbon plate keeps the bottom of the shoe incredibly stiff for power transfer
  • BOA system is fairly fast for entry and exit

Cons

  • With shoe snugness, a flying mount is ill-advised
  • Needs some breaking at the heel
  • Unless you’re a top-level cyclist, the price is probably higher than necessary

Read the extended review

Shimano TR5W cycling shoe

Shimano TR5W | $140

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ | Weight: 247g (size 42)

Basics

The standard race-quality triathlon shoe, the TR5W has an asymmetrical heel loop and one strap for fast transitions. There are some holes and breathability for water, and the shoe is compatible with Look/SPD-SL and SPD cleats.

Pros

  • This classic triathlon race shoe has received a few updates
  • Good value for a tri shoe
  • Fits snugly and provides solid connection to the pedal

Cons

  • The strap can be slightly long, may require trimming
  • Despite some breathability holes, the upper isn’t as light or flexible as the EXOS, for example
  • Thick, soft material will likely retain that “wet triathlon shoe” smell fairly quickly