The Best Triathlon Cycling Shoes
Triathlete’s guide to the top five cycling shoes for triathletes this year. We rate our top picks on criteria like speed in transition, breathability, fit, and more.
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While clip-in cycling shoes aren’t necessarily the first thing you need as a new triathlete, they’re one of those things you’re going to get eventually. It’s just a matter of time. The best pair of triathlon cycling shoes for you will provide a stiff platform to pedal, enough side to side play (or float) to prevent any knee tracking issues, go on quickly in transition, dry quickly when wet, feel comfortable for one hour or three or seven, and come off quickly in T2.
Most popular cycling shoe brands have triathlon-specific models, but today triathletes are also using non tri-specific shoes that still go on and off quickly, yet might be more comfortable over the long haul for training and long-distance racing. That said, a pair of tri-specific shoes will typically address the needs of the multisport athlete better than a pair of catch-all road cycling shoes.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled five of the most interesting pairs of shoes to help you find your best triathlon cycling shoes this year—whether they’re a top-of-the-line tri model, something more basic, or a road cycling pair that just works. Our easy-to-use guide includes ratings and info on criteria like fit, value, width, stiffness, comfort, breathability, transition speed, and more. Read on all of the info you need to make an educated decision on the best triathlon cycling shoes for you.
Editor’s Note: While the gear below was loaned out by the brands represented, all choices were selected independently by the tester without any promotional consideration or brand input. Also, unlike other “best triathlon cycling shoes review” websites, our testers actually wear and try the gear ourselves—no glancing at spec sheets and rewording marketing terms! For more on how we review gear, click here.
|Value||More than just absolute cost, this is how much bang you get for your buck. 1-5; 5 being a great value.|
|Weight||The weight in grams|
|Fit Notes||Notes on the size, shape, or any issues with breaking in|
|Width||Does this shoe fit narrow or wide when compared to other shoes? 1-5; 1 being super narrow, 5 being super wide.|
|Stiffness||How stiff the sole feels while riding and putting down big power. 1-5; 5 being super stiff.|
|Comfort||Taking into account the material on the inside, the fit, the buckles, everything. 1-5; 5 being super comfortable.|
|Breathability||How breathable is this shoe in hot/sweaty or wet conditions? How well does it drain water? 1-5; 5 is extremely breathable.|
|Speed in Transition||How quickly does this shoe go on and off? 1-5; 5 being very fast/easy.|
|Material Quality||How well made is this shoe? Are there lots of seams and threads? Does it feel like it'll last a long time? Does the upper take a long time to break in or is it ready to go? 1-5; 5 is extremely good materials/build.|
|Walkability||How easily can you walk around in transition/at a coffee shop/etc. Assuming the same cleat for all shoes being equal. 1-5; 5 being great at walking around.|
Fizik Transiro Powerstrap R4 | $130
|Weight||237g (size 42)|
|Fit Notes||Runs small; size up a half-size|
|Speed in Transition||4|
The Transiro Powerstrap R4 is an excellent tri-specific shoe with a solid single-velcro “Powerstrap” closure that works particularly well for short-course triathletes. We also found the sole to be very stiff, the upper to be breathable, comfortable, and easy-to-adjust on the fly. The sizing is a little odd, so we strongly recommend ordering at least a half size up, and the break in took a little longer than some other shoes. Finally the build quality felt robust, but the construction (and the low price tag) means durability might be a little bit of a question mark.Section divider
Giro Regime | $225
|Weight||265g (size 42)|
|Fit Notes||Runs true|
|Speed in Transition||3|
Like a couple of the other shoes in this roundup, the Regime is technically a road cycling shoe, but because of its BOA ratcheting system and heel-to-toe ventilation it works for tri just fine. In fact, the ventilation was so good that our testers found it to be an excellent pair for indoor riding—not just the road or tri. But like anything not tri-specific, it’s important to note that very multisport moves like a flying mount are not idea here, and while the shoe tightens and loosens very quickly, the foot entry is super snug. On that same note, this version of the BOA system doesn’t allow for loosening micro adjustments, so you’ll have to loosen all the way, then tighten back up if you want to make mid-race changes.Section divider
Louis Garneau Chrome II | $100
|Weight||272g (size 42)|
|Fit Notes||Runs true|
|Speed in Transition||3|
This road cycling shoe with velcro closures acts as a great basic, entry-level pair with a full-mesh exterior for ventilation. It also accepts all types of cleats with its extra insole hardware (great for those who may still be tinkering with pedal choices). Our testers liked the thermobonding that eliminated iffy seams, and the customizable fit that the three velcro straps accommodate, but they had some issues with rattling and extra hardware removal when used with Speedplay pedals. The plastic outsole helps save money, but it can also give up some responsiveness and cause an unstable surface when walking. This is a great first pair when getting into clipped-in cycling, but for more experienced triathletes, you may want to spend a few more bucks.Section divider
Specialized S-Works EXOS | $425
|Weight||150g (size 42)|
|Speed in Transition||3|
The S-Works EXOS is unsurprisingly the top of Specialized’s road cycling shoe food chain, and one of the best shoes tested. While it’s not a tri-specific shoe, it’s BOA dial makes it a good contender for quick transitions, and the flexible, breathable, and ridiculously lightweight upper makes it an excellent choice for a hot or wet bike leg. A carbon plate on the bottom of the shoe makes for good power transfer, but our testers did find that the heel/ankle area needs some breaking in to prevent rubbing. Aside from the high price, this is a near-perfect long-course triathlon cycling shoe.Section divider
Shimano TR5W | $140
|Weight||246g (size 42)|
|Speed in Transition||5|
The TR5W is one of those traditional tri-specific shoes that has served beginner to intermediate multisporters for years with few changes. This women’s version continues the tradition with a good intersection between value and features. Our testers love the snug fit and solid pedal connection, but a long single strap may require a little “pruning,” and the upper itself isn’t as light or as flexible as some other pairs on this list. That said, it’s tough to find a more reliable pair of workhorse tri shoes than the TR5W.