Aiming for the tri podium, GB age-group qualification or a personal best this season? Then a triathlon-specific pair of bike shoes will shave your transition times and lead to a more comfortable bike leg. How? Let’s find out.
Tri shoes will often have better ventilation and quick-drying properties than their road shoe counterparts, which is more useful on short-course triathlons especially where your feet have less time
to dry out on the bike leg.
What's the difference between road bike shoes and tri bike shoes?
Triathlon bike shoes: How should they fit?
Bike shoes: 10 of the best for triathlon reviewed
A heel loop is also added to tri bike shoes so you can pull your shoes on and off easier in transitions one and two. And there are often additional mini loops for attaching the shoes to your bike with elastic bands on the inside of most tri-specific shoes. In terms of fastening, tri bike shoes either have a dial and wiring system to help athletes find the right amount of tension, or they can use traditional or reverse straps (the latter also speed up the transition process).
How we tested the triathlon bike shoes
To test the six pairs on the following pages – which range from a wallet-friendly £75 to a princely £359.99 – we not only rode them in training and races, but also did T1 and T2 mock-ups to assess the ease of foot entry and exit on the fly. The same Shimano SPD-SL yellow cleats were used, and we rode similar sessions in each to rate comfort and power transfer. The effectiveness of the straps and ratchets was also considered, as were ventilation, aesthetics and durability.
The Trinity come with both two- and three-bolt cleat mounts, the latter useful if you want to commute in SPD cleats or use them on a spin bike. They’re roomy inside to suit wider feet and the inward-closing main strap doesn’t rub on the crank. The strap isn’t wide enough near the buckle, which could lead to problems at speed in T1, an issue that Dhb haven’t rectified in numerous versions of the Trinity. The heel loop is also flimsy. Yet, while the tri features let the Trinity down, the comfort and fairly stiff composite sole mean you can use them for training and racing. That price is appealing, too. wiggle.co.uk
Verdict: Not perfect, But one of the best budget options, 77%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
This is another entry-level shoe with two- and three-bolt compatibility, while the sole is made from a nylon composite that’s rated seven out of 10 on Bontrager’s stiffness scale. It felt how we expected; average for consistently-paced sessions but lacking firmness for explosive efforts and hills. The upper is ventilated and reasonably comfy, but is flimsy and our foot didn’t feel secure. The plastic overlay started to peel off on the inside of the upper, and we’d expect more durability even at this price. But the heel loop is well stitched on and the footbed is comfy enough for long rides.
Verdict: Versatile enough but there are compromises 68%
Buy from www.trekbikes.com
This is the tri-specific version of Fizik’s R1, and it’s nearly the same except for the addition of a heel loop for transition. The two boa dials provide the most secure fit of any tri shoe, and we still had no problems getting them on/off in transition. The upper has a knit construction and an extra water-repellent lining to avoid moisture build-up – during races we’ve found they dry impressively fast and are well-ventilated. The stiff carbon sole may feel too harsh for new riders, but for high-performing triathletes they’re some of the best around (if you can justify the huge spend).
Verdict: Very pricey but offering superb performance, 90%
Buy from www.bikeinn.com
Have fussy feet? Then you’ll be glad to know that the chassis of the Riot TR+ are heat mouldable. Simply warm them in the oven and apply light pressure for the resin to mould to your foot. The sole is carbon composite and, while not as stiff as the top-end offerings here, it’s more forgiving, so we find the Riot TR+ preferable over longer distances. The perforated upper kept our feet ventilated, the sizeable heel loop aids a fast transition and the main Velcro strap gives adequate tension. If you can get used to popping your shoes in the oven, the Riot TR+ is excellent value with few compromises.
Verdict: Superb price and custom fitting is great, 93%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
The Tri 400 breaks with tri bike shoe convention by employing a strap at the opening and a BOA dial further up to secure the midfoot. The fit is secure, although the inward-fastening strap has some overhang that lightly brushed our cranks. LG’s full carbon Air-Lite sole offers huge stiffness, and the heel loop is well integrated for transition duties. There’s a small amount of perforation and some mesh sections at the front of the upper, but it lacks ventilation on this area. LG’s Tri Air Lite shoe offers heat-shielding materials on the upper, which is worth the upgrade if you prioritise cooling.
Verdict: comfy and tri-specific, but with an awkward, strap 86%
Buy from www.bikeinn.com
Described on release in 2012 as the most engineered tri shoe in the world, the Trivent still fits that description despite only minor changes made to 2019’s edition. Everything is considered to get you through transitions faster with no detriment to performance, from a patented heel closure system to the quick-drying upper and the Fact12 (Spesh’s highest stiffness rating) sole. The patented heel has a BOA wire connecting it to a closure strap and you simply close the single dial and tighten. While it might not look as secure as a trad heel counter, it provides an impressive road-like fit.
Verdict: Comfy and stiff with plenty of tri-friendly features 89%
Buy from www.tredz.co.uk
The overall verdict
With such a wide spread of price points – from sub-£100 shoes with beginner-appeal to options over three times the price made for pros – we were looking for the sweet spot between value and high performance for our test winner.
At the budget end, we prefer Dhb’s Trinity to the Bontrager Hilo, thanks to a better quality upper. We can vouch for their durability having used them all winter for Wattbike sessions in the gym, as well as on the road. If money was no object, we’d be reaching for the Specialized S-Works Trivent for sprint- and Olympic-distance racing because of its fine tri-friendly features. The Fizik R1 Transiro is almost indistinguishable from a pro-level road shoe in terms of performance while pedalling, so we’d opt for those for Ironman.
In our quest for the sweet spot between value and quality, Bont’s Riot TR+ is our winner. It costs less than half of the Fizik, but offers arguably the best fit thanks to the heat-mouldable chassis. There’s only minimal compromise in the fibreglass/composite sole blend compared to a full-carbon version in terms of stiffness, and it wasn’t discernible to us while riding