As well as a good fit and a stiff sole, triathletes also need bike shoes that are easy to get on and off in a hurry. Jack Sexty tests 10 of the best to see which ones tick all the boxes
The Carbon Tri shoes grace Alistair and Jonny Brownlee’s feet now that Scott has become their bike sponsor. The shoes use a Boa dial rather than a Velcro strap for their main fastener, and judging from the tongueless construction they’d be a wise choice for fast middle- and long-distance bike splits in hot countries. They offer a close, secure fit and despite the hard leather used to make the uppers we felt pretty comfortable during long rides. This is largely thanks to the insole that adjusts to suit the arch of your foot. There’s less ventilation than we’d ideally like and the wafer-thin heel tab feels like an afterthought, but this is excusable on a shoe that’s intended for long, non-drafting bike legs.
Verdict: A stiff shoe that’s Surprisingly comfortable 84%
Buy from www.westbrookcycles.co.uk
Giro’s Inciter Tri shoes are unchanged for 2017, as is our opinion on them: they’re versatile, with both two- and three-bolt cleat compatibility, reasonably comfortable and hard-wearing. They’re quite wide and the material is thick around the heel, making them feel almost like a pair of running shoes when you slip them on. That extra thickness does affect the breathability, but there’s adequate venting on the front to counter this. The heel loop is flimsy and it took a couple of attempts for us to grab it on our T1 test. A bigger loop would be better, especially as this shoe has entry-level appeal. The Inciter Tri are good for the money, but get beaten by the Shimano TR5 at the £100 price point this season.
Verdict: A basic but reliable entry-level tri shoe 76%
Buy from www.tredz.co.uk
The new TR5 is a big step-up from Shimano’s previous entry-level tri shoe, the TR32. Its uppers feel much stiffer and the shoes are more comfortable and close-fitting. Shimano’s ‘Dynalast’ technology is designed to produce a more efficient upstroke as you pedal and pedalling in the TR5 shoes does feel smoother. The off-centre heel loop is easy to grab and we had no problems in our transition testing. The performance is far closer to that of Shimano’s much-lauded TR9, but with the added bonus of two-bolt cleat compatibility if you’d rather use MTB-style double-sided pedals. Choose the TR5s if you want quality shoes that, with a bit of shopping around, you can pick up for comfortably under £100.
Verdict: A great all-round shoe that ticks all the boxes 88%
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
The overall verdict
Judging some of these shoes head-to-head made for some difficult comparisons. There are many shoes here that we’d recommend if money was no object, but for all-round value with little in the way of performance compromise, you can’t beat Shimano’s TR5.
The only shoes we wouldn’t recommend are Ekoi’s TR1. They offer good power transfer, but the uppers are uncomfortable and the straps are too long. They’re also one of the most expensive on test.
Due to flexible soles and more long straps that catch on the cranks, Spiuk’s Trivium didn’t particularly impress either, despite their budget price and two-bolt cleat compatibility.
Of the two pairs with an outward-closing straps, the Pearl Izumi shoes came out on top over Specialized’s thanks to their excellent stiffness and ventilation.
But our overall winner is Sidi’s T-4 Air. They’re not hugely expensive (compared to some here), offer the best ventilation and are supremely comfortable. Scott and Louis Garneau’s shoes are also highly recommended, but get pipped by the T-4s for all-round comfort, performance and value.