If you’re putting in plenty of outdoor miles year-round and can only budget for one pair of cycling shoes, a road-specific pair will probably serve you better than triathlon bike shoes in most scenarios.
With no transitions to think about, road shoes will prioritise a secure and comfortable fit, with a more robust build than triathlon-specific bike shoes. Within the road shoe category, there are numerous variations depending on what you’re primarily using them for.
Those made to excel on climbs and in warm weather will have light, airy uppers with an emphasis on keeping the weight down, while shoes designed to hack British winters will have tougher, synthetic, sometimes even leather, uppers.
Of course, for temperatures in single digits it’s extremely wise to add thermal overshoes on top to keep your feet toasty, no matter what type of shoe you go for.
The 11 pairs in this grouptest range from entry- level options, invariably with nylon soles and basic synthetic uppers, through to high-end shoes with full carbon or carbon-injected soles for more stiffness, and more technical uppers designed to hug your foot perfectly while being breathable enough for warm rides. All shoes are unisex, and our test pairs are all size 45.
Best road bike shoes
Fizik R4 Tempo Overcurve
There’s substance to match the style on these fantastic earthy grey/green R4 Tempo Overcurves; the name referring to the asymmetric shape that Fizik says better conforms to your foot, which we agree provided a superb fit.
The single BOA IP1 dial was plenty enough to get fast and secure closure, with the staggered ‘collar’ of the shoe wrapping around our ankles perfectly.
The upper is very robust and stood up to every type of weather we could throw at it, with Fizik claiming the polyurethane-laminated material layered over the top of comfy mesh should also reduce energy loss and provide extra support.
The carbon-injected sole is rated seven out of 10 for stiffness, which Fizik says is at home on weekend group rides, daily training or gran fondos.
Verdict: Great-looking, robust all-rounder
Sundried Road Cycling Shoes
British multisport brand Sundried claims these affordable kicks will be ‘the best cycle shoes you’ve ever owned’, and while that wasn’t to be the case, for the price they’re more than adequate for your off-season training.
Weighing just over 300g per shoe on our scales the fit is quite narrow, which meant there wasn’t much room for our toes at the front of the shoe. But the two-way edging at the back cupped our heels securely. This made up for a bit of a struggle getting them tight, as we found the dial slipped a little against the quite flimsy tongue.
Ventilation is good with some small mesh sections and strategically-placed holes providing plenty of breathability, while the insole also has drainage holes for a quick-drying ride. Finally, the soles aren’t overly stiff, with a bit of flex evident on big inclines.
Verdict: Basic, yet solid and affordable training shoe
DMT claimed to have produced the first bike shoe with a fully knitted upper back in 2018, and for the 2021/22 range the same tech features throughout. The KR3 model sits below the KR1 and new range-topping KR0, yet still features a carbon sole and knit technology to bring the weight down to a feathery 250g per shoe.
Like the KT1 triathlon shoes, one BOA IP1 dial felt adequate for tightening as the upper really hugs your foot in the right places. DMT credits its technical yarns with variable thicknesses for the sock-like sensation you feel in the KR3, and on test rides our feet were happy over many miles.
A super-stiff full carbon sole makes them race ready, and in the rain the knit dries fairly quickly, though we’d hesitate to use them in really bad weather. If we could budget for a luxury summer road shoe, the KR3 would be near the top of our list.
Verdict: Highly breathable shoe with some impressive tech
With a full carbon sole, two adjustable dials and plenty of ventilation for just £85, the Boardman Carbon seems almost too good to be true. And although it’s not the most luxurious-looking, our reservations were unfounded as this shoe is the real deal.
The sole isn’t as stiff as the higher-grade carbon found on offerings from Le Col and DMT, but it dealt with everything we threw at it during testing. There’s venting in the soles and plenty of holes on the synthetic upper.
They’re not the most breathable and we’d perhaps ask for a little more venting on the upper, but they’re fine for British weather. Two ATOP dials allow you to get the ideal amount of tension, while the tongue wraps around the foot nicely. These shoes bear the name of a gold medal-winning Olympic legend, and they deservedly take the top spot on the podium in this grouptest.
Verdict: Fantastic shoes that are incredibly good value
Aimed more at sportives and training rather than all-out racing, Bontrager’s Velocis is one of the lightest shoes on test at just 243g each on our scales. The sole is a carbon/fibreglass composite, which provides a medium stiffness that will be fine for everyday training and fast commuting.
Equipped with a BOA IP1 dial and additional Velcro strap for easy adjustability, the tongue underneath the closure system is quite thick, making our midfoot feel a little claustrophobic.
The perforated upper aims to ‘allow for increased breathability and comfort’, however we would ideally have liked some mesh sections to enhance the breathability, as on hot days our feet overheated slightly. If you find too much shoe stiffness harsh going but are after the lightest and affordable option possible, then the Velocis will fit the bill.
Verdict: Light and balanced, but at the top end of the market
Bont Cycling Motion
The Motion is the cheapest shoe on test and also in Bont’s range. So what’s missing? First up, there’s no heat-mouldable chassis like you’ll find on Bont’s other shoes. And there are just three Velcro straps supplied to tension the shoe, which is acceptable at this price point but just don’t work as well as dials.
Strap styles are also starting to look a bit dated. But otherwise, there’s only good things to say about this shoe. The fibreglass sole is impressively stiff, and the profile is low which makes you feel really connected to the pedals.
They’re also very roomy, so will suit those with wide feet, and there’s plenty of ventilation throughout. If you’re just starting your triathlon journey and really want a do-it-all shoe, the wide opening you can get from fully loosening the straps would also be useful for swift triathlon transitions.
Verdict: Another great value shoe, but straps are a little old hat
Giro’s Regime has a unique upper made from what the brand calls ‘ultralight monofilament mesh Synchwire’. It’s noticeably different to many of the other shoes on test, which have more standard synthetic uppers, but we found it very light and airy, although a little less resistant to wet weather.
Two BOA L6 dials are appreciated at this price-point, providing a secure fit throughout testing. The composite sole was noticeably stiffer than the entry-level shoes on test, and the extra 5mm of adjustment in the cleat fixings is a nice extra touch.
Though the toebox is narrow, we found the midfoot-to-heel section unusually wide, meaning we had to adjust our cleats slightly to avoid the inside of the shoe brushing our cranks. Although we couldn’t quite get on with the Regime’s shape, it’s still feature-packed with some impressive upper innovation.
Verdict: Slightly odd shape, but otherwise a highly comfortable shoe
Scott Road Team BOA
The Road Team BOA is described as ideal for long distance comfort and has many features that tick these boxes: a reasonable amount of venting on top, a vent at the front of the sole and a stiffness rating of eight out of 10 on Scott’s scale.
They weighed in at 318g per shoe on our scales, which is one of the heaviest on test, and we found the upper a little less supple than some of the other shoes, meaning that this one wasn’t among the most comfortable.
A BOA IP1 click-and-twist dial with an additional strap is adequate for tensioning, and the asymmetric shape of the upper attempts to mimic the contours of your foot.
Scott’s ErgoLogic insole is purported to provide some extra arch support and also features a metatarsal button, so these shoes may be appreciated by those who suffer from foot numbness when cycling long distances.
Verdict: Well-rounded shoe, but on the bulky side
Van Rysel RoadR 520
Decathlon’s in-house cycling brand Van Rysel has delivered some quality bargains since its inception two years ago, and the ROADR520 is one of them. Its one ATOP dial with an additional Velcro strap provides enough tension, but the composite sole will be better suited to those who find full carbon too rigid.
The upper is very comfortable, especially the tongue that feels soft against the foot. Underneath you’ll find holes for two and three bolt cleats, the former being useful if you want to use them for commuting.
Unfortunately, the two-bolt insert came loose during testing which created an annoying rattle, but with some bodging we got it secure.
You miss out on some extra cleat fore/aft offered by some of the pricier shoes on test, but otherwise we found few compromises. If you want an affordable pair for year-round use, the ROADR 520 should be considered.
Verdict: Excellent budget shoe…just a rattle holding it back
Specialized Torch 1.0
The Torch 1.0 is the most wallet-friendly road shoe from Specialized, with a stiffness rating of six out of 15 on the Specialized stiffness scale. But it’s also one of the heaviest on test at 327g per shoe, with the quite bulky synthetic upper and lining adding to the few extra grams, yet proving to be sturdy and secure over the test period.
A BOA L6 dial with additional Velcro strap secures the shoe, spreading the pressure across the foot adequately, and we found the nylon sole more flexible than we were used to on very hard sprint efforts.
Like Sundried’s offering, there’s nothing wrong with the Torch 1.0, and it performed as we expected for a shoe at the £100 price point, but there are no absolute standout features. Instead, you’re getting a functional training shoe that will do the job.
Verdict: Comfy entry-level shoe, but outshone by rivals
Le Col Pro Carbon
The Le Col Pro Carbon has a full unidirectional carbon sole which proved the stiffest on test – not unsurprisingly as it’s the most expensive offering. There wasn’t a hint of flex to be found, which means maximum power transfer for sprints and climbs.
The upper is the only on test to be made from PU leather and although the shiny looks aren’t for everyone, it’s practical because you can just wipe the dirt straight off after rides in adverse weather conditions.
The kicks are also very comfortable and didn’t fold or crease when we tightened the two ATOP dials. Plenty of holes and mesh sections offer enough breathability, although we did find our feet got a little sweatier under the PU than some of the lighter synthetic uppers on test.
These shoes are also light at 270g each on our scales, and worth the outlay if you’re after a pair for racing as well as off-season training.
Verdict: Super stiff shoe, but PU leather might divide opinion
With the road cycling shoes on test spanning a wide range of price points, we judged each pair primarily on their own merits, while ensuring quality, value and standout features were factored into the equation.
Thankfully none were bad, with shoes from Bontrager, Giro and Le Col finding themselves lower down the list for their higher prices compared to the competition. Fizik’s Tempo Overcurve is pushing £200, but achieved a higher score thanks to the quality construction and suitability for year-round use, while DMT’s KR3 impressed us with its unique knitted technology.
Niche yes, but still a top performer. Sundried’s debut road shoe is better than average for £90, but has been pitched against three of the best budget road shoes in the Boardman Carbon, Van Rysel ROADR 520 and Bont Motion.
While the Boardman isn’t the out-and-out best or most luxurious cycling shoe money can buy, for the price it can’t be beaten. You’ll usually spend north of £200 before you get carbon soles and multiple dials, but Boardman has ticked both boxes on a shoe costing just £85, rightfully earning it ‘best on test’.