Best triathlon bike shoes in 2023 reviewed
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 and James Witts test 12 of the best tri bike shoes to see which ones tick all the boxes...
Is it worth investing in triathlon-specific bike shoes, or can road shoes do the job?
Well, there are plenty of reasons to purchase triathlon bike shoes, even if you aren’t going to perform a perfect flying mount any time soon.
Firstly, triathlon bike shoes are often better ventilated. This is useful if you’re racing in the heat of summer and want to stay cool from head to toe before dismounting and taking on a sweltering run.
Quality triathlon bike shoes will also have strategically placed mesh and even technology that helps the shoe dry quickly when mounting your bike after the swim. Road shoes aren’t really designed to dry from the inside and you don’t want to risk having soggy feet and shoes for the entire bike leg.
Of course, if you’re looking to shave seconds off your transition, then you’ll be interested in the classic triathlon shoe features, including: a wider opening for getting your feet in, heel loops to pull your shoes on and off, and venting holes in the sole for breathability.
As you’ll see, a Boa ratchet is an increasingly popular method. You’ll also witness that many triathlon bike shoes employ reverse main straps, which run the opposite way to traditional road numbers.
Though, the downside of triathlon straps is that they can catch on the crank if they’re too long.
- 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
Best triathlon shoes at a glance
- Best overall triathlon bike shoe: Shimano TR9 SPD-SL
- Best budget triathlon bike shoe for fast transitions: Scott Road Sprint Tri Shoe
- Best triathlon bike shoe over £300: Fizik Transiro Infinito R1 Knit
- Best lightweight triathlon bike shoe: Mavic Cosmic SL Ultimate Kona
- Best entry-level triathlon bike shoe: Dhb Trinity
- Best triathlon bike shoe for breathability: DMT KT1 Tri Shoes
Best triathlon bike shoes in 2023
Shimano TR9 SPD-SL
Best overall triathlon bike shoe
If you like the eye-catching metallic blue colourway then you can take advantage of the TR9’s supremely comfortable upper, quality carbon composite sole and nifty tri-specific features.
The straps close inwards, wrapping perfectly around the foot with no overhang, allowing you to get lots of tension, almost akin to a fully-fledged road shoe.
There’s plenty of venting throughout, and the breathable 3D mesh helps the shoe to dry extra quickly. A heavy-duty rubber heel tab at the back is a cut above the others on test, a welcome addition when you want to pull your shoes on quickly in T1.
Verdict: Show-stopping looks and performance.
Fizik R3 Transiro
Highly recommended triathlon bike shoe
The R3 Transiro comes with a BOA dial, unidirectional carbon sole and polyurethane-laminated mesh upper. It’s one of the most expensive on test, but offers plenty of support in the upper and a super stiff sole.
The upper and strap are quite rigid, meaning the shoe doesn’t open as wide as Shimano’s TR9 and Scott’s Road Sprint, but a quick T1 is doable with practice.
There’s plenty of ventilation and mesh across the upper for quick-drying and breathability on hot days, and a large heel tab at the rear helps with transition. It isn’t the lightest though, at 300g per shoe.
Verdict: Stiff and secure shoe with a big ticket price.
DMT KT1 Tri Shoes
Best triathlon bike shoe for breathability
Combine the KT1’s carbon sole with the knitted upper and you get a 240g shoe (EU44.5) that’s impressively light yet plenty stiff enough for triathlon. The lightness doesn’t equal a lack of support, as the upper hugs your foot tightly.
The form-fitting construction means a single BOA dial is plenty for tightening the shoe, but a lack of straps means it’s a bit trickier to get on at speed, so we see this as more of a long-course shoe.
The upper dries quickly, making the KT1 among the most breathable and comfortable shoes we’ve ever tested. An excellent choice.
Verdict: Superbly breathable and comfy high-end shoe.
Scott Road Sprint Tri Shoe
Best budget triathlon bike shoe for fast transitions
The Road Sprint Tri Shoe, weighing 296g, has one huge strap that makes it easy to get your foot in when mounting the bike in T1.
However, we had to pull the strap really tight to get the same tension as some other shoes on test. Scott’s ErgoLogic insole is a great addition, with three optional arch support pieces supplied depending on whether you have a high, medium or low arch.
Perforated parts of the upper and a large mesh section give you plenty of breathability and it’s quick-drying, while the nylon glass fibre composite sole provides reasonable stiffness without being too harsh.
Verdict: Fairly priced all-rounder built for fast transitions.
Fizik Transiro Infinito R1 Knit
Best triathlon bike shoe over £300
Knit weaves, more common in run shoes, have trickled into tri bike shoes with some success, as the Transiro Infinitos (294g) look and feel luxurious, especially barefoot. Concerns over heating proved unfounded.
Lack of hotspots goes for the closure system, too, the Boa mech working superbly for a swift transition and the most secure fit here without digging into your foot.
The stiffness of the full carbon outsole maximises your efforts, while further concerns about that knit weave suffering post-swim moisture were alleviated by the shoe’s waterproofing treatment.
Verdict: Pricey but you know where the money’s been spent.
Mavic Cosmic SL Ultimate Kona
Best lightweight triathlon bike shoe
The Kona is a crazily light 239g. This minimalism doesn’t stretch to its vibrant colourway, and its Hawaii love-in is finished off by the insole-imprinted Kona graphic.
The look is matched by impressive performance. The full-carbon outsole is one of the stiffest we’ve tested, which equates to optimised power transfer, albeit some might find it uncomfortable.
Neat-looking outsole mesh vents add breathability and drain water, while weight’s cut further by the titanium cleats.
Tri-specific features are abundant, including a durable-looking heel loop and a strip of Velcro beneath the insole.
Verdict: A high price but this is a fantastic, lightweight tri shoe.
Best entry-level triathlon bike shoe
As you’d expect of Dhb, the Trinity is one of the most affordable (and heaviest, 314g) tri shoe on test.
That means there are price-based concessions, the most striking being its nylon outsole that can’t match the stiffness of carbon (see our review of the Dhb Trinity Carbon below if you want this) but, to be fair, is solid enough for newcomers.
But the main criticisms stem from the design. The first is the upper that’s simply not a great fit, with just too much tongue and upper material. The main strap’s not quite wide enough near the buckle, so is liable to slip out.
On the positive, foot entry’s comfy, the heel loop’s solid and there’s a neat transition hook.
Verdict: Good price but requires a few design tweaks.
Dhb Trinity Carbon
Best budget carbon triathlon bike shoe
The Trinity Carbon’s the same as the entry-level Trinity Shoe, but with a carbon sole, and is therefore lighter at 271g.
There’s plenty of ventilation in the upper and the sole’s stiff, but during our transition tests the strap came out of the buckle, meaning we had to push it back through while riding.
The heel loop is also too small to properly grab at speed. Overall, the Trinity Carbon has an elite sole with an entry-level upper; not satisfying either camp entirely.
The Trinity with nylon sole is fine for beginners, but for those looking to upgrade, we think Dhb needs a more focussed higher-end shoe.
Verdict: Carbon sole appreciated, but an upgrade is needed.
Bont Riot TR+
Best triathlon bike shoe for customisation
Compared to many here, at £145 Bont are almost giving away the Riot TR+ (306g). Yet this is the only shoe here that requires the extra outlay of an oven.
That’s because these are ‘the world’s only carbon-composite heat-mouldable entry-level triathlon shoe’. Pop them in your oven for 10 mins at 70°C. Remove, slip in and off you go. Okay, it’s more involved than that, but it’s worth it as they’re assured once moulded.
As for power transfer, the carbon-composite outsole isn’t as stiff as pure carbon, but you won’t notice a huge difference. Closure is sound, but the drainage holes could be larger.
Verdict: Bargain and bespoke; impressive stuff.
Louis Garneau Tri X-Lite III
- Buy now from Amazon ($269.99)
We like the devil in the detail and, for the Tri X-Lite III (250g), it’s a neat transition hook on the inner that you can attach to your bike for a swift T1. Ease of entry’s heightened by a small strip of Velcro beneath the main strap to keep it open.
Of course, while a swift T1/2 is important, you still have many miles of riding. That’s where comfort and venting comes in.
Key features of both are the shoe’s Power Zone for better arch support, a comfy padded foot entry and, for venting, mesh upper strips and drainage holes on the outsole. A solid carbon-composite outsole transitions power.
Verdict: A solid and reliable shoe that ticks many boxes.
Van Rysel Aptonia
Van Rysel has broken the mould with the upper on its wallet-friendly Aptonia, replacing straps with a zipper and adding an Atop dial for extra security.
The soft upper with mesh is very comfortable against the foot for sockless riding and the fibreglass sole provides middling levels of stiffness.
Although we appreciate innovation, we struggled with the zipper, as it was difficult to zip and unzip the shoe during transition mock-ups.
Things are better at the rear, though, as the sizeable heel tab is easy to grab. Our test pair also came up quite small, so we’d advise sizing up, especially if you’re in between sizes.
Verdict: Affordable and comfy, but we’re unsure about the zips.
Specialized S-Works Trivent
- Buy now from Sigma Sports (£190.00).
The Trivent’s (291g) described by Specialized as ‘the most engineered tri shoe in the world’.
That tag is given a credible stamp by the patented heel-closure system, where the Boa wiring reaches out to the heel that’s collapsible, which you can then nudge back further to clamp onto the heel counter via magnets. It’s genius and more secure than you might anticipate.
You feel confident with every pedal stroke – and extremely cool as that heel and open tongue create the airiest shoe here. That’s great for summer and open-water dispersal but arguably too cool for early/late season races.
Verdict: Fast in transition, could do with an update.
Overall triathlon bike shoes verdict
For years, triathlon shoes were that by name only, as bike-shoe manufacturers stitched in a heel loop and proclaimed its multisport versatility.
Times have changed. As this speedy selection shows, evolution has seen various well-thought-out features to not only supercharge your transitions, but your bike leg, too.
Cue Fizik’s impressive Infinito R1 Knit, which has a knit weave that cranks up opulence as well as comfort. But it’s arguably the Boa ratchet mechanism that’s key to this shoe’s success.
In the past, this clamp system’s provided speed and security but caused hot spots. Now it’s lost weight, grown in comfort and is just great. Yet nearly £350 for shoes is jaw-dropping.
Those looking for lots of sole stiffness won’t be disappointed with Fizik’s R3 Transiro, with just the risk of a trickier transition and price, compared to our excellent top three, that prevented it from scoring even higher.
Bont’s Riot TR+ is far more affordable but still packed with goodness, yet its USP is more about fit than transition speed thanks to its heat-mouldable attribute. Heating your shoes to mould to your foot isn’t a new idea but it’s one that Bont’s executed perfectly.
The zip-closure system on Van Rysel’s Aptonia was a miss for us, although the comfort and very reasonable price meant it still scored above average.
Dhb’s Trinity Carbon also failed to fully impress us, as we think it needs a revamp in the upper to be considered a true racing shoe.
We were impressed with Scott’s offering, the Road Sprint being the easiest to get in and out of during our transition mock-ups.
We also liked DMT’s KT1, a luxurious shoe that takes comfort to the next level with a highly-technical knitted construction.
Up there as one of the best on test is the Shimano TR9. This conspicuous and fairly-priced modern classic is now better than ever with improved ventilation, a secure fit and very comfortable insole to get you through anything up to 180km and beyond in style.
That’s alongside Mavic’s Ultimate Kona. The vibrant number’s far from cheap, but cost is justified via that fine carbon outsole and many triathlon-specific features to see you fly through transition.
The right pair of triathlon bike shoes can make a significant difference in your performance and overall experience during a race. After reviewing some of the top triathlon shoes on the market, we hope you have discovered some great options available to suit the needs of different athletes.
Looking for more? Check out our roundup of the best tri-suits.