Racing bike shoes
Road bike shoes are click shoes for special click systems designed for perfect power transmission and climatic comfort. In order to realize these features, manufacturers create sophisticated shoe systems with rigid soles, efficient closures, and functional materials. Most road bike shoes are compatible with the Shimano SPD-SL or the Look system with its classic three-hole mounting device. Only few models come with threads for Shimano-SPD cleats.
Traction and power transmission
Road bike shoes are cut tightly around the foot, which results in perfect traction. This means the shoe must not rub against the skin. Empty spaces around the foot are a no-go as well. Sophisticated closure systems reinforce permanently stressed parts of the shoe and make sure that the pedalling energy is directly converted into propulsion. Combinations of different closures such as lacing, hook and loop, ratchet systems, or single-pull mechanisms are quite common. A good shoe holds the foot tightly without breaking the blood circulation or exerting punctual pressure on the foot.
The role of the sole
The rigidity of a road bike shoe is determined by the sole's material and design. Manufacturers such as Shimano, Giro, Northwave, Sidi, or Pearl Izumi use high-tech materials like glass-fiber reinforcements, complex polyamide designs, and carbon fiber in order to make the sole more rigid. The soles constitute a platform for the whole foot to exert pressure on. This pressure is then forwarded directly into the pedals. The more rigid the sole, the more efficient the shoe. The sole adapts to the natural curvature of the foot in order to achieve a perfect fit.
Features of the outer material
Bike racing is an all-year-round sport, which is why manufacturers offer a wide range of specialized shoes for every weather. If you're cycling in hot and dry regions, breathable shoes with ventilation openings covered with mesh materials might be a good solution for you. In winter, wind and weatherproof shoes are recommendable, many of which come with insulation coatings. These two fundamentally different solutions have a great number of all-round models between them, which cover a wide range of application areas. Road bike shoes are highly functional and efficient when it comes to transporting humidity, no matter if they are lined or come with ventilation openings. They absorb sweat directly from your cycling socks and transport it outside. For wet areas of application, waterproof overshoes are recommendable.
Systems: SPD and SPD-SL / Look
There are two most common click systems: The SPD system by Shimano and their SPD-SL system, which is compatible with the Look system. The SPD system was primarily developed for mountain bikes and trekking bikes. Some road bikes use it as well. In contrast, the SPD-SL system provides a larger base and more standing space for the foot. The Look system is compatible with the SPD-SL system. The cleats are mounted on the shoe by means of a three-hole system.
The ideal racing bike shoe
Choosing the click system generally depends on your personal preferences or the materials already in use. When choosing a shoe, you should consider the prevailing conditions in the area of application. A warm climate requires other designs than rainy or snowy regions with low temperatures. If you're into racing competitions, you should choose a rigid shoe. In contrast, moderate and more comfortable shoes are often used for touring.