When it comes to buying triathlon cycling shoes then one of your primary focus points should be: How efficiently will it help you transfer power from your legs to the pedals. That is the absolutely most important factor.
But what often happens is that buyers simply focus on that. They ignore everything else. And if you’re a competitive athlete then you could be leaving valuable seconds behind without even knowing it.
One simple mistake cost me dearly in my first year of racing triathlons. Fortunately, I had an excellent coach who let me in on some secrets about cycling.
Want to know what those are?
Rigidity is what helps efficiently transfer power to the pedals. But when you’ve just got out of the water, many seconds can be gained by being able to slip straight into your cycling shoes. When they are already attached to your bicycle and you just have to pull down one Velcro strap on each you’ll be ready to go bicycling in seconds.
This also requires extreme internal comfort, drainage and ventilation. Mainly because you really don’t want to waste time to dry off your feet and put on socks!
To help you through the maze of suitability and downright poor products, we have done several months’ worth of research. This has resulted in a list of ten products that cover all budgets and fitness levels. Just keep reading to find out more.
Our Top 10 Best Triathlon Cycling Shoes Recommendations
On this list, you will find women’s and mens cycling shoes that are specifically suitable to triathlons. As already mentioned, you will need to focus on certain features that will help you in your race. No matter what your budget is you’ll find something suitable on this list.
But we would not recommend spending less than what you find here. All the cheapest options available have some flaws that could end up making them quite uncomfortable.
#1 - Shimano SH-TR9 Cycling Shoe
|| Top Of The Range For High performance Athletes||5.0 stars out of 5|
#2 - Venzo Triathlon Shoes
|| Great Value For Money||4.5 stars out of 5|
#3 - Pearl Izumi Men’s Tri Fly V Carbon
|| Excellent for Performance Improvement||4.5 stars out of 5|
Table of Contents
- 1 Our Top 10 Best Triathlon Cycling Shoes Recommendations
- 1.1 1. Shimano SH-TR9 Cycling Shoe: Top Of The Range For High performance Athletes
- 1.2 2. Venzo Triathlon Shoes With Pedals: Great Value For Money
- 1.3 3. Pearl Izumi Men’s Tri Fly V Carbon: Excellent for Performance Improvement
- 1.4 4. Giro Petra VR Cycling Shoes: For Best Color Choices
- 1.5 5. Louis Garneau Tri X-Lite: High Performance Option For Women
- 1.6 6. Tommaso Veloce 100: The Cheapest Option Ideal For Beginners
- 1.7 7. Mavic Tri Race: Most reasonably Priced Carbon Sole
- 1.8 8. Northwave Extreme: Ideal For Professional And High Performance Athletes
- 1.9 9. Giro Women’s Facet Tri: Too Expensive For What You Get
- 1.10 10. Shimano Women’s SH-WT60: Excellent Performance For Female Athletes
- 2 What Features You Need To Focus On
- 3 Different Types Of Cleats
- 4 Conclusion
If you’ve been to a few triathlon events then you will have noticed a lot of athletes wearing Shimano gear. And that includes footwear as well. For those of you that want to take their performance to the next level, the SH-TR9 is definitely one of the best cycling shoes.
You will need a higher budget, and some of that is certainly due to the brand you’re buying. But you also get a product that is perfectly designed for triathletes.
It has two straps, but one can be pre-tightened. That way you can attach them to the pedals and slip straight in when switching from swimming to cycling. The main strap is very fast to tighten; just practice it a few times.
The sole design includes carbon material. This makes them exceptionally light and stiff at the same time. As a result, you get optimum transfer of power from foot to pedal. Even at high performance, you will notice how comfortable they are. You can actually slip straight into them with wet feet. The ventilation will provide quick drying for a much more comfy cycle.
If you’re budget will stretch to these, you won’t be sorry.
- Two Velcro straps to speed up getting into them
- Carbon material sole makes them extremely light
- 3 bolt cleat binding making them very compatible
- Very stiff design for excellent transfer of power
- Extremely comfortable even for long distances without socks
- Very well ventilated to keep your feet cool
- Not the most stylish, but they work very well
- High price might not suit lower budgets
If you need triathlon cycling shoes and don’t have a huge budget then the best option are these Venzo ones. They may not be the most well-known brand, but as a result you get great features at a reasonable price.
What also sets this product apart is that you get the pedals included. This makes it ideal for new-comers to triathlons. If your bike isn’t fully set up for cleat attachments then you don’t have to worry about getting the right parts.
With two straps, it will only take you a few seconds to put them on. Those are vital seconds in a race. And the inner material is soft enough to wear sockless. That means you can get straight out of the water without worrying about drying your feet. The mesh material will provide fast drying and cooling.
Overall, this is a great option even if it’s not the stiffest. You will still get some great performance due to the lightweight. And it will totally beat wearing shoes not designed for triathlons.
- Pedals included so you don’t have to worry about compatibility
- Synthetic mesh brings quick drying and very breathable comfort
- Two straps make it fast to get them on
- Suitable for sockless use
- Very light for added comfort
- Heel and toe sole provide better traction when walking
- Pedals are aluminum not carbon, but at this price that’s to be expected
- Not the stiffest option on this list
This is possibly one of the coolest looking designs on this list even though it’s quite simple. But it’s not just the looks that make this a great buy.
The large Velcro strap pulls to the outside of the foot, which makes it a lot faster to put on and adjust while you’re cycling. And even the pull loop at the back is designed at an angle to make it easier to slip into the shoe.
Because of the excellent ventilation from upper mesh and air holes in the soles, you will find that your feet dry quickly. The inside is also soft enough for sockless use. That’s critical for being able to use them for triathlons.
From a comfort point of view, you’ll find that there are no pressure points, even when cycling long distances. However, if you have a wide foot, then they can be a bit tight fitting.
Despite the vent holes in the soles, this model is very stiff. That makes it a lot easier to pedal and helps you transfer more power to the pedals and ultimately the road.
- Large Velcro strap makes it super easy to fit
- Suitable for sockless cycling
- Excellent ventilation with upper mesh and lower holes
- Very comfortable during peak performance riding
- Stiff design for maximum effectiveness.
- Sizes run a bit small
- Can seem a bit tight for wide feet
The first product on this list specifically designed for women is this Giro model. Generally, women’s designs don’t mean they are smaller. What is usually the case is that they are made narrower to better fit the most common anatomy of a woman’s foot.
Of course, not all female feet are narrow, but if you have struggled to get a cycling shoe to fit tightly enough, then this is probably the best thing you can do.
The Giro has some impressive specs. The sole is made with carbon fiber for maximum stiffness and low weight. With plenty of air mesh around the entire foot, you will find it very cooling even on a hot day.
What’s particularly great is the fact that you can adjust the arch. This makes it a much more customizable solution giving you added comfort. If you have a naturally flat foot, then this is a great feature to take advantage of.
The sizings of these shoes are quite small. And as already mentioned, the fitting is narrow. You will probably need to go about 1 or 2 sizes up. For women with wider than average feet, this will not be the most comfortable option.
- Carbon fiber sole for extra stiffness and better power transfer to pedal
- Main strap is very easy and fast to tighten
- Lots of air mesh brings excellent ventilation even in hot weather
- Anti-bacterial foot bed reduces buildup of odors
- Arch can be adjusted for added comfort
- Specifically designed for women and available in great colors
- Can be a bit narrow fitting
- Sizing is very small
Louis Garneau is a leading company when it comes to triathlon gear. And just looking at this shoe you’ll be able to tell that it’s designed for saving time. There is one large strap, which means it will be very fast to get into them. Even if you’re just out of the water.
The mid-range price is affordable, but you get a lot high-end features. For optimum stiffness, the sole is made with carbon fiber. This improves your performance as it’s a lot easier to transfer power.
You’ll also notice that there is a lot of breathable mesh. That has two advantages. If you jump into these with wet feet after a swim, you won’t need to dry off or wear socks. And any heavy sweating will quickly dry away, even on hot days at peak performance.
For us this is definitely one of the best women’s cycling shoes. It’s just a shame that there aren’t more color designs available to match up with your other gear.
- Single strap design for extra fast tightening
- Exceptionally light thanks to carbon sole
- Carbon also provides added stiffness for better power transfer
- Very comfortable wear with no pressure points from straps
- Breathable design keeps your feet cool
- Affordable price for high end features
- Sizing runs very small
- No color selections available
The best cheap model and ideal for beginners is the Tommaso Veloce. You can get cheaper than these but we haven’t found any yet that actually work well. The two straps on this one work very well, and you can even have the front one pre-tightened. You’ll still be able to slip into the shoe and just tighten the top one.
It’s compatible with the majority of cleats, with the main exception being SPD. But that gives you huge options to match them up to your pedals. For a very reasonably priced product you get very good stiffness. It’s not carbon grade stiffness, but it works really well.
There is no shortage of mesh, which is designed to allow maximum airflow. Your feet will be kept cool and relatively dry. This is important to remain comfortable and avoid friction, pressure points and even blistering.
For an Italian design, it’s a bit plain and boring. And if you have a narrow foot, you can experience some pressure points at first. Those athletes with wider feet will probably need to invest a little bit more in one of the above options.
- Two straps make it very easy to tighten fast
- Will fit SPD-SL cleats for good flexibility
- Good stiffness from a cheap product
- Lots of mesh provides plenty of ventilation
- Ideal for sockless cycling even after swimming
- Some pressure points can appear
- Design is a bit plain
If you want light and stiff and carbon, but don’t have a huge budget, then this might just be the right option for you. The outer sole is made with carbon for great stiffness. At the same time, the inner material is soft and comfortable. That way you’ll get off your bike for the run without having any pain a fatigue.
There are two straps, but you can have the first one pre-set before the race. That way you just have to slip into them and start pedaling. The second main strap can then be quickly tightened as you get going.
With lots of mesh material there is no shortage of ventilation. This keeps your feet dry and cool, which is very important to avoid some real discomfort and even blistering.
When you order, just make sure that you go for a larger size as the sizing is quite small.
Overall this is an excellent choice for intermediate athletes with a limited budget. Or maybe you just don’t want to pay for marketing campaigns of bigger brands.
- 2 straps for very fast entry and exit in a race
- Carbon sole to keep weight down and stiffness up
- Despite stiffness it’s very comfortable on the feet
- Plenty of mesh to make them breathable and keep feet ventilated
- Ideal for intermediate athletes with limited budget
- Upper strap tightens to inside making it a little difficult to adjust while cycling
- Sizes run quite small
These mens cycling shoes are ideal for triathletes in the upper and professional performance levels. They are made with very high-grade materials, where the entire upper part is totally seamless. This reduces the risk of pressure points that can cause discomfort.
It might not look like it at first, but the material allows for exceptionally good ventilation. Even when your feet are soaking wet after the swim, you will find they dry quickly in these shoes.
There are also ventilation holes on the underside. This helps cool the soles of your feet to provide added comfort. Ultimately that will boost performance. Some added seconds can be saved with really simple hook and loop straps. You’ll quickly slip in and be ready to go, even when they are attached to your pedals.
The design is extremely cool which will make them stand out a lot. But unfortunately, they are not available in a large color range. The price might put many people off. But if you’re looking for all the seconds you can possibly gain, then this is a fantastic option for you.
- Microfiber upper material allows for great air circulation to keep feet cool
- Carbon outer sole makes it light and stiff at the same time
- Simple hook and loop strap system for fast entry
- Additional ventilation holes in sole to cool underside of feet
- Very cool design will definitely stand out
- Seamless design reduces risk of pressure points
- High price might be out of range for many athletes
- Only available in one color scheme
The Giro Petra version above is so much better than this on. It’s OK, but not great, and we really would advise going for a different one. The main issues are that for generally narrower female feet, these ones will feel a little bit loose. In addition to that the sizing runs very small. It can quickly happen that you send them back for a larger size.
There have also been some reports of the grips on the soles coming loose. This can be easily fixed as they are only glued on. But for this price that shouldn’t happen.
On the positive side, you do get a carbon outer sole for great stiffness. Your transfer of power will be boosted if you haven’t used carbon before. The two straps are also very easy to close and adjust, so you’ll save some crucial seconds in a race.
Bottom line is, that you would be better off with the Petra version above.
- Carbon sole for extra stiffness
- Two straps are fast and easy to close
- Very comfortable interior for sockless cycling
- Nice color choices to match your other gear
- Sizing runs very small
- For those looking for narrow fit, this will not be tight enough
- Grips at toe and heel can come loose
- For this price, you can get a top brand product
Another one of the best triathlon shoes designed for women’s feet and available at a very mid-range price is this Shimano model. For intermediate athletes, these will be a perfect fir to save a few valuable seconds. With just one strap to fasten, you jump right into these while they are attached to your bike.
The outer sole is made with carbon fiber. This does drive up the price a bit, but you will love the added stiffness. And that stiffness comes with very little weight and so much more power transfer.
The upper materials are synthetic and very durable and breathable. There is plenty of mesh to provide excellent ventilation. That means you can jump into them with wet feet and within a few minutes they will be dry enough to avoid discomfort in the race.
Because most women have a narrower foot than men, it can be difficult to get the right tightness. If you have a narrow foot then definitely look at specifically designed female foot ware for racing.
The only real downside is that the strap fastens to the inside of the foot. Making adjustments while you’re racing can just be a little awkward.
- Single Strap design for very fast entry
- Carbon construction outer sole for exceptional stiffness
- Excellent foot support inside to provide comfort
- Excellent ventilation from synthetic mesh to dry your feet
- Specifically designed for narrower female feet.
- Strap tightens to the inside making it a little awkward
- Limited color availability
What Features You Need To Focus On
Figuring out what the best products are can be very confusing. Many companies use different marketing language to describe the exact same thing. So how do you compare products in such confusion? The important thing is to focus on some very specific features in general terms.
You also want to make sure that you don’t get distracted by all the noise in the marketing material. Keep an eye on the things that will give you an advantage. Then choose a budget and you’re ready to go.
It’s important to note that there are differences in the anatomy of women’s and men’s feet. In general, men have feet that are lot wider. You can get unisex options and if you have an average size and width foot, they will probably work perfectly fine.
But for small and slim female feet the best women’s cycling shoes will need to be gender specific. The tighter fit will give so much more support and comfort. And you won’t have to worry about pressure points or blisters.
In all the reviewed shoes above the upper material is synthetic leather and mesh. The main thing to focus on here is the amount of mesh and ventilation. When your body is working hard you will sweat more. And if your feet get excessively wet without drying then it can become very uncomfortable. It’s also the perfect set up for getting blisters.
The inside material should be soft and breathable. As the cycling stage is not the last you don’t want to be getting off your bicycle with sore feet. In addition to that you will want to check if the product you choose has anti-microbial inner material. This will greatly reduce the chances of the shoes becoming smelly.
As for the soles, this is where high-tech car and aerospace material comes into play. The best possible stiffness is achieved with carbon fiber. That’s because it is extremely light and still doesn’t flex much at all. But this material is not cheap to buy.
If you’re just starting out then it’s not the most critical option, but if your budget will stretch then you’ll get a product that will last for a long time before you’ll need to upgrade again.
Clip On System
There are several different types of clip-on systems available and you’ll often hear of them referred to as cleats. In general, most shoes will be compatible with all the most common types. But it’s always worth checking that it’s indeed the case.
That being said, it’s also better to find shoes that you like, that are comfortable, and then get new pedals if you need them. You’ll gain more of an advantage by finding the best fitting footwear, than sacrificing based on the connection to the bike.
The more rigid the shoe is the easier and effective it will be to transfer the energy from your legs to the pedals. The problem is that this has to be balanced with comfort as well. Otherwise you’ll end up with what feels like two wooden planks.
You can get some types that say they are also suitable for walking around. But to be honest, you should stay away from them. Whatever you choose for a triathlon should only be used for cycling. Nothing else. You really won’t gain from multi-purpose products.
Ventilation And Drainage
From a design perspective, this is one of the most important features to look at. In a triathlon, you will start with the swimming event and then move onto the cycling. When you get out of the water you will be wet and you don’t want to stop and dry off your feet, before you slip into the shoes.
But if you slip in wet it can quickly happen that your feet remain wet and this can become very uncomfortable. Over long periods of time it can cause friction and that will ultimately lead to blisters. So, make sure you always pick a product with plenty of mesh and other ventilation air holes. Your feet will thank you for it.
As important as having lots of ventilation to keep your feet cool and dry, is the need for being able to use the footwear without socks. When you get out of the swimming stage you don’t want to stop to put on socks. That wastes valuable seconds.
To make sure you won’t need socks you have to find a product that is exceptionally soft and comfortable on the inside. If the interior lining feels like it’s a sock then your feet won’t become uncomfortable.
Different Types Of Cleats
Ironically modern cleats are called clipless, even though they clip the shoes onto the pedal. The reason behind this is that in years gone by there were strap like binding on pedals. These had to be clipped onto the shoe and they were really annoying to get in and out of.
It was so easy to have one of those embarrassing moments where you fall flat on the ground.
There are few different standards available, but most are around how many screws it takes to attach the cleat to the shoe. There are also differences in the pedals, mainly between road and mountain bikes.
So, let’s take a closer look at some things you need to understand.
Road vs Mountain Bike
Mountain bicycle pedals have a lot of mud clearance. This means that if you get off the bike on a muddy trail, you’ll pretty much always be able to get straight back into the pedal without clearing away the mud. This is very convenient, but not ideal for road cycling, especially triathlons.
Road bikes have much smaller pedals that are made up of little more than the clip system. These are also completely unsuitable for mountain biking as any little bit of mud will get in the way and cause a problem with getting in and out.
Some pedals come with adjustments where you can make it more or less difficult to detach from the pedals. This is mainly a personal preference. If you do a lot of cycling in a city where you are constantly stopping and getting one foot off the pedal, then an easier detachment will be better.
But for racing you don’t want to accidentally detach because you move your foot a little. For triathlons, tighter is generally better. But this is something you’ll have to work out for yourself.
This determines how much room you have to move your foot from side to side while still remaining attached. It’s dependent on the color coding of the actual cleat and ranges from 0-degree movability to 6 degrees. For long cycles people like to have the ability to move the angle of their feet a bit.
This helps to avoid feet and calves getting tired. However, some athletes don’t like this at all. They prefer being in exactly the same position for the entire race. Cleats are relatively inexpensive, so you could always just try a few different ones out and use the ones you like best. There really is no right or wrong answer to this.
The above list of best cycling shoes extensively looks at products in every possible budget range. The level of professional features increases with the price. But you can get high things like carbon for a mid-range budget. Some of the advanced features are really not necessary for a beginner.
But once you become more accustomed to races you will want to make sure that you go for some higher end options. The best thing to do is decide on your budget and then take the plunge. Order a pair and see how much of a difference it will actually make.