- The right cycling shoe can mean the difference between a great ride and terrible foot pain.
- I tested 11 pairs and consulted a SoulCycle instructor and a podiatrist to find the best spin shoes.
- Our top pick, the Giro Cadets, deliver superior breathability, support, and comfort.
Whether you’re the proud owner of a new Peloton or you’re tired of sweating in rental shoes at a studio, a great pair of cycling shoes is an integral part of enjoying your spin class and getting a great workout. The wrong pair of shoes could lead to cramping, discomfort, or blistering, and the best cycling shoe is the one you don’t have to think about at all.
But the cycling shoe market is broad, and Olympic road cyclists, mountain bikers, and SoulCycle lovers all have different needs. This means there’s not exactly a one-size-fits-all spin shoe designed to tackle it all.
For help narrowing down what to look for, I consulted with two experts: NASM-certified personal trainer and spin instructor, Nicky Swierszcz, who spoke on fit, sizing, cleat styles, and shoe designs, and, Dr. Ryan Minara, D.P.M., Chief of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery at Mount Sinai Beth Israel and former Podiatry Captain for the New York City Triathlon.
My actual testing comprised 11 separate pairs of cycling shoes worn over hundreds of miles worth of spin classes. The intent was to find a pair capable of providing the most supportive and comfortable ride in both an at-home and in-studio spin setting. My top picks balance value and comfort to ensure you get the most out of your workout.
A note on gendered shoes
Athletic shoes tend to be gendered not because of style but because of slight differences in the typical morphologies of male and female feet. Male feet tend to be slightly wider in both the toes and the heel, but according to Dr. Minara, this may not be true across the board. He stressed the importance of trying any athletic shoe on – regardless of whether or not it’s designed for men or women – before you use it in order to ensure you’re getting the right fit for your foot shape and size.
Several of the shoes we recommend come in both men’s and women’s sizing, but individual comfort and fit matter much more than the gendered label on the shoe.
Here are the best spin shoes:
- Best BOA overall: Giro Cadet (Men’s and Women’s)
- Best velcro overall: Pearl Izumi Quest Studio (Men’s and Women’s)
- Best BOA on a budget: Specialized Torch 1.0
- Best velcro on a budget: Shimano RP1
After consulting Swierszcz about what criteria to look for in a well-made cycling shoe and top brands on the market, I narrowed my picks down to several pairs of shoes in a variety of styles. I received samples from the brands and tested 11 pairs of cycling shoes at low- to mid-range price points that still offered the durability and high-quality construction of a good cycling shoe. I wanted to test the difference between BOA closures and Velcro, and I threw in one that laced up for good measure.
Here’s everything I considered while testing:
Value: Cycling shoes come in a wide range of budgets, and serious road cyclists may spend upwards of $500 on a pair of shoes made from top-of-the-line materials that can give them a competitive edge on the bike. But if you’re only clipping in to ride a stationary bike in a spin studio or at home, there’s no need to drop so much cash.
I limited my selections to shoes that cost, at most, $200. Swierszcz said to expect to spend at least $100 on a pair of cycling shoes. Shoes below that price point will start to suffer in the quality of materials used to construct the shoe.
Ride test: I wore each pair of shoes for at least three 45-minute spin classes — a combination of pre-pandemic in-studio classes and rides on my SoulCycle at-home bike — to test for fit and comfort. My top picks were worn for several more rides to test beyond the break-in process. Throughout my rides, I took mental notes of any hot spots or discomfort I felt with each shoe. The best shoes were ones I didn’t have to pay attention to at all. Getting lost in my ride — and not worrying about foot pain — was the best marker of a good shoe.
I also noted how easy they were to take on and off and how easily I was able to walk around in them off the bike.
My top picks are the shoes that best balanced quality, comfort, and value.
Long-term testing: We acknowledge that issues may crop up with long-term use, and we want to test these shoes for their longevity and ultimate value for your investment. We are continuing to test each of our top picks, and we will update this guide with any issues we encounter.
The best spin shoes overall with BOA
The Giro Cadet cycling shoe comfortably cradles your foot as you ride thanks to the combination of a BOA closure and comfortable ankle padding that doesn’t make the shoe feel bulky.
Pro: BOA closure tightens uniformly, Velcro straps stops toe shifting, nice padding around ankle, split tongue, breathable, very lightweight
Cons: Slippery when walking around off the bike, runs slightly small
After testing 11 pairs of cycling shoes, you might think they’d all start to blend together, but the Giro Cadet shoe very quickly set itself apart. The BOA closure allows for uniform tightening across the shoe which led to an exemplary feeling of security, and the added Velcro strap ensured that my toes didn’t shift back and forth as I rode.
It’s the shoe I favored for personal use, so it’s also the pair I clocked the most miles with. There’s no considerable break-in process, so I was able to have productive rides right out of the gate, and the shoe has done nothing but get more comfortable over time. Where lesser shoes caused pinching, hotspots, and occasional numbness, I was able to all but forget about the Cadets and get lost in my ride — a surprisingly tough metric for some of these shoes to hit.
I have a high instep, so where other shoes would cut into the front of my ankle, the Cadet compensated for it with a flexible tongue that has a slit cut down the middle of it to account for the tendons that flex in that area as you ride.
The Cadets are lightweight and breathable and have enough padding in the ankle to keep you comfortable without adding considerable bulk to the shoe. I did find that the Cadets ran about a half-size small, so size up if you’re between sizes.
Giro Cadet Men’s:
Giro Cadet Women’s:
The best spin shoes overall with Velcro
Engineered specifically for a high-heat, high-humidity spin class setting, the Pearl Izumi Quest Studio shoe is exceptionally breathable and sweat-wicking.
Pros: Developed for studio use, antimicrobial mesh upper stays breathable, familiar fit for SoulCycle riders, three Velcro straps make shoe highly adjustable, good grip when walking around off the bike
Cons: No split tongue, long Velcro straps may hang over side of shoe slightly, runs small
If you’re a frequent SoulCycle rider, the fit of the Pearl Izumi Quest Studio will likely feel quite familiar. The cult-favorite spin studio pairs with Pearl Izumi to create the rental shoe you’ve likely used many times. While the Quest Studio isn’t exactly the same, it’s similar enough that when I first slipped my feet into them, I recognized it immediately. SoulCycle fans making the first leap to their own pair of shoes might want to choose this one for the familiarity alone.
Aside from a familiar fit, the Quest Studio still stands out as a great shoe on its own. Many cycling shoes that spin class enthusiasts opt for were originally developed for road cycling, but the Quest Studio — as its name suggests — was developed specifically for a studio setting. Increased breathability and sweat-wicking take the fore to compensate for a hot, sweaty indoor environment thanks to an antimicrobial mesh upper.
Three Velcro straps make for a highly adjustable shoe with plenty of room for those who may need to keep one section looser to adjust for wide feet or a high instep. I did find the straps were pretty long, so if you’re tightening them all the way, there might be some overhang, but nothing that gets in the way of your ride.
My one complaint is that many cycling shoes have a notch in the top of the tongue to account for the tendons at the front of your ankle, and the Quest Studio is missing that. If you’re sensitive to pressure in that area, it might cause some discomfort. I found myself noticing it a bit during sprints.
Pearl Izumi Quest Studio Men’s:
Pearl Izumi Quest Studio Women’s:
The best budget spin shoes with BOA
A BOA closure automatically ups the cost of a cycling shoe, but the Specialized Torch 1.0 manages to keep it affordable without compromising on quality or comfort.
Pros: More affordable than a typical BOA shoe, added padding under tongue, fits true to size, lightweight, comes in bold colors
Cons: Velcro strap at toes is thin, no specialized women’s/men’s fits, compatible with Look Delta cleats only
Where many cycling shoes limit their color palettes to black and white with the occasional pop of color, the Torch 1.0 shoes from Specialized go bold with offerings of neon red, green, and blue. Of course, you can still get a black or white pair if you want to keep it simple, but those bold colors — along with the very friendly price point for a shoe with these features — were what first attracted me to this pair.
The shoes back up some flashy presentation with a very similar closure style to the Giro Cadets. A BOA closure gives you excellent uniform support, while a Velcro strap towards the toes aims to prevent toe shift. The Velcro strip on the Torch 1.0s isn’t as robust as the one on the Cadets, so I’m not sure it does a ton of work, but it does add some peace of mind.
A unique feature of the Torch 1.0s is some additional padding under the tongue, which gives you a bit more comfort on the upstroke as you pedal. It’s nothing that affects the fit of the shoe too drastically, and it doesn’t add any bulk, but it’s a nice touch on a part of the shoe that is often neglected.
Though Specialized sees the Torch 1.0 as a beginner road cycling shoe, it checked all my boxes for a great shoe for spin class — supportive fit with no pain points or hot spots, great ventilation, and my mind wasn’t on my feet while I rode.
The main shortcoming here is that Specialized doesn’t offer a specific men’s or women’s fit, so if the construction of the shoe doesn’t work for your foot’s anatomy, there’s no alternative fit to try. The Torch 1.0s are also the only shoe we recommend that isn’t compatible with SPD cleats, though we recommend Look Deltas for spinning anyway.
The best budget spin shoes with Velcro
The Shimano RP1 is outstandingly comfortable with an upper that’s plusher than many other cycling shoes, but with only two Velcro straps, the fit isn’t quite as adjustable as other pairs.
Pros: Excellent padding makes for a comfortable ride, fits true to size, good grip when walking around off the bike
Cons: Only two Velcro straps, no specialized women’s fit
Many cycling shoes are incredibly streamlined for increased aerodynamics and therefore aren’t always the cushiest. A few of the shoes I tried had so little padding that it affected my ride in a negative way, but the Shimano RP1 shoe has plenty of padding — probably more than a road racer would want. But their loss is the spinner’s gain. The RP1 really cradles the foot for a comfortable ride.
It’s also the most budget-friendly shoe I tested, but it’s still constructed from excellent materials including nylon mesh panels for breathability and a ventilated glass-fiber-infused sole. Shimano is also one of the most trusted players in the cycling market, producing cycling gear for a century and cycling shoes in particular since the ’80s.
The concession you’ll have to make with this shoe lies mainly in adjustability. The shoe’s closure consists of only two Velcro straps, and the top one does the bulk of the work. I found this shoe felt less secure around the middle part of my foot unless I really tightened the top strap. In doing that, I found it created some hot spots in my instep if I overtightened. With some practice, I was able to find the sweet spot for a comfortable ride, but you simply won’t get the same custom fit of a three-strap shoe.
The RP1 also only comes in a men’s fit. I didn’t notice any major differences in how the RP1 fit me when compared to a women’s engineered shoe, but it does have a bit of a wider toe box than a women’s fit. Regardless of your gender, this is going to be a great option for those with wider feet.
What else I tested
Giro Trans BOA ($160): The Giro Trans BOA was this close to being the best overall BOA cycling shoe in this guide. It’s got excellent support thanks to the BOA/Velcro closure combo, is breathable thanks to mesh ventilation panels, and I think it just looks cool.
But Giro is slowly phasing it out in favor of new models. It’s also only available in a men’s fit starting at a size 39, so those with smaller feel could be out of luck. The Trans BOA only supports Look Delta cleats, while the Cadet supports both Look Delta and SPD, so the Cadet is the more versatile shoe all around.
Tomasso Pista ($125): The draw of the Tomasso Pista is that cleats come included and pre-installed on the shoe, which is great for beginners. But recently, the price jumped up by nearly $40. It was previously available for around $85, which would have made it a great budget buy.
The quality of the shoe itself is lesser than some of the other equivalently-priced models I tested, and the fit felt bulky in a way that other shoes didn’t, so it’s just not worth it at the increased price.
Giro Empire E70 W Knit ($160): I was first intrigued by this shoe because it had laces — a rarity in the cycling shoe market. And those laces ended up being its downfall, not because they performed poorly but because I was constantly worried they would get caught in my pedals or come untied during my ride. They never did, but the stress wasn’t worth it.
I did appreciate how lightweight these shoes were, though, and the breathability provided by the knit upper was top-notch.
Fizik Tempo Powerstrap R5 ($120): The Velcro closures on this shoe are unique in that the bottom one crisscrosses the shoe to pull it tight in a more uniform way than a strap that merely crosses over the top. But the upper was much stiffer than other shoes I tested and lacked the padding around the ankle I had hoped for. The lack of flex led to cramping for me. I had high hopes for the unique design, but was ultimately disappointed.
Shimano RP4 ($94): The Shimano RP4 takes a unique approach with its BOA closure. Instead of having the wire tighten the whole shoe, it pulls a wide strap over the instep closed. I had a problem with how far up the strap came on the shoe, causing it to dig into my ankle and make for a very uncomfortable ride. I think a BOA closure is better suited to securing the shoe itself rather than a single strap.
Giro Techne ($100): The Techne is Giro’s version of the classic three-strap Velcro cycling shoe. The fit and the ventilation were pretty baseline, but the three straps created a lot of bulk on the shoe that made it feel more unwieldy. Pulling the straps tight led to a lot of overhang. While none of this affected the ride, the shoe was simply beaten by better performers in the space.
Pearl Izumi Select Road v5 ($82.50): This was another shoe I really liked that fell victim to being phased out by the retailer. Another offering from Pearl Izumi, it felt very similar to the SoulCycle rental shoe I’d grown accustomed to. But at this point, it’s only available in very limited sizes. If you can snag it in your size on sale, it’ll be a great budget buy.
How should a spin shoe fit?
Both Swierszcz and Dr. Minara repeatedly emphasized that the most important fit factor in choosing your cycling shoes is an adequate feeling of support for your entire foot. You want the shoe to fit snugly so your foot doesn’t slide back and forth as you pedal. Friction from loose shoes can cause blistering and a general feeling of instability on the bike.
A shoe that’s too tight can cause cramping, numbness, or tingling in your foot as you ride. Numbness is the most common problem Dr. Minara sees in cyclists who wear ill-fitting shoes, especially in those who have wide feet. “Many cyclists will also develop a very specific problem called a Morton’s neuroma,” Minara told Insider, “Which is inflammation of a very specific nerve called the common digital nerve.”
Swierszcz often sees riders overtightening their shoes. “It’s a psychological thing,” she said. “People think the tighter their shoe is, the more secure their foot will be and they won’t fall off the bike or whatever their fear might be. You want something that feels supportive and stable but isn’t squeezing your foot. The less you have to think about your feet as you ride the better your experience is going to be.”
As with any shoe, the more you wear a cycling shoe the more it molds to the shape of your foot. Some tightness can be overcome by breaking the shoes in, but don’t continue to ride with a shoe that’s exceedingly uncomfortable or takes away from the quality of your ride.
“Don’t take it for granted if your foot hurts. There’s usually a reason for it, and that reason usually can be addressed,” said Minara. Ignoring pain can lead to prolonged issues both on and off the bike. If you’re having trouble finding a shoe that fits properly, Minara also suggested consulting a podiatrist to discuss a custom orthotic — and bring your cycling shoes with you when you do.
One of the hardest parts of shopping for a cycling shoe is navigating different brands’ sizing charts. Cycling shoes are measured in European sizes, but each brand’s sizing scheme deviates slightly. Some brands also don’t offer half sizes. In that case, Swierszcz recommends sizing down. The best advice we have for ensuring you get the right size is to simply try them on. All the retailers we link to have a buyer-friendly return policy so you can exchange for a new size if necessary. For each of our picks above, we explain how sizing tends to run.
BOA vs. Velcro
A BOA closure employs a ratcheting dial that tightens a stainless steel wire to close your shoe. Twisting the dial clockwise makes the shoe tighter and pulling the dial upward releases the mechanism.
BOA closures have two distinct advantages: speed and uniform tightening. With the simple twist of the dial, your shoe is perfectly tightened and you’re ready to hop on your bike. Releasing the dial allows you to slip the shoe off your foot in one swift motion. In a triathlon, every second counts — just as it does when you’re late to spin class.
All the BOA shoes we recommend in this guide have just one dial, and therefore one wire that’s doing the work of tightening your shoe. That wire adjusts uniformly as you tighten it, meaning your entire shoe will be adjusted proportionally, providing immediate support for your entire foot. This is important for preventing hotspots or pain points. The disadvantage, though, is that you can’t personalize the fit quite as much.
Velcro closures use the same technology you sported on your light-up sneakers as a kid, but that doesn’t belittle their effectiveness. It’s one of the simplest ways to secure a shoe when laces are going to get in the way. A shoe that features multiple Velcro straps also allows for a more personalized fit — simply pull as tightly as you need for each section of your foot to feel supported and secure. Those with higher insteps or wider feet can choose to keep one section of the shoe looser for more breathability or to mitigate uncomfortable tightness. Swierszcz has a wide foot, so she takes advantage of this flexibility. “If I’ve been teaching a lot, I’ll keep the center strap a little bit looser, just so my foot can breathe doesn’t start cramping.”
Look Delta cleats vs. SPD cleats
Almost every top spin bike on the market requires you to clip your shoes into the bike pedals in order to ride — that’s why you’re shopping for special shoes for spin class, after all — but the mechanism by which your shoe attaches to the pedal varies. The piece that clips in is called the cleat, and there are several styles on the market, but the two most prominent ones are SPD cleats and Look Delta cleats.
SPD cleats, or two-bolt cleats, attach to the sole of the shoe at two points. They sit at the center of the ball of your foot and provide a localized point at which the power transfers from your foot to the pedal.
Clipping in and out of the pedals is a bit easier with SPD cleats than Look Deltas and so are favored by mountain bikers and those who ride in traffic who may have to react quickly to changing conditions. SPD cleats are also considerably smaller than Look Delta cleats and are therefore easier to walk around in off the bike.
Look Delta cleats, or three-bolt cleats, attach to the sole of your shoe at three points in the shape of a triangle. One point reaches toward your toes and two points sit at the ball of your foot. This provides a much larger surface area that attaches your shoe to the pedal creating a most stable base for your foot.
Swierszcz prefers a Look Delta cleat because of the increased support they provide. Because of the larger clip-in mechanism, Look Deltas can be more difficult to clip in and out with, especially for beginners. This leads to a disadvantage if you need to unclip quickly, but in a class setting, you won’t have to worry about accidentally coming out of your pedal and losing your rhythm.
All the shoes we recommend in this guide are compatible with Look Delta cleats — and if you’re just using your shoes for spin class, that’s the type we recommend. Both Peloton and SoulCycle use a Look Delta cleat system as do many smaller spin studios and home bike brands. In fact, Peloton supports only Look Delta cleats unless you were to swap out the pedals entirely for ones with an SPD hookup. Both the At Home and in-studio SoulCycle bikes have dual-sided pedals — one side supports Look Delta cleats and the other supports SPDs, so you can ride with whatever cleat you prefer.
How to attach Look Delta cleats
Most cycling shoes don’t come with cleats included, so you’ll need to buy them separately and therefore attach them yourself. Look Delta cleats are easy to install — simply screw the three bolts into the bottom of the shoe. The cleats have some vertical allowance so you can position them closer to your toes or closer to the arch of your foot depending on your preference and riding style.
Swierszcz recommends beginners centralize their cleats over the bolt holes and allow them to adjust themselves over time as you ride. “Everybody’s physiology is set up slightly differently. Range of motion and pedal stroke are going to be different from person to person, so start with your cleats in a neutral position and let the repetitive motion break them in over time as you ride.”
That said, you shouldn’t notice too much movement in your cleats from ride to ride. That’s likely a sign that you didn’t tighten the bolts enough. If that happens, reset them to center and make sure to tighten down your cleats a bit more.