Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle touring?

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
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Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle touring?

Postby elioelio » 2 Mar 2014, 11:44pm

I'm going to be doing some long distance touring and wondered whether to buy some mountain bike cycling shoes (recessed cleats). I'd rather not as it would be an excess thing to take, and to buy (don't look cheap). And also taking and having to wash the extra socks... I also HATE wearing socks and shoes when it's hot weather. I was thinking of just wearing my croc ballet shoes (light and waterproof...) and take waterproof socks and overshoes for when the weather gets bad.

Someone I know who has just rode 3000 miles did it wearing cheap trainers and thinks cycling shoes are a waste (for people who love cycling paraphernalia with money to burn) - and could be dangerous as you can't take your foot off the pedal straight away. She said she had no problems with pain.
Another friend says they're essential as my legs will really hurt if I don't wear them (he's a road cyclist)

Does anyone have experience riding long distance wearing cheap floppy(ish) shoes? Any problems with unhitching your feet from the pedals in cycling shoes?

I'm only commuting to work and doing cycle touring - no speed racing. So are cycling shoes really necessary?

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Re: Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle tour

Postby Brucey » 2 Mar 2014, 11:52pm

you can ride in what you like.

However, whilst some people have ridden round the world in ordinary shoes, most people who ride any distance (and/or at any speed) like to be clipped in.

The shoes and pedals are not that expensive, and many tourists just take SPD shoes and nothing else.


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Re: Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle tour

Postby reohn2 » 3 Mar 2014, 12:29am

Shoes with bendy soles such as trainers,CROCS or similar are OK for light use over short distances,nipping to the shops etc,but over longer distances,where you're spending more than 2 to 3hours in the saddle at a stretch,shoes with a stiffer sole support the foot from 'clawing' and bending over the pedal in the wrong direction which can lead to considerable pain.Wide and platformed type pedals can help but not as much as stiff soled,cycling specific touring shoes,which are comfortable, you an buy cycling spec sandals.Shimano,Keen and Lake make them,all have provision for recessed cleats with covers over so they can be used with flat pedals if you don't use a clipless pedal system,and they are usually discounted at this time of year.
The SPD clipless pedal system doesn't suit everyone but it does suit most,once set up correctly and when clipping and out becomes second nature(usually after a couple of days use).The shoe being secured to the pedal,pedalling is more natural IMO,though I have to say I've been using SPD's for about 20 years so I'm biased :) .
To recap,stiff soled shoes,a must.Clipless SPD pedals not a necessity,but can be a big help if you're willing to get used to them.
If you decide against SPD's buy good quality platform pedals such as these:- ... p-prod3177
If you decide on SPD's buy double sided ones like these,you'll find they're easier to clip into :- ... -prod67249
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Re: Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle tour

Postby mercalia » 3 Mar 2014, 1:16am

I m not into spd or spd type shoes but bought some Exustar Stelvio 705 Leather SPD shoes mainly as they are flat enough for non spd use with good thick soles, look good as normal shoes and easy to walk in so are multi use - cycling, walking, rambling on rough tracks. One shoe for all uses. They are now discontinued so harder to get at a good prices. I wont be spd-ing them.

I noticed that Primark have some nice cheap canvas but hard stiff soled trainers at a modest price of about £7. I got a pair. nice

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Re: Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle tour

Postby Joe.B » 3 Mar 2014, 7:24am

My wife can't stand being clipped in but still uses cycling shoes (shimano trainer style) in order to benefit from the stiff, flat sole.

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Re: Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle tour

Postby thirdcrank » 3 Mar 2014, 7:37am

I'm not sure if you are not confusing the basic purpose of cycling shoes - to get your feet comfy on the pedals and hold them there - with protection against wet weather.

I'd go for cycling shoes almost every time. I wear ordinary shoes on my shopping bike, but that's all. The main advantage of mountain bike type SPD shoes over road (racing) shoes is the heel and the ability to walk in them. The design and manufacture of most cycling shoes of whatever type concentrate on ventilation rather than keeping the rain out. Only purpose-made winter boots are intended to do that. We've had various threads about the problems of keeping feet dry and preventing things like the rain running down legs and into shoes.

Unless you are going to be riding somewhere where cold, wet feet will be a problem eg up my street at this time of year :wink: then a lot of riders live with occasional wet feet, knowing (or hoping) that the rain eventually stops and then everything dries out. It's possible to buy cycling sandals with SPD cleats. I've never used any, but people I know who have them seem very pleased. Also, unless you are packing your tux just in case you are invited to a black tie event on tour, sandals will go with any casual clothes you may wear when not actually riding. But not for Yorkshire in in the bleak midwinter.

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Re: Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle tour

Postby Gearoidmuar » 3 Mar 2014, 7:55am

I'm in both camps as I used hill-walking boots and BMX pedals in the winter as they're a lot warmer, and SPDs, mostly in the summer.

One definite requirement, as someone else mentioned, is that a stiff sole is pretty important. You can get cramps in the soles of your feet if using shoes with fairly flexible soles when doing fairly long distances.

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Re: Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle tour

Postby reohn2 » 3 Mar 2014, 7:56am

I suspect the OP is a lady.
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Re: Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle tour

Postby jjpeterberger » 3 Mar 2014, 8:04am

Over the past 3+ decades, I've used nearly all the clipless pedal systems available. The original Look system was my favorite on the road until 5 years ago, or so. My mountain bike still has Shimano M737 pedals that are probably close to 20 years old now.

For touring, I prefer to be able to get on and off the bike without thinking about my footwear...I'm on tour and there's so much more to it than just riding all day. So I've settled into decent quality MKS flat pedals, the most recent pair purchased in the middle of our Wales tour in the summer of 2012. In the past few years I've toured in Crocs and these trail runners I've not had any problems with my feet, knees or hips using these relatively flexible shoes. They are stiff for running but much more flexible than SPD-style shoes.

During our upcoming year-long trip, I'll likely start with the trail runners and replace them, when needed, with whatever I find along the way...most likely a light-weight low- or mid-cut hiking shoe.

Ultimately, choose which shoes you prefer to ride in and enjoy the ride.

Last edited by jjpeterberger on 3 Mar 2014, 8:21am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle tour

Postby Grumbleweed » 3 Mar 2014, 8:08am

I would think soft sole shoes over long distance would be very uncomfortable, I ride with TIMe carbon mtb shoes and they are a godsend when cycling and walking off the bike.

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Re: Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle tour

Postby eileithyia » 3 Mar 2014, 8:46am

Soft soles over a period of time may cause the metal edges / hard edges of the pedals to dig into your feet.
Firm / hard soles are more efficient at transferring the power you exert on the pedal into the pedalling and therefore the forward motion of the bike... anything that assists with that has to be a plus.

You do not have to have mountain bike type shoes that are clipped in.. many use them without the clip in option on mountain type pedals with half toe clips.

I have come off a number of times with clip in shoes and always become detached from the bike... so that really is not a concern.

The advantage of being clipped to the pedals means you keep a smoother pedalling style, you can pull up as well as push down, this is far more efficient and far less tiring in the long run esp if you are doing long distance rides. If you wish to have the advantage of open shoes / sandals for hot days in the saddle and for walking around in once at your destination then there are sandals that have clip in options.
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Re: Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle tour

Postby Paulatic » 3 Mar 2014, 9:11am

There is the 'stiff sole myth' taken from the ultralight bicycle touring site.

Stiff sole myth
Another in the long line of cycling myths goes approximately like this: "When buying shoes for cycling make sure you get the ones with the stiffest sole you can find." The argument seems to be that the energy is lost by the flexion of the sole, so the one that flexes the least is the best. I must admit that this is a very convincing myth. I myself had fallen for it until very recently.

But firstly, a clarification of the terms. If by "cycling shoes" we mean special shoes that are fixed to a pedal (SPD or similar clipless system) than this is not a myth but a reality. In this case the force on the pedal is transmitted through small area and if the sole were not strong (=stiff) it would quickly be ruined. However, I think that the stiff-sole-myth had been around before the clipless system hype, so it doesn't descend directly from it (btw, for the reasons explained above the clipless system is not an option for me).

A recent experience convinced me that stiff sole used with ordinary pedals (no clips or straps) might be unfavorable. One Saturday I rode 150 km with two friends in a relatively fast pace. During and after the ride I felt great, the bike fit was perfect, I had no pains whatever. I felt as if I was at the peak of fitness. Next Sunday I rode 80 km "recovery" ride, same bike, same clothes, different shoes. To my surprise on that ride nothing seemed right: I had back pains and the saddle felt uncomfortable. On Saturday I had trainers with soft rubber sole, on Sunday I had shoes for in-door football (which, btw, were up to now my touring shoes) with stiff sole which became sleek and slippery during three years of use. So I am quite convinced that my uneasiness on Sunday was caused by the constant corrections of the position of my feet because the soles of the shoes were slipping on the pedals. If the soles were a bit more flexible they would grip the pedal preventing the slip.

My conclusion is therefore that the non-slipping contact between the pedal and the sole is much more important then the stiffness of the sole; and this is better attained if the sole is somewhat softer.
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Re: Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle tour

Postby paragonman » 3 Mar 2014, 9:27am

stiff sole myth? maybe to some. but not to me, if I wear soft soles I would last maybe 10 miles
before my feet played up, but wearing stiff cycling shoes , I can ride all day.

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Re: Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle tour

Postby thirdcrank » 3 Mar 2014, 9:48am

reohn2 wrote:I suspect the OP is a lady.

If so, for tux, read evening gown.

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Re: Are mountain bike cycling shoes necessary for cycle tour

Postby foxyrider » 3 Mar 2014, 9:50am

Buy a pair of cheap cycling shoes from Lidl et al and try it. All the key points have been covered in the discussion but i would suggest that trying for yourself is really your only real way forward.

I sell loads of shoe/pedal systems to one time trainer users, not had any negative feedback up to now even if some prefer not to be clipped in - they use toe clips!
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