We’ve reviewed 15 of the best bike shoes for triathlon to see which pump up your pedal power

Find more group tests from Triathlon Plus in our other best triathlon gear reviews.

Pearl Izumi Tri Fly III

£79.99

Weight (per pair, size 44) 548g

Sizes 39-48

www.madison.co.uk, www.pearlizumi.com

Pearl Izumi’s affordable Tri Fly III shoes were one of the best-liked on test, making them a top comfort bargain. There’s good support on the sole and arch, and while the heel cup is comfortably soft rather than hard plastic, it’s deep enough to hold the foot in place, even when straining a big gear. The main strap is broad to ensure comfort, even when cranked up, and the lower toe strap ensures the forefoot stays comfortably in place. The notched strap doesn’t hold the shoe open wide, but it’s fast to shut. The fabric heel tab gives an easy grab, and it’s reflective. Open-top design with a single mesh-covered drain vent under the toes feels fresh. Sole stiffness is good for the height and price, and there’s a solid carbon-soled version for £169.99.

Verdict

Excellent, supportively comfortable fit and full tri feature list, at a bargain price.

Performance 4/5

Value 5/5

Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Top Value Award, issue 31

Lake CX211

£89.99

Weight 674g

Sizes 38-48

www.todayscyclist.co.uk

Lake’s entry tri shoe is super-breathable for hot-day comfort, but the distinctive disjointed upper fit won’t suit everyone. The NuFOAM-based upper makes for an extremely cool and airy feeling if you have hot feet or are racing abroad, but it’s potentially frosty in the UK. Although it’s well-shaped underfoot, there’s little anchorage between front and centre section. Despite the broad and secure ‘Hammerhead’ strap there’s loads of twist across the forefoot. The thickly padded heel cup is prone to foot pop-up. The deep and heavy sole is flexible too, so it’s not a shoe we’d recommend to powerful big-gear maulers. Deep recessed cleat bolts are awkward to engage, and there are no sole markings. But they last for ages and there’s a ladies option in 36-42.

Verdict

Very cool and airy soft-fit shoe, but heavy and too flexible for powerful riders.

Performance 2/5

Value 3/5

Overall 2/5

Shimano TR31

£99.99

Weight 544g

Sizes 36-48

www.madison.co.uk, www.shimano.com

Shimano’s entry tri shoe is light and well-made, but the pinched toe and flat sole mean checking fit is vital.

The rubberised heel strap is easy to grab, and the single-notched strap holds the shoe open really wide, so it’s fast to get on. The broad, low heel allows a lot of movement at the back and the flat sole and footbed aren’t particularly supportive either. Plastic sole stiffness is adequate, it’s compatible with road and MTB-style cleats, and the whole shoe is light. Its depth means a remote pedal feel, though. It’s prone to hot spots under the strap and over the cleat if you try to crank the strap tension enough to stop heel movement. Despite a lot of mesh and the crumpled-looking top panel, the toes are surprisingly cramped too, leaving us distinctly underwhelmed for £100.

Verdict

Fast entry and decent stiffness, but underwhelming fit and support for the money.

Performance 2/5

Value 2/5

Overall 2/5

Gaerne G. Kona

£104.99

Weight 574g

Sizes 37-48

www.hotlines-uk.com, www.gaerneshoes.com

For just over £100 Gaerne’s tri shoe is super-stylish, but love or hate reactions all revolve around the main strap fit. The perforated patent leather finish looks great and the mid-depth sole is impressively stiff for plastic. While the rear pull is small, it opens reasonably wide for OK insertion, and the open keyhole on the forefoot means it dries fast. There was good support underfoot, decent toe box shape and a secure plastic heel cup with a generous amount of padding. However the back of the hard main strap is completely unpadded, and the gap between the two halves of the upper meant some  testers complained of painfully sharp pressure and chafing across the top of the foot. It does soften over time, but it’s a definite downside of this otherwise very positively regarded shoe.

Verdict

Potentially excellent mid-price tri shoe, but potentially very painful unpadded main strap

Performance 2/5

Value 2/5

Overall 2/5

North Wave Tribute

£127.65

Weight 634g

Sizes 39-48

www.i-ride.co.uk, www.northwave.com

North Wave have really sweated the design of their midprice shoe to create an impressive performer at a great price. The main strap not only opens the shoe wide, but gets a Velcro-backed tab so it won’t flap into your chain in transition. It’s deliberately designed to collapse flat but leave the heel tall for security when you’re resting your foot on top into T2. Ventilation is OK and the roomy toe box and lower heel allow for hot feet without compromising the secure and comfortable fit. While it’s not as vented as some, it’s breezy enough for most UK conditions without getting frost nip in spring. They’re not light and there’s occasional road buzz when using them barefoot, but the stiff carbon sole means lower transmission is excellent – a bargain for powerful pedalers.

Verdict

Impressively detailed, comfortable and powerfully stiff shoe, at a cracking price.

Performance 4/5

Value 5/5

Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Gold Award, issue 31

Lake CX311

£149.99

Weight 632g

Sizes 39-50

www.todayscyclist.co.uk

Carbon sole means a stiff pedaling platform, but Lake’s

top shoe is still more about air conditioning than  focused fit. Paying £60 extra than the CX211 gets you Lake’s stiff, low-profile carbon composite sole unit, but weight is still relatively high. You also get Outlast temperature-regulating material in toe and heel for even better hot-weather performance from the already very airy and cool-feeling anti-bacterial NuFOAM upper. While the heel tab is small, the big Hammerhead strap is also notched for a yawning insertion target. The soft upholstery, separate two-strap upper arrangement and wide, low heel for fast entry means a lot of foot twist at the front and lift at the rear. Over-tightening to compensate can cause pinching and hot spots, particularly in bare feet.

Verdict

Stiff sole with a super-cool, airy upper, but connection between them is soft and disjointed.

Performance 3/5

Value 2/5

Overall 2/5

Sidi TII

£149.99

Weight 622g

Sizes 38-48

www.bigbear.co.uk, www.sidisport.com

Sidi’s tri shoe isn’t cheap, but it’s a distinctive-looking, broadfitting and beautifully made investment. Getting into the big opening is helped by the notched main strap and broad, but low, heel strap. Despite narrow strap width, there’s less pressure and better alignment and length than most. The well-shaped sole inner cradles the foot nicely, the open top and small ‘portholes’ for along the midfoot flanks mean reasonable ventilation, and comfort is excellent. It comes in half sizes and the forefoot is roomy and generous. The carbon composite sole treads a decent line between rigidity and thickness, but lacks the stark stomp stiffness of full carbon soles. Sidi construction is long-lived and if the metallic snakeskin upper isn’t for you, there’s a ‘patent’ white option.

Verdict

Not cheap, but a really well made, well-shaped, comfortable and distinctive shoe investment.

Performance 4/5

Value 3/5

Overall 4/5

Bontrager RXL Hilo

£149.99

Weight 590g

Sizes 40-49

www.bontrager.com

Bontrager’s silvery slippers are worth persevering with if you want a soft-feeling but stiff-pedaling shoe. Overlapping tongue pieces and potential pull-through on the short, misaligned straps slows entry. The heel tab is harder to use – particularly with wet hands – than a loop too. Once adjusted, pressure is consistent right across the upper and plastic eSole insole shaping gives good support underfoot. Toe space is tight, but it never pinches, and there are no obvious hot spots, even on longer rides. The mesh upper and sole vents mean they stay cool and dry well. The floppy upper and tall heel makes them good to stand on coming into T2. It’s a soft rather than rock-solid connection to the stiff ‘silver series’ carbon sole, but then not everyone wants to put their foot in a vice.

Verdict

Slow in transition, but soft fit on a firm sole makes them a decent distance shoe.

Performance 3/5

Value 3/5

Overall 3/5

Specialized Tri Vent Expert

£149.99

Weight 608g

Sizes 39-48

www.specialized.com

Specialized’s top tri shoe is a cool and powerful performer if you get on with the Body Geometry lumps and bumps. The open top with broad notched strap and big heel strap is a bonus for fast fitting. Both straps have a distinct fit tuning effect (on a lot of shoes that bottom strap makes little difference) and the low counter heel fit is usefully supportive. The heat reflective silver FACT carbon sole is stiff, while under-toe vent, mesh top and open tongue mean they dry quickly. The toebox pinched broader-footed testers though, and the more pressure you put through the sole, the more obvious the Body Geometry shaping is. Some riders loved the orthotic profiling, but several complained about pressure under the inside heel seeming to twist their foot, so try before you buy.

Verdict

Fast-fitting, cool-riding and usefully stiff shoe, but Body Geometry profiling is a love/hate deal.

Performance 4/5

Value 3/5

Overall 3/5

Shimano TR52

£169.99

Weight 596g

Sizes 38-48

www.madison.co.uk, www.shimano.com

Shimano’s top tri shoe is super stiff, well ventilated and fast to get into, but overall single strap fit is crude for the cost. While the sole is deep and only has bare minimum cleat markings, its hollow pocket design makes it exceptionally stiff without being heavy. The metal mesh chevron design vents on the top of the foot plus front of toe and under-toe vents make it very cool and fast drying. A single loop holds the shoe wide open and the rubber heel strap works OK, though it’s not as quick to grab as some. While the toe is much roomier than the TR31, the sole is flat and unsupportive, particularly of higher arches, and the low heel fit is sloppy. Cranking the single strap down to add security meant most of our testers complained of sole and top-of-foot hot spots.

Verdict

Stiff and very well ventilated, but disappointing hot-spot prone fit for the price.

Performance 3/5

Value 2/5

Overall 2/5

Spiuk SEC-SEG Triathlon

£169.99

Weight 566g

Sizes 37-47

www.silverfish-uk.com

Spiuk’s new SECond SEGment shoes don’t look that tri, but

we just didn’t want to take these fantastic fitting ‘full feature’ multisport shoes off. The notchless main strap stays open OK and there’s a stand-up heel loop to help you in. The broad top strap pad and lower ‘Power Transfer Strap’ mean no excessive pressure points. There’s adequate wiggle room for toes and supportive heel fit. They’re also heat-mouldable for a totally custom fit, but ours felt tailor-made straight from the box. The carbon sole is stiff enough, yet still shallow, and there are adequate cleat markings. Mesh protected under toe vent and mesh panels on top of the toe keep them cool, and you get summer and winter insoles (with light arch support) included. There’s even a tab for a bike-connecting elastic band for T1.

Verdict

Outstandingly comfortable, secure and stiff, heat mouldable multi-sport shoes.

Performance 5/5

Value 4/5

Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Peak Performer Award, issue 31

Scott Tri Carbon

£199

Weight 556g

Sizes 40-48

www.scott-sports.com

Scott’s top tri shoe is excellent below foot level, but unfortunately not as impressive above. The HMX carbon  sole is very stiff, with a big toe vent for cooling. The four-density EVA ErgoLogic insole has removable shims underneath too, making for a well-supported feel underfoot. The heel loop is hard to grab, and the short strap means a tall (rather than wide) opening to get into, but they flatten well for the last few metres on your bike. Mesh upper and broad heel makes for a light feel and loose fit with generous room for manoeuvre, but power delivery is very dependent on tension in the two straps, and several testers reported painful top of foot and front of ankle pressure. Nylon/glass-fibre-soled Tri Pro cost £110 and are the same as these, but less stiff due to their different sole.

Verdict

Super-stiff, well-vented sole and soft, cool upper, but potentially painful strap pressure.

Performance 3/5

Value 2/5

Overall 2/5

Bont Sub 8

£269

Weight 524g

Sizes 36-50

www.bontcycling.co.uk

Bont’s top-dollar handmade carbon shoes offer exceptional performance, but sacrifice comfort to get it. The carbon-fibre sole unit curves up round the bottom of the upper and right up round the heel for absolute cast iron stiffness and maximum power transfer. Add super-low weight and you’ve got phenomenal short course/sprint performance. Even after custom heat-moulding to remove obvious pinch points the flat, ultra-stiff sole and minimal padding caused serious hot spot and numbness problems for most of our testers, often in under an hour. Despite the massive shoe-horn rear loop, the Z-strap and stiff upper means entry can be slow. It’s very hard to tension evenly too, and the inner end of the strap will catch on cranks unless trimmed.

Verdict

Phenomenally stiff, ultra light performance but uncomfortable on foot and wallet.

Value 4/5

Performance 3/5

Overall 3/5

Mavic Tri Helium

£275

Weight 544g

Sizes 37.5-47.5

www.mavic.com

They probably cost more than your first bike did, but if that’s no obstacle, Mavic’s top shoes are phenomenal. The super broad main strap is notched to keep it open through T1, the heel loop is easy to grab and everything lines up sweetly when you pull it tight. The tongueless clamshell ‘S’ design means good ventilation, while the extra reinforcing exoskeleton wrapped over the toe and forefoot means a secure fit. Add a carbon T gripper around the heel cup, and foot anchorage is awesome. The fluffy ‘broad bean’ insole surface is comfy and fast wicking for barefoot comfort. Shock-absorbing elastomer insole inserts and graduated stiffness of the dual- depth carbon sole stop hot spots. The 5.5mm sole depth gives a direct-feeling connection, power transfer is properly ‘extra gear’, and they’re super light.

Verdict

Insane price, but anchored and direct ‘extra gear’ performance, light and comfortable.

Value /5

Performance /5

Overall /5

Giro Pro Light SLX

£279.99

Weight 478g

Sizes 39-48

www.madison.co.uk, www.giro.com

We’ve been told Giro are developing a specific tri shoe but it’s a while off yet. If you’re not worried about a few seconds delay in transition though their top-of-the range road shoes still offer awesome performance and excellent comfort. With three Velcro straps and no heel pull they’re not as quick on/off as a tri shoe, but they’re faster than a ratchet shoe. Undertoe vent and mesh panels also mean quick drying. Fit is fantastic too, feeling very secure and supportive from toe to sculpted heel without any hot spots, even on the longest days. There are half sizes through most of the range, plus three different ‘Supernatural fit’ insole inserts included to let you tune your own fit. The superlight, low-profile EC90SLX sole from carbon specialists Easton is phenomenally stiff too.

Verdict

Hugely expensive, but a fantastic combination of minimum weight, maximum stiffness and comfort.

Value 5/5

Performance 3/5

Overall 4/5

Find more group tests from Triathlon Plus in our other best triathlon gear reviews.

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