We review the best cycling shoes for triathlon.


There are several factors you need to consider when buying a new pair of cycling shoes. We have listed the most important below.

  • Outsole

Plastic/nylon is cheap but carbon is lighter and stiffer. Look for vent/drain holes which can help dry wet shoes. Most are drilled for triple point cleat attachment

  • Heel tabs

A good-sized heel tab helps pull the shoe open with nervy or cold fingers. Also useful for levelling pre-attached shoes with elastic bands

  • Seamless interior

Look for shoes with smooth, seam-free interiors. These will offer the best place for wet (often bare) feet to do their work without getting
run-hampering blisters

  • Straps

Many shoes use reverse main straps, running the opposite way to road bike shoes’ straps. Ensure yours aren’t so long they foul the crank arms, in which case you’ll need to trim them

  • Sole rubber 

Most people will roll into T2 with their feet on top of their bike shoes, but if you don’t do that make sure you have some heel rubber to help steady your trot to your changing spot

  • Mesh

Useful for venting hot feet and drying wet feet, but take care to consider foot warmth too as riding in the wind with numb toes can hamper your best efforts

  • How we test:

We simulated a typical T1 transition, with wet and cold feet and tried to get the shoes on as quickly as possible. We opened them as wide as possible next to the bike and also attached them to the pedals for a barefoot mounting. We aggregated out the user-induced fumbles and only had the shoes’ designs in focus. We rode them all as well, after all shoes that go on easy but pinch after 10 miles are as much use as a cardboard wetsuit. The combination of both elements gave us the rounded view of each shoe we were reviewing.

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

DHB TR1.0DHB TR1.0
£45
www.wiggle.co.uk

Dusting off that old bike in the shed and giving tri a go? The DHB TR1.0 is the shoe for you. It does everything the others on test here manage even though they cost a lot more. Granted there are a few small caveats, but none which will get in the way of you giving this sport a go. The upper is a tough synthetic leather with nylon mesh panels to encourage air flow without totally freezing your toes
and reflective trim for low light safety. The shape is broad and roomy, though we’d have liked a slightly narrower heel cup to really nail the fit. Props to DHB
for angling the strap forwards away from exposed skin. We’d have liked a longer heel tab – maybe that’s a change for next time – though all things considered the DHB TR1.0 is still a solid buy.

Verdict

You simply can’t beat the price. Good performance too especially in chilly conditions .

Performance 3/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Top Value Award, issue 53

Polaris-EquilibriumPolaris Equilibrium
£90
www.polaris-apparel.co.uk

We’ve tested the budget-minded Equilibrium before and loved its simple, straightforward approach, yet without giving up style or performance. At this price it’s competing with the Shimano TR31 and the Pearl Izumi Tri Fly4. The Polaris’s upper is mostly lightweight nylon mesh, paired with a nylon outsole that’s got lots of metal mesh backed rail/vent holes that make it the coolest on test. Fit isn’t bad from the single broad Velcro strap, though we had a minor issue with the inside edges of the vamps pinching our skin when we did them up quickly. They’re not the stiffest on test but ideal for a triathlete getting into the sport. If you’re prone to cold feet, go for the Shimano or Pearl Izumi which have more solid material in their upper construction.

Verdict

Great value, very meshy tri shoe, ideal for warm weather tri events .

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Shimano-TR31Shimano TR31
£100
www.madison.co.uk

The TR31 is the anchor point of this test, representing the crossing point of value and technical ability. There are cheaper shoes on the market and more technically advanced shoes on the market, but few that conquer both like the TR31. The plastic midsole is plenty stiff enough for all but the most powerful riders thanks to a flex-resistant tub design. Unlike many, the shoe offers full upper coverage for those not competing in Hawaii. Entry ease was fair, though fit and security rated as good. We liked the depth of the toe box and security (and angle) of the broad strap. The TR31 offers a conventional road shoe feel in a triathlon-specific format and will please budget-minded triathletes with a comfortable, familiar feel and reassuring performance.

Verdict

Simple but effective, the TR31 checks every box a triathlete will have .

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Gaerne-G-Kona-Cycling-ShoeGaerne G Kona
£110
www.hotlines-uk.com

Hand made in Italy, the G-Kona comes in nylon or carbon outsole models sharing the same upper; a perforated man-made leather-like number that uses a practically seamless upper to create a smooth interior; enabling fast entry and little chance of foot irritation. Like the Giro, the G Kona runs a main reverse crossover strap and a smaller conventional (inside to outside) forefoot strap to tune the upper fit. As there is no mesh panelling, the G Kona feels very robust, and from experience Gaerne shoes tend to outlive their rivals. Gaerne uses a deep-sided tub shape for its nylon outsole, the upturned sides adding useful rigidity for clocking hard miles. Only the slightly overlong main strap catching on the crank arms spoils an otherwise solid performance.

Verdict

Handmade quality with a very smooth interior, but watch the main strap length.

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Scott-Tri-ProScott Tri Pro
£116
www.scott-sports.com

The Scott Tri Pro ticks all the boxes in terms of detail and technical spec. With a really well designed core shape, the shoe fits mid-width and wider feet well. Thanks to the conventional Velcro strap positioning on the outer edge of the shoe, you can pull the uppers tight without fear of having the strap end catching the cranks. We’re not convinced the shoe’s unusual strap works; it caused us some fit issues. Fit is fine-tuned on the Scott Tri Pro via a small forefoot strap and with a deep and well padded heel cup meaning the overall security when pulling up out of the saddle was good. Power transfer from the low profile nylon-fibreglass-mix outsole is good and with the tunable volume insole, the foot is able to drive the pedals hardwithout cramping.

Verdict

Well built, well vented shoe, with the lowest stack height of the mid-budget models .

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Northwave-Tribute-TriNorthwave Tribute Tri
£130
www.i-ride.co.uk

The Tribute could cost half as much again and you wouldn’t notice: the carbon sole is much like the Mavic’s, the upper is FiZik quality and it’s almost as technically detailed as the Lake. The Tribute really feels like a tri-specific shoe and not just a bunch of ideas applied to a road shoe. It’s great for UK triathlons as it’s not as airy as some and less likely to leave you with numb toes on chilly days. Fit is one of the best on test, with good even pressure all over the foot, better for less pressure point irritation. The carbon outsole is thin for low pedal stack height, and stiff enough. We love the sticky rubber heel for safer trotting through transitions’ no-ride zones. For the money, it’s worth the extra over the Shimano and makes a strong case for selection over the similar Giro Mele.

Verdict

The sleeper of the test, it’s hard to fault this great mid-price tri shoe .

Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

Bontrager RXL HiLoBontrager RXL HiLo
£140
www.trekbikes.co.uk

The Bontrager RXL HiLo uses much of the technology from their well-regarded road shoes like the silver series carbon outsole which forms the base, onto which Bontrager have added a lightweight and very open mesh upper. You won’t be getting hot feet even in mid-summer, though the outsole itself only has a relatively small vent/drain hole by comparison. Giving some stability to the upper are two large vamp sections made from synthetic leather and the lack of a tongue or wrap-over allows easy access even with wet grabby skin. A good-sized heel tab helps too. The HiLo felt composed on the bike, cranking out the miles happily, yet somehow it also felt not quite as complete or well-rounded a package as the Giro Mele and Northwave Tribute for similar cash.

Verdict

A very well vented shoe that’s stiff and light but the fit wasn’t as good as some others .

Performance 3/5
Value 4/5
Overall 3/5

Giro-Melo-Cycling-ShoeGiro Mele
£150
www.giro.com

We really like Giro’s SuperNatural fit. It closely echoes that of Sidi but with a wider heel cup. If we were to test them blindfolded that is the only feature that we could tell them apart by. Like Shimano, Giro opt for increased upper coverage, protecting against cold and sun exposure, though they do have |a large vent/drain hole right though the outsole and foot bed. Giro also add a second strap to help tune forefoot fit . The insides are smooth and we had no barefoot access issues. We love the super thin, but very stiff Easton EC70 carbon midsole. We felt close to the pedals and very powerful wearing these. Light, well vented and with no peek-a-boo holes, they’re like a summer- weight road shoe as much as a tri-specific model.

Verdict

With the awesome SuperNatural fit and great carbon sole, this is ideal for racing .

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Pearl-Izumi-Tri-Fly-CarbonPearl Izumi Tri Fly 4 Carbon
£150
www.madison.co.uk

The fit of these shoes is snug and we’d advise going half a size up or trying them on before buying to ensure you get the right size. The construction of the synthetic leather and mesh shoes is excellent.
Entry is easy with a large pull tab on the heel. The outside is a carbon fibre construction that allowed full power transfer while the contoured insole supported the foot nicely. Venting and draining was good, with three metal mesh-backed vents right through the outsole, though as with all vented outsoles, you need to consider gaffer taping them over for warmth in cooler conditions. The fit was OK though we’d like a more socket-like heel cup as we occasionally felt a little lift.

Verdict

Crazy colours, but a solid build and a road-shoe feel. Heel fit could be better .

Performance 3/5
Value 4/5
Overall 3/5

Specialized-Tri-ExpertSpecialized Tri Expert
£160
www.specialized.com

Spec wise, the Tri Expert shoe is spot on: killer Body Geometry fit options, clean seamless interior, stiff low-profile vented carbon outsole, a big heel tab and the rubber band hook to allow positioning the shoes on the bike while it waits in T1 . What was disappointing and let the shoe down, however, was the bizarre decision to make the main Velcro strap incredibly short. Sure, it makes the shoe look neat and tidy and helps keep the weight to an absolute minimum, but during testing we simply couldn’t secure the otherwise great fitting shoe. This severely dented our confidence with it. We don’t have particularly high volume feet either. A shame, because apart from that small but essential detail the rest of the shoe was looking like a winner to us.

Verdict

Expert is a really good shoe that is let down by the main strap being too short  .

Performance 2/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5

SPIUK-Sec-SegSpiuk SEC SEG
£170
www.silverfish-uk.com

Spiuk have improved their footwear immeasurably. Their new SEC-SEG tri shoes are pro level at an amateur-friendly price. Highlights of the Spiuk are the thinness and stiffness of the carbon outsole, sensible level of venting and locked-in heel fit. There are lots of little details to like, such as a long heel tab, perfect length straps and positional mounts for angling shoes while waiting in T1. Spiuk also sell the shoes with a spare set of very perforated summer insoles. At £170, the Spiuk goes up against the Giro Mele at £150 and the Northwave Tribute at £130 and while it’s worth the asking price, based on the technical spec and the fact that it works pretty much flawlessly, you have to reason not buying the cheaper competitors whose fit and spec are at least as good.

Verdict

A well-made , well specced carbon sole shoe but with serious competition .

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5

Sidi T3
£195
www.montesol.co.uk 

The T3 exudes quality from the sole up. Most of the shoe shape is the same as their famous Genius road models with a good sized toe-box, slim but adaptable mid-section and one of the finest heel fits in the industry. We could tell we had the Sidi T3 on even blindfolded, it just feels good. The upper is a tongue-free design similar to the Bontrager RXL HiLo, although it uses a slight wrap-over of the vamp faces to make the shoe feel a bit more enclosed. The perforated but backed Lorica synthetic leather upper adds to the feeling of being airy while avoiding being too draughty when it’s cold. Power transfer was very good, though not better than the other carbon shoes at £130-160. There’s a prestige tax for riding Sidi, but plenty of people will be happy to pay it.

Verdict

Hard to fault technically, but other shoes worked as well for less .

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Lake-TX312Lake TX312
£239.99
www.todayscyclist.co.uk

Aesthetically we’re not big fans of the rear-entry heel, though we love its performance – making the TX312 one of the easiest shoes to enter on test – just watch you don’t fold the fabric edges of the heel inside before you ratchet up the tension on the rear mounted BOA dial. The upper is very soft and supremely comfortable, even with wet bare feet. They dried quickly and didn’t cause any irritation. The outsole is carbon fibre. Stiff, light, fast to get on and off in transition, this shoe is easy to adjust for a really comfortable fit making it a really top option. It is also very smart – open heel aside – and looking good and feeling good makes you ride with confidence.

Verdict

Super techy tri shoe with great fit, clever rear entry and stiff carbon sole .

Performance 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 5/5

Winner of Triathlon Plus Gold and Peak Performer Award, issue 53

Mavic-Tri-HeliumMavic Tri Helium
£275
www.mavic.com 

The canary-coloured Helium Tri is on the feet of many world-class triathletes and for good reason. It fits really well, is incredibly light and is a stiff as it needs to be to please nit-picky racers. The core of the Helium’s success is its blending of vice-like fit and massive energy transfer from its SLR carbon outsole. No doubt owners of wide or high-volume feet will struggle to find comfort as the Helium is slim and low profile. Sliding into the shoe is easy and then, with the broad main strap done up, the shoe is locked on. The solid rip-stop mesh vents remain more structural than the open mesh on other shoes here. We love the big heel pull with integrated shoe levelling hole, seamless liner and full-length vent in the outsole. Pro quality and pro performance but at a price.

Verdict

Pro level shoe with pro level performance. Worth the money, but only just .

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5

Fizik K1 U0M0FiZik K1 Uomo
£299
www.extrauk.co.uk

Fizik have a unique take on bike shoe design and their K1 Uomo delivers top-line performance with an ensemble of soft barefoot-friendly materials. The twin opposing closure straps are backed with tough stretch-proof sail cloth. Sliding damp feet in is easy thanks to the smooth lining, which is well padded for a tri shoe, making them feel more like slippers than race shoes. The relatively deep outsole is a combination of carbon fibre and plastic and offers good stiffness, though a fraction less than the Mavic Helium, which were the stiffest on test. The price is a key factor here and while the K1 Uomo is unquestionably well specced and impeccably built, we think there are other shoes tested here which get the same job done for less.

Verdict

Amazing quality, soothingly smooth fit and great power transfer for racers .

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5

Lake-TX312OVERALL

Technically, all the shoes tested here work well enough for training and racing but the entry level DHB have it wrapped up for sheer low cost and that makes it our value winner. A well-done is equally deserved by Polaris for delivering an excellent race ready shoe for under £100. Many will simply pick up a Shimano TR31 for a tenner more and call the job done and we wouldn’t argue either. But for comparatively little more cash you can get a taste of the genuine pro-level footwear with all the extra stiffness and features. We loved the fit of the Giro Mele, similarly the Northwave Tribute, a shoe which really impressed us. The high cash entries from Mavic, Fizik and Sidi are all luxurious high performers which will appeal to those with bottomless pockets. But the shoe we kept going back to was the Lake TX312. It’s a shoe made with a clean look at the needs of triathletes. Sure, it took a few goes to master getting it on efficiently, but we felt like it was the shoe which made the ride the easiest to finish, ready for the run to the line.

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