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Can You Wear Running Shoes for Cycling?

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Running exercise shoes are what many hobby bikers opt for when they want to jump on their bikes. But are running shoes any good for biking? 

I decided to do some research. Here’s what I learned:

Running shoes have a flexible sole, which yields easily under pressure. When you push hard on the pedals while wearing running shoes, their soles yield from the impact and result in some energy loss. 

People hop on a bike for different reasons. For some, cycling is just a leisure activity that they undertake to pass during weekends and holidays. Others take biking as a way to bond with family, their spouse, or friends. 

For most people, however, cycling is their way of putting in a good workout. We cannot forget to mention professional cyclists for whom cycling is a career and a way to earn a living. 

Each of these cyclists spends varying amounts of time on the bike because they cycle for different reasons. As such, each cyclist also pays attention to biking, depending on their reasons for cycling. 

Photo by Kristian Egelund on Unsplash

Biking regularly or for many hours requires that the biker wear shoes that are optimized for cycling. While hobby bikers have the freedom of cycling with different types of shoes, cycling shoes can provide a better experience for them. 


Running shoes for cycling are not a very good idea. 

Running shoes are readily available for anyone who likes running or walking exercises. When the average runner upgrades exercising to involve cycling, their running shoes are the go-to pair for cycling. 

They are, after all, exercise shoes. Running shoes, however, are not optimized for cycling. They have flexible soles that easily bend. 

This is a useful feature when running but can cause some discomfort when cycling. When you first join cycling, buying a pair of shoes that is reserved for biking might be out of your budget, considering that you probably just spent too much on the new bike. 

As such, running shoes could serve you well during your first cycling days. Later on, however, you will have to upgrade to cycling shoes.


Why are running shoes not suitable for cycling?

Different manufacturers design shoes optimized for a particular activity. As a result, they have golf shoes optimized for golfing, tennis shoes optimized for use on the tennis court, and running shoes optimized for running. 

Taking shoes and using them for a different purpose other than what they were designed for means that the wearer would not get the most out of their shoes.

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As we already mentioned, running shoes are not very good for cycling because you lose some energy each time you push the pedal.

This might not seem like it significantly impacts when you consider only one push of the pedal. But considering the number of times you push on the pedal during one cycling trip, the accumulated energy loss is a considerable amount. 

The flexible sole on running shoes also bends easily. This could be uncomfortable on the feet of the cyclist when peddling.

Running shoes have a cushioned interior that enhances comfort when running. On the other hand, cycling shoes are designed for maximum energy transfer from the feet to the pedal. The bottom of the shoe sole on running shoes is designed for easy lift-off from the ground. 

The sole on a pair of running shoes has shallow etches on the bottom patterns to enhance lift off. This works against the cyclist when they are peddling. Cycling shoes should have deep etches on the sole that allow the sole to attach to the pedal to avoid slipping when pedaling. 

The possibility of your feet slipping from the pedals when you are cycling is a bad idea and can lead to severe accidents. The slipping soles on running shoes also prevent you from assuming a standing position when you are cycling. 

This position is known to allow the rider to exert maximum effort, especially when cycling uphill. Wearing the wrong type of shoes can lead to an embarrassing situation where you have to unmount from your bike when you come to a hill.


Are there any non-cycling shoes that are good for cycling?

Cycling shoes should have a stiff sole that features deeply engraved patterns to prevent the cyclist’s feet from slipping off the pedal. You will find other types of shoes that have these properties and perform much better than running shoes when used for cycling.

For instance, Skating shoes offer versatile use and have a flat, stiff sole at the bottom. The stiff sole on some shoes only gets stiffer the more the shoes are used, thus making the shoes perfect for cycling. 

The soles on skating shoes, however, tend to lose the engraved patterns at the bottom quickly. This means that the shoes might start to slip after some time.

Urban bike shoes are also great for cycling. They have a stylish look that closely resembles casual footwear and cycling shoes. Their soles are flexible to some extent but are much stiffer than the soles found on running shoes. 

Photo by Maksim Larin on Unsplash

They give a much better peddling experience than running shoes and allow cyclists to show off their urban style. Most urban shoes are also laced, which will enable you to fit them snugly on your feet.

Open sandals that have a stiff sole are also great cycling shoes. The advantage of sandals is that the open straps allow air circulation around the feet. 

As such, open sandals are keen when cycling in hot weather. If you choose sandals for cycling, ensure that the straps attach to the base securely, leaving no hanging parts. This will prevent the sandals from getting caught up in the pedals.

Indoor soccer shoes also give you an easy time riding a bike because they have a stiff sole that does not yield easily when you pedal. When perfectly fitted, they give the rider an easy resting time when not turning the pedals. 

The inner sole in indoor soccer shoes is slim, unlike the interior of running shoes, which is padded. This allows the rider to enjoy more control and improves energy transfer to the pedal.


What are the best shoes for cycling?

People who take cycling seriously invest in a good pair of cycling shoes to wear on their cycling activities. Wearing the correct pair of shoes when cycling allows you to experience optimal performance and leaves you feeling less fatigue after a ride. 

Your feet will also thank you for choosing an optimized pair of shoes for cycling. Professional cyclists have attested to never looking back after swapping a standard pair of shoes for cycling shoes. This is mainly because cycling shoes minimize energy loss, are lighter, and defiantly feel more comfortable.

Each ride on a bicycle is different depending on the bike type and terrain where you cycle. As a result, there exist cycling shoes optimized for different rides. The common types of cycling shoes are road cycling shoes, mountain bike shoes, and cycling shoes.

Road cycling shoes 

Road cycling shoes are optimized for use with road bikes and feature a three-point clip-in system at the sole’s bottom. The top on most shoes is open for breathability, and the shoes have choices of 4 lacing systems to hold the shoes in place. 

The four lace systems are BOA cord fastening, Velco straps, ratchet buckles, and the typical tie-down laces. Road bikers like the standard lace design because it allows them to adjust how tight or lose the shoes fit. Ratchet buckles allow easy adjustment when on the move. The BOA cord fastening and Velco straps are built for comfort.

Mountain bike shoes 

Mountain bike shoes have stiff soles that resemble regular shoes. This design allows the rider to walk parts of the trail that they cannot cover on the bike. 

The sole on mountain bike shoes feature lugs and grips which prevent slipping when pushing the pedals. The sole on a pair of mountain bike shoes is a bit flexible for walking, unlike the sole on-road cycling shoes.

BMX bike shoes

There is no specific type of shoe made for BMX riders, but freestyle riders prefer to wear high-quality skating shoes made by some of the most reputable brands in the industry like Vans, Nike, DC, Etnies, etc. You can read more about BMX shoes in our dedicated article.

About Alek Asaduryan

Alek Asaduryan is the founder of YesCycling and has been riding bikes and in the cycling industry since 1991. Since then, his mission is to make cycling more accessible to everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people to achieve that. When he's not out riding his beloved fitness bike, Alek reports on news, gear, guides, and all things cycling related.