Triathlons are one of the most challenging sporting events you can take part in.
Those that settle on a single shoe for all three segments may well finish, but if you want to be a contender, you’ll need dedicated footwear for each event — especially the cycling third.
Without specialist cycling shoes, the simple truth is that you’ll be underachieving, and you want to come away from this race knowing you gave it everything you had.
They provide a winning edge to whoever wears them, so are you just going to stand by and let others get the jump on you? Absolutely not!
You’ve come here because you need the best triathlon cycling shoes around, and it just so happens we’ve spent the last month researching and testing dozens of them.
So, without further ado, here are the five best triathlon cycling shoes you can buy.
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
We’re kicking things off with an exquisite pair of women’s triathlon cycling shoes designed with one goal in mind: to help you achieve excellence.
Combining a strap lace system with a BOA tongue fastening system, the Raes allow you to get in or out in a flash, amounting to a silky smooth transition regardless of how wet your feet are.
Speaking of wet feet, these Giro tri shoes are threaded with numerous vented sections that let air pass freely.
Within ten minutes of riding, your toes will be dry as a bone, and nice and cool too.
The BOA dial offers 1mm incremental fine-tuning, which means finding that sweet spot in terms of fit is a total breeze and takes all of a second to do.
Then, the macro release function blows the shoe wide open, so you can step on out and into your running shoes in a single seamless motion, cutting valuable seconds off your time.
Weighing just 1lbs, the Raes help to reduce fatigue during long rides, and considering you’ll be tired from kicking your way across a river, this is a truly essential feature.
Combine that with the Easton EC70 carbon composite outsole that optimizes energy transference for maximum pedaling power, and it’s clear that the Raes aren’t just designed to win, they’re designed to dominate.
- Carbon Composite Outsoles - Stiff outsoles transfer maximum energy allowing you to travel faster.
- Vented Materials - Passage of air dries wet feet and keeps you cool.
- 1lbs Weight - That’s about the weight of a cell phone.
- BOA and Strap Fasteners - Allow you to transition as fast as possible.
- Designed for Women - Ergonomically designed for women specifically.
- Price - As you might have guessed, these epic shoes don’t come cheap.
- Tongue Design - Some feel that it’s a little stiff.
The Fizik Transiro is a beautiful cycling shoe with tons of specialist modifications to make it suitable for the triple-headed beast that is the triathlon.
The power strap in their name refers to the super-wide, single strap that fastens using high-strength velcro on the outside of the shoe.
This one-stop open and close function makes them the fastest to don and doff on our entire list, so you can nail the transition and roll majestically onwards to victory.
In addition, it features a classic rubberized thumb loop, giving you something to really grab hold of to cut some bloat off your transition time.
The R4 outsole is only 15% carbon fiber, so it’s not quite as stiff as the Raes, rather it brokers a compromise between comfort and energy transfer.
The cleat is situated slightly further back than most cycling shoes, which amounts to greater pedal efficiency and reduced knee compression when riding aggressively with a forward posture.
What’s more, the outsole features three internal channels, which combined with a Microtex upper, make the Transiro a breath of fresh air for hot, wet, and tired feet.
- R4 Outsole - Stiff, yet comfortable.
- Powerstrap and Thumb Loop - Superfast fastening system.
- Lightweight - 0.5lbs feels like you’re wearing nothing at all.
- Air Channels and Mesh - Breathability is on point!
- Price - Not exactly affordable cycling shoes.
- Fastener - You have to pull quite hard on the Powerstrap.
The fastening system on the Tri X is similar to the Transiro but for the secondary velcro strap located further down the tongue for extra security.
Even so, we managed to get both shoes open and loose within two seconds, and that’s after a lengthy cycling route too.
The outsole is crafted from reinforced nylon, so they’re not quite as energy-efficient as our top two picks, but they’re also a damn sight more affordable, which is definitely a boon.
Besides, they offer tons of arch support to ensure you storm the entire cycling third with ease.
Our favorite thing about the Tri X is how breathable they are.
Not only do they feature a mesh material covering large internal vents, but the sides and even the straps are also dotted with perforations to ensure no hot zones build up mid-ride - perfect!
- Dual Velcro Straps - Perfect for a swift transition.
- Triple Ventilated - You’ll be dry within a few minutes.
- Price - Reasonably priced cycling shoes.
- Anti-Slip Membrane - Boosts energy transference.
- Designed for Women - Primed for use by female triathletes.
- Nylon Outsole - Not as stiff as carbon composite.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Veloce is the extra attention Tommaso has given to ventilation.
These things are positively riddled with drainage zones and perforations, and when you pick up speed, they feel amazing. Even the soles of our feet remained nice and cool.
Furthermore, they’re a tongueless shoe, so fresh air can make direct contact with your skin — an intelligent bit of design.
They utilize a dual velcro strap system much like the Tri Xs, which we couldn’t fault at all.
They’re quick to adjust, and the large thumb loop makes taking them off a total breeze.
Featuring fiberglass outsoles, they could stand to be stiffer, but they’re amazingly comfortable and pretty affordable too.
At 2.2lbs, they’re a little heavier than our other picks, which is a bit disappointing, especially as they seem to be composed of fewer materials.
However, we found that while the extra weight does detract from your up-pedaling, it adds force during down-pedaling, so it just about evens out.
- Perforated and Tongueless - Get your feet dry in a flash.
- Dual Velcro Straps - Easily adjusted and a doddle to get on and off.
- No Pressure Point Contact - Straps avoid pressure points to maximize comfort.
- Weight - 2.2lbs is hefty for cycling shoes.
- Fiberglass Outsole - Diminished power transfer.
We weren’t expecting all that much from the Selects due to the price tag, but when we put them on and gave them a go, we were pleasantly surprised.
Featuring a composite outsole plate and carbon fiber forefoot insert, they facilitate excellent power transference, meaning you can pick up maximum speed with minimum energy.
They fasten via a tri velcro strap system, which we found to be fairly efficient during transitions, but you have to pull hard to get them to secure correctly.
Once they’re on, a sequence of air holes keeps you feeling fresh.
Where they fall short is the sizing.
Everyone one of us that tried them on felt they were overly narrow, even those of us with particularly narrow feet; however, if you’re taking on a triathlon on a budget, the Selects should be a serious consideration.
- Carbon Insert - Optimized power transfer.
- Perforations - Nice and breezy.
- Tri Velcro Fasteners - Make transitions easy.
- Price - Cheapest on the list.
- Sizing - Exceedingly narrow design.
Best Triathlon Cycling Shoes Buying Guide
Cycling shoes can be baffling to the uninitiated, making shopping for them an arduous process.
Add special features required of a triathlon, and finding the right pair becomes very tricky indeed. Not to worry though, champ!
This buyer’s guide will see you through.
Ease of Transition
As you’re going to be slipping in and out of these cycling shoes during the course of the triathlon, they need to be effortless to don and doff.
The shoe transition of a triathlon is much like the passing of the baton in a relay, and we all know what happens when athletes fumble the transfer — devastating defeat.
We’re not going to let that happen to you, friend. Make sure you pick cycling shoes that have features to speed up the transference process.
They might have a thumb loop at the heel, but a tongue that opens up is better still. You’ll be able to quickly step in and out of your shoes in record time.
Velcro fasteners are another good idea as you can loosen everything up in an instant. BOA laces are great too. They use steel cables in lieu of traditional laces and can be tightened and slackened incredibly quickly.
They’re often used by firefighters to maximize efficiency in an emergency.
This isn’t a triathlon-specific bit of advice, just a general reminder that cycling shoes should always be quite snug, unlike running shoes that require a bit of wiggle room in the toes.
You need every bit of force to be transferred to the pedal, and internal shifting reduces this transference and makes it difficult to maintain form.
That said, don’t go overboard. You should still be able to feel your toes. In fact, good circulation plays a big role in performance standards.
They say that comfort is King, and even in the middle of a triathlon, they’re correct. Your cycling shoes need to feel amazing even if you’re barefoot, which is often the case in a triathlon.
If you plan on braving wet socks, comfort might not be quite as high on your priorities, but if you’re going to compete, you still need to feel happy in your gear.
Breathability and Drainage
It’s no secret that most cycling shoes use mesh materials in order to allow the passage of air, keeping you cool, dry, and comfortable, but triathlon shoes need to take this to a whole new level.
As you may still be wet of foot from the swimming portion of the contest, the breathability of your shoes will play a big role in how fast you’ll dry off.
As such, you need to prioritize perforations — the more the merrier.
We’d also recommend choosing a pair with adequate drainage ports too.
These larger perforations allow for the passage of water and provide even more breathability, getting those soggy socks dry as quickly as humanly possible.
The general rule with cycling shoes is that the more rigid the outsole is, the higher the energy transfer is from foot to pedal. Sounds good, right?
Well, as great as a rigid sole is, it shouldn’t come at the expense of comfort.
If you find rigid outsoles irritating or painful to wear after a while, it’s not worth it. You’ll perform better in a shoe you’re comfortable in.
If you prefer a hyper rigid outsole, then perfect, you can optimize your performance, but be warned, price tags rise in tandem with outsole stiffness.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we part ways and you get down to some intensive training, let’s take a look at some common queries surrounding triathlon cycling shoes.
If your questions have gone unanswered thus far, we’re sure to clear them up in this final segment.
Do triathlon cycling shoes exist?
While they’re not so detached from typical cycling shoes, triathlon cycling shoes are absolutely a thing.
Designed to make transitions as quick and easy as possible, they smooth out the kinks between triathlon events and get you on your way in seconds.
They also tend to be far more comfortable, as they will often be worn barefoot.
Do triathletes run in bike shoes?
While it’s common for triathletes to wear a single shoe style for an entire triathlon, these will be running shoes, not cycling shoes.
With such rigid outsoles and a lack of impact resistance, cycling shoes aren’t suitable for running.
How should triathlon bike shoes fit?
Triathlon bike shoes should fit fairly snug to the form of your foot. This allows for maximum energy transference to the pedal.
You still need to feel comfortable though. Your triathlon bike shoes should feel like a lovely hug rather than a constriction.
Do you wear socks with triathlon bike shoes?
Shedding the socks can work wonders on your transition times, but they also play a pivotal role in blister prevention.
It’s up to you what you think is more important, but if you do plan on going sockless, make sure you acclimate your feet in training first.
Do triathletes use clipless pedals?
Most elite triathletes go clipless as they offer optimal power transfer, security, and enhanced support, but they can be tricky to get the hang of, so don’t feel that you must follow suit.
Whatever pedal type you plan on using on race day, make sure you get in plenty of practice with them.
Switching them out the day before is a sure-fire way to add seconds or even minutes to your transfer time.
Can I use road cycling shoes for a triathlon?
Yes, you can absolutely wear road cycling shoes for a triathlon. You can wear whatever you want really.
Road cycling shoes are technically faster on a purely riding basis, which is why professional cyclists wear them during time trials, but tri shoes are much better for the rigors of a three-event race.
Can you buy triathlon cycling shoes designed specifically for women?
Thankfully, most triathlon cycling shoes are designed to be unisex, but there’s certainly an expectation that more men will be buying and wearing them, which is a shame.
The good news is that plenty of reputable cycling shoe brands such as Louis Garneau, Pearl Izumi, Sidi, Shimano, and Giro all manufacture specialist ladies' triathlon cycling shoes.
There you have it, triathletes, five solid cycling shoes that will help you to unlock your true potential come race day.
With a pair of these on your feet, transitions will be seamless, moisture and heat will dissipate, and even though you’ll be exhausted, you’ll be comfortable.
Our top choices are the Giro Raes for female triathletes and the Fizik Transiro for male triathletes.
Both addressed all our key wants in full and took valuable seconds off our times during testing. Give them a try. You won't be disappointed!