Keeping your feet attached to the pedals is really awesome but can be a bit scary and inconvenient in a city. Some of the shoes can also be hard to walk in and make you look just a little silly, especially on smooth surfaces.
However, it needn’t be that way, and this is where urban cycling shoes come in. They allow you to clip to the pedals and still walk like a regular person and will blend in a bit better on the street. Of the different attachment methods for clipless shoes, SPD cleats by Shimano are small ones that are used predominantly in mountain bike and trainer style shoes and these are what we will be focusing on here. They are a great choice for commuters and those who intend to walk around a lot.
We have sort of been over this before, but having your feet attached to your pedals makes your pedal stroke more even, which makes cycling a little easier. Having you feet attached also means that they are always in the right place and you can push harder on the pedals without fear of your feet slipping – particularly useful in rubbish London rain.
Cycling shoes are also stiffer, so they transfer the power from your pedal strokes better. the shoes all have a removable plate that hides the cleat area. This means that you can get cycling shoes without immediately using cleats which makes for a great transition.
These shoes also have proper soles – ie. they have grip on the whole surface (with the exception of the small cleat area) and therefore you can walk pretty normally in them.
Bontrager SSR Multisport
These are probably the most bike-y shoes of the bunch. They do also resemble trainers though, so they do blend in fairly well.
As the first pair of clip-in shoes I got, these were a good choice. They are comfortable and grippy enough for walking on wet paths. They even do well on mud – I wore them for my adventure cross ride in the summer when I had to walk over some very muddy fields (not something you are likely to find too often in London admittedly).
These trainer style shoes have been a cycling staple of mine for the summer. They look just like regular trainers and are designed to be worn with or without socks. They are intended as summer shoes, something reflected in their light colour options, but with socks they can easily be used in autumn and spring. Add in some shoe covers and you could stretch them all year round if you wish.
They are comfortable without socks, I wore them that way for my whole cycle tour recently when I spent hours cycling each day as well as walking around. They have a quick lacing system, which is great if you do have to change them quickly outside an office or before a meeting.
They are probably the most urban cycling shoes you can get. I got the opportunity to try some recently and have been taking full advantage of them now the weather is changing.
They look like regular Converse style hightop trainers, but they have a rigid sole, SPD attachment and a waterproof membrane. They are also made out of some of the softest leather I have felt on shoes. I have not tested the longevity of this, but they feel and look awesome. They come with a mink oil treatment for the leather, so as long as you take care of them, they should last a good long while.
You can get them online for £140. The Cycling Store will be stocking them soon and should have a pop-up near Christmas if you want to try some on.
One thing to keep in mind with the cleats is there are two main ones – SH51 and SH53. The 51’s are single release, meaning you twist your heel to the side to get your foot out. The 53’s are multi-direction release. Whilst it is best to learn to twist your heel, and this is the motion you will make most to get your foot out, the multi-direction ones have their benefits, especially in London traffic.
The multi-direction ones are great if you are starting out, or worried about being clipped in as you can set the pedals loose and then just yank your foot out. This served me well in one instance where a car decided it didn’t want to give me my right of way and I had to stop suddenly. I was still new to the pedals but instinctively yanked my foot off and managed to stop, rather than fall.
What are your favourite cycling shoes to wear in the city? Do you prefer the duck-walking road versions or do you have a beloved urban pair?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.