Best Women’s Indoor Cycling Shoes for 2021

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In this article I review several of the better-quality women’s indoor cycling shoes available online.

As I illustrate later in the article, a pair of solid indoor cycling shoes provides you with nice performance & health benefits that regular gym shoes just can’t deliver.

 

All of the indoor cycling shoes are well-regarded by their owners, and have a higher level of owner satisfaction than most of their peers.

Also, there are a couple of inexpensive indoor bike shoes featured here if you are working with a tight budget.

 

Here are the shoes we’ll be looking at:

 

Fizik R5B Donna BOA                                            4.6 ⭐

Louis Garneau Women’s Multi Air Flex        4.6 ⭐

Pearl Izumi Women’s X-Project 2.0               4.5 ⭐

Pearl Izumi Select Road v5 Studio                   4.4 ⭐

Giro Techne                                                                4.3 ⭐

Zol Predator MTB and Indoor Cycling           4.2 ⭐

tommaso Pista Road Bike Cycling Spin         4.2 ⭐

 

6 of these shoes have the 2-hole SPD configuration which will work with the vast majority of pedals you’ll find on indoor cycling bikes.

And some of the shoes also have a 3-hole Delta pattern installed on them as well, making them able to go road cycling with you too.

 

 

test tubes green - heydayDo icon

 

Science resources included

As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant medical resources, clinical studies, & nutritional data used in this article.

 

 

Benefits of cycling shoes

Why wear cycling shoes? Aren’t any ol’ pair of athletic kicks up to the task?

Whether you’re out on the road, indoors attending a Spin® class, or at home in your own version of a Peloton studio, a well-made cycling shoe provides you & your riding experience substantial benefits.

 

Improve your pedaling form

Being attached to your pedals gives you the opportunity to keep your leg muscles in ideal alignment for every one of the thousands of pedal strokes you make.

This has a significant effect on your pedaling efficiency, which in turn dominoes into:

  • increased performance
  • increased stability
  • reduced discomfort
  • stronger leg muscles
  • less lower leg fatigue

Cycling shoes reduce strain in muscles & tendons

If you’re not attached to your pedals, you’re asking your leg muscles & tendons to compensate for this during the “pull” portion of every one of your strokes.

Over time this can easily manifest as strains & discomfort in your quadriceps, calf muscles, & Achilles heel tendons.

They’re being asked to help “lift” the pedal, and that pulling action is not their forte.

With cycling shoes being attached to the pedal, you’re able to use your bigger & stronger hip flexor muscles during the ‘pull’.

This not only makes your pedaling more powerful & efficient, it reduces the amount of muscle & tendon strain you’d otherwise endure wearing ordinary sneakers.

 

close up indoor cycle cleats & pedal clip

 

Increased performance

When your pedaling motion is dialed in – thanks in part to a good pair of cycling shoes – you create what is called in cycling efficient energy transfer.

As this efficiency increases so does your cycling performance.

This manifests as your ability to ride longer, ride faster, and do so using less of your energy.

 

Increase your muscle strength

This efficient pedaling also manifests as increased muscle development in your leg.

This is great news for your cycling performance and your overall health & level of fitness as well.

None of your leg muscles are being asked to constantly stabilize your foot position on the pedals.

This concentrates all of their power into your pedaling, and their focus on the pedal’s resistance spurs their growth.

And as I’ve mentioned elsewhere here on heydayDo, one of the nice benefits of resistance training is the fact that the more muscle we have, the more calories our bodies will burn.

 

Bottom line on cycling shoes benefits

We don’t jog in flip flops nor hike in dress shoes.

The footwear specifically designed for those movements are superior choices instead, for a host of obvious (and sound) reasons.

Similarly, indoor cycling shoes are a smart investment in yourself if your fitness plan includes a lot of bike pedaling.

They provide more stability & improve your form, which in turn enhances your workout, reduces potential discomfort, and boosts your muscular results.

 

 

Indoor cycling shoes sneak peek

Here’s a few comments from owners of these shoes, and you can click on the pic or the name to read more buyer reviews.

 

Top Pick 

Fizik R5B Donna BOA

“Been riding in these for a few weeks now and have to say they are excellent. I took a half size bigger than usual, having wide feet and the fit is perfect. Never had such a well fitting and comfortable pair and very sleek and stylish as well. Sole is plenty stiff enough, no noticeable flex and power transfer is better than my old shoes.” 

Fizik R5B Donna BOA - heydayDo image

Top Pick 

Louis Garneau Multi Air Flex

“I teach spin classes and this shoe is very comfortable and supportive. I would recommend ordering a Size bigger though because I ordered my size and had to return for a size up. This aside this training shoe is very good and a very fair price. They also look nice and neat.” 

Pearl Izumi Women’s X-Project 2.0

“These shoes are awesome! I did have to exchange them because I read other reviews that said to order two sizes up and in reality I only needed one size up. That said, I love these shoes, they are completely customize-able and they are very lightweight and comfortable. ” 

Pearl Izumi Women's X-Project 2.0

 

Pearl Izumi Select Road v5 Studio

“I have recently started spinning and was on the lookout for the perfect shoe. I have been wearing a US 8 or 8.5 and size 40 is a perfect fit. These are not as stiff as many others are. Also these will work well for both regular or wide feet.” 

Giro Techne Bike Shoes

“Been very pleased with my Giro Techne’s. They’re a narrow fit, and I had to go up a size, but once I got them right they’ve been great. I use them for commuting mainly. They’re easy on/off given the velcro, and fit well under neoprene overshoes.”

Giro Techne Bike Shoes - heydayDo image

 

Zol Predator MTB and Indoor

“Very comfortable ! I wear a size 8 and need more room in the toe box. I originally ordered the 41 but they were too long; ordered the 40 and they are perfect ! Good arch support. I made it through a spin class and did very well in these shoes.” 

Zol Predator MTB and Indoor - heydayDo image

tommaso Pista Road & Cycling Spin Shoe

“Love these shoes for my spin classes. I was renting shoes and decided to order myself a pair. Got these so quick and installing the clips was so easy and they come with a warranty. I bought size 42 and I wear a shoe size 9 they feel a little roomy probably could have gotten a size 41 but I’d rather have a little extra room then too tight.” 

tommaso Pista Road & Cycling Spin Shoe - heydayDo image

 

nu red spin bike icon

 

 

Indoor cycling shoes buyer’s guide

Here are a couple of broad-brushed guidelines to consider if you’re buying your first pair of indoor cycling shoes.

 

Where to buy cycling shoes?

Just my subjective opinion…

…I think buying online will work better than shopping at brick & mortar retailers for many people.

I think that:

  • the selection of good quality indoor cycling shoes is larger online.
  • the online price will be (sometimes much) lower than retail.
  • the return & exchange process is much easier online vs. retail. This is important because getting that great fit with a pair of indoor cycling shoes doesn’t always happen right off the bat.

 

Here’s my subjective logic on all that.

  • Many people don’t have easy access to a quality cyclist shop.
  • Many cyclist shops have a limited number of brands &/or selections of indoor cycling shoes to choose from.

 

Why those 2 issues are important

Fit

Perfect sizing of cycling shoes often involves a fair amount of trial & error, at least that’s what I’ve (repeatedly) observed over the years.

 

baby trying on several pairs of large adult shoes

 

So being able to try on several pairs of well-made cycling shoes in order to find the right one is something we want.

Wait. Doesn’t that make shopping in a store a better option?

No.

Virtually every well-known indoor cycling shoe retailer (Amazon, Zappos, REI, etc.) online offers free & easy, no-hassle returns or exchanges.

And – like I’ve seen a number of people do – you could buy 7 pairs of shoes (maybe not all at once 😄), pick your favorite, & return the other 6 with a lot less hassle than if you tried that tactic at a retail store.

 

Price

Many boutique cycling shops charge a lot more for that pair of top-rated shoes you want compared to its price you can easily find online.

What about Big Retail?

Big retail stores & sporting goods stores that carry cycling shoes – just from what I’ve seen with my eyeballs – may have a large selection at competitive prices, but the product quality is a lot less impressive.

 

Bottom line

Reiterating…Online shopping offers a better selection of great quality indoor cycling shoes, lower prices, & a better customer-first process for returns & exchanges.

 

 

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How to choose indoor cycling shoes?

Answering a question with a question, let me ask:

Will you be riding primarily/exclusively indoors?

If so, the easiest way is to stick to choosing shoes that are specifically designed for indoor cycling.

Many indoor cycling shoes can be worn out on the road, if you plan to ride outside at all.

You likely wouldn’t notice any big drop off in performance using your indoor shoe on the road, unless you’re an advanced cyclist with lots of road experience with road cycling shoes.

 

Road cycling shoes not great for walking

If you plan to ride outside a lot, a separate pair of dedicated road shoes ain’t a bad idea.

Reason is, road cycling shoes aren’t the easiest things to walk around in indoors, depending on the floor surface.

 

Cleats AKA clips

The pedals on the indoor cycling bike you use or will be using dictates the type of cleat you’ll get on your shoe.

The majority of indoor cycling bikes that you’d own or ride at a class work with SPD cleats.

They have 2 holes.

 

close up of indoor cycling shoe cleat on sole

 

The indoor cycling shoes you’ll be looking at while shopping will likely be either 2-hole SPD shoes or shoes that have both a 2-hole SPD & a 3-hole (AKA “Delta”) hole configuration.

The 3 holes will work with road cycles if you plan to hit it outside, as well as with certain indoor cycle pedals you may come across in certain cycling studios.

And while there are specialized 3-hole cleat types needed to ride specific indoor cycling bikes in a certain few studios, your studio can tell you that before you plunk down any shoe money.

 

How should cycling shoes fit?

If these are your first pair of indoor cycling shoes, don’t sweat it if you don’t nail the perfect fit on the first pair you try on.

And remember my gentle suggestion regarding online shopping’s easy return & exchange policies. The point is getting a great fit.

 

A couple of bullet points to tick:

*Well-made indoor cycle shoes have stiff soles.

This stability also means they don’t break in as much as sneakers do. So – the shoe should feel comfy from the get-go.

 

*Sizes typically run small – just read a few hundred reviews like I did 😄.

Cool thing is, many owners took the time to say what their regular size is compared to the size they bought that fit them so well.

 

Checkpoints:

Your arch ought to feel the shoe’s support.

Your heel, while maybe a teeny bit slack against the back of the shoe, shouldn’t be loose & able to move up out of the shoe easily.

Your toes have a little wiggle room.

The feeling is snug without that “cut-off circulation” kind of tightness.

 

Sizing

As mentioned, feedback from owners will readily let you know if you need to bump it up a size or two, or if the shoe fits true to size.

Each manufacturer supplies a conversion chart*, since the default sizing uses the European numbers.

 

*Be aware: About those conversion charts supplied by the different indoor cycling shoe manufacturers…I’ve observed that they don’t all jibe with one another.

I also read owner feedback where the conversion chart online (e.g., Euro size X = US size Y) matched the size on the shoe box, but then the label on the tongue of the shoe had a different US “size Y” on it…alrighty then.

Cycling shoe shopping mantra: “Endeavor to persevere.”

 

bowling shoes stacked in bowling alley bins

 

Sole train

There are 3 types of material used to build your shoes’ soles. Here they are, ranked from cheapest to most expensive:

*plastic – inexpensive but can flex in the cheaper shoes which advanced & powerful riders don’t like

*fiberglass and fiberglass/plastic blends – strike the balance between frugality & performance requirements

*carbon  – the stiffest of the 3, and so it’s the most sought after sole by advanced cyclists.

 

The stiff sole provides the best energy transfer during your pedaling downstrokes, since there’s no give.

Net result: you can ride longer & faster using less energy.

 

purple spoke bike - heydayDo icon

 

We need some closure here

Indoor cycling shoes come in 3 ways to snug your shoe’s upper:

  • laces
  • velcro straps
  • ratchet system with a tightening cam

Laces are familiar, but if they ever got snaggled in your bike’s hardware or moving parts, you’d be unhappily camping.

Plus they’re more prone to getting wet or dirty.

 

Velcro’s quick & easy just like it is on regular shoes.

Doesn’t offer the full lockdown of the cam system, but you are indoors…nothing too gnarly going on.

 

The ratchet system is the most secure and ergo the most expensive.

Ideal for road cycling and advanced indoor trainer work.

 

How to clean cycling shoes

Keeping your cycling shoes clean & maintained goes a long way towards extending their performance & longevity.

I thought I’d include a video that goes into detail about that process in case some of you are wondering how best to care for your cycling shoes.

Here ‘tis:

 

 

How to put cleats on cycling shoes

With a similar sentiment in mind, here’s an informative vid on cleat attachment & setup:

 

 

 

 

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Best Women’s Cycling Shoes Review

Top Pick

Fizik R5B Donna BOA

Great-looking & performing indoor cycling shoe that’s well-priced considering the attention to detail & materials used.

Fizik R5B Donna BOA - heydayDo image

What I like:

*Well-designed shoe – functionally & aesthetically

*Very high owner satisfaction rating – 96% (4.8 stars, 200+ online reviews)

*Suitable for road cycling –  built for 3-hole SPD-SL cleats, so it’s good to go on the road

*Upper – It’s made with space age material and perforated for max breathability

*Outer sole – is a carbon + nylon hybrid praised by many owners for its lack of flex and good energy transfer

*Cam ratcheting closure

 

Any issues?

*Be mindful of sizing correctly (but this applies to all indoor cycling shoes, I’ve come to believe)

*It uses an SPD-SL cleat (3-hole) system, so for regular SPD-only bikes you’d need a cheap SPD-SL adapter set like this one from Shimano.

Check current price on Amazon

 

nu red spin bike icon

 

Top Pick

Louis Garneau Multi Air Flex

A breathable hybrid-type shoe that adapts well to a variety of riding situations, from Spin® class to any kind of outdoor riding.

What I like:

*Very high owner satisfaction – 91% (4.6 stars)

*Easy to walk in – Cleats are recessed, outsole is rubber, and there’s some flex in the toe. All these features add up to making it a lot easier to walk around in these cycling shoes if you need that option

*Good padding – in back of the heel

*SPD compatible – (2 bolt)

*Ventilated & Versatile – The good combo of stiff and flexible sole plus its breathability make it a nice multi-use cycling shoe

 

Any issues?

*Size up? I came across a lot of owners who loved the shoe once they got the right size. All felt that Garneau’s sizing ran at least a size smaller than standard.

Check current price on Amazon

 

nu red spin bike icon

 

Pearl Izumi Women’s X-Project 2.0

Another well-designed hybrid that’s a great shoe both on & off-bike.

Its carbon blend sole keeps flex to a minimum while riding, but not too stiff to walk in after class or somewhere outdoors if you’ve been riding out & about.

Pearl Izumi Women's X-Project 2.0

What I like:

*Very high owner satisfaction rating – 90% (4.5 stars)

*Walkables – Flex in the toe + recessed cleats allow for easy off-bike walking

*Boa closure system – ratchet cam tightens down snug as you need easily

*Versatile – works well as indoor cycling shoe and mountain bike shoe

 

Any issues?

*Sizing – an indoor cycling shoe recurring theme reoccurs. Many owners (particularly those without narrow feet) are going up from 1 to 3 additional (Euro) sizes.

Check current price on Amazon

 

nu red spin bike icon

 

Pearl Izumi Select Road v5 Studio

This well-built shoe was designed by Pearl Izumi specifically for performing well in hot & humid conditions, like within the sweaty confines of a cycling studio.

Or perhaps a rain forest in Venezuela.

Smart choices in materials & a clean profile in a lightweight shoe that can handle the road as well.

What I like:

*Very good owner satisfaction rating – 86% (4.3 stars)

*Space age materials used – anti-microbial mesh, closed cell foam padding, polyethylene sock liner… all these engineering marvels are built into the cycling shoe to 1) reduce & wick away moisture, & 2) reduce bacteria that make your feet smell. To infinity & beyond…

*SPD (2-hole) & Delta – Look (3-hole) compatibility – indoor & outdoor ready

*Breathable – It’s well-ventilated too

 

Any issues?

*None, not even sizing issues. Some people thought they were narrow, some said true to size, someone said it ran big…so no dominant trend to report there.

Check current price on Amazon

 

nu red spin bike icon

 

Giro Techne Bike Shoes

A simple dual (3-hole & 2-hole cleat-compatible) shoe with 3 easy-peasy Velcro straps and nice ventilation.

Good basic shoe will work well for beginners new to indoor cycling class.

Giro Techne Bike Shoes - heydayDo image

What I like:

*Very good owner satisfaction rating – 83% (4.4 stars)

*Nice entry level Giro shoe – This is Giro’s lowest, or close to its lowest priced cycling shoe. They used their clean stylish lines, and then kept the price down using nylon soles, velcro closures, etc.

*Comfortable

*Decent sole stiffness – more than adequate for beginners & casual cyclists

 

Any issues?

*Walking isn’t easy – The cleats are not recessed, which is similar to road cycling shoes.

*Sizing – here’s a surprise…(not really)…a few owners reporting that Giro’s sizing runs small

Check current price on Amazon

 

nu red spin bike icon

 

Zol Predator Indoor Cycling Shoes

An inexpensive hybrid mountain bike/indoor cycling shoe that’s well suited for beginners and enthusiasts who want some outdoor & off-bike capability in a basic shoe design.

Zol Predator MTB and Indoor - heydayDo image

What I like:

*Very good owner satisfaction rating – 85%, (4.3 stars, 150+ reviews online)

*Some walkability – the shoe works pretty well on most surfaces, and will work for short distances like while at class or at home

*Good ventilation

 

Any issues?

*Due to splitting its focus as a hybrid mountain bike/indoor cycle design, the Zol Predator is probably not the best inexpensive choice for someone who wants a shoe just for indoor cycling.

In your case you may be better off spending just a little more and getting a higher quality indoor cycling shoe (for example, like paying 15 bucks more for the next shoe in my article, the tommaso Pista).

Check current price on Amazon

 

nu red spin bike icon

tommaso Pista Road & Spin Shoe

This tommaso Pista is the #1 selling women’s indoor cycling shoe on Amazon (per Amazon).

In its very inexpensive package it offers a nice-looking design that has some durability & performance built into it.

And with its firm fiberglass sole and 2-hole/3-hole configurations, the tommaso Pista is also built to handle road cycling in addition to your Spin® class.

tommaso Pista Road & Cycling Spin Shoe - heydayDo image

 

What I like:

*Very good owner satisfaction rating – 80% (4.3 stars, 150+ online reviews)

*Fiberglass sole – This is stiff enough to help improve energy transfer during your down strokes compared to other cheap indoor cycling shoes

*Comfortable  

 

Any issues?

*Note this difference between the 2 Pista models on Amazon.

This Pista model I’m reviewing does not come with the cleats.

The Pista 100 Bundle shoes do.

However…(and this is why I chose not to feature it in my article instead of the cleat-less version)…

…the Pista 100 Bundle has a number of owner complaints regarding the cleats that are shipped with the bundle.

Nearly ⅓ of owner feedback is in dissatisfied territory; that’s not good.

 

*Sizing chart discrepancies again.

It seems that the provided Euro:US conversion chart shows different equivalents than the labels on the shoes do.

 

*Like all of the other shoes where proper sizing seems to be a moving target, the tomasso chart runs small.

Check current price on Amazon

 

purple spin bike icon

 

 

Benefits of Indoor Cycling

Before I close I’d like to provide you with some wonderful science-backed facts regarding the health & quality of life benefits you’re providing for yourself, thanks to your enthusiasm for indoor cycling.

 

Burn Calories

Per Harvard Medical, an hour of moderate indoor cycling burns 420 calories per hour if you weigh 125 lb., 520 if you weigh 155 lb.

An hour of vigorous indoor cycling – found in many Peloton & Spin® classes – burns 630 calories per hour for the 125 lb. woman and 780 for the 155 lb. woman.

(For comparison purposes, an hour walking for those 2 body weights burns 300 & 372 calories, respectively.)

 

Cycling improves cholesterol, burns fat

Indoor cycling can start improving your metabolic processes in as little as 3 months, says the Mayo Clinic.

They report that even a light routine of a couple of moderate hours per week has been shown to both improve cholesterol levels and lower body fat percentage.

These results are greatly increased when the time spent cycling & its intensity level are increased above that minimal workout mentioned.

 

Indoor cycling fights bone loss

Bone loss is a real issue for us as we age – especially for women – once 30 is in our rear view mirrors.

Scientific research has shown that resistance training has a pronounced effect on our bodies’ natural tendency to lose bone mass as we age.

And those thousands of downward strokes during your pedaling motion are a form of strength & resistance training.

Clinical studies have repeatedly shown that this type of activity has the ability to not only slow bone loss due to aging, but to also reverse this by increasing bone cell production.

 

Safer & easier on your joints & bones

Indoor cycling is a lot kinder to your bones & joints as compared to other forms of physical activity.

The safe confines of a cycling studio or your home, plus the fact that its a stationary activity, all but eliminate your chance of being injured while working out.

Additionally, it’s been medically proven that indoor cycling’s no-impact form of exercise is much less stressful on your joints & bones than even walking, let alone jogging, running, aerobics classes, or other high impact activities.

 

Other nice benefits

*Exercising with like-minded people in indoor cycling classes

*Improving your cardiovascular functioning

*Boosting your endurance & strength levels, which improves your day-to-day activities off your bike

*Looking better with increased muscle definition & strengthened core & leg muscles

 

green spin bike icon

 

Wrapping Up

I hope my women’s indoor cycling shoes product research & evaluations are useful to you, and that my cycling shoe buyer’s guide is helpful too.

I wish you well on your fitness journey; let’s go.

– greg

January 2021

 

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About heydayDo

heydayDo author Greg Simon
Hi I’m Greg Simon. Fitness training & nutrition researching since 1982. Organic food & wine grower. Surfer. Congenital heart disease survivor (so far). Read more…
heydayDo is my “fitness after 50” website that’s about embracing the physically active lifestyle as we get older.
 
I write about the fitness and health research I’ve found concerning the quality of life benefits that exercise and good nutrition provide.
 
When I get curious about something, I’ll dig into whatever sports science & medical facts there are on the topic to learn what’s real & what’s only hype. I also post my experiences product-testing & evaluating home gym equipment & fitness supplements.
 
 It’s an information-sharing, personal opinion blog of mine.
 
So if you’re looking for medical or nutritional advice, please consult with your doctor or health professional for that, since heydayDo does not provide medical advice.