Advertisement

Sign up for our newsletter

Advertisement

Best cycling shoes for summer 2021

Cyclist magazine
4 Aug 2021

Cyclist’s guide to the best cycling shoes for hot weather and indoor training from Rapha, Specialized, Fizik and more

Yet even the nicest conditions can be undermined by an uncomfortable pair of shoes, so in this buyer’s guide we’ve rounded up the best summer cycling shoes to help you cope with the hot weather.

But what makes a cycling shoe particularly suitable for summer use? While similar in price to more general-use premium designs, summer cycling shoes possess several features that differentiate them and attempt to optimise their performance in high temperatures.

Knitted or woven uppers are a good example of this – over the last year or so similar designs from several brands have hit the market. The aim being to reduce weight and improve ventilation compared to conventional synthetic uppers.

Brands tend to boast that these uppers create a sock-like fit, however the material still needs to have enough structure to hold the foot firmly while pedalling. More often than not summer shoes will use a similar sort of dial retention system to regular shoes to secure the upper around the foot.

You’ll likely see more heavily sculpted soles though – the solid carbon fibre plates found more commonly on top-end shoes are great for stiffness, however largely prevent airflow from reaching the sole of the rider’s feet.

Summer shoes tend to have larger cutouts in the soles, which makes them airier as well as lighter. It does tend to have an effect on sole rigidity with some designs ending up not quite as stiff, although according to a few brands this effect isn’t universal.

Often a time riders are looking to upgrade their shoes, summer-focussed options will also be the perfect choice on the turbo come winter. If you're ready to invest in a set, here are our faves...

The best cycling shoes for summer

Tech Editor’s pick: Specialized S-Works Vent

Buy now from Tredz for £399.99


Based on Specialized’s popular S-Works 7 shoes, the S-works Vent design features a few trick upgrades in an attempt to optimise the design for summer weather.

The upper features the same heel cup, blingy-and-exclusive Boa S3 dials and Dyneema reinforcement layer but builds in sections of fabric that Specialized says is a ‘single-layer, engineered mesh material that is designed to provide structure where it is needed while remaining extremely open and breathable.’

The sole differs from the S-Works 7 shoes too, and is borrowed from the brand’s S-Works Exos shoe. Compared to the slab-like block of carbon sitting at the bottom of the regular S-Works shoes, the ‘Fact Powerline’ sole features large cut-outs to save weight and further promote ventilation for only a small sacrifice in stiffness.

A vented toe cap, which Specialized says was inspired by the distinctive ‘mouth ports’ on its road helmets, facilitates airflow directly onto the rider’s toes. Combined with the sections of fabric in the upper and cutouts in the sole, this makes for a seriously airy shoe that is also lightweight (claimed 230g per shoe). You can read more on the S-works Vent shoes here

Buy now from Tredz for £399.99

Best budget summer cycling shoes: DHB Dorica

Retro lace-up styling, a carbon sole, and significant change from £100. There’s a lot to like about Dhb’s Dorica racing shoes. Sold by Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles, there’s also a cheaper non-carbon version that’s even more keenly priced. Made for the road, along with the standard three-bolt mounting system, the shoe’s carbon soles features several vents making them a breezy option for summer riding. 

Of course, lace-up shoes have their pros and cons. This means that while they ensure even pressure distribution, if you want to tighten or loosen the uppers you’re going to have to stop, unlike velcro or dial closures which allow on-the-fly adjustment. 

Performance-wise, there’s a bit of flex in the sole unit, particularly under torsion. It’s something that you can see when you manipulate the shoe over your knee, but that’s rarely noticeable when riding. However, given the Dorica Carbon’s price tag, it’s something most will be happy to live with.

Fit-wise the shoes come up quite large, a fact worth bearing in mind as they only come in whole UK sizes. Heel support is solid and we didn’t find any tendency to heel lift. The toe box is roomy too, so unlike some cycling shoes, there’s plenty of space to fit wider feet. All considered, these are a top quality pair of shoes, and an excellent budget choice. You can read our full review here

Here are some of our other favourite summer cycling shoes..

Fizik R1 Infinito Knit

Ostensibly (Giro will argue its case) the first to market with a knitted design, Fizik can boast a Tour de France win for its R1 Infinito Knit shoes, which were on the feet of Team Ineos’s Geraint Thomas in 2018.

According to Fizik, the uppers are made using electronic knitting machines that can change the yarn direction mid-knit to create different weaves. Fizik says this means that it can build in different characteristics to the upper in different areas – more ventilation in one area, but more support in another for example.

Fizik says it can cater for different foot shapes thanks to the R1 Infinito's ‘Volume Control’ system. Apparently, the IP1’s Boa dial routing is key: the ‘Infinito’ loop pulls the upper in evenly. The upper Boa dial takes care of adjusting the shoe’s arch support.

The ‘R1’ portion of the name refers to the sole, which is unidirectional carbon fibre and apparently exceedingly stiff, despite several small vents to promote airflow.


Rapha Pro Team

Buy now from Rapha for £260


Despite appearing similar initially to some of the other shoes on show, Rapha claims its Pro Team shoes are markedly different. The upper is woven, not knitted, which gives it a higher thread count.

Rapha says its ‘Powerweave’ material can therefore be used to create more complex structures that are much less prone to stretching or abrasion. What’s more, the upper is seamless – which the brand says promotes comfort – and DWR-treated to better cope with wet conditions.

At a claimed 250g per shoe, the ‘Powerweave’ upper contributes to the shoes’ lightweight too. Dual Boa IP1 dials take care of a fairly conventional-looking closure pattern and the tongue is padded to disperse pressure across the rider’s foot.

As we found out in our recent review the unidirectional carbon sole is unyieldingly stiff, however sensibly Rapha has included rubberised heel and toe caps to improve durability and walkability.

Buy now from Rapha for £260

Shimano S-Phyre

While Shimano’s S-Phyre design isn’t specifically a summer shoe it is such a perennial favourite, boasting such a versatile design, it would have been remiss for us not to include it in our roundup.

The upper is made from regular synthetic microfibre, but is heavily perforated to promote ventilation. It is made from one piece and wraps around the foot so closure and tension are evenly spread. Shimano says the ‘Powerzone’ routing of the lower Boa IP1 dial further enhances this effect.

The S-Phyre’s use a sturdy external heel cup lined with a ‘cat’s tongue’ fabric inside to prevent heel slippage in use.

The upper is directly bonded onto the stiff carbon sole, eliminating the need for a lasting board. Shimano says this lowers stack height as well as weight – despite not being overly lightweight, the S-Phyres remain competitive at a claimed 243g per shoe. Read more about the latest Shimano S-Phyre shoes here.


Giro Empire SLX

Giro’s Empire design reignited the desire for lace-up cycling shoes back in 2016 and despite most competitors now including a lace-up option in their range, for many the original still remains the gold standard.

The Empire SLX shoes are Giro’s latest revision. While it retains the old-school closure system, the new upper claims to be packed with technology. It comprises a seamless, ultralight monofilament ‘Synchwire’ mesh, which has been reinforced by thermally welding on sections ‘Teijin TPU’.

Giro claims the resultant fabric is durable and supportive despite being breathable and comfortable.

Easton’s EC90 SLX2 carbon sole backs up the lightweight upper and helps create a shoe that Giro claims is the lightest of Cyclist’s selection at 185g.

A nice finishing touch is the inclusion of Giro’s ‘Super Natural Fit’ footbed system, which provides arch support options straight out of the box – not something offered by many competitors despite similarly high retail prices.

Sidi Sixty 

Sidi’s newest design was released to celebrate the brand’s 60th birthday and is claimed to be the brand’s lightest ever, at 258g per shoe.

While the shoes are still handmade in Italy like most of Sidi’s other top-end models, they are notably different to recent previous designs, appearing cleaner and less technical.

The Sixtys eschew Sidi’s adjustable heel mechanism and swap the usual second ‘Tecno-4’ dial for a velcro strap across the forefoot. Both decisions were made to help shed grams.

Sidi claims to be doing its bit for the environment too. The shoes’ ‘TechPro’ upper – a polyurethane microfibre – is said to be eco-friendly as well as high-performing, being water- and mould-resistant while conforming comfortably around the rider’s foot.

Bontrager Ballista Knit

Buy now from Trek for £279.99

In Bontrager-speak, Ballista means pretty damn fast. It is the moniker given to the family of products in Bontrager’s range geared around aerodynamic efficiency.

That is one reason for the unusual placement of the Ballista Knit’s lone Boa IP1 dial – tucked away as it is on the rider’s heel, the ‘Heel Reel’ is concealed from the wind.

Bontrager says the route the cable takes has ergonomic benefits for closure too – the brand claims the long length of cable closes uniformly down and back on the foot to secure the upper without any hotspots.

The knit material is claimed to be typically lightweight, airy and close-fitting, as well as being treated with DWR to help the shoe repel light road spray.

A nice bonus is the inclusion of a pair of shoe covers with the shoes to extend their range of use. It further increases the value of these shoes, whose retail price compares favourably to the others in this guide. The shape of Bontrager’s ‘In-Form’ last is known to suit wider feet, with plenty of volume in the toe box.

The shoe’s features are topped off – or rather, bottomed out – by an ‘OCLV’ carbon sole, which is said to be lightweight yet stiff. Cyclist’s web writer Joseph Robinson has tried them out and confirms the shoes’ efficiency at transferring power, but we’d be inclined to take Bontrager’s claims at face value anyway – parent brand Trek uses the same stuff to make its top-end race bike frames.

Buy now from Trek for £279.99

Adidas The Road Cycling Shoe 

Buy now from Adidas for £130


To brand your shoe as ‘the’ definitive article, as in Adidas’s The Road Shoe, is quite a statement of intent. However, realistically Adidas's shoes aren’t here because they trounce similar models in terms of performance, but because we think they’re cool.

Plus they’re not too expensive, which also helps. 

With an upper that relies upon the same recycled Primegreen jacquard woven fabric Addidas uses throughout its running and football ranges, the result is a cycling shoe that’s equally light, comfy and breezy. Done up with traditional laces, they also manage to hug your feet in a pleasingly sock-like way.

Obviously, both these traits make them splendid for hot summer days or use inside on the turbo trainer or at the gym. Given the cost, it’s not surprising to see a slightly basic nylon/glass fibre composite (read plastic) sole. Although this gives away a bit versus a carbon alternative, they’re still a competent choice, albeit one you’ll probably buy for the three stripes before anything else.

You can read our full review here

Buy now from Adidas for £130

DMT KR4 

Buy now from BikeInn for £109.99

Not the most high-profile name on the list, our recent experience with DMT’s KR4 shoes convinced us that the brand deserves a much higher profile. Pleasingly minimalist to look at, the shoe’s summer-style knitted uppers are closed with an equally neat Boa dial. Feeling almost like fast running shoes, there’s no tongue to bunch up or otherwise complicate matters. 

Slender fitting, this lightweight assembly is then married to a nylon sole. At this point, you might be considering scrolling along to find something a bit fancier and made of carbon. However, our tester reckons you’ll struggle to find another set of plastic-soled slippers able to get the power down like these. 

Meaning they remain a great option for racers, the choice of sole material also actually leaves them lighter than the brand’s more expensive KR1 models, as worn by WorldTour stars such as Tadej Pogačar. Resulting in a lightweight, peerlessly comfortable shoe for warm-weather rides, you can find our full-length review of the DMT KR4 shoes here

Buy now from BikeInn for £109.99

Pearl Izumi Pro Road V5

Buy now from Freewheel for £349.99

The clean appearance of Pearl Izumi’s Pro Road V5 shoes isn’t just to do with their high-quality finish – the entire upper is woven exactly as required with no excess to trim off.

Despite being made just like a sock, Pearl Izumi says it has built-in ‘zonal stretch’ to the fabric so it could fine-tune each zone to the right level of flexibility and retention. Indeed, we know first hand that the dual Boa IP1 dials that secure the shoe are only nominally required for a solid fit.

Pearl Izumi says the Pro Road V5’s carbon sole was a two-year project to perfect. It features large cutouts that improve airflow and drop 22% weight over the previous design, but unusually without any drop in claimed stiffness.

As befitting a design geared around dry weather riding, the shoes come in a pristine white colour option. To keep them looking Colgate-fresh Pearl Izumi says the shoe upper benefits from its ‘PI Dry’ technology – a type of souped-up DWR treatment that should help shrug off dirt flicked up from the odd puddle or summer shower.

The Pro Road V5 shoes are the most expensive option in this guide, but in our opinion successfully combine stiffness and lightweight with good looks and comfort.

Buy now from Freewheel for £349.99

Read more about: