With more people than ever commuting to work by bike, it’s important to have the right tools for the job. Getting a pair of the best commuter cycling shoes may not be an obvious thing for some, but it can make all the difference to your ride to work.
Whether or not you already sport minimalist carbon cycling shoes on your weekend club ride, it’s clear that those aren’t the type of thing you want to be using for the commute. They don’t exactly go with jeans or office wear, and they definitely don’t make it easy to walk from the bike to the office.
Instead, finding a pair of the best commuter cycling shoes can make cycling to work more practical and comfortable. These shoes will have some flexibility to them, and be able to walk on most surfaces. This means you can both pedal efficiently while riding, and easily walk to your destination once you’ve locked up the bike.
They strike a balance between the stiffness and ventilation of the best road cycling shoes and the comfort of a walking shoe. Fashion adds yet another dimension to this equation, with lurid team colours out, and subtle hues in.
If you’re not sure if you should be clipping in or not, check out our article that explores flat vs clipless, and once you’ve established which are the best commuter cycling shoes for you, be sure to check out the best commuter helmets, best commuter bikes, and the best bike locks to keep your pride and joy secure when you arrive at work.
Keep reading for our roundup of the best commuter cycling shoes you can buy right now.
Best commuter cycling shoes available today
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FiveTen is a legendary shoe name when it comes to climbing and mountain biking, but did you know it also offers casual riding shoe options? Since being acquired by Adidas, FiveTen has expanded its range to include the leisure and commuter cycling shoe market, and we think its slip-on Sleuth is a great option.
While it wouldn’t be best suited to a 20-mile roundtrip commute, it would suit a shorter commute, as well as any urban riding you happen to be doing, from that Saturday morning coffee to whizzing about town running errands.
The Sleuth’s construction blends a canvas and mesh upper, which allows for excellent walking comfort, due to its inherent fabric flexibility. Colours and overall design are both quite muted, which should make FiveTen’s slip-on Sleuth easy to pair with most of your urban daywear.
FiveTen built its reputation in the climbing and mountain biking communities with outstandingly grippy rubber sole compounds, and the Sleuth is no different. It features a Micro-Dotty sole which has tremendous flat pedal grip.
The only downside would be that their slip-on design means you sacrifice a touch in terms of structural rigidity in the uppers. This could lead to some foot movement in the shoe if you are climbing out of the saddle, but it’s unlikely this would ever be an issue.
Designed for the rigours of off-road riding, Shimano’s gravel-oriented GR5 shoes make for a very durable commuting option. They lend themselves well to casual riding and commuting, thanks to their skate-like aesthetic, which will blend well into whatever clothing you pair them with (bar a suit, of course). Their lace-up closure makes it possible to get a good fit without straps and dials that scream ‘cyclist’, plus the flexible sole offers an element of walking comfort.
If you commute by bike all year round, come rain or shine, then you’ll need a commuter cycling shoe that’s designed to last. Shimano’s footwear is just that, with the GR5s constructed from a durable synthetic upper material, combined with mesh to help your feet breathe. The outsole is sticky enough to offer a decent amount of traction, which means your shoes won’t be slipping and sliding on your flat pedals, but it’s not a vice-like grip that you’d expect while mountain biking.
For the Rumble VR, Giro draws much of its inspiration from its mountain bike product line, hence the casual activity sneaker aesthetic. It combines two-bolt SPD cleats with the overall appearance of a hybrid sneaker or running shoe, making it another great covert option for efficient pedalling combined with a casual look.
Its upper is a combination of breathable synthetic material, with mesh inserts, to keep you cool and comfortable in summer.
Stride comfort is supported by an EVA footbed and midsole, whilst traction on all surfaces benefit from an Italian sourced Vibram outsole.
Configured for clipless riding, the Rumble SPD-compatible cleat box has generous fore-and-aft adjustability, to help you find the most comfortable contact point, whilst on the bike. There’s a tidy lace keeper loop, to prevent drivetrain suck.
Chrome Industries has been making durable cycling kit aimed at urban riders and professional bike messengers who demand durability and a casual style.
Chrome’s Dima 3.0 shoe is a flat pedal slip-on shoe that has a cycling-specific PowerPlate nylon shank inserted into the sole to enhance pedalling stiffness and improve power transfer. The toe and heel are capped with rubber to fend off scuffs, and a rubber crash pad in the heel softens the blow if you find yourself bailing off the bike.
The uppers are made from durable 1,050 Denier Cordura and have a slim profile for a better fit when using toe clips or straps. The Dimas have a clean, low-key look, though they tend to run large, so go down a size when buying.
It’s been a while since Adidas launched the Velosamba, a cycling-specific version of its iconic Samba shoes, but they’re still one of the most stylish options out there, with the distinctive triple stripe down the side, lace-up closure, and seven different colourways to choose from.
However they’re more than just their looks, and the Velosambas are constructed from a wipe-clean vegan leather for durability, while the stiff nylon insole is fully reinforced to deliver efficient pedalling, though this does make walking long distances uncomfortable. There’s SPD compatibility and reflective details to help you stay visible on the roads after dark.
If you need a leather clipless commuter shoe for winter riding, look no further.
DZR has made a name for itself, by combining cleat box soles with stylish urban footwear design. The H20 is true to its naming convention, by being waterproof – and perfect for those urban commuter cyclists who don’t always dodge puddles.
Aside from using a full-grain leather upper, DZR’s designers also integrate a waterproof membrane into the shoe’s structure, to provide comprehensive waterproofing.
There is little point in having a clipless pedal interface if your shoes are too flexy. DZR’s H20 features a metal reinforced nylon shank, for improved power transfer when you are cranking away.
Safety features include an elastic lace catch and reflective heel badge. If you want an SPD-compatible all-weather leather riding shoe, the DZR H20 is excellently suited to that purpose.
Another activity shoe that has a multisport appearance, Bontrager’s SSR is a great option for those who need an off-road capable walking shoe with a cleat box.
Bontrager’s designers have created a generously shaped shoe, which is claimed to the brand’s comfiest for both riding and walking. The rubber outsole has strong grip for scrambling over off-road terrain, but it is also great if you need to run some stairs to be on time for that appointment.
Compatible with two-bolt SPD cleat, Bontrager reinforces the SSR’s structure with a nylon plate to resist pedalling flex. If you choose to ride flat pedals or wish to use the SSR as more of a multipurpose shoe, there are plugs available to fill-in the cleat box.
Ventilation is good, with comprehensive mesh inserts, and the SSR’s fit is secured with laces and a single Velcro top strap.
The Rockit Plus from Northwave are designed with a blend between mountain biking and everyday life in mind. We’ve personally toyed with these shoes for all manner of riding, including a dedicated mountain bike ride in sloppy conditions, where they held up very well to the puddles and rain; dry and dusty gravel rides in the hills of Tuscany, where they were well suited to clambering up steep dusty trails on foot and hard efforts up gravel roads on the bike; we’ve even worn them to the supermarket because they’re actually really good looking casual shoes. They’re seriously comfy in all situations too.
There are downsides: the Northwave dial closure uses the dial to tighen them up, but a latch to loosen them and this latch is a little finicky – we much prefer the Boa dials found on other cycling shoes. Also, the cleat fouls the floor when walking, so our fellow supermarket shoppers did have to deal with the click-clack as we tap-danced our way around the shop. As for how much of an issue that is for you, you’ll have to decide. We’d still buy them again, given the need.
How to choose the best commuter cycling shoes for you
Do you need special shoes for cycling?
There’s nothing to say that you ‘need’ cycling-specific shoes, but they exist for a reason. Cycling shoes are designed to make cycling a more comfortable and efficient experience. They’ll also often come with well-considered features that tackle very specific challenges.
Cycling-specific shoes will usually have a stiffer sole, which makes your pedalling more efficient. However when you’re commuting by bike, and therefore walking as well as riding, you’ll want to strike a balance. The stiffer the sole, the more uncomfortable they are to walk in, but the more flimsy the sole, the more power you’ll lose while pedalling.
All of the shoes we’ve recommended here strike a balance, and in some cases we’ve commented on which shoes are stiffer than others listed.
Is it okay to choose my commuter cycling shoes based on how they look?
Of course! Exterior design, proportions and colourways are hugely important for any commuter shoe choice, with most riders preferring to err on the side of subtlety.
The purchasing bias is more influenced by traditional casual shoe fashion sensibility than outright pedalling dynamics and conventional cycling metrics, such as weight, ventilation and sole stiffness.
If you buy commuter shoes that don’t adequately match with your work or social wear, there is little point, as you’ll feel uncomfortable wearing them.
That’s why in our list of recommended commuter cycling shoes, we’ve included lots of options that ‘blend in’ and resemble casual footwear.
How do I keep my laces out of the cranks?
It’s a common hazard, especially if you tend to cycle in casual lace-up shoes, that sometimes your laces can get caught on the chainset (and in some cases, be shredded in the process).
Thankfully, cycling-specific shoes are designed with these types of challenges in mind, and the majority of lace-up cycling shoes these days will feature an elastic strap to tuck your laces into. Or, if you’d prefer to play it extra safe, there are plenty of options with Velcro straps and Boa dial closures, though these tend to be a feature of road cycling shoes.
Which fastening system is best for commuter shoes?
As mentioned above, you don’t have to be limited to laces if you don’t want to (though they do make for the most casual aesthetic). They’re the most commonly used closure system in the commuter cycling shoe market for that reason, plus they provide a lot more flexibility for walking in comfort.
However there are other options, including Velcro straps and Boa dials. These are more commonly found on road and mountain bike shoes, and they can offer a lot more adjustability in fit, especially the Boa dial, which you can adjust while you’re riding. If this is more important than a casual aesthetic, then take a look at entry-level road and mountain biking shoes for a budget-friendly commuter shoe option.
Do I need waterproof shoes?
If you plan to commute by bike all year round (and specifically if you live in the UK), it would be sensible to factor some waterproofing into your choice of commuter cycling shoes, especially if you only want to invest in one pair.
Even when it’s not raining anymore, you’re likely to be affected by spray from wet road surfaces, so look for shoes made from waterproof materials. Leather or fake leather features a lot in many cycling shoes on the market, and this has the added bonus of being wipe-clean so you can easily look after them.
However one thing to consider, especially if you’re only buying one pair of shoes for year-round use, is that waterproofing means less air flow, so your feet are likely to overheat in the summer due to the lack of ventilation. In this case, you might want to opt for some shoes that aren’t waterproof, and pair them with some waterproof overshoes when you need to.