Buying SPD shoes

OK, you want to buy SPD shoes, so how do you decide what brand to go for, what type of shoe, and how will your budget affect your choice?

First, make sure you definitely HAVE decided on the SPD system – and if you have done then you will need to get the appropriate pedals and cleats, too. If you are not sure about the different types of SPD shoes, or even what SPD is, make sure you have read this introduction first. Assuming it’s SPD shoes you are after, here are the other points you are going to want to consider:

  1. SPD or SPD-SL? You need to have decided what SPD cleat system you have opted for – again, read our guide above. In general, for road cycling you will probably choose SPD-SL, while for MTB you will go for SPD, for the reasons I mention in that article. Some SPD shoes have both two slots for SPD and three holes for SPD-SL (and other 3-hole systems), but don’t take that for granted! If you are buying SPD shoes online, make sure you can see a good image that shows the holes, the manufacturer description often isn’t very clear!
  2. MTB or road? Although some roadies might opt for MTB-style shoes (and pedals) and vice-versa, generally you will be looking for completely flat-soled shoes for road (with 3 holes for SPD-SL). For MTB you will probably want to go for off-road type SPD shoes with good treads and recessed slots for the cleats, necessary for any situation where you need to get off and push/carry.
  3. Racing or leisure? Cycling shoes are not all built the same. Some are made of lightweight fabrics (sometimes in a kind of “boot” form) that are great for long leisurely rides but aren’t going to last long if you are racing – apart from anything they may not be waterproof, and they can also tear or wear through quickly if they are rubbing against the cranks. The “boot” kind is not suitable for racing for other reasons, too – the ankle support it provides does not allow the kind of flexibility you need for high-performance riding.
  4. Cheap or expensive? Ahh, the $200-$300 question! As with just about anything else you buy today, you partly pay for the name, but you also pay for what you get. My first SPD shoes, Pearl Izumi, were about $100 (about 60 pounds), but three years down the line were a ragged mess, torn to shreds by my abuse! Still, I got my money’s worth in many ways. But more expensive shoes are not only more durable, they have advanced features like carbon soles which hugely increase rigidity and therefore efficiency. How serious are you, how much do you want to pay, how much can you pay?

In each of the sections I plan to add to this one, I will give you an overview of different brands and models of SPD shoes, comparing them using some of the criteria I have listed above. I will also list some places where you can buy them from, hopefully for the lowest possible price!