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The perfect fit for a cycling shoe can feel a little different than a normal perfect shoe. It’s supposed to have a little less room for future flexibility and there’s very small space for imperfections. The perfect cycling shoe should firmly grip your heel and the area surrounding the ankle. Your ankles shouldn’t be able to do any side-to-side movement in between the walls of the heel cups of the shoes, the area should be properly cusped. Your foot-arch should be properly bedded on the sole if that’s achievable. And lastly, your toes should have just enough room for you to wiggle them but not so much that your foot can slip back and forth while it’s in the shoe.
So to answer the question; “are cycling shoes supposed to be tight”? The answer is simply put, the cycling shoes should be pretty tight and well-wrapped while still leaving your toes just enough room to wiggle.
How do I choose the right cycling shoe size?
Checking your shoe size in a shop:
The simplest way to get your shoe size right is to consult a shop’s personnel. They’re supposed to have loads of experience and know about the nuances of the perfect fit.
Sizing yourself at home:
However, if you want to get some idea of what your size is, you can do so very easily at home. The main measurement when you’re trying to get your shoe size is length, although the width isn’t unimportant. Width is just more specific and more individual and it’s the next step after measuring length.
Measuring your length:
To measure your foots’ length:
- Put the back of your foot against a hard surface (like a wall), with something underneath your foot that you can mark with a pencil or a pen.
- Place a meter scale along your foot and try to make sure that it’s as straight and aligned with the plane of your foot as possible.
- Mark the underneath surface or piece of paper right along where your biggest toe is.
- Measure the length from the tallest point of your foot (usually the big toe) to the wall in cm or mm and then add 0.5 cm or 5mm to the measurement You have to match this measurement to a shoe sizing chart to see what your foot size is. Bear in mind that the EU standard is the most widely used system though once you have the initial measurement down in the cm or mm scale, the conversion from one standard to another is just looking at the table one more time or if you can manage it, pressing a few buttons on a calculator.
Measuring the width of your feet:
The second measurement to take is the width of your foot. Though not all companies make shoes with different widths for the same length, some companies are doing so. And you only need one brand to do so. The way to measure the width of your foot is pretty similar to how you measured your length.
- Place your foot on a sheet of paper or some surface that can be marked clearly.
- The length to measure is the widest part of the ball of your foot while your foot is pressed as if it’s pressed on a pedal during cycling. This doesn’t have to be a perfectly horizontal line. Just take the most protruding points on either side of your feet, draw lines right by them and take the distance between those lines. This is the area that is supposed to be mostly in direct contact with the pedal and is the area of transfer of force from your legs to the pedals. This can also be done by placing your foot between two solid surfaces on either side and then measuring the distance between those two surfaces.
- If you’re doing it yourself and are not confident with the accuracy of the measurement, don’t forget to add 0.5 cm or 5mm to the measurement to arrive at the exact final measurement. This may not be necessary for people who know the width that suits them best.
Having the show with the right width is important for efficiency and comfort. You see, when you pedal, the sole of your foot (including the ball, the area surrounding the arch, and the heel) expands due to the incoming force from the leg. If your shoe isn’t wide enough, it will damage both your foot and the shoe itself especially when you press down or walk or pedal. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to walk around in your shoes before buying them, measurements aren’t all, and picking up on micro-adjustments is easier by feeling.
You should repeat this procedure for both feet and if there’s a significant difference, go with the larger foot.
That being said, going to a proper cycling-shoe-shop and getting a professional opinion about your shoe size should generally be more efficient.
How your feet should feel in the cycling shoes
There can be a little bit of difference between how a perfect mountain-biking or recreational/ commuter biking shoe feels and how a perfect road/race shoe feels. Road bike shoes ideally are extremely firm, both with regards to the sole and the sides of the shoe. This is supposed to enhance efficiency when it comes to the transfer of energy from your leg to the pedal. Keep in mind that cycling shoes, higher-end shoes, in particular, are not supposed to mold onto your foot as you use them more and more. They’re extremely rigid and are not supposed to conform to your foot as you may expect from other sorts of shoes that are less rigid. Mountain biking shoes, though they’re still nice and firm aren’t supposed to be as rock-solid as road-biking shoes since they’re designed not only to enhance the efficiency of pedaling but also to let the rider walk around when they need to, like when they need to carry their bikes up rocky terrains and walk across puddles or if they’re riding around town, go into coffee shops or cafès.
With all of those things in mind, your cycling shoe has three major parts that you need to check when you’re looking for the perfect fitting shoe.
The heel cup which is exactly what it sounds like i.e. it’s the back part of the shoe which encapsulates the heel and the ankles. This part should grab your foot firmly, especially in road bikes. Your foot is not supposed to be able to slip out when you try and scrape off something on the ground with the heel of your shoe. In a mountain biking shoe, however, there’s a bit more flexibility and your foot may or may not slip out when you try to deliberately get it out. Keep in mind though that if it does get out, it doesn’t get out too easy. In road bikes, the sides of the heel cup are again very solid. The sides may be covered or reinforced on the outside with fiberglass, plastic, carbon fiber, etc., or a mixture of such materials. No type of cycling shoe should allow side-to-side movement between the walls of the heel-cup, it should be nice and tight.
The second part of your shoe is the mid-shoe. This part of the shoe covers the area between the ball of your foot and the heel. This area contains the arch of the foot. It’s very important that the arch of your foot is not too far above the sole of the foot. If you have a flat foot, the arch will be very small and your closing/tightening system (i.e. laces, Velcro, or BOA) should tighten up quite a bit around your foot. If you have a high arch, the opposite will be true. In either of these cases and for people with a little bit of individual requirements, getting custom-fitted foot-beds or insoles is a great idea to enhance comfort and thus enhance efficiency.
The other thing to look-out for in this area is related to the width of your foot which is the width of the soles. If the width of your foot (when it’s pressed down) is more than the width of the sole underneath it, the sole will not cover the entire area of the oncoming force and the area that it isn’t covering will apply forces to the material on the sides of the shoe. This will cause wear and tear of the shoe right along the soles and it may cause discomfort or irritation to the foot itself as well. The goal in this area is complete encapsulation, especially from the bottom.
The third part of your foot is the toe box. It’s also exactly what it sounds like and is the tapering part of the shoe that encapsulates your toes. The idea here is that your toes should have enough room to wiggle but not so much that your foot can slip back and forth when it starts getting sweaty inside the shoe or in any other condition.
What about Cycling Shoes for Females?
As with bikes, brands also manufacture separate female-specific models of their products and the major difference is in the sizes. The female cycling shoes just be as tight as their male counterparts for the same reasons which have been explained above.
There are different sections for female shoe sizes in the tables that address shoe sizes and you can see the difference when the shoes are in front of you. So take care to keep in mind that your specific needs will be better addressed as you go into areas that are more specifically designed to cater to you. Female-specific shoes are a bit smaller both on the upper side of the show and on the soles. Female shoe-soles are a little more narrowed-down as compared to male shoes. This can make for a better fit and possibly a more comfortable ride.