Foot pain on the bike can be excruciating. Common issues include hot spots and numbness, which are uncomfortable on the bike, whilst repeated compression can lead to longer-term injuries such as Morton’s neuroma, which can cause irritation off the bike as well.
Cycling is a forefoot sport. Whilst the foot itself doesn’t generate any power, all of the watts produced elsewhere pass through your digits. So not only do poorly fitting shoes create pain, they can also limit performance.
Former British Cycling physiotherapist and bike fitter at the eponymous Phil Burt Innovation, Burt told us: “If you’re in a wrongly fitted shoe it would manifest as rubbing around the little toe, pain underneath the first and second toe where a lot of people get numbness or pins needles.”
Touching on the performance element, he added: “The foot and ankle don’t generate any power. All the power comes from your quad and your glute. But you can lose a hell of a lot through badly fitting shoes – for example if your foot is moving around or over pronating, you can waste a lot of energy.”
He has experience making custom, carbon fitted shoes but says even a well fitting insole can make a big difference, adding: “When someone wears a bespoke, carbon fitted shoe, or a good insole with a properly fitting shoe you do seen genuine uplifts in power.”
When brands create cycling shoes, they will typically cater for the “average” individual in order to appease the largest segment of the market. However, with cycling shoes being both incredibly rigid and fixed in place via cleats and pedals, those who fall outside of the norm can struggle to find shoes that fit.
Several brands do offer ‘wide fit’ options – these include Sidi, Bont, Shimano and Lake. The latter provide wide toe boxes as well as custom moulded heel cups to ensure a good fit all round for those with a wide forefoot and narrow ankle.
In recent years, some brands have begun to offer super light and very flexible shoes, such as the S-Works Exos from Specialized. At £450, they’re quite an investment, but Burt commented: “I’ve had good results from these lightweight, knitted or woven shoes because there is a lot of give in the fabric.”
He also noted that it’s important for those who struggle with foot pain to check out the retention system – adjustability on the fly does matter.
“Feet are at the bottom of the body, where blood flow is most compromised and your feet can start to swell as the blood struggles to get away from the feet after hours and hours in the saddle. You need adjustability at the forefoot,” he said.
We’ve had one wide-footed tester put three pairs of shoes through their paces. However, Burt advised that those looking to solve foot pain ensure they’re solving the correct problem before purchasing.
“You may not have wide feet. It could be that your foot is collapsing, and therefore splaying. A lot of people think they have wide feet, but given an off-the-shelf corrective insole, the problem goes away because they have the support their foot needs.”
You can buy arch supporting insoles in your local chemist, and of course there’s many brands out there who will create you a custom version should you want something more bespoke.
Burt’s final piece of advice is never to buy shoes without trying them on, “it’s madness to buy shoes on the Internet,” he says.
Owen Rogers has compared three pairs, head to head. Remember that foot shape is individual, you should try before you buy.
As per all our buying guides, with each product is a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.
The entire Lake road shoe range has wide fit options, with extra wide available in some models, making the company’s shoes essential for this test. Despite the name, the CX332 is definitely a road shoe, sitting third from top of the range.
They are beautifully made, with Lake’s Klite kangaroo leather upper both strong and supple, however, the plain black pair I was sent look more like a school shoe than one made for speed. Luckily they come in three other colour schemes, including a striking chameleon blue and a black white graphic fade.
There’s a natty patch of shiny carbon weave on either side of the heel, which is heat mouldable to minimise any chance of slip. The moulding process is simple enough on your own, though the instructions in the box recommend having help, preferably from a Lake dealer.
If you do it yourself follow the instructions closely, do not tighten the shoes too much immediately after heating or risk disfiguring the toe box, reducing the space available for your feet and detracting from the look. Do it right and the process works well, and I experienced no heel slip out on the road.
The sole is a thing of beauty, its glossy carbon weave glints in the sun and is drilled for ventilation. Chris Reid, the Retül fitter at Rutland Cycling even noted how the graphics struck the perfect balance between simplicity and detail for cleat positioning.
On the bike is where the sole really shows its colours though. It’s hugely stiff, directing all your effort into the pedal, and while the stiff sole of the Bont can cause discomfort, the Lakes are so comfortable they feel like slippers.
Initially I experienced a little bit of tightness on my wider, right foot, but this eased and though there is plenty of room in the toe box, there is no unwanted movement on the upstroke.
This is helped by the shoe’s Boa IP1 dial, which make tightening and loosening easy at any time, even through overshoes.
They not be the most radical looking shoes, but these CX332s are meant for racing and are even sold with a two year crash replacement guarantee, with a 50% discount on a new pair in the first year of ownership and 25% in the second.
Sidi Ergo 5 Mega, £260
The Ergo 5s are fourth in the hierarchy of Sidi’s road shoe range and the top placed in their ‘Mega’ wide fitting. The Ergo 5s certainly bear a family resemblance to all Sidi’s range, looking simple though classy, even if colours are limited to white and black with a matte finish available in the latter.
These are the only shoes on test without a full carbon sole and the most expensive shoe in Sidi’s line up without one. Instead they sport the Italian company’s Suola carbon composite last and it is here the shoes are slightly let down in more than one way.
If you turn them over you’ll see a strip of carbon weave which, on closer inspection looks like a stick on patch. Though I was unable to peel it off to prove the point, it looks tacky. On the bike the sole is stiff enough, but lacks the extra rigidity of either the Lakes or Bonts, leaving me slightly underwhelmed, and adding to the overall weight. They certainly don’t feel like a racing shoe.
Of the three sets of shoes on test these were the only ones which cannot be heat moulded, however, out of the box the heel cup was the best fitting on test, with no slip whatsoever when pulling up.
Sidi are not known for making voluminous shoes, but the Mega fit gave me plenty of room to wiggle my toes, despite the slightly pointy toe, though the right shoe was tight across the forefoot, where my foot is at its widest.
However, there is some slackness over the top of the foot allowing the rider’s foot to move, thus wasting a fraction of effort. I was unable to dial that out with either the Velcro strap or the Techno3 ratchet fastener, which turns out to be the shoe’s main weakness.
Less obtrusive than the ubiquitous Boa dials found on the other test pairs, it looks great, works as well as any system out there, but is extremely fiddly to use on the move.
There are different buttons to tighten and loosen, unfastening completely is a two handed job and they cannot be adjusted while wearing overshoes, an issue that twice found me sitting at the side of the road tightening them.
Bont Vaypor-S, £325
Straight out of the box and these are classiest shoes on test. There is nothing wrong with the others, but every seam and stitch on the Bonts is perfect, the join between the upper and the matt finish carbon weave sole a beautiful, gentle curve.
Even the inner appears luxurious, but make no mistake, these are pure bred race shoes, the company boasting, “the Vaypor S once again redefines the standards of pro level road shoes.”
They’re nearly 60g lighter per shoe than the Lakes, and with a dimpled Durolite upper apparently helping aerodynamics, the deep, carbon heel cup and high tech construction they are a shoe many of us lust after.
When I opened the parcel I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, but, with a few rides in the shoes, the gloss has been very slightly tarnished, as I occasionally found them uncomfortable.
They are brilliant shoes though. The rigid sole is extraordinarily direct, allowing flawless power transfer. Shaped like a boat, it holds your foot in place laterally, that deep heel cup grips you solidly, and while the upper looks soft, it is rigid on all but the top of the shoe, where memory foam makes for a cosseting feel.
This though makes them feel little loose and it’s easy to over tighten, and that, combined with the rigidity of the sole caused me some numbness and hot spots not apparent with the other shoes here. I found myself constantly fiddling with the dual Boa IP1 fasteners to get the right balance between tightness and comfort.
Bont boast its top end shoe is the most heat mouldable on the market, and while its website says remoulding was unnecessary if the shoes fitted, I found a session in the oven enhanced the fit. Not only did I manage to make the heel even more secure, but a bit of toe waggling increased the space in the forefoot.
The perforated upper and replaceable, protective bumper round the front make these extremely well ventilated shoes, in action they even made me want to pedal faster, and if it weren’t for the discomfort I experienced they may well be perfect.
With a retail price some £50 cheaper than the other two, the Sidis come third here. They are a fine shoe, and look great, but they lack the race bred focus of the others. Combine that with the closure system and they don’t quite hit the mark.
As the scoring suggests, there is little to separate the Lakes and Bonts. Both are fantastic shoes and while the list price is a big ask for many, with a bit of shopping around they can be found much cheaper.
If you’re looking for a pure race shoe maybe the Vaypor S is best for you, but for its all round ability the Lake CX332 is our winner here, though by the smallest of margins.
Comfort is, of course subjective and in the end that is all that comes between the two. The Lakes are not as focussed as the Bonts and would feel just as home on a club run or sportive as they would racing a crit or TT.
While looks are also subjective, and the Bonts do look good and come in some great colours, you don’t have to pick the black Lakes. If you do make sure you steer clear of white socks, or risk looking like you’re riding to a 1980s school disco.
This content was originally published here.
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