The best women’s cycling shoes can make or break your ride. If your feet aren’t comfortable, nothing will be. Selecting the right pair of shoes can be tricky, as feet come in all different shapes and sizes, plus women’s feet tend to be shaped slightly differently to men’s.
Comparing materials, arch heights, widths and closure systems can be quite a minefield, only then to also factor in weight and price (often hand in hand). Make sure to check out our guide to the best road cycling pedals to find the perfect pairing for your shoes.
Not all brands make women’s specific shoes, but the ones that do generally adjust the ‘foot last’. This is the mould used for the base of the shoe, and women’s specific lasts have been ergonomically tailored to fit better to women’s feet.
For the models that are not women’s specific, they run into the smaller sizes to offer a fit for more petite feet.
Jump ahead to what to look for when buying women’s cycling shoes
Best women’s cycling shoes you can buy today
Fizik delivers again on the Infinito R1 knit, the fabric version of its much loved Infinito R1. We found the woven material to be really comfortable after a few rides to break it in, allowing for maximum flexibility and breathability in the front areas of the foot.
The area on the top of the foot and the double Boa closures create the support system needed, whilst an ultra-rigid heel cup holds everything in place. The sole is highly stiff, unidirectional and full carbon. The only downsides were they run on the narrower side and the cleat holes are positioned further forward than most, but it’s a great option for slender-footed individuals. The inset around the front of the ankle takes some breaking in as well.
These shoes are built to be a performance racing shoe, and a great option for those who ride in hot summer weather.
Bontrager, Trek’s in-house components and finishings brand delivers great value for money with the Velocis. One of our favourite aspects of the shoe was the combination of one Boa with one velcro strap, giving the advantages of the Boa system, with the price point of a velcro system.
The material is easy to clean, and the carbon / fibreglass composite sole offers a good range of adjustability with cleat placement. We did find that they fit a tiny bit on the snug side through the met-head area (where the toes start) so if you have wider feet, go up a half-size. The toe box was round and spacious though, letting our little ones have a wiggle even after getting hot.
The Velocis are a great mid-range option if you’re looking for the benefits of the Boa system without breaking the bank.
Sidi is the stalwart for cycling shoes. The Italian company has been around for a long time, and partially because their shoes stay around for a long time.
The Alba 2 is cut with a women’s specific last, tailored ergonomically for female anatomy. The shoe closes with two Velcro straps and one of their proprietary Tecno-3 System dials. The carbon composite sole features a replaceable heel pad if you wear it out. Actually, one of the bonus elements of Sidi shoes is how many parts of them are replaceable, meaning you can keep your investment running for longer.
The Alba 2 is an entry-level road shoe. They are heavier than most others on the market, and the arch support isn’t the best due to it hanging over the carbon sole, which can cause some midfoot collapse.
But for a sturdy entry-level road shoe that will last over a few seasons, the Sidi Alba 2 can’t be beaten.
For some true classic styling, look no further than the Giro Empire women’s shoes. This lace-up shoe pairs a retro feel with a super soft and supple upper, which although leather-like, is fully microfibre and lightweight.
These shoes are fully comfortable from the first ride, a somewhat rare occurrence as normally it takes a few weeks to break in shoes. A great feature we noticed is they come with three different instep and arch support inserts that fit under the insole. Having a low, medium and high arch support insert means that no custom footbeds are required, and everything you need is in the box.
The shoe is quite flat across the sole, so your toes aren’t lifted and you can achieve a great pedal stroke with power through the whole rotation. The Giro Empire is a great choice if you have a bit of patience. Compared to similar shoes, they take longer to put on and properly tighten up. Alternatively, if you want to try Giro shoes with a Boa system, opt for the Regime, which shares all of these fit features but forgoes laces for the ratchet system.
Bont is undoubtedly the shoe of choice for wide-footed riders in the pro ranks. The shoe has an unyielding sole, arguably the stiffest on the market, and it extends in length to form part of the heel cup, creating a mono piece that holds its shape.
The shoe comes in five width options including wide and double-wide. At first the upper might feel cumbersome, but it’s designed to be heat-moulded around your foot so you have all the benefits of the stiff upper without any of the painful complications that come with it.
All Bont shoes are handmade, as a bit of a warning, meaning there can be small size discrepancies and setting up cleats from one pair to another can take some extra time.
Shimano has created a shoe that fits almost everybody with their RC3. The stiff fibreglass sole and very tight heel cup with anti-slip liner mean a lot of extra drive and power on the upstroke.
The centrally placed Boa offers a system with a single ratchet that covers the entire shoe. The cleat plate offers a large range of adjustability for placement, and the synthetic leather upper doesn’t stretch too much.
For the narrow-footed, the Shimano RC3 may be a little too wide in the mid-section, but they should be a great fit for anyone with a standard to almost-wide foot shape.
Northwave crafts shoes with over 20 years’ experience, which is why we trusted them with a true entry-level road shoe. The Jet 2 Shoe offers the versatility of a road pedal (three-bolt) and MTB (two-bolt) systems.
They are a good option for wider feet and designed for comfort and breathability. While they might sacrifice a bit on the performance side, the two velcro straps ensure a snug fit.
It may not be as elegant or micro-adjustable as a Boa or ratchet system, but a great option for those just starting in road cycling and wanting to try cleat shoes without a massive investment.
Expect only the best from Specialized in their S-Works line. The S-Works 7 shoe is a full performance road shoe built from top to tail with ergonomics, power and comfort in mind.
The stiff sole features a very straight mid-line to the tip, which immediately gives the feeling of better and more direct power transfer. This is the direction modern shoe design is going in. Because the sole is straight through the middle of the foot, less of the arch hangs over it, offering great support and meaning the upper takes on less of the support role.
We found the shoe thoroughly supportive, with a toe box that was just big enough. If you have larger toes for your foot size, check out their wide-fit option, although the space through the met head was generous. With Specialized’s proprietary Boa system the dual-way dial tightens and loosens with the same type of movement.
We found these shoes to be smooth and efficient from the first wear, with Specialized living up to its reputation of top-quality products.
What to look for when buying women’s cycling shoes
1. Cleat placement adjustability
When you look at the sole of your shoe, look for a shoe that offers some degree of adjustability in where you place your cleat, to ensure you have the correct setup and cleat placement for efficient power transfer. This can vary greatly among different shoes and different feet, so adjustability is key.
Shoes come in two families of material: leather and synthetic leather, sometimes with knit fabric technology added into the mix. Opt for a knit shoe for superior breathability and lightness, leather for a material that will naturally mould and adapt to your feet, and synthetic leather for a smooth, durable and easily cleanable surface.
We can’t stress enough how important this is, especially as sizing can vary greatly between brands, and often isn’t reflected in what you might wear in casual shoes. You want your shoes to be snug, but still giving your toes enough room to wiggle and some space for your sole and arch to breath, without cramping up.
Remember your feet swell as you get hot, so if a shoe is snug when trying it on in a shop, it will only be tighter on the road. If you have the option to order two sizes and return one if ordering online, this can be a safe option, and don’t hesitate to reach out to customer service for sizing help.
4. Closure system
The closure system is how the shoe will stay on your foot. In this guide you can see there are a few standard options: laces, velcro, Boa dials and the Sidi system which is similar to Boa. The Boa will give you the best tightness and small secure adjustments, but as a warning, if they break they are expensive to replace and may leave you without shoes for a while. Velcro is a great low-price and low-maintenance option that offers security and stability without the high price tag. Lace-ups that can be seen on the Giro Empires (and dhb shoes) are great for comfort, retro style and low profile functionality that never breaks, but can be tricky to adjust to the correct tightness.
If you are investing in an expensive pair of shoes, you want to make sure they are going to last a good few seasons in the pedals. Check for which parts are replaceable, and do know that the more expensive shoes tend to be better constructed and longer-lasting. Sidis are known for their durability, but they are heavy as a result.