5 Benefits of Cycling Shoes for Triathlon + Care & Maintenance Guide

Feb 23, 2024
cycling shoes

(Credit: Adobe Stock)

Beginners will often look at cycling shoes for triathlon as something reserved for the pros. The more experience one gains in the sport, however, the more apparent it becomes that every quality piece of kit matters. Miles add up fast in triathlon, and a small advantage can quickly compound over the course of a race or training cycle

What Are Cycling Shoes?

Cycling shoes are a specialized form of footwear designed to maximize comfort and performance on the bike. Unlike regular athletic shoes, cycling shoes are optimized for use with the clipless pedal systems that are common on a bike set up for cycling and/or triathlon; it allows riders to securely attach their feet to the pedals for better power transfer and control.

5 Benefits of Cycling Shoes for Triathletes

The unique build of a bike shoe is what sets it apart from other athletic trainers and running shoes. Here’s how they make pedaling easier, more powerful and less strenuous on the body.

(Credit: Adobe Stock)

Stiffness

Bike shoes for triathlon have much stiffer soles than your average form of athletic footwear. This is to maximize the amount of power transferred from the triathlete to the pedal. A stiffer sole has less give, which mitigates the energy that would otherwise be lost through flexing and bending in the shoe when pressure is applied to it.

Smoothness

If you’ve never worn a triathlon bike shoe, then you don’t really know what smooth pedaling feels like. Being clipped into the pedals literally makes the bike an extension of your body. If it’s fitted properly, you become one synchronous unit with a common purpose. The snugness of cycling shoes also provides a remarkable sensation of stability and control.

Comfort

Carefully chosen materials and strategic ventilation pockets make cycling shoes stand out when it comes to breathability and overall comfort. You want your feet to dry quickly after the swim, and you don’t want them to overheat and be sweaty going into the run. The triathlon bike shoe strives to solve both problems in one design.

Transitions

Many cycling shoes have triathlon-specific features to help you transition quickly and efficiently on either side of the bike. Heel loops and wider openings offer a seamless slip-on, while quick closure systems like velcro straps or BOA dials allow you to tighten up and dismount on-the-go. These features become evermore important, valuable and time-saving as competition levels rise.

Muscle Activation

Being clipped into the pedals allows you better utilize the full revolution of each pedal stroke. It’s tempting in a regular shoe to let that second half of the stroke (6 to 12 o’clock) become passive. When you’re clipped in with a triathlon bike shoe, you’re actually able to pull up on the pedal and further engage the hip flexors for momentum assistance (especially helpful on hills).

(Credit: Adobe Stock)

Care & Maintenance Guide for Tri-Cycling Shoes

If you’re going to invest $200-$300 in a pair of high-quality triathlon cycling shoes, then it’s important you learn how to take care of them. Proper maintenance of your cycling shoes helps them last longer and perform better over time. With just a few dedicated minutes post-ride and the occasional deep clean, your shoes will always be looking and performing like new.

Post-Ride Cleaning Routine

A simple cleaning post-ride can do wonders for the materials of your cycling shoe. By clearing them of any built up residue and debris, it allows everything to dry out and breathe better after a wet and/or sweaty session on the bike. Accumulated dirt and grime has a way of eating up and degrading the shoe, affecting everything from fit to performance. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Remove Large Debris: Using a cloth or soft brush (such as a used toothbrush), gently remove any sediment or other debris that has built up on the shoe. Be sure to pay close attention to seams, mesh, and other ventilation holes/pockets as dirt loves to nestle its way in there.
  2. Wipe Down: Dampen your cloth and use a mild detergent solution (such as dish soap) to give the entire shoe a quick cleaning. This helps to avoid discolouration while at the same time removing more stubborn stains and dried on muck.
  3. Tighten Cleats: This is also a perfect time to ensure the underside of your shoes are in check. Tighten up your cleat bolts, make sure nothing is damaged or out of position, and ensure the shoe is ready for your next ride. 
  4. Air Dry & Store Properly: Avoid using heat to dry your shoes (which can damage their material), and instead allow them to slowly air dry out in the open. Afterwards, store in a cool, well-ventilated area to discourage the growth of mold and the exacerbation of stench!

(Credit: Adobe Stock)

Deep Cleaning Cycling Shoes for Triathlon

We’re all going to skip the regular cleaning from time-to-time, despite our best efforts. We’ve yet to see a triathlete breaking out their grimy toothbrush to clean cleats at the end of a race! With that in mind, it can be good to set aside some time for a deep cleaning of your triathlon bike shoe every once in a while. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Remove Insoles: Take out the insoles and give them some space to air dry and deodorize. 
  2. Brush & Wipe: Repeat steps 1 and 2 of the post-ride cleaning routine to remove the bulk of any dirt and residue that has built up on the shoe.
  3. Heavy Scrub: Using your brush, a damp cloth or even a sponge, spend some extra time scrubbing deep into the material of the shoe to help loosen up old stains and restore the breathability of the material.
  4. Baking Soda & Magic Eraser: If you have more stubborn stains and are looking to bring back the original colour of the shoe, you can try these two options:
    1. Baking Soda: Mix baking soda with a bit of water to form a paste. Work the paste into your shoe’s material. Gently wash it off using your brush or cloth.
    2. Magic Eraser: A dampened magic eraser will be even more effective if the baking soda isn’t cutting it. Simply wet the eraser and work the shoe until clean.
  5. Air Dry & Store: Same as in the post-ride cleaning routine, give your shoes time to dry in the open air and away from sunlight and extreme temperatures. Store in a dry, cool environment.

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Written by Eric Lister - Certified Personal Trainer & Corrective Exercise Specialist

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