Triathlon bike shoes provide specialized features that are designed for the dynamics of multisport.
Not only are they easier to slip on and off for efficient transitions, but they’re often stiffer and enable greater power transfer to the pedals.
Here we break down the basics of triathlon bike shoes, what to look for, and the products we recommend.
Road vs. Triathlon Cycling Shoes
Unlike traditional road bike shoes, triathlon cycling shoes have a more minimalist, stripped-back design that is generally lighter in weight and more aerodynamic.
Often designed with just one or two over straps and larger heel loops for easy entry and removal, triathlon cycling shoes are made for fast transitions.
Triathlon bike shoes are typically stiffer compared to road shoes, as they often use a rigid carbon fiber sole for great responsivity and power transfer.
Generally, they come in the triangular, three-bolt cleat attachment pattern that accommodates Look KeO, Speedplay, and SPD-SL cleats, among others.
Triathlon cycling shoes are designed for sockless riding, which is particularly common in short-course events like sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. And because triathletes are just exiting the swim, a good pair is made with faster drying materials and better ventilation.
Features to Consider
Like any cycling shoe, there are unique features worth weighing. From the straps and attachment mechanism to the material composition and design, here are a few key considerations to keep in mind.
- Comfort and fit are absolutely critical. You want some breathing room without scrunched toes and a spacious toebox to allow your toes to splay naturally. Numb toes or feet are a sign of poor-fitting shoes.
- The closure or fastening mechanism/strap is always evolving with triathlon bike shoes. Many new models are using the Boa ratchet system while others leverage a strap system.
- Weight is an important consideration in any cycling-related accessory, and shoes can add substantial grams. Fortunately, a lot of modern tri bike shoes are made to be very lightweight.
- The stiffness of the shoe is an important variable for cycling shoes as it influences power transfer from the foot to the pedal. Stiffer soles are generally preferred to maximize efficiency and output.
- The shoe’s functional design, such as the heel loops, strap, and removability is important to consider, especially if you’re a competitive triathlete.
- Aesthetics matter. You want a shoe that you’ll love. And oftentimes, the way a shoe looks dictates how much you love it.
These are some of the most important factors to consider when investing in triathlon bike shoes. If you’re in the market for an upgrade, here are several products worth a look.
Triathlon Bike Shoes We Recommendation
1. Bont Zero+
The Bont Zero+ is an aero cycling shoe that’s optimized for triathletes and time trialists. The shoe features an aerodynamic covering and a single BOA dial underneath, making it a simple yet high-return shoe for those marginal gains.
The Zero+ are touted the fastest cycling shoes, tried and tested by Ironman legend Jan Frodeno as well as several pro track cyclists. The shoe is made of one carbon chassis, making it super lightweight, stiff, and responsive.
Built to order, the Bont Zero+ shoes are available in custom colors and sizes, which is what I needed for my extra wide feet. High performance comes at a premium. These shoes retail at over $400 but Bont offers specials from time to time.
Check them out at BontCycling.com.
2. Fizik Powerstrap R4
Perhaps the best bang for the buck when it comes to performance tri bike shoes, the Fizik Powerstrap R4 is incredibly stiff and lightweight with a full carbon outsole.
The strap design is extremely simplified, allowing for smooth insertion and removal even while on the bike. A knitted upper enables optimal ventilation.
Boasting an average of 4.6 out of 5-star reviews, the Fizik Powerstrap R4 tri shoes are affordably priced at around $109 and are unisex for both men and women.
3. Pearl Izumi Tri Fly 7
Pearl Izumi is a household brand name in the triathlon space, and these Tri Fly 7 cycling shoes are a dependable option for both men and women. The sole uses direct-vent technology to facilitate drainage and a mesh upper helps dry things up in a fly.
The notched main strap and double heel loops are designed for efficient entry coming out of T1 and dismount entering T2. The reinforced nylon sole is stiff and lightweight, offering a unique combination of both 3-bolt cleat and SPD compatibility.
The sleek, black design comes in at a price point of around $110. Buy them directly from Pearl Izumi in Men’s and Women’s.
4. Shimano TR5
Shimano’s TR5 is designed to be a short-course triathlon cycling shoe for women, allowing for faster transitions and overall ease of use. If you’re just entering the world of triathlon but want a high-quality bike shoe, you can’t go wrong with this option.
The sole is made of lightweight fiberglass that offers superior stiffness and power transfer similar to carbon. The mesh upper is mindfully tailored in abundance to maximize ventilation. The all-white look screams speed.
At $140 (sometimes marked down for less) you can get the Shimano TR5 shoe.
5. Louis Garneau Tri X-Speed XZ
The Tri X-Speed XZ is a performance mid-range triathlon bike shoe that is made for men but doesn’t exclude women. Incredibly lightweight and breathable, this shoe delivers Kona-ready capabilities at a fair price.
Louis Garneau Tri X-Speed XZ offers 2 and 3-bolt SPD/SPD-SL pedal capability, making them great for your triathlon bike or indoor trainer. A full mesh upper optimizes ventilation and breathability for hot weather riding.
Well-reviewed and well-priced, you can get Garneau-quality cycling shoes with the Tri X-Speed XZ for around $159.
6. Lake TX223 Tri Shoe
If you’ve tried Lake cycling shoes in the past, then you likely know the level of quality, fit, and feel that they offer. Lake’s TX223 Tri Shoe is no exception, delivering the ultimate in comfort and performance.
Designed with a carbon outsole for maximum power transfer, a perforated sole for air intake breathability, and microfiber uppers for cleanliness and comfortable pedaling – the TX223 Tri Shoe is meticulously engineered for high-performance triathletes.
You can find the Lake TX223 Tri Shoe for around $239.
7. Pearl Izumi Tri Fly Pro
One of the hottest-looking triathlon bike shoes from a quality-driven brand, Pearl Izumi’s Tri Fly Pro are different from other cycling shoes in that they use BOA® Fit System technology versus an over-strap. Preferred among many types of cyclists, this twist dial option tightens the shoe to perfection and is just as easy to loosen/draw as straps.
Pearl Izumi is a pioneer in the tri shoe space with its 1:1® PRO Air Carbon Power Plate, which delivers superior stiffness and overall weight reduction. The fully knitted upper provides high breathability and zonal stretch – all of which are reinforced with synthetic leather for exceptional durability and longevity.
You can find the Tri Fly Pro’s for around $250, as well as other Tri Fly models.
8. Shimano TR9
One of the most well-designed triathlon cycling shoes for elite performance and head-turning good looks, the TR9 is a podium topper in the Shimano family.
A true triathlon racing shoe, the TR9 is designed for professionals. They offer a rigid and lightweight carbon sole, stabilizing heel cup for optimal positioning and power transfer, and a breathable mesh and water-resistant upper for exceptional ventilation and quick drying.
Extremely lightweight and as stiff as they come, you can find the Shimano TR9 for $275 (or less).
9. Fizik Transiro Infinito R3
Go with something a bit more low profile with the Transiro Infinito R3’s from Fizik. Delivering professional-grade performance with a minimalist design, these triathlon cycling shoes look great and feel even greater.
Built with a full carbon sole, the Transiro Infinito R3 tri shoes are highly stiff and lightweight, optimized for power transfer and responsivity. This unique triathlon bike shoe design uses a combination of a primary strap and BOA® Fit System around the ball of the foot.
You can find the Fizik Transiro Infinito R3 for around $299.
10. S-Works EXOS Cycling Shoe
A high-performance road shoe that’s triathlon-friendly, the S-Works EXOS are built upon an extremely lightweight carbon sole that maximizes stiffness (13.0 stiffness index) and power transfer. The Specialized body geometry footbed and Dyneema mesh outer conform to your feet so well that you’ll forget they’re on.
Using a single BOA® Fit dial as the primary fastener, the S-Works EXOS are easy to get on and off, making them a fantastic triathlon bike shoe for any distance racing. At about 300 grams per pair (or .66 pounds), they’re some of the most lightweight cycling shoes you can find. Next to having a carbon wheelset, these are one of the best-performing tri bike upgrades.
The S-Works EXOS cycling shoes can be found for $349 (sometimes less).
Do You Have Triathlon Bike Shoes to Suggest?
Do you like a particular pair of triathlon bike shoes that we haven’t mentioned? We want to know about it! Let us know your favorite tri cycling shoe and contact us!
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Endurance athlete, professional off-road cyclist, and avid blogger, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-course multisport and cycling events. Today, Tyler competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional level. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, he has been the head of content for the site's editorial team. Learn more about Tyler