When you travel by bike, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the saddle. But there comes a time at the end of each day when you will step off your bike and want to walk around. Which brings up the question, “What kind of shoes should you be using on your bicycle tour?”
Shoes are very important on a bicycle tour because they are the item that connects you with your bike. Select the right shoes and your ride will feel like a dream. But select the wrong shoes and your tour could quickly turn into a nightmare.
To start, I want to show you the type of shoes that road riders typically wear. The reason I want to show you these shoes first is because they are great for long day rides, but horrible for long-distance self-supported touring.
In all my years, I’ve never seen a single person on a long distance bicycle tour wearing these types of shoes.
Road shoes are fine for long day rides or guided tours where your normal tennis shoes are carried for you in a vehicle that follows you along your route. In fact, if you have another pair of shoes to change into once you get off your bike, riding in these types of shoes might work just fine.
For the most part, however, road riding shoes are somewhat uncomfortable and they can be incredibly hard to walk in.
As you will see in a moment, there are better alternatives when it comes to shoes for traveling cyclists.
Mountain Bike Shoes
The most common type of shoe I’ve seen in use by long distance bicycle tourists is the Mountain Bike Shoe. This type of cycling shoe uses a Shimano SPD clip to attach your shoes to your bike.
The reason these types of shoes are so popular for touring is that they allow you to connect with your bicycle for a powerful, enjoyable ride… but they also allow you to walk considerable distances in relative comfort. You probably wouldn’t want to walk for more than a couple miles in these types of shoes (I’ve done it), but covering a mile or two in MTB shoes won’t hurt you at all.
Finally, you might consider riding in regular pair of tennis or running shoes. I rode with New Balance running shoes on my first two bicycle tours and they worked quite well. And just this past year I cycled through Europe, often times wearing a pair of $30 Nike running shoes. And again—no problem!
The disadvantage of riding with regular running/walking shoes is that they don’t provide you with the fluid, powerful ride that you get with shoes that clip to your bike. However, once you get off the bike, you’ll be completely comfortable covering long distances on foot. If you plan to do a lot of walking on your bike tour, riding in regular tennis shoes might be a good idea.
If you’ve been on a bicycle tour at some point in the past, what type of shoes did you bring with you (for riding your bike and for exploring on foot)?