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5 Best Cycling Shoes for Women

Shoes are a girl’s best friend, and if you’re like us, a good pair of cycling shoes can be your BFF. The right pair of shoes can increase comfort, boost power transfer to the pedals, and make your smile when you put them on.

Unfortunately, it seems that the cycling shoe manufacturers change their offerings each season. Thus, that favorite pair of shoes you have that are starting to wear out? It’s unlikely you’ll be able to find it again.

Fortunately, we’ve spent time researching the best women’s cycling shoes to help you find the best of what’s on the market currently. Here is a list of our favorite women’s cycling shoes as well as a comparison chart and tips on how to choose the best shoe for you.

liv-footwear

Why Buy a Women’s-Specific Shoe?

Like many other products we review, cycling shoes are not inherently a gender-specific product.  Plenty of women wear “men’s” cycling shoes or unisex shoes with no problems. 

That said, women tend to have narrower heels and smaller feet than men, and women’s shoes start in smaller sizes.  Therefore, if you have a small foot, it makes sense to look for a women’s-specific cycling shoe. 

Additionally, most men’s shoes tend to come in really boring colors (black or white are the norm), so if you want something more feminine or flashy, choose a ladies cycling shoe.


Our Top Picks

ShoePrice
High End
1Shimano S-Phyre RC9 $425
2Sidi Genius Fit$269
3 Liv Macha Pro $385
Budget
4Pearl Izumi Race$160
5Bontrager Circuit$140
6Shimano RC1$100

Shimano S-Phyre RC9

shimano-s-phyre-womens-cycling-shoe

The Shimano S-Phyre RC9 is NOT cheap. That said, you absolutely get what you pay for.

The shoe is incredibly comfortable–on and off the bike. This is impressive considering it has a stiff sole that provides incredible power transfer.

The comfort and fit are aided by dual BOA closures and 2 arch pad inserts with different heights to help you get the correct arch support. Depending on the size and width of your foot, you can opt for the women’s OR men’s version of the shoe.

Price: $425

Read Our Review: Shimano S-Phyre RC9 Road Cycling Shoe Review


Sidi Genius Fit

sidi-genius-fit-womens-road-cycling-shoes

Sidi is our favorite brand for cycling shoes, hands down.  Yes, they are expensive, but in our experience, the quality and comfort is worth every penny.  I’ve personally worn a pair of Sidi’s for TEN years before they had to be replaced. 

The Sidi Genius Fit isn’t the most expensive shoe in their line up, but it offers that sweet spot between price and performance. The Genius boasts carbon-reinforced nylon soles, an efficient ratcheting buckle, and soles that are neither too narrow or too wide.

And did I mention that they’ll last for a LONG time? The upper is made of Technomicro, a synthetic leather that’s durable and weather-resistant. Additionally, the heel pads are replaceable once they’re worn.

Price: $269


Liv Macha Pro Women’s Cycling Shoe

liv mach pro womens road shoe

Liv is putting out some of the best women’s cycling gear today, and the Macha Pro is no exception.  The carbon sole is stiff but not uncomfortable, thanks to the multiple arch insert options.

The fit is excellent thanks to the dual BOA closures and the women-specific design which is narrower at the toes and heel. The shoes do run a little small, so order up a size when buying.

Price: $385


Pearl Izumi Women’s Race V5 Shoes

The Pearl Izumi Race cycling shoes are designed to perform as the name suggests–fast and capable for even the most serious racers.  The stiff carbon mid-soles provide excellent power transfer, and the dial closure ensures a glove-like fit. 

We also like that this shoe seems to go on sale quite often making it one of the more affordable options with a carbon sole.

Price: $160


Bontager Circuit

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The Bontrager Circuit is an affordable (but not boring) road cycling shoe. It comes in several fun colors, ’cause not everybody wants black!

In terms of performance, the shoe has a moderately stiff sole and lots of breathability–which is nice if you live in a hot climate. The foot box is a little wider than many cycling shoes, so is a good choice if you need extra room.

Price: $140


Shimano RC1 Cycling Shoe

shimano rc1 shoes

If you are looking for a simple and affordable shoe, the Shimano RC1 fits the bill.  It is nothing fancy, but offers durable construction and an attractive pricetag. 

The sole is reasonable stiff (glass fiber–reinforced nylon) without being cost-prohibitive.

They run a little small and a little narrow, so take that into consideration when ordering.

Price: $100


Comparison Chart: Women’s Cycling Shoes

ShoeClosure SystemSole Cleat Holes
Sidi Genius FitRatchet and velcroCarbon3
Liv Macha ProDual BOACarbon3
Pearl Izumi Women's Race v5Single BOACarbon3
Shimano RP1 WomensVelcroGlass fiber3
Shimano S-Phyre RC9Dual BOACarbon3
Bontrager CircuitSingle BOA and velcroNylon2 or 3


How to Choose a Cycling Shoe

If you’re not sure what you should be looking for when choosing a cycling shoe, use these tips.

Sizing

Most cycling shoes, though not all, are measured in European sizes.  Most of us don’t know what size we are in European shoes, and size conversion can vary slightly by manufacturer, so make sure to use the size chart for the specific shoe you are ordering.

Unlike other types of shoes, cycling shoes don’t usually “break in.”  Therefore, it is important to buy a shoe that fits and isn’t too tight.  In particular, make sure you can wiggle your toes, as there is nothing more miserable than your feet falling asleep while riding.

If you have an exceptionally narrow or wide foot, it’s also important to look for a shoe that caters to your particular foot shape. Some shoes are narrower, some are wider, and they generally advertise which they’re going for.

Closure System

Road bike shoes can have several different kinds of closure system, and some use a combination of several of these.

A few entry-level shoes may have laces though we don’t recommend these except for indoor spinning. 

The next level of shoes generally have Velcro straps.  These work well and are affordable but don’t provide the same level of support as more expensive systems. 

The best shoes will have either ratcheting straps or “BOA” dials.  These ensure your shoe is tight and fits well.

In shoes with BOA dials, you’ll notice some have one BOA dial, while more expensive shoes have two. If you can afford a shoe with dual BOA dials, they provide the absolute best fit.

Sole Material

Road bike soles need to be stiff in order to provide the best transfer of power from your legs to your pedals.  The strongest and lightest soles are made of carbon fiber. 

Unfortunately, these shoes are also the most expensive.  Other common sole materials are other forms of composite material and nylon.

Cleat Holes

When shopping for a bike shoe, be sure to pay attention to which kind of cleat pattern your current pedals have (or be prepared to buy new pedals as well). 

Most road bike shoes have a 3-hole cleat pattern meaning they are compatible with pedals like Look and Time. 

If you plan on using SPD pedals, make sure to look for a shoe with a 2-hole cleat pattern or one that has an adaptor that makes them compatible (such as the Bontrager Circuit listed above).

Types of cycling cleats
Two different cleat types are shown here: 2-hole pattern on the left, and 3-hole pattern on the right

Sole Inserts

More expensive road cycling shoes will come with multiple inserts to help you get the right support for your arch. While this does raise the price of the shoe, it can be nice to have particularly for women that struggle with either exceptionally low or high arches.

shimano inserts

More Cycling Gear You Might Be Interested In

About The Author

kristen bonkoski

Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.

An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.

Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life.  Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son.  If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.

Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.

IG: @kristenlbonkoski

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