You know the numbing pain. The toe-crushing discomfort of ill-fitting cycling shoes. Pinky toes screaming at you to stop your training ride and immediately build a bonfire to destroy those kicks once and for all.
You are not alone. I also feel your struggle. I also have buckled under the horror of tight cycling shoes. I also have cursed my 3E feet for refusing to conform to “normal” spaces. But I have found answers.
Here are the brands you should consider when your foot measures, “wide.”
A FEW PRE-SHOE TIPS
Yes, you’re on the right track toward a pair of shoes that will finally offer you relief and comfort no matter how long you’re riding. But you might also consider a few of these tips for making sure that you’re optimizing your fit.
- Consider Thin Socks: This isn’t to say that you should choose a pair of shoes based on the thickness of your sock, but sometimes avoiding unnecessarily bulky socks will make sure your feet have the space they need in those wide shoes. Socks like the Castelli Corso 13 or Swiftwick Aspire are great starting points to consider (assuming it’s not crazy cold outside).
- Get The Right Length: Although it’s tempting to just buy a size bigger for extra wiggle room (I know the draw of those 80% off sizes), try to resist. Not only will the extra length look a little funny, but it will also cause your heels to slip, set your cleat too far forward, and keep you from putting all your power into your pedal stroke.
- Make Sure You’re Fit Properly: Before you lighten your wallet on a new pair of cycling shoes, make sure that your pain isn’t actually being caused by improper bike fit. Head to your LBS to get a proper fit done, but, barring that, consider Bike Fit’s great article on bike shoe pain.
BONT RIOT+ AND VAYPOR SHOES
Bont Cycling has always been at the forefront of the market, and their perfect fit via heat-molding shoes are a staple for the wide width crowd. With a range that starts at a pretty budget friendly price of $179 MSRP (currently going for just over $140 on Wiggle) and goes up to $399 for the Vaypor S.
Model Tested: Riot+ in Crimson
Price: $179 MSRP
Sizes Available: EU 36-50
Models Recommended: Riot+, Vaypor+ (Wide), Vaypor S (Wide)
Always remember, however, if you buy through Amazon, make sure you’re buying from a reputable seller–counterfeits are out there. We’ve had success with sellers like Bike Bug or 365 Cycles.
FIT, FEATURES, NOTES
I gave the Riot+ the full trial, but also had a chance to feel the fit of Bont’s Vaypor S and Vaypor+ in wide widths. All three shoes offer a very roomy toe box that offers a more natural foot shape. But the wide-width Vaypor line definitely allows for more space.
While the Riot+ does not technically come in a wide width option, the standard size is much wider than other cycling shoes, and as such offered enough space for me without creating hot spots.
A little different than your average cycling shoe, Bont likes to give your feet room to breathe with a shoe that has a more natural toe-box and a heat moldable sole. This means you literally put these shoes in your oven, take them out and fit them to your own foot. For reals.
HEAT MOLDING CUSTOMIZES YOUR FIT
The option to heat mold the shoes also allows you to get a little (not a ton, but some) extra space in the forefoot. I used the handle of a screwdriver to gently push out the sides of both shoes, and this helped even more. Plus, it’s tough to beat the exact fit of arch and heel support that this shaping method provides. Seriously perfect.
Of course, you may need to repeat the heat molding process once or twice to get them to feel spot-on. On my second round with the oven, these Riots became some of the most comfortable cycling shoes I’d ever tried on.
COLOR AND SIZE
The colors here, except for the black on black versions, are bright. Personally, I’m a fan of the bright statement and criss-crossed graphics. But the Crimson is a little of a misnomer here as these are closer to an orange rather than a deep red. Fans of a more subtle shoe should go with the khaki or black colorways.
As for fit, you’ll definitely want to try these on or check out the sizing wizard on Bont’s website for picking up a pair for yourself. I was sized up two full numbers for the right fit–they generally fit a little shorter than other cycling shoes.
SHIMANO RC9 S-PHYRE & RC7 SHOES
If I had one way to describe Shimano’s S-Phyre shoes, it would be like slipping on a pair of pillows and riding around. Except, those pillows also have incredible stiffness, power transfer, and a totally slip-free fit.
OK, I know my comparison is lame. But these shoes really do live up to all the hype you’ve heard, and they’re a great option for those of us with wider needs. Shimano’s standard sizes actually accommodate a wide foot, but their wide-width builds are incredibly roomy. The good news here for budget-conscious riders is that both the RC9 S-Phyres (shown above) and the less expensive RC7 models come in wide-width options.
Like the above Bonts, I also had the chance to slip into a pair of RC7’s, and found them to be quite comfortable and roomy. A great option if you’re just not feeling dropping the $400 or so on a pair of sweet RC9’s (though, yes, they are amazing).
Model Tested: RC9 S-Phyre
Price: $400 MSRP
Sizes Available: EU 36-50
Colors: Blue, White, Yellow, Black (limited availability)
Models Recommended: RC7 Wide, RC9 Wide
Make double sure that you order the Wide fit as some retailers have mixed the regular and wide widths together. A chat or email to them will make sure you’re getting what you need. Often, if they don’t have the correct one, they can order them for you.
FIT, FEATURES, NOTES
Shimano’s S-Phyre shoes are full of high-tech features that set them apart–and as the top-of-the-line shoe, that’s to be expected. The upper is made of a supple, stretch-resistant and highly breathable Teijin Avail microfiber synthetic leather. Which amounts to soft and comfortable. The double Boa closures allow for evenly distributed pressure and exact firmness when you really want all your effort to show in your wattage. Of course, these Boa dials have 3 functions: tighten, loosen, fully open.
If you’re worried about heel slippage, the cat’s tongue, silvery material at the heel helps to keep your foot in place. This did seem to keep my foot in a little more snugly, and I never had any problem with slipping at all.
If, for some reason, you’re throwing unwritten rules to the wind and wearing no-show socks, you will likely find this feature somewhat uncomfortable. But, moot point, right? Also, Shimano has created the perfect sock to go with the S-Phyre shoes. Which is tall–just like the Velominatti dictated.
HOW WELL DOES IT FIT?
In all honesty, I have never owned a more comfortable cycling shoe. The width is perfect for my triple-E foot, a numbness/hot spots are non-existent. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the ability to wiggle my toes even with the laces cranked down. Sweet.
The fit seems very true to size. Support is also fairly customizable with arch support inserts that allow you to adjust the feel of the insole to best fit your foot. These affix via a couple of velcro strips in the arch.
The upper already has that “broken in” feeling with a slight amount of give when you wiggle your toes, but not enough to affect power when you’re really kicking.
LAKE CX 237 ROAD SHOES
If there is company really known for their fit, it’s Lake. With a huge variety of lasts that offer a fit for just about any foot and use, wide-widthers have reason to finally rejoice over their choices. Rounding out the list of the best cycling shoes for wide feet is the CX 237.
Model Tested: CX 237 Wide
Price: $299 MSRP
Sizes Available: EU 39-50
Colors: Blue (closer to a teal), White, Black, Brown
Models Recommended: CX 237 Wide
FIT, FEATURES, NOTES
With a metatarsal button on the insole and ventilation holes at the forefoot, the CX/TX Competition Last allows for 15mm of extra volume/width at the ball of your foot. In fact, of all the shoes on this list, the Lake just feels like its the roomiest.
Single direction, double ratcheting boa dials allow for even pressure and a secure fit. Extremely well made and built to last you for years, the CX 237 is a shoe that stays solid on long road rides, and is certainly well suited to racing.
Super stiff carbon soles respond well to hard pulls, and the power transfer seems spot-on. Wider even in their standard fit, the Lake CX 237 is extremely roomy in a wide width. All day comfort, crazy cozy, and an enemy of toe-squeezing. The real leather upper is supple and soft and tends to conform to your foot for exceptional comfort. After several miles, it breaks in quite nicely.
A FEW NOTES
If you wear Speedplay pedals, which happen to be my personal faves, you may have a little trouble getting the cleat to sit far back enough on the sole. Since it’s a 3-hole shoe, you’ll have to use the adapter (a common thing), but it may not allow you to slide it far enough back, depending on your bike fit.
Although I don’t recommend you try this at home, I took a drill to the plates in order to avoid having to use a crazy heavy steel plate extender. This allowed me to get the cleats to where I needed them, but only just. So please, do not drill anything or modify any of your cleats/plates/shoes as it will likely void your warranty and you may be unsafe. But do know that some sizes will not allow you to get Speedplay cleats far enough back.
Finally, my only other wish with the 237 is that it does not have multi-directional Boa dials. While you can get micro-adjustments in tightening them, you can’t loosen them a fraction without popping open the dial and resetting the tension all together.
A small thing, but on a shoe at this price point it’s something I would like to see. Of course, Lake has more expensive offerings that do feature the push/pull Boas.
HOW WELL DOES IT FIT?
Apart from those small notes, the Lake CX 237 is a fantastic fitting and beautiful shoe. My go-to shoe if I’m due for a long day in the saddle. It may fit a little on the short side, so you might consider sizing up. Check out Lake’s sizing chart to make sure you’re getting the exact shoe you need. I ended up being fitted up a half size from my usual, so you should definitely see about trying them on before ordering a pair.
Lake has recently released their new Extra Wide CX 301 and CX 332 shoes, which they claim is equivalent to a EEE width. I haven’t yet had the chance to try these widths, but since the Lake’s wide shoes are roomier than any other shoe I’ve tried, the Extra Wides adds the extra bit of volume. More info on the extra wides at Lake’s website.