Purchasing the right shoe for cyclocross is crucial to your performance and well-being. The rigors of a race are enough without poor shoes causing foot cramps or an injury. A shoe that will respond while you carry your bike across rugged terrain and forms a powerful connection between you and your bike for those steep climbs is crucial. I know this first hand, that is why I decided to take the time to put together a list of the 7 Best Cyclocross Shoes.
My research considered a variety of factors from weight to flex in the toe. After much consideration and reviewing many great options, my research suggests that the best overall cyclocross shoe is the Giro Empire VR90 with its one-piece upper and Vibram rubber tread.Top 3 Comparison Table
Giro Empire VR90 Cycling Shoe
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Fizik X5 Terra Men’s Mountain Bike Shoe
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Gavin MTB Mountain Bike Mesh Indoor Fitness Cycling Shoes – Unisex
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7 Best Shoes For Cyclocross
#1. Giro Empire VR90 Cycling Shoe – Best Overall
The Giro Empire VR90 is a comfortable, breathable and supportive shoe. The Samo™ microfiber laces and Easton® EC90 carbon fiber outsole provide unrivaled comfort. The shoe boasts a durable one-piece upper design constructed with high-performance Teijin® evofiber for breathability and toughness. The VR90 offers superior traction with its molded Vibram® rubber treads and provides excellent support with its adjustable arch support system.
Features: VR90 one-piece Teijin® upper design; Samo™ microfiber laces; Easton® EC90 carbon fiber outsole; molded Vibram® rubber treads; adjustable arch support; accommodates steel toe spikes
- Comfortable – Samo™ microfiber laces and Easton® EC90 carbon fiber outsole
- Breathability – VR90 one-piece Teijin® upper design
- Traction – molded Vibram® rubber treads
- Support – adjustable arch support
- Price – You do pay for the quality of these shoes
#2. Fizik X5 Terra Men’s Mountain Bike Shoe – Best Comfort
The Fizik X5 Terra Mountain Bike shoe is a comfortable and supportive shoe that provides great traction. It boasts a laser-treated Microtex upper to offer a custom feel and great fit. The lacing system with its Boa L6 dial lacing system and lower strap make it an extremely supportive shoe. The carbon and TPU sole with lugs offer great traction and durability. The X5’s versatility and comfort make it one of the best cyclocross shoes on the market.
Features: Laser-treated Microtex upper; Boa L6 dial and lower strap; carbon and TPU made sole; molded lugs; lightweight
- Supportive – Boa L6 dial and lower strap
- Comfortable – laser-treated Microtex upper
- Traction – carbon and TPU made sole with molded lugs
- Grip – the mid-sole is made of hard plastic not an anti-slip rubber
- Adjustability – it boasts one Boa dial; two would allow for better adjustment
#3. Shimano XC5 Men’s Mountain Bike Shoe – Best Tread
The Shimano XC5 Mountain Bike Shoe is an instant favorite. It offers a breathable perforated synthetic leather upper to promote sweat evaporation and comfort. The Michelin high-traction tread ensures that you can navigate the most hazardous terrains. The XC5 provides a rubber anti-slip arch outer sole which limits slippage when trying to mount or dismount from the bike’s pedals.
Features: Perforated synthetic leather; Michelin high-traction tread; carbon fiber reinforced midsole; reinforced spike mount; rubber anti-slip arch outer sole
- Breathable – perforated synthetic leather
- Traction – Michelin high-traction tread
- Grip – rubber anti-slip arch outer sole
- Laces – laces may become untied but they allow for a more comfortable fit
- Sizing – tend to run a little small, their website offers a sizing guide to help
#4. Pearl Izumi X-ALP Summit – Best for Durability
The Pearl Izumi Men’s X-ALP Summit is a durable, comfortable and versatile option. It boasts an advanced three-layer, seamless composite upper with a synthetic sole for durability. The 1:1 anatomic buckle closure system lacing system provides a comfortable and secure fit. Its nylon composite ¾ shank makes it a versatile shoe at a reasonable price.
Features: Advanced three-layer seamless composite upper; synthetic sole; 1:1 anatomic buckle closure system; nylon composite ¾ shank
- Versatile – nylon composite 3/4 shank
- Comfortable – 1:1 anatomic buckle closure system
- Durable – Advanced 3-layer seamless composite upper and synthetic sole
- Breathable – not a very breathable shoe due to its tough and waterproof upper
- Sizing – Runs a little large and narrow – good for long, skinning feet
#5. Shimano XC31L Off Road Men’s Sport Shoe – Best for the Beginner
The Shimano XC31L Off Road Sport Shoe is a durable and adaptable cyclocross shoe with good traction. A fiberglass-reinforced sole and a stretch-resistant leather and mesh upper offer durability. It’s adaptable to most riders’ feet due to its Cross X Strap and adaptable cup insole. The polyurethane outsole lugs provide great traction and the rubber arch pad provides grip and prevents slippage.
Features: Fiberglass reinforced polyamide sole; stretch-resistant synthetic leather and mesh upper; Cross X Strap; adaptable cup insole; polyurethane outsole lugs; arch pad
- Durable – fiberglass-reinforced polyamide sole plus a stretch-resistant synthetic leather and mesh upper
- Adaptable – Cross X Strap and adaptable cup insole
- Traction – polyurethane outsole lugs and rubber arch pad
- Durability – they do tend to bend when pedaling up a steep incline but they flex when you walk or run
#6. Giro GF21210 Men’s Carbide Dirt Bike Shoes – Best for Breathability
The Giro GF21210 Men’s Carbide Dirt Bike Shoes is a good, breathable cyclocross shoe at an affordable price. It boasts a microfiber upper which promotes breathability. The three-strap closure system and EVA footbed with medium arch support create a comfortable and secure fit. The Giro’s nylon outsole with dual-density lugs promotes traction across all terrains.
Features: microfiber upper; three-strap closure; nylon dual-density lugged outsole; mid-foot scuff guard; accommodates steel toe spikes; EVA footbed with medium arch support
- Breathable – microfiber upper
- Comfortable – three-strap closure and EVA footbed with medium arch support
- Traction – nylon dual-density lugged outsole
- Grip – hard plastic sole is durable and provides good traction in the mud but is slippery on rocks
#7. Gavin MTB Mountain Bike Mesh Indoor Fitness Cycling Shoes – Unisex & Best on a Budget
The Gavin MTB shoe is the perfect cyclocross shoe on a budget. It offers versatility, breathability and support at a great price. It offers a compatible cleat system for SPD, Crank Brother and MTB pedals. The perforate insole promotes the evaporation of sweat and provides breathability. A carbon fiber designed hook and loop system and a heel cup make it an extremely supportive cyclocross shoe.
Features: Two-bolt cleat; compatible with SPD, Crank Brothers and MTB pedals; perforated insole; carbon fiber designed hook and loop straps; heel cup
- Versatile – The two-bolt cleat is compatible with SPD, Crank Brothers and MTB pedals
- Breathable – boasts a perforated insole
- Supportive – carbon fiber designed hook and loop straps plus a heel cup
- Sizing – runs small, but it comes in half sizes
Cyclocross Shoes Buyer’s Guide
A good cyclocross shoe provides a secure and comfortable fit. A good shoe will offer a stiff sole, plus it should remain firmly attached to the foot when striding and planting during mounts and dismounts.
You can cyclocross in dedicated cyclocross shoes or trainers. The cyclocross shoe is a stiffer, more structured shoe and offers a better connection with the bike resulting in more support. This improves comfort by preventing foot cramping and flexing of the foot while pedaling. The end result is a shoe dedicated to cyclocross adds structure to the foot making it more comfortable and efficient.
Most cyclocross shoes offer a two-bolt recessed cleat to connect your foot to the pedal. They offer better performance and less exertion for racing or climbing rugged terrain. The recessed cleat allows you to walk or run in the shoe.
It is common to have to carry your bike while walking or running across varying terrains during a cyclocross. This makes it important to have treads. These are plastic molded lugs on the bottom of your shoes to provide traction and grip.
There are multiple methods in which cyclocross shoes are secured to the feet. These systems are Velcro straps, laces, wire dials and ratchet buckles or in some instances a combination. A lacing system not only helps secure the shoe and the foot but should also help adjust fit.
A cyclocross shoe needs to be durable enough to withstand repeated abuse and thick mud plus frequent cleanings. Speaking about durability check out our recent guide on the best bike rack for a Prius here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do all the cyclocross shoes come with cleats?
No, some feature an extra grippy rubber to use with flat pedals. However, most cyclocross shoes, and each one reviewed here, come with a two-bolt recessed cleat and provide some sort of tread to provide grip for walking or running.
How often should you clean cyclocross shoes?
I recommend cleaning your cyclocross shoes after each ride. Use a soft cloth or brush to wipe them off. If they are too heavily soiled to wipe clean, rinse them with water and set out to dry.
When should you replace the cleats?
If the cleats become difficult to release, then it’s time to replace them. Remember to inspect your cleats regularly. If they show a high degree of wear and tear, you should replace the cleats.
What are the benefits of using cyclocross shoes?
Power transfer: Cyclocross shoes boast stiff soles resulting in less flex in the foot which allows for more efficient power transfer from the foot to the pedal.
Prevent injuries: The structure of cyclocross shoes provide support which prevents the arch of the foot from collapsing and reduces stress on the knee. This helps prevent pain and injuries to the knee, tendons and foot arches.
Stability: Cyclocross shoes offer stability and control during acceleration and climbs resulting in a better feel for the bike and more confidence.
Muscle Activation: The connection that cyclocross shoes create between your foot and the pedal help incorporate more muscles during the pedal stroke.
What is the Best Cyclocross Shoe? – Final Thoughts
There are plenty of good cyclocross shoes that will help your traction while carrying your bike across rugged terrain and provide stability during tough uphill climbs. They come in different fashions and offer a variety of features to consider. Do you want a straight lacing system? A dial system? Velcro straps? Is the upper tough enough? Is the upper breathable? Are the outsoles durable and will the lugs provide enough traction?
I know the rigors of cyclocross and the importance of finding the right shoe to provide comfort and prevent injury. This is why after hours of research and considering a variety of factors I can confidently suggest that the best overall cyclocross shoe is the Giro Empire VR90 with its one-piece Teijin® upper design, Samo™ microfiber laces and Easton® EC90 carbon fiber outsole