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Best Women’s Road Bike Shoes of 2021: Budget to Baller

pearl izumi womens cycling apparel road
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A good pair of road cycling shoes can make your ride more efficient and more comfortable—but finding the right pair of women’s road bike shoes can be tricky. There are so many options available in a huge range of price points, and it can be hard to know which features really matter for you.

Here, we’re sharing our favorite tried-and-tested favorite road bike shoes for women. You can also scroll down to read our buyer’s guide and frequently asked questions if you want to learn more about materials, stiffness, carbon soles, or the merits of dials versus laces versus straps.

Note: Many women prefer unisex shoe fits and styles (this editor certainly does!), so don’t feel constrained to just this list. Feel free to check out our other Road Shoe Buyer’s Guide here.

 BEST HIGH END: Sidi Wire 2 Women’s 

sidi wire 2 best womens road shoes

The lightweight carbon-soled Sidi Wire 2 is race-ready, but it’s actually comfortable to wear for long rides. The fit is incredibly dialed in thanks to three closures on the upper plus a heel retention system. You can make easy adjustments in-ride if your feet start to swell, and despite the stiff sole, these shoes feel more comfortable than most.

This women’s version of the Wire 2 has a lower overall volume and tapers to fit a woman’s foot more accurately. Because of this, women with wider toe boxes may prefer the men’s Wire 2 from Sidi.

We love Sidi shoes for how easy it is to replace parts that tend to wear out or break faster than the rest of the shoe. With Sidi, you can order extra straps, dials, heel cups (including grippier rubber versions if you walk a lot in your shoes), and alternative insoles.

  • Closure system: Boa dials and strap
  • Sole: Carbon
  • Sizes: 38-43 Euro
  • Colors: White, Black
  • MSRP: $500

PROS: Easy to replace parts
CONS: Pricey

 BEST BUDGET: Pearl Izumi Sugar Road 

Women's Sugar Road best womens road shoes

Budget women’s road shoes often have two or three Velcro-style straps to secure them in place or a single Boa dial. We tend to dislike both of those closure styles since neither is reliable. (See the FAQ section below for more on that.) So we’re fans of spending a little more upfront to get a better closure system, like Pearl Izumi Sugar Road’s laces.

Laces make these shoes much easier to adjust to your foot’s exact shape and size and avoid any failures during the ride. And unlike velcro, they won’t degrade over time. These shoes are also incredibly breathable, thanks to their visibly perforated upper.

At $130, it’s impressive that Pearl Izumi has created a stiff nylon sole with a carbon fiber plate. Unlike most budget shoes on the market, this shoe isn’t designed solely for beginners. Any level of road rider will be happy with these.

  • Closure system: Laces
  • Sole: Nylon and carbon
  • Sizes: 36-43 Euro
  • Weight: 227 grams for size 40
  • Colors: White, black
  • MSRP: $130

PROS: Great value
CONS: None, really—unless you don’t like laces

 BEST ENDURANCE: Specialized S7 Road 

specialized s7 road shoe best womens road shoes

Simple, sleek, minimal design defines the Specialized S7 Road shoes. We love the clean lines on both the black and white versions of these shoes. But they don’t just look fast: they have the stiffest and lightest soles that Specialized has to offer, with the FACT Powerline carbon plate to maximize power transfer.

The footbed is also designed to be comfortable, though, and avoid common hotspots on the pad of your foot. We also like the look, and the durability of the custom CNC machined alloy Boa dials. We’re also impressed with the weight: At 224 grams for a size 42, it puts them among the lightest options on the market.

We love that these come in a huge range of sizes. They’re available in narrow, wide and regular widths and come in Euro sizes from 36 to 49. If you’re ordering online, consider ordering a couple of different options unless you’re positive about your sizing, and then keep the ones that fit the best. (Note: These shoes are actually unisex, as Specialized doesn’t make gender-specific shoe options.)

  • Closure system: 2 Boas, strap
  • Sole: Carbon
  • Weight: 224 grams for size 42
  • Sizes: 36-49
  • Colors: Black, white
  • MSRP: $425

PROS: Great range of sizes
CONS: None, really


giro-empire-w-womens-road-shoe-white-profile best womens road shoes

We love the Giro Empire for long rides and races, thanks to the stiff sole and extremely low weight, but also for the incredible comfort. The lace-up Giro Empire looks classy, but it’s also ultra-modern thanks to a carbon sole and minimal upper. In fact, they’re one of the lightest shoes on the list at 215 grams for a single size 39 shoe.

The adjustable SuperNatural Fit footbed system makes these shoes comfortable and supportive, while the lace-ups allow you to really dial in your fit. They’re a bit more work to adjust perfectly, and you need to make sure you don’t end up with an untied shoe, but Bikerumor staffers agree that they’re worth it.

Note: These shoes tend to run a bit narrow, so if you have a wider foot or even a wider toebox, consider switching to the men’s lace-up Giro option, the Empire SLX—also one of our favorite unisex road shoe options.

  • Closure system: Laces
  • Sole: Carbon
  • Weight: 215 grams for size 39
  • Sizes: 36-43
  • Colors: Black, white
  • MSRP: $300

PROS: Great for smaller feet
CONS: Not ideal for wider feet


shimano SH-RC100 WOMEN best womens road shoes

If you really can’t spend a hundred bucks on a pair of road shoes, we get it. And Shimano’s SH-RC100 Women’s shoes are a great option for beginners who can’t justify going over $90 for a pair of road shoes. With a women-specific fit and a medium-stiffness nylon and glass composite sole, they’ll be comfortable enough to get you started.

We don’t love the three Velcro-style straps since they’re harder to make small adjustments to and will wear out over time. While these shoes will serve you well, if you are in this ultra-budget category and have any offroad bikes as well, we would recommend considering mountain bike shoes and pedals for all of your bikes. Having a single set of pedals and shoes to maintain will allow you to spend a bit more on one pair of higher-end shoes with a better closure system.

Ultimately, if you’re set on having a pair of road shoes, these are the best option for strict budgets.

  • Closure system: Velcro straps
  • Sole: Glass fiber reinforced nylon
  • Weight: 222 grams for size 40
  • Sizes: 36-44 Euro
  • Colors: Black, blue
  • MSRP: $90

PROS: Solid budget shoe option
CONS: Strap system isn’t ideal

Best women's road shoes: Giro Empire
c. Giro 

Best Women’s Road Bike Shoes Buyer’s Guide

Decide on how you want to ride and what features you care about. Are you planning to do really long rides on the road? You may value comfort over a lighter weight, and you might prefer a less stiff sole if you’ll be walking into coffee shops along your route. If you’re the local crit champion (or hoping to be), then you may want the benefits that a stiff sole can provide, and saving grams may be important.

Determine your price point. While all of the shoes in this list are our personal favorites, many big brands like Shimano, Specialized, and Bontrager will have a range of shoes at various price points where the technologies remain similar, but the materials differ. And, mostly, the fit should be similar up and down each brand’s range as they (again, mostly) use the same lasts for every model.

At the higher end, shoes will be lighter and stiffer, but the cheaper models will still have many of the same great innovations. Specialized has the S7 that we love, but the Torch collection is also great and offers three models ranging from $110 to $225 in price.

Measure your feet carefully. Bike shoes will fit slightly differently than regular shoes, and most brands will list some sizing specifications or provide size charts. Most bike shoes are designed with Euro sizing in mind; then, US shoe size values are assigned. Not every brand does those calculations the same, so the European measurement is almost always more accurate.

Check the size on other cycling shoes you’ve had in the past as a reference, rather than your regular sneakers. Between sizes? If you are shopping online and the retailer offers free returns, buy both pairs so you can try them on and compare them, then send one pair back.

And because many brands make men’s and women’s models of the same shoe, make sure that if you are buying based on US size, you know whether you’re buying it in men’s or women’s sizing. For instance, Specialized S7 comes in men’s and women’s models, and it’s easy to navigate over to the men’s accidentally. The fit won’t change much, but the sizing will differ.

best women's road bike shoes and thin socks
Note the cycling socks—they tend to be thinner than casual everyday socks. c. Quoc

Make sure you try the shoes on with the socks you’ll be riding in. Road shoes tend to fit quite tight, so your socks must be the ones you wear to ride.

Check the return or exchange policy. Whether ordering online or buying from a local bike shop,  you’re going to want to be able to return or exchange your shoes if they don’t feel great when you try them on or even after a ride.

Take a walk. Before attaching cleats and taking shoes out for a spin, try walking across the room to see if the shoes pinch or poke anywhere. Don’t expect them to be ultra-comfortable, but they shouldn’t hurt.

Frequently Asked Questions for Women’s Best Road Bike Shoes

What do I need road bike shoes for?
The obvious answer is that road bike shoes are for riding on the road while clipped into your pedals. Road shoes are designed to be lighter, more aerodynamic, and generally a bit stiffer than shoes for other cycling disciplines.

You can also use those same shoes when riding indoors on a stationary bike that’s set up with your road pedals. What you don’t want to do is use those road pedals when riding anything off-road. That means no road pedals for cyclocross or mountain bikes, and if your gravel rides tend to include sections where you need to unclip or walk, we suggest switching to MTB shoes and pedals.


Pearl Izumi cycling shoes
c. Pearl Izumi

When would I need clipless pedals versus riding with cages or flat pedals?
You’ll lose less power in the transfer from your foot to the pedal when you’re connected, allowing you to go much faster with less effort. Flat pedals allow much less assistance on the “up” side and across the top and bottom of your pedal stroke, meaning your downstroke is the only thing propelling you forward, so it’s much less efficient. Cages, which can be used with regular running shoes, will help with this a bit, but can be tough to get in and out of, won’t be aerodynamic, and still won’t have the same efficiency as clipless road pedals and shoes.

What pedals should I get?
There are dozens of road pedals to choose from, but the most popular are the Look Keo, Shimano SPD (make sure you get the SPD-SL road version, not the SPD MTB version!) and Speedplays. There are different pedal options in those ranges, but the goods news is that a Look Keo cleat will work with any iteration of Look Keo pedals.

Do I need women-specific shoes?
Generally, women are just fine in unisex or men’s models of road shoes. But you may find that you prefer a women-specific shoe if you have narrower feet or higher arches. Still, there usually isn’t a major difference other than the colorways.

How should a women’s road bike shoe fit?
You don’t need to move your foot much in a road shoe, so while they should feel comfortable, they’ll often feel a little tighter than a running shoe. You should be able to wiggle your toes slightly, though. And you should be able to adjust them to accommodate any swelling or expansion once you’ve been riding for a while, either by loosening the Boa dials, laces, or straps.

There shouldn’t be any pressure points on the sides or tops of your feet once you’ve tightened the straps or laces appropriately. If you find that your feet are going numb on most rides, your shoes may not fit properly. Walking might be a bit uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful.

Giro Regime high performance road shoes at a mid-level price, carbon composite sole

Do I need carbon soles?
Road shoes will have either a carbon, nylon or plastic sole (or a combination, with some companies blending glass fibers in as well). You don’t need them, but yes, carbon soles can make you a little speedier.

That’s because a carbon sole adds stiffness while also making a shoe more lightweight. The stiffer the sole, the less power is lost transferring force from your leg to your pedal. And of course, weight weenies will prefer carbon simply because you shed a few grams.

If you’re on a  budget, don’t despair. Nylon or plastic soles will be more comfortable, and you won’t lose more than a few watts. Plus, if you’re not used to ultra-stiff soles, a tiny bit of flex might actually feel better as you get into the sport.

Can I use mountain bike shoes as women’s road bike shoes?

Can I use road shoes as MTB shoes?
Please don’t.

Rapha Classic shoes, carbon-soled road & light gravel bike riding shoes
c. Cory

When should I replace my road cleats?
If you notice that your foot is wiggling slightly in the pedal, or you suddenly start clipping out unintentionally during rides, it’s time to replace your cleats. Difficulty getting out of the pedals is also a sign. The plastic or metal edges wear out over time and aren’t meant to last as long as your pedals.

What’s the best closure system for women’s road bike shoes?
We like a combination of closures to avoid catastrophic shoe failures. Also, two or more closures are great for small adjustments to avoid pressure points. That might be two independent Boa dials or a Boa with a strap. Some shoes like Giro opt for regular laces, which are great since even if they break, you can still get them tied up enough to get home. And while they take a bit more time and effort to adjust, laces are great for getting the perfect fit.

Have more questions? Check out our other Road Shoe Buyer’s Guide right here for even more details!

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