Best women's cycling shoes 2022 reviewed and rated

Comfortable kicks for cycling are an essential piece of kit - we round up the best women's cycling shoes and share advice on how to choose the perfect pair

Giro W Empire ACC Shoes
Giro W Empire ACC shoes

With so many choices of bike footwear on the market, it can be a tough job finding the best women's cycling shoes for you. Designed around a female 'foot last', with the ultimate goal of providing a comfortable and effective base from which to power the pedal stroke, a women's specific option could be the perfect option for you.

It's well documented that opting to use a pair of the best clipless pedal system (opens in new tab)  will allow you to maximise the cycling strength you have available, improving pedal stroke pattern and making climbs significantly easier as the lower leg muscles are more able to engage. 

If you're totally new to the concept of being attached to your bike, then head over to our page on how to cycle in clipless pedals (opens in new tab) for some great hints and tips for how to transition to a pair and get confident to use them on every ride. 

The choice of what makes a good cycling shoe really varies for each individual rider. Each style, will come at a range of different price points - the overall cost being most affected by weight, sole material, and fastening system (which in turn affects weight).

Below are some of our favourite cycling shoes on the market for both outdoor riding and indoor workouts - read on after the product picks for more advice on what to look for...

Best women's cycling shoes - Road

Giro Empire W cycling shoe in the image is being tightened up by the wearer

Giro W Empire shoes

(Image credit: GIRO)
Best women's road shoes all round

Specifications

Upper: Synthetic microfibre
Sole : Easton SLX2 composite
Closure : laces
Colours : Black, White
Sizes: EU36-43 (inc. half sizes)

Reasons to buy

+
Good-looking
+
Narrow-fitting
+
Adjustability
+
Replacement parts
+
Reasonably lightweight
+
Stiff
+
Male-specific version available

Reasons to avoid

-
Near impossible to adjust on the move
-
Expensive
-
Limited colour range compared to men's range

We have loved just about every iteration of the Giro W Empire (opens in new tab), finding them the one of the best Giro cycling shoes (opens in new tab)in the entire range. This version takes all the best bits of the ACC that we reviewed and spruces them up with a low 6.5mm stack, but doesn't scarifice comfort for out and out performance, making these a great option for all sorts of road riding.  

The major advantage with lace up shoes is the ability to adjust them to the perfect fit, making them more like a regular trainer for riders who like a perfected fit. 

The Empire shoes from Giro feature a female specific design with a narrow ankle, carbon sole and adjustable arch support. There's plenty of ventilation in the upper, and maintenance is easy with a wipe clean surface.

specialized S-works 7 road cycling shoe

Specialized S-Works 7 cycling shoes

(Image credit: Future)
Best women's cycling shoes for performance

Specifications

Upper: Synthetic and Dyneema® Mesh
Sole: Carbon
Closure : Alloy Boa® S3-Snap dials
Colours : Black, white, red, red/blue, metallic black
Sizes: EU 35 -50

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional performance and power output
+
Very secure fit on foot
+
Highly ventilated to keep feet cool

Reasons to avoid

-
Need to spend some time to break in
-
Sole incredibly stiff, too stiff for many riders needs

Having levelled up, we're now at Specialized S-Works 7 cycling shoes (opens in new tab). The outgoing S-Works 6 shoes impressed us no end and these claim to be even stiffer. So stiff in fact, that it's probably too stiff for a lot of riders, as there is absolutely no give in the sole what so ever. 

This does make it an awesome performance shoe, and when you're revving up for the finishing line, you can be assured that not only every millimetre of power is being used for forward propulsion, but also although there is zero risk of your foot getting pulled out

Two precision fit Alloy Boa® S3-Snap dials create a perfect fit and Specialized uses its Body Geometry foot bed which aims to increase efficiency and decrease injury. This is a racing shoe that creates a notably stiff and speedy-feeling power transfer.

Unlike previous models (including the S-Works 6's) these come only in a 'unisex fit'. In the past Specialized based its women's shoes on a female foot last, now they've done a 180 and say it's not necessary. These are available from a size 36 though, which is a UK 3.5.

Giro Regime Women's Road Cycling Shoes are pictured in white in a pair on paved ground.

Giro Regime Women's Road Cycling Shoes 

(Image credit: Riley Missel)
Best women's cycling shoes for long fast rides

Specifications

Upper: Synthetic
sole: Carbon composite/ duel injected TPU
Closure: Boa® L6 dials
Colours: White, black
Size: EU36- 43

Reasons to buy

+
Sole that balances stiffness and comfort well
+
Comfortable fit all-round
+
Really durable upper when put through it's paces 

Reasons to avoid

-
Could be more breathable

If you hadn't guessed by now, we're big fans of all Giro shoes, they really do seem to keep nailing the best women's cycling shoes, so there's no apologies for this buyers guide looking a lot like a Giro shoe guide! 

The Giro Regime Women's Road Cycling Shoes (opens in new tab) fill the gap between stiff high end performance shoes (think sprinters) and the more comfortable all day foot wear (think Audax). The stiff snappy sole provides a great foot to bike connection, but while a pair such as the Specialized S-Work 7 performance pair let you know it's all about performance, the Giro Regime's rebalance the comfort with an interchangeable foot bed. 

This means that they are a great option for anyone wanting to perform over a long distance, especially if there is any climbing involved - with every single pedal revolution gaining you forward momentum. Just ensure you team with lightweight socks if you're out on a hot day, as these aren't the most breathable shoe on the market.  

The Specialized Torch 3.0 or the Shimano  SH-RC7 are probably on a par price wise, but don't get quite as high finish with the solid sole or the higher grade Boa®  L6 dials closure system, making this a great pair of women's specific shoes. 

best women's cycling shoes

Giro Espada Boa women's cycling shoes

Best women's cycling shoes for comfort and performance

Specifications

Upper: Synthetic uppers with mesh panels
Sole: Easton EC70 carbon composite
Closure: BOA® L6 dial and strap
Colours: White/ navy blue
Sizes: EU36-43

Reasons to buy

+
Solid carbon sole
+
Comfortable upper
+
Lots of support

Reasons to avoid

-
Some riders may not enjoy added bulk of padding

Giro's "race capable mid-level carbon soled shoe,” these kicks come with an Easton E70 carbon sole, and Boa dial combined with velcro at the toes. The sole of the Giro Espada Boa cycling shoes (opens in new tab)means they're more than ready to race, but there's some nods to comfort you won't find in top end models, such as extra padding around the ankles. Mesh sections will dispel heat, too.

These have been around for a while now, and are becoming overshadowed by new comers to the beloved women's cycling shoe range from the brand, but while the Giro Espada are on the market - there's no reason not to include them, especially if you can get a good deal. 

Full price though, and they're not cheap, with the Giro Regime pair coming in a little cheaper and to be honest, better value. 

best women's cycling shoes

Bontrager Meraj women's cycling shoes

Specifications

Upper: Synthetic uppers with mesh panels
Sole: Silver Series carbon/fiberglass composite sole
Closure: BOA® IP1 dial and strap
Colours: White/ Cyan, Black
Size: EU36 - 43

Reasons to buy

+
Secure closures - including Boa IP1 dial
+
Comfortable
+
InForm Pro footbed and heal cup

Reasons to avoid

-
Not high-end looking
-
Slight flex in sole
-
Velcro closure longevity

On test we found that the slight flex in the carbon/fibreglass sole of the Bontrager Meraj Women's cycling shoes (opens in new tab) actually added to their comfort, rather than taking away pedal propulsion. Teamed with a BOA® IP1 dial that works alongside Velcro closure at the toes,  made for a pair of great women's cycling shoes, which were comfortable, yet secure, although probably better for the all day, long distant rides over a flat out crit race.

The ventilation is pretty high, so a great option for a hot day, but the down side is that we felt that the mesh panelling on the upper of the the Meraj shoes did take away from a high-end race shoe in the looks department. 

dhb Dorica Carbon cycling shoes

dhb Aeron Carbon Road Shoe with Dial

(Image credit: Future)
Best women's road bike shoes for carbon sole on a budget

Specifications

Upper: Synthetic
Sole: Carbon
Closure: Laces
Colours: White
Sizes: EU39 - EU48

Reasons to buy

+
Very stiff full carbon sole 
+
Highly adjustable laces closures
+
Extremely comfortable when riding
+
Great price point for performance shoes

Reasons to avoid

-
Could do with a tighter heel cup for a perfect fit/
-
Only white colour choice
-
Sizes only down to EU39

On test we found the dhb Dorica Carbon cycling shoes (opens in new tab) to provide great value for money performance, thanks to the stiff carbon sole. Taking inspiration from the Giro W Empire women's cycling shoes with it's laces closure, also allows these to be tightened to perfection.

However, like the Specialized S-Works 7 cycling shoes , the dhb is a unisex shoe, but it does limit the smallest size to just an size EU39, which might be too big compared to rest of the best women's specific cycling shoes.   

If the sizes do work for you, then we highly recommend these a brilliant pair of cycling shoes. 

Best women's cycling shoes - indoor

Cycling indoors has been a popular pass time for years, but until recently, never really taken that seriously. 

While many of us have just donned our road shoes for the hour max turbo time, specific shoes for indoor haven't really existed, with spin instructors often selecting mtb shoes with the stiffest soles. 

With the advent of smart turbo trainers and on line racing, owning a pair of specific indoor cycling shoes is making much more sense. Suddenly finding ourselves in pools of sweat, the quest for highly breathable options is suddenly on. 

Indoor shoes for spin class or on an exercise at the gym will still need to be compatible with two-hole SPD cleats to fit the pedals that come on these bikes, but even these have stepped up a gear. 

shimano IC5 is pictured as one of the best women's cycling shoe

Shimano IC5 women's cycling shoe

(Image credit: Hannah Bussey)
Best women's cycling shoe for sweaty indoor sessions

Specifications

Upper : Synthetic Mesh+TPU
Sole: Glass fibre reinforced Nylon
Closure : BOA®L6 dial
Colours: White, Red, Black, Purple
Sizes: EU36 - 44

Reasons to buy

+
Highly breathable and well ventilated
+
Comfortable and secure micro-adjust fit 
+
No slip sole, ideal for slippery pools of sweat post ride
+
Small size options available 

Reasons to avoid

-
Weight of shoe might be a surprise to riders used to outdoor road shoes. 
-
Higher than traditional road bike shoe sole flex

Shimano's IC5 indoor cycling shoe (opens in new tab) is designed specifically for spin and indoor cycling with it's maximum breathability and reinforced plate in the sole of the shoe for stable power transfer during intense efforts.

The SPD compatible indoor shoe has a breathable, comfortable sock mesh upper to stay fresh during hard workouts and this brings the shoe's weight to a mere 292g (size 40).

A BOA dial delivers tightening ease and will ensure your foot stays firmly in place whatever the effort.

It's recessed cleat channel also makes these performance shoes easy to walk about in—which makes them practical for using on the spin and exercise bikes at the gym.

What's different about women's cycling shoes?

The best Women's cycling shoes are not drastically different to 'men's cycling shoes' or 'unisex cycling shoes'. The biggest differences are in the size. Some brands build a shoe on a women's specific 'last', which is generally slightly narrower, 

The 'last' is the structure that shoes are built around. Typically, a woman's last is narrower at the ankle, and lower in volume - resulting in a shoe more likely to fit the average woman's foot comfortably.

In a cycling shoe, fit at the ankle is crucial - you want to feel the heel cup hug the back of your foot, so that it feels secure - but not squashed.

Women typically have smaller feet than men, too - so for many the biggest difference is that they come in much smaller sizes, a bit like the best women's road bikes, this means that you are getting the best women's cycling shoe to fit you.

Bear in mind that a women's specific 'last' is based on averages - so if you've always found that a pair of the best cycling shoes come from the men's or unisex range  there's no reason to change your status quo.

If you are thinking of swopping over from not quite right men's cycling shoes, to a better fitting women's version, it's worth bearing in mind that the sizing is not as identical as you may have believed.

A bit like a pair of the best women's cycling shorts (opens in new tab), the small will be fundamentally different to a men's pair. 

As an example, for one brand, a women's UK 5 is a Euro 38, which measures 23.5cm. A men's UK 5 is a Euro 37.5, measuring 24cm. Baffling, we know. But at the end of the day, sizing varies between brands can require a trial and error approach, so a bit like shorts, or when purchasing one of the best women's cycling jerseys (opens in new tab), always check the size guide before you purchase of you can't try before you buy. 

Final point on how to find the best women's cycling shoe, make sure you invest in a pair of the best cycling socks at the same time. A pair specifically designed for teaming with cycling shoes will add significant comfort to your ride, with all the right padding and support in the right places. 

The best women's cycling shoes: what to look for

Why you can trust Cycling Weekly Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

There are several other elements to consider when buying cycling shoes, each one having an effect on the price tag...

Cycling shoes: soles

best women's cycling shoes

Top end cycling shoes will have carbon soles

The sole of a cycling shoe is integral to... the soul of a cycling shoe.

The best women's cycling shoes at the top end will feature carbon soles. Carbon provides a stiff base for optimum power transfer. It's pretty rigid, and the grade of carbon used will determine how much so. At a mid-level, you'll find composites, often reinforced with carbon, whilst cheaper cycling shoes will feature nylon or fibre glass soles.

If you plan to spend a notable amount of time off-bike in the shoes, then those that use softer materials, ideally with rubber grips, may well be a better option. Otherwise, it comes down to how much you're willing to spend.

Cycling shoes: closure system

best women's cycling shoes

Boa dials enable speedy adjustments on cycling shoes

The cheapest cycling shoes will use a Velcro fastening system - though you'll also notice some very light 'climbing specific' cycling shoes utilise Velcro for its low weight. Velcro boasts a firm grip, but doesn't always offer the closest fit; and when the top section doesn't envelop the lower layer, you do sometimes end up with a protruding piece of naked material, prone to turning fluffy or attracting insects.

If you want cheaper options, but without the performance sacrifice, then it's worth heading over to our cycling shoe deals (opens in new tab)page, where there are often great price deductions on some of the best women's cycling shoes on the market. 

At the mid-level, ratchets are common. This provide incremental tightening and are quick to undo with one level 'snap' off action in most cases.

Top end shoes usually use Boa dials. The clearest benefit here is that they're very easy to adjust on the bike, should conditions (rain or shine) cause the volume of your foot or the tightness of the fabric to increase or decrease.

Across the spectrum, you'll also find laces. These are thought to be the most aerodynamic option, and with so many points of adjustment, they can also be very comfortable (as well as carrying a certain vintage charm). The downside: laces can stretch in the wet, and of course they're impossible to adjust on the fly.

Cycling shoes: cleat style

Most road cyclists will opt for a three-bolt road cycling cleat from one of the major brands: Look, Shimano or Speedplay. A three-bolt cleat will help you deliver optimum power through the cranks.

If you need help in getting the right fit, then our video: how to set up cleats on cycling shoes (opens in new tab) is a must watch. 

A two-bolt, SPD style means the cleat is recessed into the sole of the shoe, making these ideal for commuters and people who want to walk around without waddling like a duck. Also, exercise bikes at the gym tend to have pedals that only work with two-bolt SPD cleats.

Cycling shoes: fit

Well fitting cycling shoes are essential. As with any style of shoe, brands vary in their distribution of volume. It's best to try cycling shoes on before you buy them, ideally wearing socks about the same thickness as those you tend to wear on the bike.

As a rule of thumb, Specialized, Giro and Fizik tend to offer shoes that fit those with narrow feet well, whilst Bont are well known for accommodating wider feet and Sidi create shoes in varying widths.

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