Best commuter cycling shoes for urban and gravel use 2023

The best commuter cycling shoes will work well both on the bike and for walking around town once you arrive

Best commuter cycling shoes: Chrome Industries urban cycling shoes
(Image credit: Chrome Industries)

The best commuter cycling shoes have to do two things well that aren't always easy to reconcile.

Whereas the best cycling shoes for road cycling only have to help you to pedal efficiently, the best commuter cycling shoes have to give reasonable pedalling efficiency but still be comfortable and practical for walking around town - they may even need to look reasonably stylish too. That's something that road cycling shoes can never be claimed to be – at least off the bike.

The best urban cycling shoes have a lot in common with the best gravel bike shoes and shoes for mountain biking, which are also likely to see some off-bike action. So we've tested cycling shoes for urban use that can also serve double duty as shoes for lighter gravel adventures at the weekend.

 If you're a commuter who's yet to purchase your first gravel bike it will mean that you don't have to buy another pair of shoes to go alongside your new off-road rig. And, of course, if you're also in the market for a set of pedals to match your shoes, we've a guide to the best commuter bikes pedals as well.

Read on for our pick of the best commuting shoes, or head to the bottom of the page for our buyer's guide on to how to choose shoes for commuting by bike. 

Best commuter cycling shoes

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For SPD pedals

Image shows Adidas Velosambas which are some of the best cycling shoes for commuting

(Image credit: Anna Abram)
Best for trainer style

Specifications

SPD compatible: Y
Size range: UK 2.5 - 14, half sizes from 3.5 - 13.5

Reasons to buy

+
Efficient pedalling
+
Stylish looks
+
Reflective details

Reasons to avoid

-
A little too stiff for walking far off-bike

Coming from the trainer world, rather than the cycling shoe brands that usually inhabit this space, the Adidas Velosamba shoes have the trainer look to them, so they're less obviously cycling shoes once you're on foot. But Adidas has increased the sole stiffness with a full-length reinforced insole and added SPD cleat compatibility for greater riding efficiency.

The stiff sole and supportive upper make for efficient pedalling, but make the Velosamba a little uncomfortable and less practical for off-bike use. 

The uppers are mainly coated leather, making them easy to wipe clean (there's a vegan leather option available in a wider range of colours). There's an elastic holder to keep your laces out of the gears. Reflective areas on the heel and sides add extra visibility.

Read more: Adidas Velosamba commuter cycling shoes full review

Image shows Fizik Gravita Versor Clip which are some of the best cycling shoes for commuting

(Image credit: Anna Abram)
Best for lace security

Specifications

SPD compatible: Y
Size range: EUR 36 - 48, half sizes from 37.5 - 46.5

Reasons to buy

+
Robust build
+
Offset laces to help keep them out of the gears
+
Grippy Vibram soles

Reasons to avoid

-
A little stiff for walking

Not specifically an urban cycling shoe - the Gravita Versors are marketed for downhill and enduro mountain bikers - they work well for commuting and casual gravel riding. The combination of a Vibram sole that's grippy in the wet, more walkable flex and skate shoe-like looks make them a good option for urban use too. There's a flat-soled version available, as well as the SPD option tested.

Fizik offsets the laces to the outside, where they're out of the way of the chain and it also includes a lace snap to keep them in check. There's a wide toe box with some reinforcement for extra protection. Like the Adidas Velosambas, the Fizik shoes are a little stiff for walking, plus there's a bit of looseness around the ankle, but they're great for riding.

Read more: Fizik Gravita Versor Clip SPD commuter cycling shoes full review

Image shows Shimano AM5 (AM503) which are some of the best cycling shoes for commuting

(Image credit: Anna Abram)
Best for all-round use

Specifications

SPD compatible: Y
Size range: EUR 36 - 48

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable on and off bike
+
Plenty of venting on the uppers
+
Easy to keep clean

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly flexy for more serious riding

The Shimano AM5 is another mountain bike shoe that works well for commuting. it's got a sole that's flexible enough for comfortable off-bike use, but still efficient when riding. There's no heel slippage when walking and they worked well for light gravel use at the weekend.

The AM5 has a skate style, rather than the looks of a sneaker. The toe guard makes it robust, it's easy to wipe clean and there's enough venting to keep your feet cooler than other urban cycling shoe options. They're good value too.

Read more: Shimano AM5 SPD commuter cycling shoes full review

Image shows Chrome Southside 3.0 Low Pro which are some of the best cycling shoes for commuting

(Image credit: Anna Abram)
Best for robustness

Specifications

SPD compatible: Y
Size range: UK 3 - 13, half sizes from 7.5 - 11.5

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to walk in
+
Grippy sole rubber

Reasons to avoid

-
Lace guards are not well sited
-
A little on the heavy side
-
Some heel lift when walking

The Chrome Industries Southside shoes combine on-bike efficiency and off-bike use well, being pretty easy to walk in with a grippy sole made by Panaracer.  They're one of a range of ten different flat sole and SPD options, so there's plenty of choice.

Much of the upper is water repellent and easy to wipe clean and there's a reflective area at the back of the sole. 

We didn't find the lace pouch, designed to keep your laces out of the pedals, were very well sited though. They're slightly heavy too and the low heel allows some heel lift when walking.

Read more: Chrome Industries Southside 3.0 Low Pro commuter cycling shoes full review

Image shows the Quoc Chelsea Boots which are some of the best commuter cycling shoes

(Image credit: Future)
Best boots

Specifications

SPD compatible: Y
Size range: EUR 38-47

Reasons to buy

+
Water-resistant
+
Stiff soles

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy shoe
-
Not quite one thing or the other
-
Clunky
-
Awkward to walk in

Meet the cycle commuter-friendly boot. Quoc has added two-bolt cleat compatibility for the fashion-conscious commuter who wants to keep their costume changes to a minimum and have a clipped-in commute to the office.

Made from suede, the front is waxed and provides a two-tone look – which also serves to protect your feet on drizzly days. The inner sole is super stiff, which is ideal for cycling, but not so perfect if you’re walking a lot around the office or pub. 

Overall, these function very well as a stylish shoe to cycle in – and it is possible to walk in them too – however our tester found that they’re not the most comfortable in this aspect.

Read more: Quoc Chelsea Boots commuter cycling shoes full review

For flat pedals

Image shows the Crankbrothers Stamp Lace which are some of the best cycling shoes for commuting

(Image credit: Future)
Best for rides with hike-a-bike sections

Specifications

SPD compatible: N
Size range: 4 - 13 UK, half sizes from 4.5 - 11.5

Reasons to buy

+
Great for walking in
+
Very durable

Reasons to avoid

-
Not super-stiff
-
Grip off-bike isn't the best

The Crankbrothers Stamp Lace shoes are designed for flat pedal use, with the depth for grip by the pedals' pins, walking grip depending on the rubber rather than the tread.

The uppers are weatherproofed, although they also have some vents and mesh panels for breathability. There's a pouch to stash the laces out of the way when pedalling. There's enough support to pedal efficiently, but also the flexibility to walk comfortably and the shoes fend off wet weather and are comfortable enough in the heat too.

Read more: Crankbrothers Stamp Lace commuter cycling shoes full review

Image shows the Chrome Industries Dima 3.0 Slip Ons which are some of the best cycling shoes for commuting

(Image credit: Future)
Best for wide feet

Specifications

SPD compatible: N
Size range: 5 - 13 UK, half sizes 7.5 - 11.5

Reasons to buy

+
Plenty of grip
+
Robust
+
Easy-on design

Reasons to avoid

-
Awkward to walk in due to stiff soles
-
Lack of heel hold and adjustability

Designed to be used with flat pedals, the Dima 3.0 shoes from Chrome Industries  are also very walkable and stiffer than many flats. They come with a slip resistant sole made by tyre maker Panaracer, a rubber toe bumper and sides and water resistant uppers.

The slip-on design means that you can't tighten the shoes beyond their small stretchy panel on their outer sides, but also makes them quick and easy to get on and off.

We found the shoes weren't the most comfortable to walk in, with heel slippage an issue, compounded by the stiff soles, and the shape not fitting our tester's narrow feet well. 

Read more: Chrome Industries Dima 3.0 Slip On commuter cycling shoes full review

Image shows the Shimano GR5s which are some of the best commuter cycling shoes

(Image credit: Future)
Best for on and off bike comfort

Specifications

SPD compatible: N
Size range : EUR 33-48

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent for walking in
+
Robustly built
+
Versatile
+
Low price

Reasons to avoid

-
Not super grippy on hike-a-bike sections of trail

As far as we’re aware, the GR5s are Shimano’s least stiff shoes, with a rating of just two and the brand’s own scale. But what this means is that GR5 shoes are simply excellent for walking in, whilst still being sufficiently stiff for all-day (non-competitive) riding.Our tester found the Shimano GR5s to have the best balance of pedalling stability and walkability of any flat shoes he’s ever ridden in. 

The GR5 shoes have been criticised for not having so tacky a sole as other MTB shoes. Also that the weather proofing isn’t as tightly sealed as other, more winter oriented, shoes. On the other hand, you don’t get that sticking sensation (and noise) when walking on glossy hardwood floors and the breathability is really quite good for such a chunky looking shoe.

Read more: Shimano GR5 commuter cycling shoes full review

Buyer's guide to how to choose the best commuter cycling shoes

There are plenty of things to think about when choosing the best commuter cycling shoes. You'll want to be able to cycle efficiently but also get around town on foot comfortably. 

What features will help me to ride efficiently?

Pedalling efficiently requires a stiff interface between your shoes and the pedals. The best commuter cycling shoes will have a stiff midsole to help you ride more comfortably and transfer power to your bike more effectively. 

Although the best flat pedals for cycling will work well and mean that it's easy to get a foot down at stops, you'll get greater pedalling efficiency from a set of clipless pedals, where your shoes connect via a cleat with the pedals.  We've got a guide to riding with clipless pedals if you want to know more.

For commuting, two bolt SPD pedals work better than the more race-oriented three bolt systems. Two bolt pedals normally have two sides on which you can clip in rather than one, so it's easier to get moving and the smaller cleat is recessed into the sole, so they're much easier to walk in. 

What features do I need for off-bike use?

Shoes for cycling, particularly those for riding off-road on flat pedals and without cleats, usually have grippy soles. These are obviously useful for walking too, so that's one box ticked.

The second important feature is walkability, which usually means more flex than cycling shoes offer, as these are designed to provide the stiffness for efficient on-bike use.

It's worth weighing up how much of your time you're likely to spend walking in your shoes versus riding. Choose shoes that provide the optimum balance of stiffness and flex for your usage pattern.

What shoe style do I want?

Cycling shoes for commuting may have a trainer style or a more chunky skate style and which suits you is very much a personal choice. 

If you've co-opted a pair of mountain bike shoes for commuting, they'll probably be skate style. There are relatively fewer trainer style cycling shoes for commuting, although we've selected a couple here.

What about weatherproofing?

Sooner or later, you're going to be commuting in the rain or on wet streets and your cycling shoes will end up wet from wheelspray. That means that a degree of weatherproofing is important, so look out for shoes with waterproof uppers. They'll likely get dirty too, so a wipe-clean finish will help.

A decent pair of weatherproof shoes are as much a part of your wet weather commuting armoury as the best commuter cycling jackets.

On the other hand, if it's hot and sunny, you'll appreciate some ventilation to keep your feet cooler. It's a difficult compromise and many shoes will include vents or fabric sections, although these will let water in when it's wet. 

The best cycling overshoes are a good option to keep your feet drier in the rain. They may not look pretty, but they will keep you more comfortable and prevent you from having to wear soggy shoes all day.

How do I keep my laces out of the cranks?

Anyone who's done even a little riding as a kid will recognise that feeling when their shoe laces get tangled in the pedal spindles or the chainset. You can't keep turning the pedals and you can't disconnect your foot. As a kid, that usually results in a tumble unless you're savvy and not spooked by your trapped foot and remember to put the other one down.

Fortunately, the designers of the best commuter cycling shoes have been there too. There's usually an elastic strap a little way down the tongue which you can tuck your laces under or a lace garage to push them into, keeping  them out of the way.

The alternative is a set of shoes with velcro straps or dial closures. They're more usual on dedicated budget cycling shoes but could be an option on cycling shoes for commuting.

What other features should I look for?

With cycling shoes for commuting, as with other commuter kit, being seen is important. Many commuter cycling shoes will include reflective areas, particularly at the rear. They're well worth having, as the movement of your feet as you pedal means that they're more visible than static reflective elements on commuter clothing or your bike.

A wider toe box will lead to more comfort and many mountain bike shoes will have toe reinforcement to protect your toes, which can also be helpful fo the commuter.

Paul Norman

Paul started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2015, covering cycling tech, new bikes and product testing. Since then, he’s reviewed hundreds of bikes and thousands of other pieces of cycling equipment for the magazine and the Cycling Weekly website.

He’s been cycling for a lot longer than that though and his travels by bike have taken him all around Europe and to California. He’s been riding gravel since before gravel bikes existed too, riding a cyclocross bike through the Chilterns and along the South Downs.

With contributions from