Do much stiffer shoes make a difference? How much?

I think it is time I got some new cycling shoes.
I like the ones I have, but they are about 3 years old (8,000 miles).
They are in the lower to mid range of Shimano’s rosd shoes and cost about $80 with plastic soles.
I am into Time Trials of 10 and 25 miles.
Will full carbon soles shoes see me put any more power through the pedals?
If yes, any estimate on how many watts extra it may be.
Will I notice the difference in performance spending $200 versus another pair costing about $80 again?
I read lots of things about watts saved due to wheels, swimsuits, aero bars etc. But what about shoes, and in particular their stiffness benefits.

More important than watts, cheap shoes with flexible soles can give you significant foot pain and discomfort.

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I think they do make a difference in comfort (all things equal ie…the shoe fits you) which aids power and the stiffness also aids power transfer. I’d hate to estimate watts but, I think it will be noticeable. Not huge, but to me 10W is noticeable. So, a huge WAG…at least 10W.

Shoes are amazingly personal like saddles. A shoe that feels amazing in the shop may not work for you after 15 minutes on the road. I don’t wear Bontrager, but, they offer a no questions asked return policy if the shoe doesn’t work for you. I currently have a high end DMT road shoe and I added a Vittoria 1976 Evo recently. Both awesome but, the Vittoria sole is a little thinner and not as stiff. I can totally feel it. No difference in sprint power but, it seems like during TT efforts the thicker stiffer DMT sole helps keep the power on. Could be complete BS so just take it as a n=1 experience. I have no data. I will be using the DMT for TT’s. When it’s hot I plan to use the Vittoria for all other races as it’s way cooler.

Don’t forget about proper insoles…

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I think shoes are one area that performance athletes can often forget to invest in, and you’ll see significant improvements in power transfer and comfort by picking the right shoe for you. Like @Landis mentioned, getting a custom insole made for your shoes/feet will push that to an even higher level of comfort and fit.


Shoes can be lighter or more comfortable but there is no data suggesting that sole stiffness has any measurable positive effect on power transfer. If anything, on contrary - it seems to make no difference.


Was it on thr GCN show they said a recent study confirmed this?

Just to add last year I went with the same shoes I’d had for the previous two years as they had been really comfortable and power transfer felt great, the new pair are terrible, same shoe, different year, totally different experince.

Hi Colinio, I found a couple of scientific papers on this topic in making this video ( Basically, it’s a really small difference in power transfer of about 1w (nylon vs carbon) in part because most of the power transfer is via the mid foot not the heel so we are talking about compression of the sole as much as bend in the sole but there are differences in comfort and wear&tear to consider

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Great find. I’m not surprised but, I’m kinda surprised!

Definitely feels subtle, but noticeable to me. If it’s circa 1w, then it’s just a placebo effect. Although my newest shoes do fit me better, so that may contribute to that better feeling.

N=1 experience: I went from a year of riding in Shimano RP1s (cheapest model available) to riding in the Shimano RP9 (carbon base, etc). I don’t know if I’m necessarily getting more power transfer or not but I do know they have tended to feel more comfortable overall. At some point I’ll try another brand because I still have some comfort issues but I think more comfort = more power to some degree at least.