Finding the right shoes without going broke

I use SPD cleats and have been using Fizik X5 Terra shoes for a while now. These were fine in cooler weather and shorter rides. After 45 miles in 90F heat recently through, my feet were killing me. I think they’re slightly too small when factoring swelling in the heat. I’m sure we’ve all faced issues like this at one point or another.

How do you find the right shoes without going broke? The Fizik’s for example felt great just walking around when I first got them. Good shoes can easily be $200+, so that’s alot to spend only to find they won’t work after riding a bit and then you can’t return them.

Is there a better approach other than expensive trial and error? Maybe size up a bit and play with the fit based on insoles? If a shoe itself feels OK (comfortable on top, BOA/adjustments seem OK, etc) could they be made OK with the right insoles, custom or otherwise?

I recently found a pair of Giro’s that fit beautifully out of the box…I’m just afraid to commit $225 only to find similar problems as with the Fizik.

Any tips are appreciated!

Bontrager has a 30 day guarantee. Buy them, try them, if you don’t like then return them or exchange, no questions asked. When I was trying the Bontrager stuff had the bigger toe box and worked well for me. Ballista knit is a very good hot weather shoe. I have the XXX and my feet were FREEZING on 50* days even with wool socks


In addition to @Cleanneon98 's suggestion, try your local bike shop. Many of them will have good relationships with their suppliers. They can often get you sized up pretty well, and if you are still a mismatch, they can furnish an exchange/return. Some of the online purveyors also have a strong satisfaction guarantee with shoes. Try them, and if they really don’t work for you, you can send them back. I would do a little research on your foot dimensions and the dimensions of shoes. There are a few good video reviews out there as well talking about typical sizing within brands e.g. Sidis tend to be narrow, Shimanos are pretty true to size for a typical foot, Giros have a good roomy toe box etc.

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When fitting them, you may also want to wear your winter socks. They should be a bit thicker than your summer socks and may even out the summer fit by simulating the swelling.


It may be worthwhile for you to look up Lake’s detailed sizing chart and measurement guide. If you have particularly wide feet, a brand like Lake may be the ticket. They are already wide in their “normal” last, and many of their models have an even more voluminous “Wide” fit or “Extra Wide.” In addition, Shimano Wide shoes are very roomy.

Sizing up to accommodate foot width can often place the cleats too far forward, putting pressure on the forefoot, and causing hotfoot, numbness, etc. In terms of a way to not go broke, check out They allow you to return used shoes within 30 days for store credit. If they don’t work for you, this will at least let you cycle through several shoe brands and give them a good faith test while not being out much or any money. They sell enough brands that you can try a broad spectrum.


Look for a lbs that has like a trial period. My lbs has a 30 days return policy on shoes, saddles and helmets. No questions asked as long as they aren’t damaged.
You could also see if there’s a shoe specialist in your area. They have the ability to measure your feet in great detail.

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I often have issue with shoe fit changing during longer rides, and I’d add that for myself - the added volume of a thicker sock hasn’t been a reliable predictor of discomfort, since that test seems to add volume everywhere and shift the whole foot in the shoe, vs it being a more localized phenomenon during actual riding.

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It seems worthwhile to talk to a professional podiatrist etc, especially when getting into insoles etc - even if not for a custom set of orthotics or w.e. Are those Giros for example 100% comfortable? I’ve definitely fallen into the trap of compromising a bit on how a pair feels, realizing later on with regret that I was trying to force a fit - in other words I kinda knew all along that perhaps they were a bit too tight etc. Unfortunately with the more conventional type of shoes that I use, between the stiff insole, wraparound type upper, types of materials used, there really doesnt seem to be any material stretch over time as with a casual leather shoe etc.

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I thought about wearing the Giros around the house for an hour. The fit feels good but so did my Fiziks at first.

I did meet with a podiatrist about a year ago, but he wasn’t terribly helpful. I got “custom” orthotics for $190 that looked like they were made out of Play Dough by a 4 year old.

I have a new bike fit scheduled for this Friday so I’ll bring up my shoe concerns, and I’ll see if I can find better options.

It doesn’t help that my left foot is probably a 48.2 haha.

Thanks everyone for the tips!!

Where is the pain or discomfort on the foot specifically? It may help to know for those who have solved for a similar issue and can contribute.

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I’ve been getting pain on the bottom of my left toes. I think if the shoes are a bit too small as my feet swell and the arch perhaps is a bit too high, that’s could cause the pressure. Just my guess anyway.

A better fit on the bike might to a long ways too. I had consistent numbness in my right foot for a while. A pro fit on my bike has taken care of it.

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Have a look at Velokick’s Lactic, they are a steal and can easily hold their own against much more expensive shoes. It’s an Australian brand and the owner is a podiatrist. You can tell, because these shoes also fit people with wider feet like me.

I have a pair since January, and have been using them 5 times a week for my commutes. They are still in perfect shape. They are super comfortable both, on the pedal and when walking about. And they offer the right amount of stiffness in my mind. They don’t have a pure carbon sole, but a carbon composite sole that is a bit more flexible.

Of course, no shoe will fit everyone perfectly, but I am amazed how good a deal they are.


I had the X5’s - luckily managed to return them after a ride. Found them a touch narrow, with a slightly odd shaped footbed.

Went to Shimano XC7’s - Much better for Width & a Neutral footbed. As per the post above, I’m keen to try the lactics

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I experienced similar issues (and even had the same pedals and shoes, but that is irrelevant). My anatomy book helped me figure out the problem. The foot has three arches (or trusses) supporting the body’s weight, connected between the heal, the head of metatarsal I, and the head of metatarsal V. Metatarsal I takes more weight than metatarsal V, and metatarsal I is unique for having some extra shock absorption in its cartilage. The arches are flexible and provide shock absorption. Your SPD pedals and flexible shoes are interfering with the function of the arches, particularly the transverse arch between metatarsals I and V. If you want to use SPD pedals, you need a completely stiff shoe to ensure that metatarsals I and V bear your weight, without the pedal putting unexpected pressure on the inner metatarsals. It is hard to find stiff cycling shoes, particularly ones that ventilate and have enough room for your feet. But the running industry knows how to make shoes with big toe boxes that are properly ventilated. You can get zero-drop running shoes for like $100, and use them on a $50 mountain-bike flat pedal, and you will have a great setup. At least it is a temporary experiment worth performing to witness how great your feet will feel, so that you have something to compare against when trying out cycling shoes.

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