Shoe recommendation...not narrow but less space in toebox

I’m currently using Fizik Terra X5 with SPD cleats for road and gravel. The width and length seem OK, but they become a bit uncomfortable on rides over 2 hours. It seems like there’s too much vertical space so my toes have room to move and end up clenching.

Has anyone run into something similar? Any recommendations for a regular width shoe that maybe has a little less vertical space? I have the velcro cinched down as much as I can and that doesn’t seem to help.

I’ve tried Shimano shoes and they’re borderline too narrow. I haven’t ventured beyond these brands though so my experience is limited!! I’m nervous about spending money and only finding out the shoes don’t work after I’ve used them for a few hours and they can’t be returned (aren’t we all!)

Any tips are appreciated. Thanks!!

“clenching” of the toes is, in my experience, unlikely related to having too much space in the toe of the shoe. In fact, there aren’t many downsides to a roomy toe box, provided the rest of the shoe fits you correctly…although maybe it doesn’t.

Clenching, or “toe scrub” as I’ve heard it referred to, is more likely a symptom of a lack of arch support or other such instabilities of the foot.

If you have other shoes that you dont experience this problem with, maybe try taking the insole out and putting it in the fiziks.


I’ve seen it mentioned on the internet (I.e don’t trust me) that incorrect fore/aft cleat position could cause clenching.

I’ve found shoes with double BOA type closure to be much better in this regard, holding the foot all around - totally get the sloppy forefoot feeling and this scrunching. This kind of wrap around shoe provides more flexibility to dial in the fit, I like Northwave and ride the road version of this - NORTHWAVE GHOST PRO - shop online Northwave

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Thanks!! I was wondering about going with 2 BOA’s. I just wish the velcro could go a bit more snug on my shoes.


I have a low arch and have been running the blue Specialized footbeds. Maybe I need to revisit this. Thanks!!

@SeeEl I’ve heard this too but I’m afraid to move them and cause other issues. After a fit last year (pre covid), my fitter set the cleats and it help with a minor knee issue. Thanks!!

I had some custom fit insoles done and was previously using the green BG footbeds. There was a mark where my big toe has worn away the footbed from my gripping with my toes as, even though green is the highest arch support, it wasn’t enough. I would definitely look at alternatives inside the shoe first. As mentioned there shouldn’t really be a downside to having more space than necessary (within reason).

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I upgraded from the Fizik M6B UOMO, which had two velcro straps in the front and one BOA to the Fizik INFINITO X1 with two BOA and the forefoot fit is much better. I’ve been wearing Icebug insoles to add some support. I have very flat feet and were orthotics in my other shoes.

Beyond the better fit, sometimes clenching my toes was just part of the overall tension in my body when going hard. I just had to remind myself and practice staying loose during those efforts.

Also, can’t hurt to get a fitter to look at your cleat placement.


I think toe box room and clenching is fairly personal thing, and dependent on how one wants a performance shoe to fit.

I use something like this in my hockey skates for exactly this reason, and it transforms an otherwise perfect fitting skate. I don’t know of anybody using them in cycling shoes, but if you like your shoes and just want a more performance fit in the toes, I think $20 - $30 bucks is worth a try before dropping $200 on shoes.

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Thank you! I think I’ll give these a shot.