It’s been a while since I’ve been on a bike properly and I noticed an unlikely fitment problem when I was trying on my old gear. My shoes were too tight around the toes. As I started searching for a new pair a noticed a common theme… cycling shoes in general are all too damn narrow.
I’ve also been suffering from mild knee pain recently. After avoiding my favourite activities like hiking, running and cycling for over a year, I decided enough was enough and went on the search for more data around protecting my knees during these activities.
One thing kept popping up again and again, which was allowing the forefoot room to move and adapt to its environment. I got a pair of hiking shoes that had a wider than normal (for me) toe box and what do you know, no pain when hiking. I did the same with running shoes with the same result.
All of that is not to say shoes are the cause of the issue, but it is to say that they can be part of the prevention of further injury. Not to mention increased comfort.
1 min summary
In short, Bontrager and Lake have been focusing on a bathtub shoe construction, prioritising space all around the forefoot, not just above. They are also basing their designs on real foot mechanics.
Many shoe manufacturers simply add volume above the foot. This allows them to retain the same sole shape but sell a wide option, to increase fit options with a high-profit margin. Bont and Lake shoes are a little more expensive, but their wide-fit shoes use a different shape sole to their regular fit. Making them a true wider fit.
From what I have read online over the past few weeks, it appears a lot of people have this issue with cycling shoes which, to me at least, makes it sound like wide-fit cycling shoes are just…. normal fit now. 🤷♂️
My top picks are below as well as some additional reading which I found beneficial.
Get a bike fit!
As usual, whenever I start to experience any type of pain on the bike, be it in the foot, through the knees or somewhere else, a revision of my bike fit is almost always the first thing on the cards. A good bike fit will help you find the correct shoes, recommend sole inserts if required, and adjust your cleats as well as how you sit on and interact with the bike.
Personally, I use Aidan Hammond in Wicklow, I’ve found him incredibly helpful over the years.
Shimano SH-RC3L Wide
Found on sale around the €65 mark, these lack some of the true wide fit features of others, but they are still a great budget option.
Usually around the €160 mark, these are the shoes I went with. A good balance between price and technology, plus I’m a sucker for a mad colour scheme!
Bont also gives you this really handy, free sizing chart you can print and see an accurate fit of their shoes.
Coming in around €400 (also available in white and black), if money was no object these would be my choice. But, I’d rather 2 pairs of Bonts at this price!
So far I’ve found the new shoes to be a big leap forward in comfort for me. My baby toe was getting crushed by my old shoes, but now my forefoot has plenty of room. I wouldn’t describe it as “wiggle room”, but my foot has proper space around it to relax.
I haven’t been able to ramp up my miles enough to know if they are helping my knees enough to be noticed, but I’ve changed cleats and pedals as well which will be a more influencing factor. It will certainly be interesting to see how the combination of all 3 changes works together.
I’ll check back in in a few months with an update on how I’m getting on. When I do, I will link it here.