Cycling shoes and triathlon shoes are similar in many ways. Featuring lightweight materials, stiff soles and compatibility with clipless pedals, they are both made to give the rider the fastest, most efficient ride possible. However, while athletes can use cycling shoes during the cycling portion of a triathlon, most will find that they lack certain attributes that triathlon shoes provide.
The biggest difference between cycling shoes and triathlon shoes is in how they are put on and removed. In a cycling race, riders have their shoes on and ready before they get on their bikes, while triathletes often start riding their bikes and put their shoes on while they ride. To speed up the transition, most triathlon shoes have larger openings to allow for a slip-on type of entry that is secured by a simple fastener, often Velcro.
Cycling shoes may use laces, zippers or a ratchet-based fastening system, but in the interest of a quick swim-to-bike transition, triathlon shoes are designed to have the simplest fastening method possible. Most triathlon shoes are fastened by a single Velcro strap across the top of the shoe, and many also feature a heel loop as well. To further speed up the process, most Velcro straps on triathlon shoes are reversed, with the open end facing the arch of the shoe, to allow wearers to quickly "slap" their shoes on.
Since triathletes are going from the swim right to cycling, triathlon shoes are quick to dry. Most triathletes put their shoes on with wet feet, so shoe designers have made a concerted effort to make shoes dry quickly, as excessive moisture in shoes often leads to blisters. Most triathlon shoes are made with synthetic materials that don't retain moisture and copious amounts of mesh to allow air to pass through the shoe, drying the riders' feet quickly as they race.
In contrast to cycling shoes, triathlon shoes are meant to be worn without socks. Putting on socks as well as shoes during the swim-to-bike transition would sacrifice precious seconds to a racer's time, so triathlon shoes are made for comfort sans socks. Seamless interiors and breathable materials ensure a comfortable ride for triathletes. Many triathlon shoes have interiors lined with nylon mesh and microfiber, synthetic materials that feel soft against skin while keeping it dry.
Article Written By Billy Brown
Billy Brown is an outdoor sports writer living in Northern California.
An avid rock climber and trail runner, he's been writing about outdoor activities, fitness and gear since 2005. He regularly contributes to "The Record Searchlight," uncooped.com, and Trails.com, as well as other print and online publications. Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Simpson University and is a NASM-certified personal trainer.