Cycling SPD Sandals: The Most Versatile Touring Shoes

Alee October 21, 2013 16

We certainly don’t wear bike sandals for their looks.

Our ‘clip-in’ sandals just arrived in Korea for the next leg of our journey, and after wearing them for all of five minutes, it has left us wondering why we didn’t just start the trip in them? They’re as ventilated as it gets and they dry quickly after crossing a river (or riding in the rain). At the same time people have a perception that sandals are only for summer cycling. We don’t think so…

Shimano sd66 SPD cycling sandal bicycle touring

Comparison to Standard SPD Cycling Shoes

The Why:

– Drying. When your sandals get wet, you can dry them out much quicker than a shoe. They are actually great for wet, winter riding.

– Ventilation. The more holes, the cooler the shoe. Simple.

– Versatility. You can wear sandals with no socks, thin socks, thick socks, waterproof socks and any of those sock combinations with overshoes. This makes sandals great for all weather conditions.

The Why Not:

– They’re friggen ugly. We die a bit inside when we wear them. Surely someone can come up with a nice ‘Birkenstock’ style?

– You can’t put shoe inserts (orthotics) in them. This is quite ok for those with flat feet, but will be a concern for those with high arches that need the support.

– Foot movement inside the sandal. Shoes have more surface area to hug your foot, making them feel stiffer and more secure in comparison. Not too much a worry with bicycle touring, more a concern for racer boys and girls.

– Your feet need to adjust to sandals. Some people experience blistering from walking in their sandals too much!

Cycling Sandal Versatility

SPD sandals are the most versatile touring shoes. They are great in the desert, and great in wet, cold weather.

This is how:

Cycling sandal review versatility weather conditions

1. Wear sandals without socks in conditions over 15 degrees celcius.

2. Wear sandals with thin, ventilated cycling socks for a bit more warmth/comfort.

3. Wear sandals with thick, waterproof socks in cold or wet conditions.

4. Wear sandals with socks AND booties/shoe covers in super cold and wet conditions.

Why Should You Clip In?

– You’ll have a more efficient pedalling action

– Your foot placement on the pedal will always be the same

– Your feet will not move off the pedals on rough roads

– You engage more of your leg muscles

You can read all about clipping into pedals in our article: Free Pedal Power

Shimano sd65 SPD cycling sandal bicycle touring

Open vs Closed Toe Sandals

We travel with open toe sandals (Shimano) which provide us with great ventilation and interesting tan lines. I can’t say that I’ve ever felt like I need my toes to be enclosed, but for many that is a concern. Luckily for those people, 4/5 sandal options are closed toe!

The great thing about Shimano’s open toe sandals is that the sizing doesn’t need to be perfect. There’s no toes hitting the end of the shoe if it’s a tad small, and the velcro straps do a good job of holding a small foot in a big shoe.

Can you walk in them?

Sure. Walking in SPD sandals is similar to walking in SPD closed shoes: stiff and perhaps a little bit noisy, but still workable. Our metal cleats ‘click’ on hard surfaces when we walk – mildly annoying.

You probably wouldn’t want to spend all day walking in them, but if they’re the only shoes you’ll carry on tour, they’ll still do the job.

What Cycling Sandals are Available?

Shimano SD66 SPD cycling sandal bicycle touring

Shimano SD-66 – $99 USD – Size 39-48

Our take: The most popular SPD sandal available due to its widespread availability and great construction. We find them great for cycling, but pretty average for walking given how stiff the sole is and that the cleats scrape the ground. We really like the open toe design. These sandals are quite wide compared to Shimano SPD closed shoes in our experience.

Keen Commuter III SPD cycling sandal bicycle touring

Keen Commuter III – $115 USD – Size 40-49

Our take: The most famous adventure sandal company also manufacturers an SPD sandal which is in it’s third generation. No velcro on these puppies, instead they are tightened with an elastic cord. The Commuter sandals are known to be on the narrower size, so if you have wide feet, you’ll be better off with Shimano. Keen also make the largest sandals, although the open toe nature of the Shimano would probably fit a size 49 too.

Exustar E-SS503 SPD cycling sandal bicycle touring

Exustar E-SS503 – $99 USD – Size 37-48

Our take: They may be less popular than Shimano or Keen, but Exustar has been making sandals for some time and are ever evolving their clip in sandals.

Rose RMTS-02 SPD cycling sandal bicycle touring

Rose RMTS-2 – £69 – Size 39-48

Our take: The Rose sandals look almost identical to the Exustars at the same price point. Find them and let us know what they’re like!

Nashbar Ragster II SPD cycling sandal bicycle touring

Nashbar Ragster II – $69 USD – Size 37-48

Our take: Super affordable but perhaps not the best construction. Often found for half the price of Shimano or Keen sandals, could be worth a try if you’re on a budget.

Have you had a good experience with cycling sandals?


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  • mARTin I am

    FLATS>>> FLATS>>> FLATS>>> You can ride in ANY shoe… You can WALK, you can run, you can wear thongs or sandals if need be. I like SPD’s for mountain biking but for touring I say NO WAY. 1 pair of shoes is all you need… day, night, ride right… if really required you can take a pair of thongs. SIMPLE!

    • Alex Denham

      Having ridden clipped in for so long, I can’t stand riding more than about 2km on flat pedals! I wish it were as easy as having one pair of shoes…

      Riding clipped in allows Kat’s dodgy knees to track better too.

      • Kate

        I agree with Alex. The only time I ride with flats is for my 5km commute to work each day (5km in, 5km out), and even then I sitll miss my cleats! For anything more, it has to be clipped in. Cleats and clipped in shoes are more comfortable, particularly since I have one very dodgy knee, and also more efficient. I also feel much more in control of my bike, which is great on ascents and descents. I have always used Shimano 33 shoes for touring, but my pair are REALLY old (14 years old!) and need to be replaced. As much as I do not like the look of sandals (“friggin’ ugly” is an accurate statement) I cannot argue with the versality. Them and a a pair of thongs and a pair of ballerina flats, and I should be good for a year on the road…..! 😉

  • OneBikeOneWorld

    I’ve ridden with the Shimano SD66’s for 3 years, but have just finished breaking my second pair. The attachments at the front eventually snap and Shimanos guarantee doesn’t cover it as it’s classed as wear & tear. They’re great for that year, and I love the funky tan-line I get but it’s definitely frustrating to have them give up again.

    • Alee Denham

      Sorry about the late reply, missed this one! I’m interested in exactly where you’ve broken yours – a photo would be great. I’m also wondering if you can let us know how much you walk in them. We wouldn’t walk more than 100m a day in ours. Kat’s SP66 seem to still be going strong after 10000km and mine have over 20000km. Cheers.

  • Thomas Albrecht

    I also think sandals are perfect touring shoes. I’ve done two trips across the US (one west to east, one north to south) in my Keen cycling sandals. They worked great for all the reasons you mention. My only complaint is that I wish the soles were a little bit stiffer. My feet do get fatigued and develop hot spots on my longest days in the saddle from flexing over the pedal all day. But that is the price to pay for more comfort when walking.

  • Szymon Nitka

    Do you know what happen with Keen Commuter sandals? They are unavailable in online stores. Is it because of a low popularity?

    • Sam I Am

      I’ve had the same problem.

  • Rideon Biketourings

    Had the Nashbar sandals for over a year now and really like them, for the price they are tough to beat, comfortable off the bike and very easy to clean. Expecting to get lots of use out of them. I like having flats on my commuter bike when I have to ride with work boots. Flip flops are not a packing issue when touring and nice to have to slip into at the end of a day of riding. Thanks for the info. BTW aided my decision to purchase sandals last year as I had recently moved to a hot, humid climate. Link for review if anyone’s interested.

    • Alee Denham

      Thanks sharing your experience with the Nashbar option!

  • AWG

    Great article, but the only ones I can find on-line are the nashbar and the SD66s. Why has everyone stopped selling sandals?

    • Alee Denham

      I’m not sure… maybe we should start producing some CyclingAbout sandals to fill the void!?

    • Szymon Nitka

      The same makes me curious. And there is even no so popular Keen Commuter on the market.

  • Sam I Am

    I hate the ridge on the Shimanos between your toes and the ball of your foot. It is placed horribly for me and caused a numbness in the balls of my feet. Two years ago, I got a pair of Keens. They are great. There is no ridge and the sole is much softer than the Shimanos. They are very comfortable to walk around in and my feet last a lot longer when riding. I am having trouble finding a new pair at the moment. No online company seems to have my size in stock. Weird.

  • Bentman

    I used to love my two strap Shimano sandals, until… I met the Keen
    Commuter lll’s. They are every bit as comfortable as regular Keens and are sized the same. They are great for touring as they are as comfortable on a bike as off.

    Anyway, at the present time Keen is no longer making cycling sandals. However
    they will be coming out with a cycling sandal again, in the spring of
    2015. They are not committing as to whether those sandals will be like
    the Commuter lll or an entirely different design.

    The problem with the Keen cycling sandals is that they were not sold through the
    traditional cycling stores. BIG mistake. Most riders buy their cycling
    footwear from a LBS, NOT REI, Dicks, Campmor, etc.