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…
Comparison to Standard SPD Cycling Shoes
- 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:
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
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 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 – $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 – $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-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 – $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?