Sandals as summer cycling shoes

I mean seriously, why not?

There’s a huge amount of hogwash flying around out there about cycling specific shoes being ‘essential’ for cycling any distance at all. So much so that manufacturers even make commuter specific models, apparently purposely designed for the daily grind.

The alleged merits of cycling shoes are that their stiff soles and mechanical attachment to the pedal makes for a more efficient pedalling stroke. The funny thing is that us average punters, hell bent on depriving ourselves of our disposable, buy this science without the means of proving or disproving the theory.

But sandals? Surely a step too far? Well I hate to break it to you, but I did a 30 mile, hilly mixed terrain ride last week wearing a pair of Rohan sandals with no issues whatsoever. No chafing, no apparent loss of power and the blissful feeling of the summer air wafting over my delicate pinkies.

I also did Sky Ride Birmingham shod thusly, including a go on Rollapaluza’s roller racing rig, recording 25 seconds dead for 500metres standing start.

I do have a few key recommendations for prospective sandalled bikers. A model with a non exposed toe is good, as is a strap around the back of the Achilles. A grippy sole is also desirable.

So you can ride and ride strong in normal shoes or even sandals. The key is to get grippy pedals with a good, wide footbed.

Forget about the pulling up on the pedal stroke. It’ll only distract you from your power stroke. Think about it. Do you really think you can augment the power of your left leg pushing down by pulling up with your right? At best you can unweight your upcoming leg but you don’t need clips for that.

Forget about stiff soles too. Strong feet, ankles and supportive pedals are all you need.

For more on this Google ‘Rivendell Shoes Ruse’ for further pondering.

ps: I don’t do socks and sandals. I’m saving that for my dotage.

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18 thoughts on “Sandals as summer cycling shoes

  1. pierre-antoine nansé

    I always ride with any kind of shoes ( exxcept moon boots ) but since i use Ergon pedals it’s really an “evidence”.

  2. Chris Thompson

    I was going to disagree with you until you mentioned toe protection. I’d hate to scrape mine across the pavement in an unplanned, graceless stop. My cycling shoes consist of either my cross trainers or hiking shoes. I will not ever attach my feet to a pedal again after falling over at traffic light because i couldn’t unattach.

    1. Stephen

      I am a generally happy (but not exclusive) clipless pedal user (just hit twenty years of use), but I think many of us have fallen over when first using toeclips or system pedals. I still wonder what the driver thought when I fell off at a tee-junction next to him. I suspect he saw my unclipped right foot waving in the air as I keeled over to the left.

  3. Alcyon

    Green with envy I am; I need orthotics, which rules out sandals, alas. While I did try the clipless ensemble when I first took up cycling ten years ago (the magazines said it was a necessity, just like spandex!) one of the several factors that made me abandon the shoes and pedals was the increasing length of trips into the country: should anything go wrong, it’s a long, uncomfortable walk in lumpy, stiff shoes.

    It’s interesting to see third world cyclists and rickshaw pedalers hauling unthinkable loads all day in sandals or just bare feet…

  4. I’m ashamed to admit owning these (fashion police avert your gaze), but, in the heat of the West Australian summer I have been known to do 50km in . . . CROCS!

    The reason this is perfectly comfy (if completely slovenly) is because I have thumping great Odyssey JC (sealed) BMX pedals on my Surly LHT. (Which upon reflection is about as stylish as the Crocs). However, the pins on the pedals sink into the spongy material of the Crocs beautifully to keep my feet secure and the wide pedal dimensions aid with comfort.

    If I also admit I’m not above sticking the wellies on, if I’m cycling to the shops in a downpour, I’m going to be banned from any CycleChic sites for life. Sigh!

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      I saw a huge number of Croc shod folk at Sky Ride Birmingham at the weekend. Sky Ride is a closed roads mass participation thing that happens in lots of British cities. Never worn Crocs but they do look insanely comfortable and light.

      Wellies – now that’s taking things to a whole new level. I salute you!

      1. Stephen

        Personally I prefer something a bit more substantial (less squishy) than Crocs for cycling, although I have been up and down the road in them, but they are insanely light so not a big deal to carry, so I have used them as camping shoes having put them in a pannier.

        I have cycled short distances in my Tevas, but I am a bit twitchy about toe protection. They are ten years old and now showing their age, so maybe something with toe protection this time.

  5. Stephen

    Rivendell link is here http://www.rivbike.com/article/clothing/the_shoes_ruse in case it doesn’t come up easily in a search.

    I tend to use clips and straps with a walking shoe when touring, or when we have taken bikes on holiday. Off roading, commuting and day rides I tend to use SPDs. I have BMX style big bare pedals on one bike as an experiment for short range riding, but it feels like my feet are slipping around so I am not completely sold on the idea (this was one of the reasons for using clips and straps and then system pedals in the first place).
    Over the years I have used various combinations clips and straps, power grips, Look cleats, SPDs of various brands and several brands of shoe, and have never been quite happy, but some of the iterations were improvements.

    Most cycling shoes are too narrow for me, (there are some spd sandals from Keen which I tried on which are too narrow, and looking at various customer feedback and forums others agreed: one reason for choosing Keen would be that their walking shoes and sandals are nice and wide; oh and the price seemed excessive) however, some manufacturers do make wider fittings. Since my shoes seem to get wet, and dirty particularly in winter, not to mention sweaty on my 15 mile commute I am happy to wear shoes just for cycling (at least some of the time).

    Cleats and pedals between them seem to conspire to allow minimal adjustment laterally and directionally. Trying to keep narrow foot to foot spacing means that heels are likely to hit cranks if your toes point out and you are trying for a natural foot position. I also suspect there is an optimal foot spacing based at least partially on hip/pelvis size/width which varies from person to person, rather than minimal being optimal.

    Personally I wonder whether I should be using knee saver pedal adaptors to gain some spacing.

  6. I wear my Keen sandals year ’round. In the summer, I have the breeze on bare skin. In the winter, I have the warmth of wool socks. To borrow a phrase from Kent Peterson, I am not a fashion role model.

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