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Shimano S-Phyre RC902 ($430)
Shimano’s top-of-the-line S-Phyre RC902 is our pick for the best no-expense-spared road shoe. The rigid carbon sole provides a stiff pedaling platform, and the BOA Li2 dial makes this shoe easy to adjust on the fly. We also like the ability to change the cable-lacing pattern at the forefoot to increase or decrease forefoot tension and further customize the fit. The RC902 has a slightly narrower forefoot than some of its competitors. Thankfully, Shimano also offers a wide version of the RC902 that’s suited to cyclists with high-volume feet.
Specialized S-Works Recon Vent Evo ($425)
Many gravel races take place in the sweltering midsummer heat. Specialized’s new S-Works Recon Vent Evo handles those conditions extremely well, thanks to large mesh panels that promote airflow. We’ve logged hundreds of hot-weather miles in the shoe and have been impressed with its breezy comfort—and the ultrastiff carbon sole, which produces efficient power transfer. Plus, we love the ability to fine-tune the fit with the S3 Boa dials, particularly on long rides.
Bontrager Cadence ($140)
Traditional road shoes have stiff soles that are purpose-built for pedaling performance, but they’ll have you waddling like a penguin when you’re off the bike. If you ride a lot in the virtual world of Zwift or in a spin studio, consider Bontrager’s Cadence. This indoor-focused cycling shoe pairs a two-bolt interface with an EVA-padded insole and rubber outsole that emphasize walkability, and thus look and feel at home in the gym. The single Boa dial makes it a snap to adjust.
Giro Stylus ($100)
The Stylus is great for new riders investing in their first pair of clipless shoes, as well as for deal-savvy cyclists of all ability levels. This stylish model looks like it should cost twice as much as its asking price. The synthetic, one-piece upper wraps around the foot without seams or stitching that can create pressure points. But Giro’s designers packed in immense value by combining that premium construction with a budget-friendly, yet very secure, three-strap Velcro closure. The reinforced nylon and fiberglass sole is likewise economical, and yet stiff enough for sprints or century rides.