The Journey to The Perfect Road Cycling Shoe

Cycling shoes have to be one of the toughest pieces of gear when it comes to getting the right level of comfort. Ideally I would love to try on a shoe, walk a few feet and feel the comfort right away. However, some shoes need to be ridden and/or broken in after a few miles of riding. I can say that I’ve been there and done that. I have tested so many road shoes by different brands, but eventually did find the “Perfect shoe” for my rides.


My feet aren’t wide but due to an earlier foot injury many years ago, I feel most comfortable in wide fit shoes. I recommend going to a bike shop so that they can measure you properly before purchasing a shoe. I have ordered shoes online but that can become a nightmare because if it is a shoe outside the brand you normally use, the sizing and fit is going to be different.

My top all-time shoe that I’ve ridden for years and still use on rainy days is the Shimano RS321. I wear a size 48 wide which is equivalent to a US12.5. I had the chance to try these shoes on in my local bike shop in different sizes to make sure I was comfortable before I brought them home. The RS321’s has a custom fit insole that Shimano first introduced with this model. The custom-fit insole was designed to mold to your foot for the best fit possible. And it’s true, it works and I swear by it. They are the most comfortable pair of shoes and never did they once lose their comfort or stiffness from all the years I’ve had them. Looking back at the RS321’s, you can see that they have the trusty ratchet system and cross strap, which I still love. But the technology with cycling shoes has progressed and most shoes today have integrated the BOA system (that are now a must for me) making it easy to adjust your fit on the fly without losing control of your bike. The RS321’s felt so good and I was hoping that Shimano updated this model but they have since retired them.

So this next shoe test will tell you a little bit more about me and my bike gear snobbery. Please don’t judge me. On impulse I bought a pair of the Specialized S-WORKS 7 all white model, the me-too Jetta of cycling shoes. I got a size 47 (US 13), and they were not wide fit. They fit great, they rode great and were very comfortable. They just weren’t me. I like to pave my own lane when it comes to my custom bikes and that applies to my gear too, and I was seeing these shoes everywhere. Also, I have a Trek bike, so it just didn’t feel right to be rocking Specalized shoes. However, if you have a Specialized bike, I would recommend the shoes. I just like to match my shoes with my frame. **Comment below if you are like this too**.

With Bontrager’s new release of their XXX road shoes I thought they would be a good match with my Trek Emonda since they are affiliated brands and they look sleek. I’m a fan of shoes that are white with black accents and the XXX’s looked good and felt good out the box –  however not for long.  You can read my full review on the Bontrager XXX road shoes following this link but in short, I ordered the shoes online, which I don’t recommend. It was my first pair of cycling shoes I ever ordered on the web and it took me swapping out 3 sizes (settled on size 47) and one century ride to figure out that they weren’t for me. The XXX’s aren’t offered in a wide option, but I thought I’d give them a go anyway. In terms of ride feel, they are super stiff and you can feel the power transfer especially when climbing. They also breathed nice and kept

my feet cool. The main issue with these shoes are that they were just too narrow in the toe box. I also felt the insoles were weak especially for a shoe that cost upward $400. It gave me hot spots on too many rides and after that, I had to get rid of them. I do wish that the XXX’s were offered in a wide option, if they did I may have hung onto them.

Discouraged by all these returns, I went back to what I know and love – Shimano. I picked up the RC9 S-PHYRE shoes in size 48 wide. Out of the box the shoes felt just like my RS321’s. The RC9’s pearl white color creates an attractive sheen when light reflects off of them, compared to the XXX’s matt white finish. The RC9 comes with double BOA dials that let you cinch into your fit fast and I like the perforated upper that wraps around the shoe giving your foot ample space to breathe. These have been “the one” for me. I have had my RC9 S-PHYRE’s for several months now and put many miles on them – so they have proven themselves. I highly recommend the shoe for a rider who is looking for a wide option that is stylish and top of the line.

The Sum Up

So when selecting the right shoe for you remember that each brand has a different fit no matter what size you are. Through my experience, Shimano & Specialized shoes offer a wider and more compromising fit even if you don’t go with the wide option. Most importantly, unless you are reordering a pair of shoes you already own, please try on shoes at your local bike store to get the right fit.

Note: This product was purchased, rider tested and reviewed based on personal experience.

Parts List Breakdown

Links below to purchase all gear.

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Ridden & Written by

Dwayne Burgess (Manual Pedal)


*This review is based on my personal opinion and experience. All parts were purchased on my own and links provided are affiliate partnerships with Amazon.

One Comment

  1. Reggie

    I have the Bontrager XXX in red. Gorgeous shoe but not a snug fit for me. The Specialized S-Works 7, (also an impulse purchase) is the best cycling shoe I’ve ever worn – I chose black! Not sure what it is with me and white cycling shoes!

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