What Kind of Shoes Should You Wear For Gravel Riding?

Peter Glassford
by Peter Glassford
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What Kind of Shoes Should You Wear For Gravel Riding?

If you have been riding on the road for many years, you can be forgiven for being upset that your svelte, sleek leather shoes are being called into question as you become gravel-curious. That’s because mountain bike shoes and cleats offer you the option to walk, try different bikes, and reduce slips on stairs. Here are reasons to consider making the switch:



If you’re spending more time on the dirt than the road, mountain bike shoes across all of your bikes will be the cheapest and most effective way to keep your gear spending to a minimum. Mountain bike shoes tend to be a bit cheaper, in general, as do their replacement cleats. It also leaves you with more room in your shoe closet!



Having the mobility to walk easier and not be stressed about doing a ‘banana peel’ style slip in your road cleats makes mountain bike shoes a better bet for any moments of walk time. You also might find yourself walking chunks of creek beds or other impassable sections on a gravel road that will be a lot less comfortable in road shoes that have no traction. Mountain bike shoes also tend to be a bit wider and cushioned, so your feet will feel more comfortable both on and off the bike — also, wiggling your toes makes it much easier to stay warm in the winter!



A side benefit to using mountain bike shoes all the time is you’ll get better at clipping in and out of those pedals, which makes you a smoother mountain biker on the trails, or a better cyclocross racer on a ‘cross course that has a lot of mounts and dismounts. View swapping your road pedals for mountain bike pedals as a way to improve your technique!


Now, some people may have strong opinions in favor of road shoes: They’re stiffer and can be potentially lighter and faster than their mountain bike brethren. If you were a top pro racer, that could be a great argument to stick with what works. But ultimately, it’s always worth asking why you’re continuing to do something. Does that benefit outweigh the comfort of a mountain bike shoe and the ability to hike through rivers, up steep slopes to access new routes and trails? Does it warrant the room in your closet, the extra money spent and the risk of bringing the wrong shoes to the race or ride? We should always be asking if the gear we use is still truly serving us, or if we’re just using it because it’s all we know or what someone told us to use when we started cycling.

About the Author

Peter Glassford
Peter Glassford

Peter is a cycling coach and registered kinesiologist from Ontario, Canada. He travels frequently to work with athletes at races, camps and clinics. He also races mountain bikes for Trek Canada and pursues adventure in all types of movement. Follow @peterglassford on Twitter, or check out his online and in-person coaching at www.smartathlete.ca.


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