A triathlon tests your endurance in a variety of ways. It also requires you to make quick transitions between three different sports; swimming, cycling, and running. The right shoes can enhance your performance, prevent injury and make you feel less frantic as you streamline your process.
We’ve reviewed six triathlon shoes for both running and cycling, and for men and women, so that you can get a better idea of which one is right for you!
Every second counts in a triathlon. Running shoes don’t provide the power that you need for cycling, and cycling shoes don’t provide the shock absorption and support that you need for running. Triathletes will generally use two separate pairs of shoes; one for running and one for cycling.
Cycling shoes have a stiff sole that transfers power efficiently from your leg to the pedal. Cycling shoes improve your power and efficiency while reducing muscle fatigue. They clip into your pedals, creating a streamlined mechanism between your body and the bike.
This allows you to use your hamstrings to pull up on the pedal. Without the clips, you can only push down on the front of the stroke using your hamstrings. This taxes one muscle group and doesn’t take advantage of one of the most powerful parts of your body.
Running shoes have a flexible sole that cushions your foot while holding it stable. To reduce the risk of injury, they must reduce the impact that occurs when your foot strikes the ground. The best triathlon shoes for running are also light. This is why you see Olympians shaving off body hair the night before a big event. Every ounce of weight makes a difference when you’re making repetitive strides in a long-distance run.
A stiffer sole transfers energy better than a flimsy one. Therefore, cycling shoes are designed with rigid bottoms. Energy transfer is also more efficient when your foot is well-contained within the shoe. For this reason, you might want to look for a cycling shoe that is half a size smaller than your regular shoe. If your foot slides around, the shoe is too big.
Most experts say that cycling shoes might feel too small while you’re walking in them, but they should be comfortable while riding. You don’t want too much pressure around the widest part of your foot because this is where the power transfer from your foot to the pedal occurs. However, you don’t want too much space here either.
Cycling shoes should also hug your heel snugly. To test the fit, have someone hold down the back of the shoe while you’re wearing them. Try to lift your heel. If your foot slides out of the shoe, look for one with a more secure fit.
Although typical cycling shoes don’t have a pull loop in the back, triathlon shoes do. That’s because every second counts when you’re pulling on your shoes.
Having a single closure instead of multiple ones makes getting into your shoes faster. Many cyclists prefer Velcro closures that open toward the outside. This decreases the likelihood that they’ll get caught in the drivetrain.
The soles of cycling shoes are made from different materials. Nylon soles are the most affordable and durable, but they’re also the heaviest. Composite soles are lighter and more responsive. Carbon soles are the lightest. However, they’re the most expensive.
Your running shoes should be comfortable and fit well, but what does that mean, exactly? The right size shoe should hug your heel without being too tight. Any play in that area will become worse the longer you run. Therefore, you want to eliminate the possibility of irritation from shoes that are too tight or too loose. A snugger fit is better, as the shoe will mold to your foot over time.
The width should accommodate the way that your foot spreads when you run. Your foot should be able to move from side to side in the toe box. This allows your big toe to move laterally, which gives you added stability.
Orthology explains that you should be able to pinch about ¼-inch of fabric at the widest part of your foot. You should also have about ½-inch of play between the end of your big toe and the front of the shoe.
The shoe should flex in the same way that your foot does. You have more mobility at your toes than you do in your heel or the mid-sole. Therefore, your shoe should be more flexible at the tip and stable throughout the midsection.
To shave time off of their races, many people don’t wear socks during the competition. It can take a long time to wrestle a tight sock onto a wet foot. Therefore, triathlon shoe material is especially important to take into account.
Plus, triathlon shoes should be able to be put on and removed easily. Many triathlon shoes have larger foot openings, easier closures and lighter weights than traditional cycling or running shoes.
Triathlon shoes with proper ventilation and drainage can help keep your feet dry. Vents in the sole of a cycling shoe allow water to disperse after a swim or while you’re sweating heavily. Breathable mesh uppers improve ventilation. Added cushioning around the inside, especially near the seams, can make triathlon shoes more comfortable when you’re going sockless.
Below, we’ll share a few of the best triathlon shoes for both running and cycling.
This shoe is ideal for people who have a neutral foot strike. The shoe is durable and gets a lot of mileage, which means that it won’t fall apart in the middle of a race.
The technology is well balanced for long-distance runners. The heel-clutching system technology holds the back of your foot in place. The gel cushioning systems are placed in the appropriate areas to absorb shock as you’re striking the ground without limiting movement.
The upper is flexible, allowing for maximum mobility. The mesh stretches in all directions to fit your foot securely without loosening up.
The Zoot Solana ACR is excellent for running in all weather conditions. The design of the sole grips the road even when it’s wet. Therefore, you can maintain your speed and gait whether it’s raining or sunny on race day.
The weatherproof upper absorbs wetness more slowly than some other shoes. However, it’s not completely waterproof. While that might detract from your experience on a rainy day, it provides adequate ventilation for sweaty feet. The Dri-Lex antimicrobial lining keeps bacteria at bay in the damp environment.
If you prefer to race without socks, you will probably find these extremely comfortable. The BareFit design features a seamless interior that eliminates rubbing on blister points and feels like velvet against your skin. With the heel-lock molded counter, your foot will stay in place, further reducing the likelihood that you’ll develop blisters or sores.
The insole of the shoe is also thicker than most. This eliminates the need to add custom insoles for added comfort and stability.
Usually, shoes with more shock absorption tend to be heavier. That can be a challenge when you’re trying to improve your race time without developing an injury. This shoe helps your feet and joints stay comfortable with minimal weight.
Shock is absorbed and dispersed through the injected ZVA midsole, which keeps the shoe feeling light and springy. The superb ground contact also enables you to use your power properly as you land and push off. This is a great shoe for those who enjoy the minimalist feel but need more cushioning.
The shoe’s flexibility does have a downside. These shoes may take longer than other styles to break in. Once you have worn them on a few runs, though, they’ll conform to the shape of your foot.
The 8mm drop, which indicates the change in height from the heel to the forefoot, is a good middle ground for quick sessions or longer runs. It encourages a mid-foot strike and shouldn’t aggravate conditions such as plantar fasciitis or pain in the toe joint.
One of the standout features of this running shoe is its extremely well-ventilated upper. This is crucial when you’re racing with wet feet. The seamless upper is also a dream on your feet when you’re running without socks.
With an elastic lacing system, these are designed for fast transitions. The lacing adjusts to the size of your foot much more quickly than traditional laces.
The energy foam is perfectly placed to absorb shock when your foot strikes and transfer the energy to the push-off. The durable sole is designed to maintain traction on a variety of surfaces.
This shoe is designed to enhance your natural gait while protecting your feet as you run. The gel cushioning at the rear and the toe absorb shock. The components in the sole are linked to help you propel yourself off of your running surface with ease. In fact, the shoe is designed to mimic your foot’s musculature, creating tension where your foot naturally tenses and flexibility where you have natural mobility.
Support and stability are boosted with a dynamic duomax support system. This helps prevent injury on long runs.
ASICS has eliminated some of the seams in this shoe, making it more comfortable than previous versions for sockless running. It has other features that will benefit a triathlete, including a light weight, elastic laces for quick transitions and a breathable upper.
This shoe feels like an extension of your foot while providing excellent performance and responsiveness. The shoe features a low 2mm drop, and the seamless upper conforms to your feet. Even the laces are high-performance, featuring a snug fit without the need to tie them.
The company claims that the trampoline lug membrane is more tightly tuned than the membrane in some of the brand’s other shoe styles. This helps stabilize the foot.
Many users say that running economy is improved in this shoe. It transfers energy efficiently, providing quicker speed with less expended effort.
Much of the responsiveness comes from the lugs and the mid-sole cushioning. The Newtonium EVA foam provides more comfort than previous models. The action/reaction landing platform helps with propulsion. Some say that it causes them to feel like they’re falling forward, but this can be a benefit if you prefer that type of posture as you run.
The flex zone in the center of the sole is supportive. It also allows for ample foot splay. This can prevent your feet from cramping up during long runs. It also allows for a better fit if you have wide feet.
These shoes contain a biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate in the mid-sole. This helps provide a more stable surface underneath your foot than foam alone would. It may prevent metatarsal issues that are caused from running.
When it comes to comfort, this shoe does the job. The shoe is extremely well-ventilated. Even the tongue is breathable. Runners with wet or sweaty feet may appreciate the added air flow.
Irritation is minimized with the seamless upper. That means that you can run without socks and reduce the likelihood of developing blisters. The interior of the shoe is not as comfortable as some of the other models that we have reviewed here, though.
The heel lace lock prevents your foot from sliding around inside the shoe. Some users say that they didn’t like the rigidity of the heel-midsole area, but they were fond of the flexibility in the forefoot area.
Plus, the durability of this shoe is impressive for a minimalist shoe. The high-abrasion rubber outsole wedge on the lateral heel provides extra ruggedness. The s.h.a.r.c. (super high abrasion rubber) on the forefoot extends the life of the outsole. The high-quality materials provide a good mile-to-value ratio.
If you run in low-visibility lighting, you will stay safer in these shoes. They offer 360-degree reflectivity to help you be noticed. These shoes may be best suited for flat road surfaces or tracks.
This shoe was made for speed. It’s incredibly supportive and solid, but it’s also highly responsive. That combination makes it an ideal triathlon running shoe for women. You should feel the pep in your step at both high and low speeds when you wear this shoe.
Some say that this shoe isn’t the best for long runs, but that may come down to preference. The frame is sturdy, and the step is bouncy. This is a great shoe for those who prefer a larger drop. At 10mm, the offset compares to that of a traditional running shoe. This is not the shoe for runners who enjoy a minimalist drop.
Still, the cushioning is reminiscent of a minimalist shoe. It doesn’t have a cloud-like sole, which helps you feel the road while you’re running. The heel, tongue and sides are less padded than other models. However, this can improve propulsion and speed.
While this shoe is snug, it may not be the most comfortable for those with wider feet. It has a narrow construction.
The Pegasus 34 shines in its breathability. Added vents provide air flow, and your feet stay cool and dry during sweat sessions, especially on warm days.
Nike’s Flywire technology offers precise support while minimizing weight and bulk. These cables act like suspension bridge cables, holding your foot in place as it flexes and shifts while you run. The Flywire technology helps the shoes feel snug, and the no-slip heel design keeps your foot secure.
These triathlon shoes for cycling are designed to maximize your efficiency as well as your comfort. They’re lightweight, and the fiberglass-reinforced toe transfers power well without leaving your foot cramped and numb.
You can transition into the shoe quickly. It only has one hook-and-loop strap for closure, so you don’t have to fumble with multiple straps. The reverse-strap fastener ensures that the loose end of the tab doesn’t rub against your bike.
Because this shoe contains a large pull loop in the back, it’s easy to slip on and off.
The inside of the shoe is lined with seamless fabric, which makes these ideal for sockless competitors. The well-ventilated upper keeps your foot extremely dry, further reducing the likelihood that you’ll get blisters.
Some cycling shoes are so stiff that they’re not comfortable to walk in or wear for long periods of time. The Pearl Izumi Tri Fly V changes that. Extra cushioning makes these shoes extremely easy to wear. The heel has extra foam to keep your foot in place. The heel is also taller than that of some other cycling shoes, which helps them stay comfortable while you’re transitioning.
However, the stack height of the shoe is lower than average. This may give you a power boost. It might also mean that you have to lower your saddle a bit more than you’re used to doing.
The nylon and composite sole combines durability with stiffness. The arch support helps your foot stay comfortable and pain-free, which gives you added comfort when you move to the running stage of the triathlon.
Two closures give you a personalized fit. The toe closure allows you to make the shoe snug at the toe box. This is ideal for people with narrow feet. The strap on top crosses diagonally, giving you even pressure across the mid-section of your foot. It also has a quick-release feature, which can reduce your time as you’re switching from cycling to running.
The mesh upper provides adequate ventilation. The lining is soft and designed to provide maximum comfort when you’re riding barefoot.
If you have wide feet, you should take advantage of the power in your toes by accommodating your feet with wider shoes. These are designed for people with wide feet. They’re roomy, letting you splay out your toes on the pedals and push efficiently.
These shoes are some of the most durable on the market. They’re made of full-grain leather that stands up to a beating better than many synthetic materials.
The downside to a leather shoe is that it isn’t as well-ventilated as some other materials. The Lake makes up for this with airy mesh panels and small vents in the sole. Your feet can breathe, but the ventilation is limited.
The padded heel collar makes these comfortable around the ankle. The topline opening also allows you to get your feet in and out quickly. The downside is that your heel can slip slightly, dissipating some of your power.
The shoes make up for this with their stiffness. The carbon sole provides adequate power transfer.
They don’t have the softest interior, but they would be ideal for people with wide feet who prefer to cycle with thin socks.
One of the first things that you’ll notice about these shoes is their bold coloring, if you select the pink option for them. They demand attention and look just as good as they feel. They also contain several features that can improve your ride.
These shoes run wider than some other brands of cycling shoes. If you have wide feet, these may be more comfortable, especially on long rides. Even though they’re roomy, these shoes hug your heel snugly.
The sole contains a power zone, which combines arch support with rigidity. This translates into more power transfer with less exertion.
At 272 grams, these are not the lightest shoes on the market. However, they’re still relatively lightweight.
When it comes to transitions, these shoes are easy to slip into and out of. One oversized Velcro strap is easy to adjust quickly.
These shoes are dependable and affordable. They’re also comfortable.
The laser-cut upper is made from a Microtex material. The interior is generously padded and contains a sock liner. Therefore, these would be ideal for cyclists who don’t want to slip on socks after they’ve completed their swim.
If you have had trouble with roominess at the top of your cycling shoes, you might want to try out this style. It envelops your foot like a glove, minimizing empty space. Your foot should stay in place without rubbing on hot spots.
The combination of a micro-dial at the top and hook-and-loop closure at the toe lets you adjust the snugness. You can quickly change the tightness of the toe closure if your foot swells as you ride.
The carbon reinforcement in this shoe adds to the stiffness while maintaining flexibility, something that many road cyclists look for. Because it is a blend of nylon and carbon, the sole isn’t the lightest available. However, it provides superior performance for the price.
The high, narrow heel collar adds to the stability of this shoe. This gives you ample foot control and good power transfer. You won’t waste your energy by losing power to a slippery heel.
This shoe offers an excellent combination of comfort and durability. The shoes are stiff but have lightweight construction. The adjustable footbed helps your feet feel good as you ride.
These triathlon shoes offer many of the features that make competing in a triathlon a little easier. They offer a wider opening that lets you slip in and out of them quickly. The two-strap hook-and-loop closure lets you customize the adjustment without slowing down your time.
The outsoles of these shoes are designed specifically for triathletes. The carbon outsole gives you the stiffness that you need for power. The neutral positioning holds your foot steady so that it doesn’t roll inward or outward as you pedal.
To add to the comfort, the insoles have three interchangeable arch support options so that they give you a natural fit. The blend of microfiber and mesh in the upper let your feet breathe and stay as dry as possible. The Giro Facet also contains microfiber around the ankle collar. This prevents rubbing when you cycle without socks.
The shoe is treated with Aegis anti-microbial technology to prevent bacteria buildup and odors. This will help your shoes last longer even when you wear them in wet conditions.
The Giro Facet is available in white, chrome/white and yellow/chrome, which gives you plenty of fashion options too.
The best triathlon shoes (running and cycling) come down to preference. The perfect fit depends on the shape of your foot, your gait and your needs.
We found the Pearl Izumi EM Tri N2 V2 Running Shoe to be preferable for the running portion of a triathlon. They have everything that a triathlete needs, taking into account the transitions as well as the time spent pounding the pavement.
The Shimano SH-TR31 Shoes were our favorites for cycling. They are lightweight and extremely easy to get on and off. You don’t have to fumble with multiple straps. Plus, they’re exceptionally comfortable to wear without socks, even if your feet are wet.
Hey there, my name is James and I am the creator and editor of this site. I have been doing Triathlons for a while now and am competing in 70.3 Ironman's as well come this year. I created this site to help those new to the sport and to share my journey with other athletes.