So you’re going on an adventure! Usually one of the first questions on everyone’s mind is what kind of gear do I need for a bikepacking trip? Let’s go for a deep dive into how to pick bikepacking shoes. Looking for more gear help? Use the comprehensive bikepacking gear checklist!
Type of Shoe
Selecting a shoe depends on several different variables. The first of which is the type of pedal you are using. We would normally recommend a type of clipless pedal (confusingly those are the ones with cleats on the bottom of your shoe). However, only use these if you are comfortable with them and have practiced. Using new gear is often a recipe for problems. If you are planning on using a normal or flat pedal, pick a running shoe or sneaker that is comfortable. Bonus for a shoe that dries quickly.
If you are using a shoe with a cleat, you have two main options: a mountain bike style shoe or a road style shoe.
Mountain bike shoes have a major advantage over their road shoe cousins, walkability. Most mountain bike shoes have rubber treads on the bottom that extend past the cleat. This makes walking into shops, over obstacles, or really walking anywhere much easier. If your tour is going to take you on trails or into the mud, spd cleats on mountain bike shoes are probably the least likely to become clogged with mud.
Road bike shoes can often be a bit lighter and have more pedal options. Road shoes are compatible with three bolt (and sometimes 4 bolt!) Cleats. This allows you to use almost any cleat and pedal system you can find. A road shoe ensures that you can use the same equipment you are used to on any of your bikes. Just bring a pair of flip-flops to throw on when you need to run into a shop for a quick snack.
No matter which type of shoe you select, there are a few key features to keep in mind.
- Comfort- above all else pick a comfortable shoe. You aren’t racing here. Make sure that you can wear those things all day without getting too sore or developing blisters.
- Quick drying- pick a bikepacking shoe that dries quickly. If you are likely to encounter rain on your bicycle tour, you will appreciate not putting your foot into a soaking wet shoe every morning. Thank me later.
- Shoe temperature- make sure you have a shoe that is appropriate to the temperature. Going on an arctic circle tour? Do not bring a lightweight breathable shoe. Going to Southern California? You better not have a big clunky sauna on your foot. If you may experience different temps, try packing toe covers or shoe covers to add a bit of insulation for the cold days.
You should be on your way to picking the perfect bikepacking shoe for you! As always, Happy Travels!