Never underestimate the importance of footwear. If your feet work, they are your foundation. They are the metaphoric and literal means by which you take a step forward, and the point that transfers every foot-pound of torque your body can make into the pedals that power your trip to new places.
Russ has large feet to support his tall body. They are pretty typical in proportion, so it’s not terribly difficult to find a good fit for him. He likes to clip in, most riders of road bikes do. So while he’s at the top end of sizes, Russ can usually find a decent pair of cycling shoes in one of the many shops around on the same day that he decides he needs a pair. The challenge there is to remember that supply lines aren’t normal, and there’s no telling what the situation will be next time he is ready.
My feet are wide. I have high arches and some issues like pinched nerves and plantar fasciitis. I have to be careful to keep those in check because they could end my riding if I don’t. And, because pain- not good. I don’t want to clip in. I’m awkward and have mediocre balance. I may give it a shot for the efficiency, but I’m a wary reluctant bride who doesn’t want to invest in a fall. Shoes that work well for me don’t seem to stay in production for very long. Sometimes, I choose men’s shoes for the width. I’m not even sure if the Shimano shoes I have now ( pictured above covered in trail gunk) are men’s or women’s. I walked into REI with the last ones and said “Do you still carry these?” The sales rep climbed a ladder and came down with my size. It was the first time buying shoes was easy, and may be the first time I got to wear the same shoes twice in a row. What I like about them first is that they are wide enough. Second, that they have an open honeycomb top sole and even though they look hot, they ride as cool as my sandals did. And lastly, the sole and inner sole are stiff but comfortable. I forgot my socks once and was surprised to find that I could comfortably ride in these without socks. I didn’t feel any of the hardware I don’t use on the bottom, and I didn’t have any blisters.
The love of my life, as far as cycling shoes goes, was a pair of Keen Cycling Sandals with a footprint like the ones on the left in this review. The big roomy closed toe box was great for protection and my foot shape. It even managed to keep my toes warm enough in cool (but not cold) temperatures. Back then I didn’t notice the softer sole mentioned in the review, but it might have caused me problems as I was using them to train for a century. (To be really clear here, I was training to complete the century, not to win it. My great success was coming in last, just before they closed the kitchen and rolled up the sidewalks, and I’m not even embarrassed by that. We worked hard to accomplish it). I must have bought those Keens at the end of their product cycle. I started looking for a back-up pair long before I finally replaced them. I couldn’t even find the ones on the right anywhere but in places that were selling New Old Stock at triple retail. I eventually found a pair at retail prices. I sized up. They were still too narrow. I have them in my car under the seat as back up for times when I forget to bring my shoes. I used them once since the initial ride. They changed a canceled ride into a short ride.
I love all the high tech socks woven specially for cycling (or other sports). They feel so good when they’re new, soft and strong. While building mileage like I am now, though, I need simple toe-socks. The first time I worked through the pinched nerves, the podiatrist suggested that I put some separation between my toes. I did all the searches and tried all the toe separator suggestions. Most came with sticky adhesives and none stayed in place. Not even the home grown solutions worked. Then I remembered the toe-socks I bought in Japan. To find a selection in internet searches “Five Fingers Toe Socks” gives the best result. And toe socks were a dream solution, plenty of separation and they stay in place without any sticky adhesives. I like merino wool as well as some others that Injinji makes. They are thick and last well. The ones above are cute and soft. they are a little less thick than all of my injinji socks. I got them to make my granddaughter giggle and can use them as long as my problems are under control. If they get worse though, I’ll be replacing these blue ones below. Sometimes these socks pull at my heel a bit. If you’re looking for some and on the edge for sizes, I’d size up, especially the wool socks that seem to shrink a little over time.
Fantasy Island Footwear
I’d love it if digital printing and maker stations made it to the bicycle shoe store at a price that’s competitive with mass produced economies of scale. People like me with atypical shoe needs could get a great shoe with a great fit at the same price everyone else pays. Perhaps customization of decoration could help to make “normals” want to buy them too. I do actually realize that there is sewing involved and this dream is not nearly so easy as it sounds.