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Road Vs Mountain Bike Shoes: Which Is Better?

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The sole of a mountain bike shoe has a bigger surface area to provide better traction for off-road riding. It is designed to take the sloping shape of the foot so that it doesn’t slip forward on sharp turns.

Road bike shoes are designed with thinner soles, which are good for faster riding because they are lighter. They are also more aerodynamic than their mountain bike counterparts because they have thinner soles that are not sloping.

Which is better? It really depends on what type or riding you are doing. road bike shoes are better when biking on the road, but if you are mtb biking, you definitely want mtb shoes.

In order to determine if your shoes are suitable for riding on different surfaces, it’s important to know what they’re made of. Most street shoes will be made from a synthetic material like nylon or plastic that provides traction on most surfaces, but is less durable than rubber-soled mountain bike shoes.

What are Road Cycling Shoes?

Road cycling shoes are lightweight biking shoes that have stiff soles and little tread. Typically these shoes are cleats to connect to clipless pedals for maximum power transfer.

What are Mountain Bike Shoes

Mountain bike shoes come in generally two different types: flat pedal shoes and clipless (with cleats) shoes. Both of these are generally geared towards being able to walk around normally, so the cleats are often recessed into the shoes so the bottom is flat.

The flat shoes have high traction so that they can stay put when riding through water, snow, and mud. These shoes generally have high traction even compared to normal sneakers and if you doing some serious biking offroad then you’ll want a pair of these.

There is much more to mountain bike shoes but I’ll leave that to other posts here on the site.

How do these shoes differ?

Road clipless shoes tend to have the cleats sticking out more so if you walk around in them you have this big chunk of metal that is like walking around on rocks. By comparison, the mtb shoes that are clipless are recessed.

Other than that, the road shoes tend to be lighter and have little tread on them. The mountain bike shoes generally have pretty normal tread, since you have to walk on dirt usually which requires better shoes traction.

How are these shoes the same?

Road shoes tend to have a fairly close two-cleat pattern that is actually not quite compatible with mtb clipless shoes although it appears close. While the pattern is interchangeable, road shoes are not easy to walk around in so generally these two types of shoes are really different things altogether.

Price-wise the shoes are all comparable for good quality. They are all worth their price for shoes that stay on the pedals.

Can I Use Road Shoes For Mountain Biking?

Road bike shoes are mainly made for paved roads, but they can also be used for mountain biking. They are lightweight and offer most of the necessary protection to the foot and there are lots of choices for cycling shoes.

You can use road bike shoes for mountain biking, but you need to adjust them to fit the terrain. If you plan on using them on a dirt trail, then make sure that your shoes come with cleats attached or they are a quality flat pedal shoe.

Just remember that while they may work, they are far from optimal. If you plan to mtb ride very often, it’s recommended to get mountain bike shoes that are purpose-built.

Whats The Difference Between Road And Mtb Cleats?

In the past, clipless shoes were only available for mountain bikes which have cleats. Nowadays, you can find clipless pedals for both road bike and mtb bike. You can now choose between flat or clipless shoes for either type of biking.

The main difference between road and mtb cleats is that road cleats have a round hole while mtb cleats have a cross pattern. These differences make it easier to release from a pedal with a road cleat than a mtb cleat.

Mountain Bikes Vs Road Bikes – What Makes Them Different?

Mountain bikes and road bikes are very different in terms of design, function, and purpose. The mountain bike has a suspension fork that helps absorb the shock from the terrain when the rider is riding on rough trails or hills. Mountain bike riding can be more difficult than road bike riding because it requires more skill and physical strength than road biking.

Mountain bikes are designed to travel outdoors while road bike bikes are designed to travel on smooth roads. Mountain bikers sacrifice comfort for speed because they need to be fast enough to keep up with their peers while road bikers can take their time getting around obstacles without having to worry about sliding off the pavement.

If You Have A Choice, Choose The Mtb Shoes That Match Your Usage

Road bike shoes are designed for high-speed and racing situations whilst mtb bike shoes are more suited for offroad mountain biking. For this reason, you should always choose the right type of cycling shoes.

Choosing the right pair of MTB (mountain bike) shoes can help you avoid injuries that come with spending time on rough terrain. Check out some different types of MTB shoe features to help you decide which ones best suit your needs. The important thing is that the shoe does work for the type of biking you do and that it fits. Nothing worse than loose shoes when you’re out biking.

About the Author

Tony K

Senior Technical Writer,

Tony K is a technical editor at He has a focus on downhill bike riding but still loves xc bikes too.

With more than ten years of mountain biking experience and more than 5 years testing mountain bikes, Tony has ridden and tested hundreds of different bikes and products, everything from XC to enduro bikes. Tony regularly competes in mountain bike races while seeing how long those compontents can hold up which gives me a lot of insight.

When he isn't shredding down a mountain or camping out, he is writing reviews for Mountain Bike Experience.

Rides: Surly Lowside, Canyon Exceed