I certainly don’t wear bike sandals for their looks.
Clip-in sandals simply work wonders in warm conditions. On those longer rides the air flow keeps your feet comfortable and cool. Sandals also dry fast; handy for that time after you’ve just been rained on (or having just crossed a river).
People tend to have the perception that sandals are for summer cycling only. I’ve actually found them to be excellent in winter too. But more on that below…
Comparison to Conventional Cycling Shoes
– Drying. When sandals get wet, they dry out much quicker than a shoe.
– Ventilation. The more holes, the cooler the shoe.
– Versatility. You can wear sandals with no socks, thin socks, thick socks, waterproof socks and any of those sock combinations with overshoes. This makes sandals suitable for all-weather conditions.
– They’re ugly.
– You can’t put shoe inserts (orthotics) in them. This is quite ok for those with flat feet, but can be a concern for those with high arches.
– Foot movement inside the sandal. Shoes have more surface area to hug your foot, making them feel stiffer and more secure.
– Your feet need to adjust to sandals. Some people experience blistering from walking in their sandals too much. Take it easy!
Cycling Sandal Versatility
SPD sandals are surely the most versatile touring shoes. They are great in the desert, and just as good in wet/cold conditions.
How are they good for all weather conditions?
1. Wear your sandals without socks in conditions over 15 degrees celcius.
2. Wear your sandals with thin, ventilated cycling socks for a bit more warmth/comfort.
3. Wear your sandals with thick, waterproof socks in cold or wet conditions.
4. Wear your sandals with socks AND booties/shoe covers in super cold and wet conditions.
Why Should You Clip In?
– You’ll have a more efficient pedalling action
– Your foot placement on the pedal will always be the same
– Your feet will not move off the pedals on rough roads
– You engage more of your leg muscles
You can read all about clipping into pedals in my article: Free Pedal Power
Open vs Closed Toe Sandals
I travel with open-toe sandals which combine excellent ventilation with interesting tan lines. I’ve never felt like I’ve needed my toes to be enclosed (over the last eight years I’ve never injured them).
A good thing about open-toe sandals is that the sizing doesn’t need to be perfect. There’s no hitting toes at the end of the shoe if they’re a tad small. If your feet are a bit small for your sandals, the velcro straps do a great job of holding your feet snug.
How Long Will They Last?
Sandals are durable! My last pair (Shimano SD65) gave in after eight years of heavy use. I estimate that’s over 100,000km cycling, including some seriously long tours which are always pretty tough on shoes. If I get that kind of milage out of my new Shimano sandals – I’ll be really happy!
Can You Walk in SPD Sandals?
Walking in SPD sandals is similar to walking in casual SPD shoes: they’re stiff and perhaps a little bit noisy. My metal cleats ‘click’ on hard surfaces when I walk – that can be mildly annoying. You probably wouldn’t want to spend all day walking in them, but if they’re the only shoes you’ll carry on tour, they’ll still do a decent job.
What Cycling Sandals are Available?
Shimano SD-66 – US $99 – Size 39-48
My take: The most popular SPD sandal available due to its widespread availability and great construction. I find them excellent for cycling, but pretty average for walking given the cleats scrape the ground. I also really like the open toe design. These sandals are quite wide compared to other Shimano SPD shoes.
Keen Commuter IV – $130 USD – Size 40-49
My take: The most famous adventure sandal company also manufacturers a SPD sandal which is in its forth generation. No velcro on these puppies, instead they are tightened with an elastic cord. The Commuter sandals are known to be on the narrower size, so if you have wide feet you’ll be better off with Shimano.
Exustar E-SS503 – $99 USD – Size 37-48
My take: They may be less popular than Shimano or Keen, but Exustar has been making sandals for some time now and rebrand them for other companies.
Rose RMTS-2 – £69 – Size 39-48
My take: The Rose sandals are almost identical to the Exustars at the same price point. Find them and let me know what they’re like.
Nashbar Ragster II – $69 USD – Size 37-48
My take: Super affordable but perhaps not the best construction. Often found for half the price of Shimano or Keen sandals, they could be worth a try if you’re on a budget.