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Guide To Cycling Sandals – Yes, Really!

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Sandal wearers around the world are no fools. They know that they don’t look good and worse still, can actually make fashionable clothes look bad. But they know that they are the most comfortable and versatile type of footwear around.

Some of you maybe didn’t even know that cycling sandals even existed and only came to this article out of morbid curiosity.

Well, read on to find out about the best cycling sandals and why they might just be the best shoes ever for cycling.

Top Picks at a glance:

Top 5 Best Cycling Sandals Reviewed

1. Shimano SD5 Bike Sandals (best overall)  

CHECK PRICE AT REI

  • Fastening Type: Velcro Strap
  • Sole Type: Rubber
  • Suited To Pedal Type: SPD pedals

It might come as a surprise to most riders that the makers of some of the best bike components, famed for precision, also make cycling sandals. And not just any cycling sandals – the Shimano SD5 Bike Sandals are something of a legend.

With vast experience making more traditional cycling shoes, Shimano have made a cleated sandal with a stiff, fibreglass reinforced, sole for efficient power transfer to the pedals.

The soles are stiff enough for cycling but not so stiff that they are uncomfortable off the bike. Remember, you are buying more than a cycling shoe. The recessed SPD cleat gives nice clearance when off the bike and doesn’t interfere with walking.

Cleat caps are also included that help protect the cleat when walking.

The neoprene insides and synthetic mesh of the straps help to dry the sandal quickly after getting wet.

The foot platform is wide with plenty of wiggle room for your toes.

Features:

  • Recessed SPD cleat – cleat doesn’t interfere with walking and is protected from damage.
  • Good sole stiffness – obviously not comparable to a proper cycling shoe but the efficiency is still good.
  • Quick drying materials – hugely versatile shoe for all conditions.

2. Exustar E-SS503 Bike Sandal Shoes (best closed-toe)

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CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON

  • Fastening Type: Hook and loop Velcro straps.
  • Sole Type: Rubber
  • Suited To Pedal Type: SPD pedals

If you plan on more adventure off the bike, the closed-toe design of the Exustar E-SS503 Bike Sandal is a great choice for providing more protection.

As a cycling shoe the rubber sole can obviously not compete with full-carbon cycling shoes but the power transmission is surprisingly good. The cleat is recessed to make walking easy and protect the cleat from damage.

The three hook and loop Velcro straps that run up the shoe give plenty of adjustability to find the sweet spot  – not too tight but tight enough for efficient pedalling on the bike.

Features:

  • Breathable straps – improved barefoot comfort.
  • Enclosed toe – Better protection when walking on trails.
  • Stiff outer sole – improves power transfer when pedalling.

3. KEEN Commuter Bike Sandals (best all-rounders)

CHECK PRICE AT REI

  • Fastening Type: Single-pull lace.
  • Sole Type: Rubber
  • Suited To Pedal Type: SPD pedals

When you think of Keen shoes, you think of hard-wearing, sturdy and well-made hiking boots. With the Keen Commuter Bike Sandals they have turned their considerable talents to making a cycling sandal that performs great on and off the bike.

Part of getting the balance right is in the sole. It is stiff enough to transfer power efficiently on the bike but does not get on the way of comfortable walking.

Understanding that riders who want a bike sandal want something that is easy to look after, the removable, anti-odor foot bed is a really neat feature. With this you can quickly clean the sole.

The toe bumper keeps your toes nice and protected both on and off the bike.

The lateral adjustment of the SPD cleat holes on the sole is great for dialling in the right position on the pedal for you and helps to avoid any “hot spots” through the rubber sole.

Features:

  • AEGIS Microbe Shield – keeps odors at bay.
  • Single-pull lace – ideal for tightening the shoe to find the most comfort.
  • Hydrophobic foam rubber – improved comfort and faster drying.

4. ECCO Men’s Offroad 4-Strap Sandal (best for flat platform pedals)

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CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON

  • Fastening Type: Hook and loop Velcro straps
  • Sole Type: Rubber
  • Suited To Pedal Type: Flat pedals

The ECCO Offroad 4-Strap Sandal is an excellent all-rounder. What they lack in cycling-specific features, they more than compensate in comfort and durability when walking the trails.

There is no option to mount a cleat on these sandals and are therefore suited to riders using flat platform pedals. For a lot of recreational riders this will not be a problem and won’t lessen the appeal of the ECCO sandals.

When walking the sole is well-padded and provides excellent arch-support that will be welcomed by hikers.

The materials used in the sandal are not the quickest for drying so it is worth bearing that in mind if you plan to do some paddling.

The four straps provide superb adjustability, especially around the heel, to keep your feet comfortable on and off the bike.

Features:

  • Moulded EVA foot bed – the soft microfiber cover is extremely comfortable out on the trails.
  • Excellent traction and grip on with the rubber insole.
  • Heel strap – this helps to improve fit and comfort around the heel, especially when pedalling.

5. Exustar E-SS515C Clipless Sandal

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CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON

  • Fastening Type: Hook and loop Velcro straps
  • Sole Type: Rubber
  • Suited To Pedal Type: SPD pedals

The Exustar E-SS515C is another excellent closed-toe cycling sandal that offers more protection when out on the trails. This shoe really comes into its own off the bike with a unique criss-cross pattern on the sole.

Although it can feel a little strange to walk in at first you quickly get used to the feeling and after that it is a really comfortable walking shoe.

Combined with an SPD cleat and a relatively stiff sole they are efficient on the bike. One downside is that there is not a great deal of positional adjustment with the cleat.

Features:

  • Comfortable and grippy sole – this a sandal that really comes into its own off the bike.
  • Stiff sole – power transfer on the bike is not compromised.
  • Fully enclosed toe – keeps your toes safe when walking on bumpy trails.

Before You Buy: Can you cycle in sandals?

You can cycle in any shoe or indeed no shoes at all if you wanted but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Bike sandals have been popular for touring and bike packing cyclists for a long time and for good reason. They are simple, comfortable and extremely versatile.

Having one shoe that can stand-up to cycling and walking is a huge advantage when space and weight saving are a very real concern.

They are also a great option for those times when you don’t want to get fully kitted out in your cycling gear just to pick-up some groceries from the local store.

With the right sandals you can still use your SPD pedals and you can walk around the store without the fear of slipping like Bambi on ice.

What Features To Look Out For In Bike Sandals

Toe Design

Cycling sandals are typically available in an open-toe and a closed-toe design.

Open-toe sandals are lighter and allow more airflow across your feet. Closed-toe sandals are designed to give more protection to your toes, particularly when you are out walking on trails.

A stubbed toe on a tree route can quickly ruin anyone’s day.

Availability

Since cycling sandals are still considered something of a niche cycling accessory, availability is not always great.

Sizing

Since they are not the most common items of cycling attire it can be tricky to get the exact sizing for you. This is especially true if you have wide feet.

With that said, the great thing about sandals in the first place is that sizing is not an exact science. As long as there is sufficient adjustability in the strap design, most cyclists can live with sizing that is a little off.

Power Transfer

Cycling specific sandals have a recess to fit SPD MTB cleats. Having cleats then allows you to clip into compatible pedals, helping to improve the efficiency of power transfer between man and bike.

Although rather confusingly referred to as clipless pedals, once you clip in you don’t have to worry about losing grip on the pedals in wet conditions.

To make walking easier, the cleats should be recessed.

It only takes a short time to get used to clipping in and out of the pedals. Obviously, like every rider, you will have the moment you forget to unclip at a traffic signal and keel over onto the road.

Painful? No. Embarrassing? Yep.

Video:  SPD Pedals Guide

Comfort

The whole point of cycling in sandals is to be comfortable.

Cycling specific sandals will have a stiffer sole compared to normal shoes to provide more efficient power transfer. The sole should not be so stiff that walking becomes painful.

The straps can be an area of discomfort particularly if you are doing something repetitive like pedalling. It is a good idea to gently “break-in” your sandal, both on the bike and off it, before you set off on a big adventure.

Weather

Sandals are particularly suited to cycling in warm climates. Normal, closed cycling shoes that are designed to hug the feet tightly get pretty hot and uncomfortable in warm weather.

They are also great for the rain as they dry extremely quickly compared to standard shoes and your skin is basically waterproof.

You wouldn’t wear ordinary sandals in exceptionally cool climates and the same goes for cycling sandals. With that said, if you plan to cycle in cooler evenings then pairing them with appropriate socks works well and saves you having to carry different shoes for different temperatures.

Cycling sandals for those warmer days in summerPin

If you are lucky enough to be cycling somewhere warm and sunny then you should protect your exposed feet with high factor sunscreen.

Be prepared also for some quirky tan lines.

Bike Sandals: FAQs

Can You Walk in SPD Sandals?

Most have recessed cleat and optimised sole for walking.

How Are Bike Sandals Good For All Weather Conditions?

Cycling sandals are truly all-weather cycling shoes. The open design means great airflow to keep your feet cool in warm climates and the lack of materials and waterproofing make them great for rain.

When the temperature drop in winter you can wear thermal socks with the sandals to keep your feet warm.

Are Cycling Cleats Worth It For Sandals?

Cleats help with pedalling efficiency and grip, particularly in wet conditions. Most riders prefer clipless pedals once they get used to clipping in and out of the pedals. 

Wrapping Up

At its very foundations, cycling is about freedom. The freedom to go where you want, when you want and the freedom to wear what you want.

If you want the ultimate in versatile shoes then let your feet be free. Others may laugh but secretly they wish they could wear them.

Still legendary, the Shimano SD5 Bike Sandals are still the gold standard when it comes to cycling sandals. It is no accident that they are so popular amongst dyed-in-the-wool touring cyclists.

If you don’t like the idea of clipping into your pedals, the ECCO Offroad 4-Strap Sandal are excellent all-rounders.

Guide To Cycling Sandals - Pinterest PinPin
Mark Whitley
Mark Whitley
I’m a cycling enthusiast, and the founder and chief editor of Bike Push. If I’m not working on this website, then I’m out on the bike clocking up the miles. I want to help others get the most out of cycling.

4 thoughts on “Guide To Cycling Sandals – Yes, Really!”

  1. Interesting, I can’t find KEEN or Shimano as they r not available now. Wondering why u talk about them. Don’t know about ECCO but do know that normal shoes were great but price seems same with cycling sandals.
    Exustar and CyclingDeal r only ones I see now, January 26, 2022. I am trying both now from Amazon. Exustar is better made and looks more like KEENs but is about 35g heavier. Think I will stay with them as it’s a TW company with a long history in cycling compared to CD.

    Reply
  2. Love the coverage of the topic. We are in the former Yugoslavia and will be biking for seven days in ~95F heat. Am wearing athletic walking sandals to walk and bike but wd greatly prefer to use one of these. Used the wrong search keywords and missed the article and the products. Agh. Oh well. Will get some when back home for the remainder of the Summer.

    Reply
    • Enjoy the Balkans! I’ve been there a couple of times, but not on the bike! Croatia is supposed to be amazing for cycling 🙂

      Reply

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