Best triathlon shoes: how to choose?

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Triathletes need two types of shoes: lightweight, easy-to-use running shoes and stiff, cleat-compatible cycling shoes. Running shoes should have no laces, while cycling shoes should have a quick closure system and a rigid, light sole. Both should fit snugly without socks.

When you compete in a triathlon, you’ll actually need two different types of triathlon shoes: running shoes and cycling shoes. Each shoe is very different from the next, which means that the considerations for buying different triathlon shoes will vary depending on the purpose of the shoe. Triathlon running shoes must be lightweight, have an easy-to-use fastening system that does not use laces, and must easily wick moisture away from the foot. Triathlon cycling shoes need to be stiff, accept the proper cleat for your pedals, and also easy to slip on and off for quick transitions.

Triathlon running shoes need to be flexible and lightweight, just like regular running shoes. However, shoes specifically designed for triathlons will have other features specifically included to improve performance during transitions and race periods. A good pair of triathlon shoes will not have laces, as laces can be cumbersome and difficult to tie during transitions. Lanyard systems are common, and these are the easiest and fastest systems to use. The shoe can be tightened comfortably around the foot simply by pulling on the end of the lace, eliminating the time required to tie the laces.

Many triathletes run without socks, as putting on socks during the race can add time to transition. A good triathlon shoe will fit perfectly when you’re not wearing socks, so be sure to try the sockless shoe on before you buy. The shoe should fit snugly enough that the foot does not move around in the shoe, causing hot spots or blisters. Some triathlon shoes feature wrinkle channels or moisture-wicking materials that allow water from the swim leg from the race to drain out of the foot. These shoes are a good investment as they can help prevent hot spots and blisters.

Triathlon cycling shoes must also have a quick closure system. Velcro straps are a common method of securing the shoe, and other ratcheting systems can also be a quick option, although they are more difficult to fit correctly than Velcro. The sole of the cycling shoe must be very rigid and light. Plastic is a common material for cycling shoe soles, but carbon is a better choice as it is stiffer and lighter than plastic. A stiff sole ensures that more force from the pedal stroke goes to the wheels, rather than the flex of the shoe. Consider buying a pair that will also fit perfectly without socks, as this will also improve your transition time.

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