Let Us Gather Our Shoes Together

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If you have seen Monty Python’s Life of Brian, you will recognize the quote in the title to this blog post.  In the classic film, Brian (a contemporary of Jesus) has just lost his sandal while fleeing his admirers, who then stop to contemplate the spiritual meaning of his sandal lying in the desert sand.

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I have been on my own quest to find the right cycling shoe that will work well with toe clips.  Having clipped in and out of “clipless” pedals for the last 15 years, I have developed some chronic swelling and pain in my left ankle.  The sideways motion, and the fact that a number of “unclips” are required during my daily commute, has created a typical repetitive motion injury.

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Giro, Vittoria, and Exustar

While I rarely take issue with Grant Peterson, guru of “normal” cycling, I do think that under some circumstances, having your feet attached to the pedals is both safer and more efficient.  Especially if you ride in the rain, at night, in the dead of winter. So while some of my bikes have plain old platform pedals that can be ridden in street shoes, I like my regular commuters and distance riders to have some kind of shoe/pedal attachment.  So, back to toe clips, which I rode comfortably with for twenty years or so.  I am not afraid of toe clips, and the only reason I stopped using them was because I drank the clipless KoolAide that was going around at the time.  There is no more danger of getting your feet stuck in toe clips than in clipless pedals.  (So many myths, so little time to dispel them…)

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Keen vs. Finn

Why not just use any good walking shoes as toe clip cycling shoes?  Well, I tried that first, but as the trend toward giant toe boxes has mushroomed (pun intended), it’s hard to find any modern sport shoes that actually fit into a medium sized toe clip and pedal. Plus, a stiffer sole does add a lot to your efficiency, since more power is transferred to the pedal.  Apparently, though, being clipped in IS NOT related to efficiency.  So, wearing a stiffer soled shoe with regular flat pedals should also improve efficiency, because a stiffer sole has been shown to transmit more power to the crankset.  The Keen shoes shown above have a much stiffer sole than their Finn counterparts. Unfortunately, the toe box of the Keen is too big to fit into a toe clip, so only the Finn’s work as a street shoe to use with toe clips.  Which is too bad, because the Keen’s are so much more comfortable.  However, I use Keen walking shoes and sandals with all of my flat pedal bikes, and they work great for that application.

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Vittoria 1976 Cycling Shoes

Exustar cycling shoes

Exustar cycling shoes

The Exustar shoes are really not comfortable off the bike.  They look nice with jeans, but intrude upon my ankle when walking, in an unpleasant way.  I tried out the beautiful Vittoria 1976 shoes, shown above, only to find that they were very narrow, and even more uncomfortable than the Exustars, although made with much higher end materials.

Finally I ordered these very pretty Giro cycling shoes.  They look so nice that I feel reluctant to strap them on, so haven’t ridden them yet.  I am worried that the Portland rains will ruin them.

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They didn’t come with a cover over the clip attachments, so I stole the covers from another pair of shoes and screwed them in place.  When the time comes, I’ll don these shoes and evaluate their performance relative to my other options, but I am going to wait for some warmer, dryer weather.