What Is the Difference Between Road and Mountain Bike Shoes?

Mountain biking and road biking are both cycling sports. They are two different sports that have similarities. But despite that, they also have a truckload of differences, which is very important to take note of so that you can have a better cycling experience, whichever one you choose.

One of the common questions cyclists give out is the difference between road cycling shoes and mountain bike shoes.

We are going to dive deep into that in this article as we will discuss each of their features and traits so you can see how important it is to wear the right one depending on your chosen cycling discipline.


Stiffness is how hard your shoe feels. However, this isn’t all about hardness as it’s more on its capability of transferring power from your foot to the pedals to make your bike go faster.

The stiffer the shoe is, the better power transfer because the energy you exert isn’t fully absorbed by the shoe. Road shoes are stiffer compared to trail shoes because pedaling efficiency is the focus of road cycling.

But the catch is that stiffer shoes are less flexible. And trail riding needs you to be flexible enough so that your feet and body can shift positions whenever you hit a berm or go down on a steep and technical trail.

This means that you need to weigh out stiffness with flexibility especially if you are into mountain biking.


Another big difference road cycling shoes have with their trail counterparts is the level of protection they provide.

Mountain bike shoes are designed to provide maximum protection knowing that trail riding is far more dangerous compared to road cycling. Road biking is all about cycling on smooth paved roads for hours.

Meanwhile, you ride through seemingly impassable trails when you’re riding out in the trails. This is why mountain bike shoes are safer and provide better protection on your foot against impact and crashes.

Road cycling shoes or road shoes, on the other hand, need to be as light as possible because you’re going to wear them for at least an hour when you’re riding across towns.


Road shoes are more comfortable to wear compared to mountain bike shoes because you are going to wear them for a far longer time.

Note that the average span of time road cyclists spend every ride is around one to three hours. And that’s continuous biking. Meanwhile, mountain bikers segment their rides on the number of laps they have for every trail.

A single lap averages around 10 to 20 minutes. After that, they again climb up either through car shuttle, cable car, or slow pedaling, then repeat aga lap that spans around 10 to 20 minutes.

Mountain bikers don’t really need to focus on comfort because what they should be after are safety and flexibility and they can get that when they wear mountain bike shoes.

They need to easily shift positions when traversing technical sections. They should also protect your feet if ever you crash or hit the ground.


Adjustability is the ability to move your feet on the mountain bike pedals platform when you are riding your bike.

This is very important for trail riding because there is a high chance that your feet will suddenly move around the mountain bike pedal if you go through rocks, roots, or get on a jump.

Meanwhile, you don’t need this if you’re into road cycling because all you have to do is just continuously pedal your bike on smooth roads without slowing down.

It’s all about keeping up the pace and staying as still as much as possible on your road bike. This is why road shoes aren’t adjustable compared to MTB shoes because your feet will just stay in their place on the road bike regardless of how hard or fast you ride.

Road shoes literally fix your foot on the pedals. This is also one of the reasons why road bike racers choose them.

A mountain bike shoe is very tolerant of movements so you can easily reposition your feet and bike shoes on the MTB pedals.

Cleats system

Road shoes have a different cleats system than mountain bike shoes or MTB shoes because they have their own style of riding and function. Road biking shoes usually have a triple-bolt system that fastens your shoes to the clipless pedal platform.

On the other hand, MTB shoes have a two-bolt mountain bike cleats system. Road shoes have more bolts than MTB shoes because they need to be as secure as possible to prevent the foot from even the slightest of movements.

Mountain biking doesn’t have to focus too much on this as securing the foot and locking it in place will just compromise safety because the rider can’t easily unclip their foot from the pedals if ever they need to dab or to regain their footing.


Mtb shoes are more versatile compared to their road counterparts because they can be used for different occasions.

The way these cycling shoes are built and designed makes them look like ordinary rubber shoes that can be used for casual events, unlike road biking shoes that have a sleeker and more formal look that makes them odd if worn on casual events.

Furthermore, road cycling shoes have cleats that protrude from the sole. This makes it hard to walk when wearing road bike shoes, compared to the more low-key cleats system of mountain bikes shoes and other trail cycling shoes.

This is one of the reasons why cyclists prefer to buy MTB shoes because they can be worn on and off the bike.


Mountain bike shoes are more aesthetic compared to road shoes because they have a more common and ordinary shoe appearance unlike the odd-looking shape and structure of road shoes.

If you want to look cool and are planning to wear the shoes when you’re off the bike for casual occasions, then it’s best you go for mountain bike shoes instead of road bike shoes.


Knowing the difference between road and mountain biking shoes is important because this helps you choose the right kind of shoe for the type of biking you’re into.

Don’t just choose any shoe if you’re into mountain biking because your safety and performance depend heavily on it.