These are the specific shoes: http://www.merrell.com/US/en-US/Product.mvc.aspx/22876M/0/Mens/Barefoot-True-Glove?dimensions=0

I'm going on a 210 mile bike trip this weekend and am looking for a new pair of shoes. Would these be appropriate for touring?

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    How stiff are they? You want a fairly stiff shoe for hours on a bike. Sep 2, 2011 at 19:20
  • Cody, welcome to the site. Have edited your question slightly to remove the discussion-y aspect of it (it's a fine question otherwise). Sep 2, 2011 at 19:24
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    @Daniel - Not stiff at all, going by the link: "1mm forefoot shock absorption plate maintains forefoot flexibility and protects the foot by distributing pressure". (Emphasis mine.) I'd say these are not much better than cycling, well, barefoot. Sep 2, 2011 at 19:25
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    @Cody, Can you debrief on what shoes you ended up with for the 210 mile tour? I agree with others that a relatively stiff sole is better but you don't want to make any radical gear changes on the eve of a huge ride either.
    – Angelo
    Sep 3, 2011 at 22:06
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    I wouldn't suggest going on any tour with new shoes. Too much chance of making a mistake. At least wear them daily for a week to make sure they work at all, you don't want to get 5 miles in and discover they're unbearable.
    – Kohi
    Jul 6, 2012 at 0:21

9 Answers 9



Treat yourself to some basic Shimano SPD shoes. Consider getting the pedals too. A popular entry model shoe is the M087 model, shown here with a basic SPD pedal:

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The Shimano shoes are reasonably wide, the sizes are as per your trainer size, available in EU size increments. The M087 has a ratchet mechanism for doing them up, you can adjust this whilst you ride (which you cannot do with lace up shoes). Note that most Shimano shoes did not require any vegans to be killed for their manufacture.

We have already worked out what is wrong with the Merrell product: sole not suited to cycling as it will bend. The sole will also get 'eaten' by the back of the pedal leading to the shoe not lasting very long. By contrast, the Shimano SPD shoe will last two years even if worn 18 hours a day with lots of walking.

Visit your local bike shop if you are pressed for time and see what they have got. You will be able to get the right size that way, particularly if you go in the afternoon when your feet have padded out a bit from you being on them all day.

Many shops carry the basic Shimano MT42 models with laces in a selection of sizes: these are very good and better suited to toeclips/straps than the velcro enclosure you get on the M087. Rarer but worth looking out for are the MT66 Shimano sandals. They are cycle-tourist-friendly.

If the shop carry the affordable Specialized shoes then do consider them as well - they are with the prerequisite stiff sole and 'lace-lock' to keep laces out the chainset.

If you do not find your size in your preferred shoe, do ask the shop about ordering 'special order', they can get them in for you quite quickly although when did 'this weekend' begin??? Maybe you might need to phone around a few stores or limit your choice to what there is in your shoes size.

If you end up forking out more money than you would have done on the Merrell sneaker, don't worry, you will forget about the outlay once you have put a few miles into the shoes. With the stiff sole you will be able to go at least 10% quicker/further, such is the efficiency saving of having stiff soled cycling shoes. That efficiency is still there if you don't get the SPD pedals, which you may want to look into after your tour.

You may also want to see what has been recommended on this question: SPD shoes that look like normal shoes

  • 3
    Good answer, but the question wasn't asking about clipless. Sep 3, 2011 at 16:34
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    ...maybe I should have made it clearer, to get the shoes first and the pedals later. Heading off on tour a complete change might not be for everyone... Sep 3, 2011 at 16:52
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    Just my $.02; the answer is sound. I've updated my answer a bit based on yours. Clipless shoes do offer advantages you can't get anywhere else. Sep 3, 2011 at 16:55
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    -1: I don't see why you must buy Shimano and Specilized branded shoes (unless you are a brand whore)- There are plenty of very good cycle shoe manufacturers, and it is as likely as not that another brand will be a better fit for an individual (in size, shape and price). The question does not ask or mention clipless and given the proposed shoe, it is unlikely that he OP was even considering them. I would not recommend starting out on a 210 mile weekend with new clipless shoes having never worn them before.
    – mattnz
    Oct 4, 2012 at 21:46
  • Several years later and several tests I've seen are now indicating that clipless are slower. Can you provide justification for "at least 10% quicker"?
    – JakeD
    Oct 15, 2019 at 21:40

I own a pair of these shoes, and while they are good for "barefoot" style running. I wouldn't want to bike with them except in an emergency. They are very flexible, with a thin sole that you can feel everything through. As such, I would say that they are definitely not fit for touring.


I'm going to go ahead and be the dissenting opinion in this discussion.

Personally, for anything other than racing, I think that the clipless shoe and stiff sole combo is pretty overrated. I've switched from SPD's to regular tennis shoes for my tours and have never regretted it. I've never used the Merrills specifically, however I own and have toured (and commute daily) in the New Balance version of this shoe and they're great. And my girlfriend prefers low-top Converse.

Pedaling in a stiff-soled clipless shoe definitely does offer some mechanical advantage. However, in my experience it's not enough to notice when you're touring with a loaded bike. And the trade-off of being able to just hop off the bike and wander around in shoes that are incredibly comfortable is more than worth it. I also have less foot pain and numbness in regular shoes. I'm not 100% sure this is the reason, but I think it's because I'm able to move my foot around on the pedals more, kind of like having more hand positions on drop bars.


While I am in many respects the anti-clipless guy around here, I do recognize that a lot of people love clipless shoes. While this question is not about clipless pedals or cleats, the stiff sole of a bike shoe is exactly what you want when cycling.

However, they're not for everybody; I dislike the idea of having to bring extra shoes along on a tour.

I often cycle in short work boots for the above reasons. Even some hiking shoes have fairly stiff soles and I will wear those on tour.

To answer the question directly, I suspect that barefoot shoes are unsuitable for any sort of long ride. This is in the same way that canvas sneakers would be uncomfortable: The sole is too flexible. Stiff soles are more comfortable when riding, and specifically help me avoid toe numbness.

(I will grudgingly admit that clipless shoes might do an even better job at that correcting last problem.)

  • 1
    Good clarification to what is important, but, you do get a height between the foot and the pedal problem with walking boots, not that big a deal if just going to the shops, but the seat is effectively 1/2 inch lower than it would be otherwise. Now, anyone up for recommending to the ladies that wedge heels are pretty good? They are excellent for when stopped and they have a very stiff sole with some toe movement - what more cold you want! Sep 3, 2011 at 1:50
  • Good point about heels on boots. But wouldn't I be setting the seat too high if I use the traditional stiff-leg-heel-on-the-pedal method? Sep 3, 2011 at 17:00

Actually I have been using Merrell Barefoot Trailgloves for over a year now for xc biking. In sections with water crossings that are too slick/fast moving to cross without carrying they're great. If you do impact with something you WILL feel it however. Beyond that if you're going the flats route they're quite sticky on the pedals and great for off the bike as well ( really nice not to slip when you're carrying near 30 lbs in muck ) Give em a try if you're not for em you at least have a great summertime short hike shoe.


Ugh. This has been covered in another forum, and I spent 72 days on a tour of Europe with that advice. I like SPDs...for commuting and day riding. I switched to cages to accommodate normal day-hiking boots. It saved me a tonne of grief. My older SPDs were too narrow and I couldn't go a single day without horrible pain. I don't think I'd ride with SPDs on a long tour like that.

  • 2
    Would you be able to give us a link to that forum? I'd love to read others' opinions on this subject.
    – jimchristie
    Oct 4, 2012 at 5:02

Barefoot running shoes are too flexible for regular riding. They can be used in a pinch if you need to, but I wouldn't plan to use those on a tour or long ride. It's going to get very uncomfortable without the support from a rigid sole to help distribute the pressure from pedaling.

SPD shoes are generally the best option for long rides. For touring where you are on and off the bike a lot, you may want to consider mountain bike style clipless shoes which allow you to walk around a bit easier than with road shoes due to a more recessed cleat.

However, stiff soled sneakers (like adidas samba shoes and others) tend to be well suited to riding if you want to forgo the SPD option. Many people prefer to use sneakers along with toe clips or foot retention straps (FRS) to increase their pedaling efficiency. It's not as efficient as SPD shoes, but it's better than without clips or straps.


People used to assume that you needed shoes with support and cushioning for walking and running, and that has turned out to be entirely false - you don't need it.

Therefore we shouldn't assume the conventional wisdom that you need stiff shoes for cycling is necessary either. I've done 220KM over 3 days (110KM each way to run a half marathon) wearing Vibram FiveFingers, and wasn't at all fatigued.

Like shoes with support for walking will make your feet weak, shoes with stiff soles for cycling will also make your feet weak. If you've got weak feet, you're creating a self-fulfilling prophecy becayse they simply won't be strong enough to handle cycling.

I make no claims that minimalist flexible shoes will offer the same race performance as stiff shoes, as I only cycle to get from point A to point B, but it's also quite clear that for going from point A to point B, you don't need them either.

  • It's not so much that the foot needs "support", but rather there needs to be enough area, between the pedal platform and whatever stiffness is in the shoe, to distribute the pressure on the foot so that circulation is not cut off and the foot is not literally bruised. Jul 6, 2012 at 11:08
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    And that is not a problem either. No foot pain, no numbness, no bruising. If you're experiencing that, it's your feet, not that flexible soled shoes are unsuitable.
    – Robin Ashe
    Jul 6, 2012 at 21:34
  • All you've "explained" is how it's not a problem FOR YOU. Jul 8, 2012 at 23:33
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    @DanielRHicks, RobinAshe: please try to keep things civil and informative.
    – freiheit
    Jul 19, 2012 at 22:40

No, 'barefoot' shoes are good for walking/running, etc.; therefore, not stiff enough for pushing on pedals comfortably. Using 'clipless' shoes without a cleat provides a stiff sole, but a thick one. Before these thick, clipless cleat shoes became ubiquitous, there were "cycle touring shoes" that were both stiff and thin soled. They also had relatively smooth soles, good for adjusting your position on the pedal, not the heavily lug soles of modern cleated, clipless shoes. I am still looking for these thin soled cycle touring shoes. Any ideas?

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