Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Minneapolis, MN
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I really like my Specialized shoes. I recently bought the Specialized 2009 Sport Mountain Bike shoe:
I do not like the more "causal" and softer soled bike shoes. Granted, I only took them for 1 ride. It's hard to describe - they're more comfortable off the bike, but I didn't like how the sole twisted around while on the bike. It's not a speed thing - just found them uncomfortable. The shoes I linked to above are the entry level "real" mountain biking shoes with a stiff sole.
I agree that shoes are the kind of thing you want to be able to try on in person, and that you might want to try several different brands, but honestly I do not think you can get a real feel for how the shoe is going to feel on the bike just from walking around in the store - I tried doing that when I bought my road shoes. Sidi's were the most comfortable. Bought then. 2 years later I finally realized my persistent foot pain (that I only experienced on my Sidi road shoes) was not a result of a road vs mountain shoe, but is instead is a result of my feet being very happy with Specialized shoes, and very unhappy with Sidi shoes. Something about the shape and insole of the bottom of the shoe. The bad news is most bike shops won't let you return shoes after you put a cleat on the shoe (or mark up the bottom whatsoever).
I know someone else who posted that their feet hurt terribly after using Specialized shoes, not a problem in their old shoes - it just depends on what your foot is like.
Personally, I would also recommend going with a different cleat than the spd's. Both the Crank Brothers Eggbeaters and the Time Atac (and I think the other Time mtn pedals) have more "float" and a wider release angle which is often easier on your knees. I know personally, I have been using spd's on my non-road bikes and my right knee gives me issues after a ride. My speedplays (a road cleat) have a lot more float and don't have nearly the problem. I just bought the Crank Brother's Eggbeater pedals (well, one of the models with more platform) so I cannot entirely comment, but in the 1 ride I've had I haven't had any of those knee issues any more. Also, the spd's made a crunching sound when walking over concrete (because of the cleat, didn't make noise on non-concrete surfaces) but my crank brothers cleats don't.
You didn't mention how many miles you're doing or anything. There's no doubt it's more of a hassle to walk around in road shoes than mountain shoes (you gotta put cleat covers on road shoes to make them decently walkable, you don't have to with mtn shoes). But if you're doing a ton of road miles, just an fyi, the Speedplay Light Action pedals are a very good road pedal.