Shoes should be comfortable, supportive, with sole stiffness specific to the application.
Specialized shoes are corrected 1.5 degrees (most models), varus. The company states that approximately 80% of all cyclists need this correction. I don’t agree with this notion, yet love the shoes, and can easily reverse-wedge if necessary. The last is typically very supportive, toe-box moderate (in the standard width), and weight remarkable. You can buy BG insoles, too — red, blue, and green – to accommodate your arch. Each model includes a metatarsal “lift” or “button” and deep transverse arch support. Not bad for off-the-shelf, but my opinion is that the arch is too long for many riders.
Bontrager shoes are a few years behind Specialized in the design-department, but much better than previous years. Paraic McGlynn has helped develop a new Bontrager insole with a broad range of arch-adjustment to replace e-soles.
Lake shoes are my favorite. Most lasts are extremely supportive, and incorporate a thin sheet of secondary carbon to the base (undetectable) for road damping. Uppers are Kangaroo leather, and the closures, Boa. There is no other shoe on the market that receives higher regard from my clients and “fitters” in the cycling industry.
D2-Shoes rock. Fully custom.
Shimano shoes are heat moldable, available with many different lasts, and in a variety of widths. The top-end road shoe is the stiffest thing I’ve ever had on my foot. Great heel support in the top models, and typically better for a narrow foot in the standard widths. Not a fan of the “custom” insole, which does little in the way of support/conformability.
I like Sidi Shoes again! Big improvements over the past 2-years. Outer provides more support, and last is wider. Important to note that the arch-support is now built directly into the last. This tends to require a step-lower Specialized or “other” insole for support equal to other brands.
DMT Shoes are really nice. Loads of instep support in the outer.
Giro and Mavic are beautiful, but the last is non-conforming. I prefer something that offers more support, with/without insoles.
Fizik Shoes are very nice, and improved recently with a reduction in last height.
-Update: Have some, and they are very nice. Wish that the Kevlar straps extended to the last.
Rocket 7 make great custom shoes, but really expensive. Custom carbon sole/insole and outer.
Bont shoes incorporate a heat-modified last and carbon surround for the entire foot. Not sure all the lasts I’ve seen are consistant fore-foot to heel, so be careful when molding.
I have seen a number of other nice shoes on the market, but not enough to form an opinion on what is good or not. Remember that the former statements are my opinion and not necessarily fact.
When trying-on shoe at your local shop, be sure to sample all models possible. Every shoe is slightly different from the next, and models are updated/changed every few years. Don’t expect that your 2007 model will fit like the 2011 version of the same thing.
Don’t buy the idea that they will “break-in”. A shoe should be comfortable right from the box. There is a shoe for every foot. Try a variety of shoes from different manufacturers, and get custom if necessary.
Bicycling does not incorporate the heal-strike of bipedal activities. Shoe stifnesss, support and stability are integral to creating effective leg extension.
Mountain bike pedals are for mountain biking; Road bike pedals are for road biking. MTB allow for more shoe/pedal movement with less surface-contact; Road, less movement and more surface-contact. The former is for handling obstacles; the latter, to maintain structural integrity in static positioning.
Common causes for foot-numbness:
- Excessive toe-box tension between the 1st and 5th metatarsal (or elsewhere) restricting blood flow and impacting nerves.
- High/hard unsupported arch, which reduces foot/last surface area, localizing pressure and reducing blood-flow.
- MTB pedals used for road application — where the cleat has a small impression on the last.
- Improper fore/aft cleat position.
There are numerous products available on the internet designed to make odd-feet fit standard- shoes. I suggest buying a shoe that fits (length/width) and modifying with a bunion stretcher if you have bunions or other anomalies.
A good fit technician will modify shoes/foot beds/posting to achieve proper foot/shoe/pedal interface. I recommend caution when more than 3mm shims and/or 3-varus wedges are used without custom or quality OTC footbeds. Non-prescriptive insolves should be comfortable and conforming, and sadly most prescriptive insoles don’t work properly for cycling. Footbalance and Sidas are good options for cycling-specific conformable insoles, but I usually suggest trying a pair of $30 Specialized before spending the extra money on something custom.