Carbon cycling shoes look better than traditional cycling shoes made of plastic. But the question is, do they perform better or are they only more expensive?
I found a scientific study that tested the stiffness, which is a crucial detail when deciding which cycling shoes to wear. Comfort and weight are also important factors, especially comfort. It is important to remember that shoes with the best comfort often lack stiffness.
It is complicated, if not impossible, to achieve a high degree of stiffness and comfort simultaneously.
Carbon cycling shoes are stiffer
In the study, scientists collected shoe stiffness measurements under controlled conditions with a dynamic hydraulic tensile testing machine. In addition, plantar pressure measurements were done using a unique sensor in the soles while subjects pedaled at a controlled power output.
These tests showed that the carbon cycling shoes produced a significant, 18% higher peak plantar pressure than plastic cycling shoes. So carbon cycling shoes are stiffer, and that is also what riders tell me when they have switched to this more expensive footwear.
One bonus due to this additional stiffness is that it is possible to make carbon cycling shoes even lighter and still have a high level of performance.
If you have a problem with metatarsalgia or ischemia, it is probably better for you to choose a more flexible cycling shoe.
Foot Ankle Int. 2003 Oct;24(10):784-8.
The effects of cycling shoe stiffness on forefoot pressure.
Jarboe NE, Quesada PM.