The Best Shoes for Fixed-Gear Bike Riders
A fixed gear bike combines the simplicity of a single gear ratio with the efficiency of a constantly rotating drivetrain. The best shoes for a fixed-gear bike need to mesh well with your pedaling and keep any laces or straps tucked carefully out of the way. Cycling-specific clipless shoes and pedals can give fixed-gear track racers an advantage, since they can improve efficiency and safety by connecting your feet to the pedals.
The Right Shoes for the Job
The best everyday shoes for a fixed-gear rider need a few specific traits that cater to cycling. First and foremost, you want shoes that use secure straps or a way to tuck away laces so that nothing can come loose while you're riding. Getting a lace caught in your chain as you're pedaling could spell disaster for a fixed-gear rider, since the pedals will keep rotating as long as the back wheel is spinning. You won't be able to coast and release before the lace tangles further.
A fixed-gear rider needs a firm grip on the pedals. A flat shoe with a rigid sole and grippy rubber is ideal, since it'll keep you firmly planted on your pedals even when you're pushing out an especially high cadence. Some pedals come equipped with metal rivets that dig into the rubber of your shoes slightly, which can enhance the grip of an everyday shoe. Shoes designed for skateboarding often have flat soles and good grip.
Race to the Finish
Cycling-specific shoes use a metal cleat and a specialized pedal to connect you firmly to the bike. The system became known as the clipless system because it replaced the now-obsolete shoe clips that preceded it. This system is ideal for fixed-gear riders, since slipping off the pedal in cadence becomes impossible. Because of the connection between your feet and the pedal, you can pedal at higher RPMs without worrying about a slip, giving you much greater efficiency and the ability to put more power into your stroke.
The Perfect Fit
Cycling-specific cleats are one of the best choices for a fixed-gear rider. These shoes attach directly to the pedal and should have a closure system that wraps the foot securely from all sides, letting you pull up slightly during your stroke without lifting your foot out of the cleat. The close fit of a good cycling shoe also prevents blisters from forming as your feet move around in the shoe. A ratcheted closure system with a plastic strap and a clasp is ideal, since you can dial in the perfect fit, even while riding.
Max Roman Dilthey is a science, health and culture writer currently pursuing a master's of sustainability science. Based in Massachusetts, he blogs about cycling at MaxTheCyclist.com.