Wide world of cycling shoes

I have abnormally wide feet. It’s a wonder that I’m not a swimmer because, just on looking at them, you’d think my feet would make great flippers.

As such, finding shoes that fit my feet for the 100% of the time I’m on solid ground is a constant problem. Most shoes are too narrow and the few that aren’t often take a long time to break in — that is to say, they take a long time to deteriorate sufficiently to accommodate my feet. This was especially a problem when I played ice hockey, though in that case, it did provide a useful excuse for being a really bad skater.

When I started cycling in 2013, I was wearing EEEE width running shoes (by the fourth “E,” one wonders why they just didn’t move on to the next letter) and toe clips on my pedals. The shoes were comfortable but not designed for cycling. The toe clips were designed for cycling but were not comfortable. I was ok with these opposing forces because the clips were just to transition me to clipless pedals. I needed that transition time because finding cycling shoes for my flippers required some investigation. Unfortunately, the internet was barely helpful (though one may argue that the internet generally was more helpful back then than it is now). Googling “widest cycling shoes” didn’t give me a clear answer: people would give contradictory reviews about their favorite and least favorite shoes: reviews came up for Northwave, Lake, Bont, Shimano and SIDI shoes that either were praising or condemning.

Giro Apeckx HV
Giro Apeckx HV shoes (photo via BikeRadar).

With my atypical feet, I knew I’d have to try the shoes on.

So, one Saturday afternoon, I went to one of those things that used to be everywhere called bike shops and tried on a bunch of cycling shoes. My salesperson –let’s engage a Cinderella metaphor and call him “Prince Charming” — had me try on shoe after shoe, and (switching to the Three Bears) like Goldilocks, I found none of them to be just right. After trying on five different pairs, I was quickly running out of options in the shop’s inventory, save for a pair of soft Giro Apeckx shoes in regular width that seemed to fit only a little too snug. Prince Charming suggested I try the wider version of this shoe, the Giro Apeckx HV (HV for “high volume”), which could possibly work for me. He didn’t have them in stock and but could order them. Before the clock rang 5 PM (i.e. closing time), I ran out of the store to return a week later when the shoes arrived. He installed the cleats and off I went with my first clipless set-up.

I was excited to have shoes that could fit me properly and without discomfort. The flexible uppers in the Giro Apeckx shoes and the three individual straps to secure my foot offered potential for accommodating my foot shape. When I first wore them on the bike, the shoes were still a bit snug, but after an uncertain few rides with some tolerable discomfort, the shoes broke in and foot pain while riding was never a problem again.

I would ride in these shoes for over six comfortable years. I was ok with the shoes not being the most firm on the market. I’d rather have been comfortable for the hours I’m riding. Plus, I didn’t really know otherwise. But as with all good things and such, last year I started to feel my foot slipping around in the shoe, and while some of this could have been due to my weight loss, I suspected after thousand of miles of riding that the shoes were ready to retire from service.

CX237 Cycling Shoe (photo via lakecycling.com)
CX237 cycling shoe (photo via Lake Cycling)

So, about six months ago, I was back on the internet to research online again, and this time I found a lot of positive consensus from people with wide footage around the Lake CX237 shoes in wide width. Instead of a buckle and velcro straps like the Giro shoes, the Lakes have two Boa dials to individually tighten around the forefoot (where I was most wide) and around the instep (where it was narrow). The Lakes seemed promising, but there was no physical store near me that carried these shoes (even the stores mentioned on the Lake website didn’t have them). There would be no Prince Charming this time and so I ordered them online. There would also be no Goldilocks because I didn’t try them on, let alone even opening the package, for months. The shoes stayed in their mailing envelope for five months, until my bike fit at Roseville Cyclery.

As I wrote about in my last post, after starting to feel knee pain on rides, I decided to get my bike fit updated and took my unopened Lake shoes with me in case I could/should get them set up. I learned that my Giros were indeed very worn out: the soles were really flexing and were wearing through the bottom of the shoe. It was clearly time to make the switch, so I finally tore open the Lakes package right there during my fitting.

We wrapped up my old shoes with my sentimentality and unceremoniously tossed both out. We put new cleats on the Lakes and I slipped my feet in without forcing. Instead, the difficulty I had was in accepting how amazingly very comfortable the shoes felt right out of the box. The locations of the two Boa fasteners were perfect for securing my foot without getting too tight. Still, during the fitting, I was expecting some pressure point in the shoe to reveal itself because this immediate comfort rarely happens. But, no such thing emerged: no pain, all gain. And, with the carbon sole (compared to the plasticy Giro soles), unlike in my old shoes in a long time (if not, ever), my feet felt like they were on a solid platform as I pedaled.

The bike fit was a few weeks ago. I’ve been riding with these Lakes since and I’ve been very pleased. There hasn’t been a break-in period per se since the shoes fit well right from the start. I’ve realized how much my feet were moving around in the old shoes, and how “sloshy” the Giros felt when I pushed down on the pedal. In the Lakes, I definitely feel the upgrade in fit, stability and even in transferring energy to the pedals.

Like a children’s storybook tale, these shoes fit just right.

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