Do Cycling Shoes Wear Out? – 5 Signs To Replace Them and Ways To Care

Nothing in this world lasts forever, and neither do cycling shoes. Still, you will be surprised to know that a well-looked-after pair of cycling shoes will serve you for many happy years and miles.

Road cycling shoes don’t wear out like regular shoes and usually last several seasons since they don’t have to bear the weight of the rider and they are not used for walking. Mountain bike shoes are also made very durable and last for years, but the more they are used for walking and off road riding the faster they wear out. The condition of the sole of the shoe is a good indicator when it needs to be replaced.

How Long Do Cycling Shoes Last?

Road cycling shoes are the longest lasting piece of clothing you will ever buy and may last as long as 15 years. They are made from durable sythetic materials and for a very specific purpose. They don’t come into contact with the ground very often because they are designed to be clipped into the pedal and are very uncomfortable to walk in.

MTB shoes are subject to more abuse than road shoes and have a shorter life-span. Because their cleats are recessed and they allow you to walk in freely, you wear them out with your weight. MTB shoes may quite often also get muddy since they are designed for off-road use. They also get knocked against rocks and bushes. The more intensely you use them the shorter they will last. Still, even an itensely used but well-maintained MTB cycling shoe should last several seasons.

The part regarded as the weakest link in the system is the lacing system. They are very popular on cycling shoes nowadays, but they usually brake either at the dial or the lace before any other part of the shoe wears out. Thankfully, these can be replaced quite easily and parts are readily available.

A word of caution before you think about your shoes wearing out!

Cycling shoes, unlike casual shoes, don’t have a break-in period. They are made of stiff, sythetic materials and they retain their form very well. This is important to know if you are new to to clipless pedals and want to purchase a new pair of shoes. If they feel uncomfortable the first day, they will be uncomfortable forever since they don’t stretch. You need to find a pair of shoes that support your feet and with a snug fit, but without putting unnecessary pressure on any part of your foot.

Many road cyclist use the same pair of cycling shoes for 10+ years without a problem.

In fact, good quality cycling shoes retain their comfort over time and will be just as comfortable after several years as they were on the first day.

You know that it’s time to replace your cycling shoes when parts start to separate, disintegrate or show signs of significant wear. The sole of the shoe is usually the first part to fail. It’s a good idea to inspect the shoes every few months to make sure they are in good condition.

Fix or Replace

If the sole or the top of the cycling shoes start to fail, you know that it’s time to purchase a new pair , but the part that usually fails first is the retention system, in which case you may just be in luck.

Whether you use traditional laces, a lacing system, such as Boa-straps or Velcro, they are all wearing parts of your cycling shoes and they can snap or break, but can be fixed quite easily.

Traditional laces are the easiest to replace. They are readily available and can be fitted without any special skills. If you know how to tie your laces, you know how to thread them too.

BOA dials and straps are a little bit more finnicky to replace, but you can purchase spare parts very easily and can be fixed with using some skill.

Velcro is designed to last a long time, and it is the hardest to replace. If you’re skilled enough to cut the thread along the seams and sew on a new piece they can be fixed. Your local cobbler may also be able to save the day.

How To Maintain Your Cycling Shoes In Good Shape

In order to keep your cycling shoes in a good condition and serving you for many years, here are some best practices:

  • Keep your cycling shoes reasonably clean. Road shoes are mostly used on pavement and many riders don’t go out in dire weather. If you are among those die-hards, who enjoy riding in extreme weather conditions, you may end up with mud, grime and oil on your shoes. One way to ensure the longevity of your shoes is by keeping it free of dirt.
  • Avoid cleaning your shoes with strong chemicals. If you arrive home with muddy shoes use a damp cloth to clean the mud off. You can also use a bucket of cold water with dish soap and a soft brush if they’re completely covered in mud.
  • Generally it’s not recommended to put your cycling shoes in the washing machine, especially they have a lacing system (e.g. BOA dials). If you still decide to machine wash your cycling shoes, put them in with some towels in order to protect them. You should also use a low temperature program and disable the spin cycle.
  • Dry your cycling shoes when you come home from a wet ride. Sometimes your shoes get soaking wet during a ride. It you get caught in a rain make sure to dry your shoes before storing them. Don’t use a hairdryer, place them on a radiator or expose them to direct sunlight, but instead, dry them with a cloth and stuff them with newspaper to absorb the moisture inside. Also, don’t forget to remove the insole to speed up the drying process.
  • Mind the sole of your shoes. Road cycling shoes are meant for riding, but not for walking. The best way to take care of them is by not attempting to walk around in them, as they can pick up scuffs and can get damaged when used on hard surfaces. Walking in them doesn’t only damage the cleats, but the shoes themselves too. MTB shoes can be used for walking

How Long Do Cleats Last?

Cleats are another important piece of the clipless puzzle. Having cycling shoes with worn out cleats makes the shoes useless because without them you can’t clip in properly. Since clipping in and out comes with physical friction, cleats wear out and need replacing much sooner than cycling shoes.

On average cycling cleats need to be replaced every 7000 miles. The type of clipless system, your riding style, how much you walk in your shoes and the riding conditions all play important roles in how soon they wear out. You may replace your cleats on the shoes 10+ times before you need to replace your cycling shoes.

Speedplay recommend replacing the cleats every 3000-5000 miles (5000 – 8000 km), while other manufacturers don’t specify the mileage, but instead leave it up to the cyclist to decide when it’s time to replace them. Some cleats include wear-marks to indicate when it’s time to get a new pair.

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