How Long do Cycling Shoes Last?

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Looking at the question, (how long do cycling shoes last?),  and judging by how often you replace your house shoes, sneakers, flip flops, hiking boots, and all of your other footwear, you would probably guess that cycling shoes will last about a year, maybe more if they happen to be extra durable. 

Not only would you be wrong, but you would also be way off, as a good pair of well-maintained cycling shoes should easily last you around 15 years. That’s quite a long time for a pair of cycling shoes, no matter how you want to look at them. 

Of course, there is a degree of difference between day-to-day life for a pair of cycling shoes on the road and a pair of cycling shoes on a mountain bike. The latter is definitely going to take more of a beating than the former. 

How long do cycling shoes last is dependent on many things, but it seems that longevity is built into them from the beginning. 

How Do Cycling Shoes Last So Long?

Cycling shoes are designed for a single activity and, as such, their design is a level of precision that you don’t often find in other footwear or clothing of any kind for that matter. In terms of being primarily on the road, cycling shoes are manufactured with highly durable, synthetic materials. 

It also helps that those materials don’t undergo the level of distress that you expect in a pair of running or hiking shoes. Cycling shoes are designed to clip on to your pedals, which transfers much of the wear and tear from the shoe to the pedals

Like a foot support device, something else takes the strain and the wear and the tear while your cycling shoe essentially covers your precious foot. How long do cycling shoes last if you wear them loose? Not as long as they’re designed to. 

Cycling shoes that are predominately worn on mountain bike excursions typically wear out in the sole before anything else. It’s possible that if they are a little too large, you will wear out the side stitching as your weight is transferred around more loosely within the shoe. 

The soles wear out faster when you spend a lot of time on mountain bikes because you are spending a lot more time standing up, pressing down hard on the pedals. At least, you’re doing that more than you will on a smooth blacktop surface. 

Even when you consider mountain biking, and assume that you spend a lot of time on the bike, you’re still looking at more than a decade of use for your cycling shoes. That makes cycling shoes more of a collector and comfort thing, rather than an immediate necessity. 

Cycling shoes are not designed like typical shoes and they don’t have a “break-in” profile, meaning that there is no set limit insofar as breaking them in. They are designed with a more rigid material structure that holds its form, no matter how much torture you apply to them. 

How to Maintain Your Cycling Shoes

Already knowing that cycling shoes have a large degree of longevity doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t practice any kind of preventative maintenance. If longevity is already a good thing, wouldn’t a lot more longevity be even better? How long do cycling shoes last without preventative maintenance?

  • Routine cleaning
  • Install and/or change cleats
  • Replace the lace or boas system
  • Waterproof them

For the most part, a general rubdown is good enough, however, you should periodically give them a deep cleaning. You can do this with a soft-bristle toothbrush or something similar. Use some warm water and a drop of laundry detergent and scrub each shoe with a toothbrush, cleaning in a circular motion.

Installing new isn’t too difficult and if you have a sharpie handy, you can make the job even more simple. Flip the shoe upside down and use your sharpie to outline where your current cleats (the ones that need to be replaced) are located. 

Remove the old bolts and be sure to clean them as you go, which will make it easier to seat the new ones. Before you insert the new bolts, be sure the grease them well because the time will come around again when they need to be replaced. 

Replacing the laces or the boas is probably going to be the most frequent occurrence because it’s not only the weakest link on your cycling shoe but it’s also a part that takes a lot of strain as you work the pedals. 

Waterproofing them will add or replace a layer of protection against mud, water puddles, and rain, but also from the sweat that you work up as you’re biking. The sweat is the worst, as it is salty and more corrosive than the freshwater that you get from being caught out in the rain. 

If you want to answer the question, “how long do cycling shoes last?”, preventative maintenance is a critical factor. 

How Tight Should Cycling Shoes Be?

It’s an important question to consider because if you allow them to remain loose, it places more wear and strain on parts of the shoe than it normally would otherwise, which also decreases the longevity of the shoe. Your cycling shoes should always remain snug, with a solid fit. 

That doesn’t mean that you should overdo it so that you reach the point where you can no longer feel your feet at the end of the day, but it does mean that you should keep them plenty tight, within your comfort zone. 

That’s not to mention the fact that keeping your cycling shoes on too tight or too loose can do damage to your feet and cause musculoskeletal problems in your feet, ankles, and knees over time. 

When you fit your shoes, you want at least 3mm to 5mm of space at the end of your shoe (the distance between the tip of your toe to the edge of the shoe). Not only will this give you the additional space you need to maneuver, but it will also account for the thickness of your socks. 

All Things Considered, How Long Do Cycling Shoes Last?

How long do cycling shoes last? Cycling shoes should last you for years to come and, especially if you practice preventative maintenance, they will last you for years more.  Cycling shoes are designed that way, with a far more rigid structure that is designed to take a beating, whether you are on a mountain bike or you are on the road.

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Paul Tuthill
Growing up in Scotland, Paul developed a love for the outdoors and a desire for adventure from an early age.