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Could someone give me an idea if cycling shoes REALLY help on a ride? I just did the English Mountain Challenge Saturday in East Tennessee (109 miles/22% grades) in flip flops and thought I was going to break down (mentally). I was good to go up until mile 82. From mile 82 to 100 it was a long grade with some steep climbs that culminated in a 22% grade. My back tire was slipping on the pavement it was so steep. Would shoes really have made much of a difference? I've ridden several centuries in the past without the shoes but I thought I had fantasies (when I wasn't seeing black spots) of just lying on the ground and weeping. It was brutal.

Anyway, in all honesty, was it my total lack of training or would shoes really have made a difference?

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I don't have cycling shoes either but I would imagine that even regular sneakers would have been much better than flip flops!

But cycling shoes would definitley help because of their stiff soles to at least put more of your power to the pedals.
they most def help. after riding in them for the last year and a half ive had to switch back due to me breaking my right shoe...i hate riding with out them. make the investment.
22% grades sound brutal.

Not sure how physically prepared you were for those kinds of hills, but cycling shoes definitely would've helped with keeping power going into the drivetrain consistently. Aside from the lesser chance of your foot slipping off the pedal, cycling shoes (and the compatible pedals) keep you attached to the bike so you have pull on the upstroke unlike platform pedals. With the kind of hills you dealt with, having force going into the cranks on the down and upstroke might have made those hills a bit easier to conquer.
Aside from more power for pedaling and keeping you locked into the bike, shoes are stiff to prevent injuries from your feet from bending in unnatural ways.
I can't believe you did that in flip flops.
I've been using Powergrips and they work shockingly well once you have the fit right. They're nowhere near so fiddly to get in and out of as clips and straps, which makes them great for riding in traffic, yet they're more secure because they're made out of a flexible fabric that just lets you cinch down on them whenever you want to lock your foot to the pedal. They're also dirt cheap and allow you to wear whatever shoe you'd like with them. I haven't done a century in them but I rode 65 miles the other day with no problem at all and I can't imagine there would have been one with another 35 miles.
i dunno, maybe you didnt train enough and the ride just beat you..

shoes would have made some difference, but maybe the difference would have been that you burnt up at like mile 90 instead of 82.

i did a 3 hour metric(actually i failed at a 101 miler, but this sounds better) in running shoes once, sat down afterwards(got a flat) and couldn't get back up on my feet(after fixing the flat).
was it the shoes? or was it that i was riding outside of my fitness level? theres no way to know what it was exactly.. could it have been a little bit of both? most likely.

i do know that i learned a few things from that experience: 1, its funny to have roadies make fun of you cause youre not wearing a whole mess of spandex. and 2) dont ride in a 30 mph paceline for any amount of time if its not something you've ever done before..
The shoes could help (wouldn't hurt!), but sounds like a ride with climbs like that would be enough of a mental challenge. Can't believe you did that in flip flops! Sounds to me like you're in quite decent riding shape!
flip flops?! i would've busted my shit.
Shoes enable you to do a number of different things...As others have mentioned already they increase efficiency by broadening your pedal stroke as well as transferring power more efficiently with their stiff soles. They enable to you "latch-on" to your bike which makes cornering safer as there is no risk of slipping off in a hairy corner when you hit that unexpected bump. Also they help prevent injuries as they set balls of your feet exactly on the pedal spindle and allow float.

They are a considerable investment as you will need to get a pedal system that is compatible with the shoes you choose or vice versa. And as most things life; good shoes cost more money but they are a worthy investment. Remember the best shoes are the one that you don't even feel you are wearing.

All the people commenting here are just brainwashed by the shoe industry.

Real men ride barefoot.
I like mountain bike shoes or bike sandals myself. They do help reduce fatigue and injuries from feet flexing too much. I've got a pair of the Lake sandals that are super comfortable. Keen's got a version that I'm hearing good things about. With or without cleats, even moderately stiff soles make things better for your feet when you're riding.
Bike Shoe and Pedal Combo is at least 20% more efficiant.

Personally Ilike using SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) Style most for commuting, long touring, and mountainbiking. I do use road shoes and pedals on my road bike but on short sprints and road centuries.

I like SPD because It a lot easier to walkin because of the recessed cleat. And SPD pedals are mostly double sided. So I dont have to concentrate on flipping the pedal up. Road pedals are onesided and for me I have to look down when clipping in. Not good for comutting and mountain bike riding.

I've been Riding SPD since 1992.


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