Cycling Shoe Soles: Carbon vs Nylon

View Poll Results: What type soles do your favorite shoes have?

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  • Nylon / Composite / Plastic

    2 10.53%
  • Carbon (All other materials are dead to me)

    17 89.47%
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  1. #1
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    Cycling Shoe Soles: Carbon vs Nylon

    As I waste money trying to find the perfect cycling shoe (or just one that fits nice), I'm starting to grow skeptical of the notion that I need cycling shoes with a carbon sole.

    Yeah, carbon looks cool and is light weight, but is the stiffness really worth the price and comfort penalty? Is there any data to back-up any power loss or gain based on the shoes sole material?

    Marketing hype claims that "carbon soles increase power transfer" and similar phrases, but is that true? After all, with my road shoes, the contact point between me and my shoe is the pedal and cleat. I'm pretty sure that even a nylon-soled shoe is pretty darn rigid at that point (if they weren't, you'd have a comfort issue.) If the rest of the sole is slightly less stiff to absorb vibrations and shock, what kind of power loss are we talking about? 1 watt? 100 watts?

    For those of you with power meters and various kinds of shoes, have you noticed power gains just by switching from nylon soled shoes to carbon soled shoes?

    Weight certainly is the one obvious advantage between the two materials, but if that's the only real benefit, then I think I'll stick with affordable shoes!

  2. #2
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    I've got a NOS pair of leather wood soled Duegi's that I'm saving in case I ever do an Eroica event.
    Too old to ride plastic

  3. #3
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    hehe... sorry I didn't add wood to the poll options... I didn't know

  4. #4
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    Forget about power.
    Stiffness and isolating your foot from pressure and bending of the shoe matter if you have decent power. Bare foot is fine for a casual beach ride but not long powerful pedaling.

    What material the stiffness and protection from forces comes from doesn't matter at all other that it's impact on weight.

    It's a lot cheaper and a lot more effective to waste money on trying to find the perfect insole rather than the perfect shoe. Get a decent shoe that fits, which you probably already have from the sounds of it, and experiment with insoles not new shoes.

  5. #5
    pmf
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    The first time I tried carbon soled shoes, I immediately noticed the difference in stiffness. I didn't notice any difference in comfort or weight. Yeah, they're a little bit more money, but come on, how much do you spend on a pair of shorts?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmf View Post
    The first time I tried carbon soled shoes, I immediately noticed the difference in stiffness. I didn't notice any difference in comfort or weight. Yeah, they're a little bit more money, but come on, how much do you spend on a pair of shorts?
    My question is, do you think that stiffness translates into any significant performance value?
    "With bicycles in particular, you need to separate between what's merely true and what's important."-- DCGriz, RBR.

    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein



  7. #7
    pmf
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lombard View Post
    My question is, do you think that stiffness translates into any significant performance value?
    Well, since I'm not really a performance rider, I'd have to say no. Do they make my commute into work any faster? No. Do I climb up big hills faster? No. The OP mentioned a 'comfort penalty'. I find stiff shoes to be more comfortable, especially on long rides. I think I misstated what I meant in my last post. I didn't notice anything negative regarding comfort. Being slightly less weight is not a factor for me. Are they worth the extra money to me? Definitely.

    Years before, I remember having the same reaction when I went from aluminum 3TTT Prima 199 bars to Easton EC90 carbon bars.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by velodog View Post
    I've got a NOS pair of leather wood soled Duegi's that I'm saving in case I ever do an Eroica event.
    101s?

    Had the same shoes and ended up drilling them with the pedal makers' provided template for Look cleats.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmf View Post
    Well, since I'm not really a performance rider, I'd have to say no. Do they make my commute into work any faster? No. Do I climb up big hills faster? No. The OP mentioned a 'comfort penalty'. I find stiff shoes to be more comfortable, especially on long rides. I think I misstated what I meant in my last post. I didn't notice anything negative regarding comfort. Being slightly less weight is not a factor for me. Are they worth the extra money to me? Definitely.

    Years before, I remember having the same reaction when I went from aluminum 3TTT Prima 199 bars to Easton EC90 carbon bars.
    OK, thanks! More comfortable on long rides would definitely be an advantage. I occasionally get a numb area on one foot on longer rides.

    I'm thinking about trying a pair of those Shimano XC7's or XC9's. They both have carbon soles and I don't see any difference between them other than $100+. But as you say, we spend big $$$ on shorts. I guess we place a lower value on feet than on......., oh, never mind, LOL!
    "With bicycles in particular, you need to separate between what's merely true and what's important."-- DCGriz, RBR.

    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein



  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bremerradkurier View Post
    101s?

    Had the same shoes and ended up drilling them with the pedal makers' provided template for Look cleats.
    Yep, $50 in '87. Got a set of Mavic(Look) pedals before using them and they've been in the closet ever since. Was using Duegi nylon soled shoes made for Look cleats.

    I miss Duegi shoes, they fit my feet well.
    Last edited by velodog; 03-04-2019 at 01:33 PM.
    Too old to ride plastic

  11. #11
    pmf
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lombard View Post
    OK, thanks! More comfortable on long rides would definitely be an advantage. I occasionally get a numb area on one foot on longer rides.

    I'm thinking about trying a pair of those Shimano XC7's or XC9's. They both have carbon soles and I don't see any difference between them other than $100+. But as you say, we spend big $$$ on shorts. I guess we place a lower value on feet than on......., oh, never mind, LOL!
    Here's a comparison. I'd spend the extra money and get the XC9's.

    https://singletrackworld.com/2018/05...in-bike-shoes/

    The soles of the XC7 and XC9 are not the same, and the latter has a better closure system. I've got a pair of the top of the line Shimano shoes that proceeded the XC9 and now I'm lusting for new shoes even though the ones I have will last for several more years.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lombard View Post
    OK, thanks! More comfortable on long rides would definitely be an advantage. I occasionally get a numb area on one foot on longer rides.

    I'm thinking about trying a pair of those Shimano XC7's or XC9's. They both have carbon soles and I don't see any difference between them other than $100+. But as you say, we spend big $$$ on shorts. I guess we place a lower value on feet than on......., oh, never mind, LOL!
    Note that the older as well as newer XC7 shoes have a carbon “mid-sole”, in that not the entire sole is carbon.

    I find this perfectly OK as I was looking for a stiffer SPD style shoe for longer road rides, as compared to the SH SM087 shoes I had used. The XC7 helped reduce pain at the joint under the small toe.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
    Note that the older as well as newer XC7 shoes have a carbon “mid-sole”, in that not the entire sole is carbon.

    I find this perfectly OK as I was looking for a stiffer SPD style shoe for longer road rides, as compared to the SH SM087 shoes I had used. The XC7 helped reduce pain at the joint under the small toe.
    Do the XC9's have anything more than a carbon mid-sole? I also have to wonder how walkable a full carbon soled shoe would be.
    "With bicycles in particular, you need to separate between what's merely true and what's important."-- DCGriz, RBR.

    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lombard View Post
    Do the XC9's have anything more than a carbon mid-sole? I also have to wonder how walkable a full carbon soled shoe would be.
    They've got two BOAs versus one BOA and a velcro strap. I bought a pair of Lake 303 last year and liked the BOA much more than I thought I would.

    As far as walking goes, I doubt there's much difference between the two. My Shimano shoes have a full carbon sole and I walk from the bike locker to my office and back every day I commute (at least 125 days a year). No problem. Before I completely switched over to mountain bike pedals I had one bike with road pedals and a pair of carbon soled Shimano road shoes. I had to take those things off to walk into my office. That's why I ended up putting Time ATAC pedals on all my bikes.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmf View Post
    They've got two BOAs versus one BOA and a velcro strap. I bought a pair of Lake 303 last year and liked the BOA much more than I thought I would.

    As far as walking goes, I doubt there's much difference between the two. My Shimano shoes have a full carbon sole and I walk from the bike locker to my office and back every day I commute (at least 125 days a year). No problem. Before I completely switched over to mountain bike pedals I had one bike with road pedals and a pair of carbon soled Shimano road shoes. I had to take those things off to walk into my office. That's why I ended up putting Time ATAC pedals on all my bikes.
    So do you think having the two BOAs is worth the extra cost vs. the one BOA and velcro strap?
    "With bicycles in particular, you need to separate between what's merely true and what's important."-- DCGriz, RBR.

    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein



  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lombard View Post
    So do you think having the two BOAs is worth the extra cost vs. the one BOA and velcro strap?
    My latest shoe experiment, Bontrager Cambion shoes, have a single BOA dial and I think I prefer that over the dual BOA setup. Reason being that in the Fizik Infinito shoes I had, I could feel the second dial pressing down on my foot when I tightened the laces... hence I returned the shoes. I don't get that pressure point with the single dial on the Bontrager's.

    A neat "bonus" with the single dial on the Bontrager's is that once I pop the dial to release the tension, I can instantly pull my foot out of the shoe w/o any more fiddling. Almost magical

    BTW, these shoes are some kind of nylon composite, not carbon, but are pretty darn stiff (I can't noticeably bend them with my hands like I can with some nylon/plastic soled shoes). However, they're still not cheap.

    IMG_20190301_185644.jpg

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lombard View Post
    Do the XC9's have anything more than a carbon mid-sole? I also have to wonder how walkable a full carbon soled shoe would be.
    The XC9 has a full carbon sole, the XC7 a carbon mid sole.

  18. #18
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    Shimano XC7 vs. XC9

    Shimano XC7 vs. XC9:

    https://www.competitivecyclist.com/s...NDYXQxMDAzNDA=

    https://www.competitivecyclist.com/s...ycle-shoe-mens

    Looks like they both have two BOAs. XC7 has a carbon mid-sole, XC9 has a full carbon sole.

    For what it's worth, one user said he had problems with the lack of padding in the XC7 and claims it dug into his tendons. He claims the XC9 has more padding.
    "With bicycles in particular, you need to separate between what's merely true and what's important."-- DCGriz, RBR.

    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lombard View Post
    So do you think having the two BOAs is worth the extra cost vs. the one BOA and velcro strap?
    Yes, I would pay the extra money. The soles are different too. You keep missing that. But its not the question of what I would do. You are the one contemplating spending the money. Do the XC7's suck? Probably not. Are the XC9's 33% better because they cost 33% more. Probably not. Like everything in cycling, its diminishing returns. The more you pay, the less you get incrementally. I would venture to say that the XC9's are probably nicer. I doubt you'd regret buying either shoe. All I know is shoes last me at least 5 years. That's around 20,000 miles (and that's kind of a low ball estimate). Every one of those miles will be spent with my feet in those shoes. There's nothing else in my cycling wardrobe that will be on every mile I ride. I don't blink at spending $100 on a pair of bib shorts. Or $150 on a helmet.

    Like a girlfriend I once had liked to say -- you never regret buying the best. But then again, what did she know ... she dumped me for her room mate.

  20. #20
    pmf
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    Quote Originally Posted by PoorInRichfield View Post
    My latest shoe experiment, Bontrager Cambion shoes, have a single BOA dial and I think I prefer that over the dual BOA setup. Reason being that in the Fizik Infinito shoes I had, I could feel the second dial pressing down on my foot when I tightened the laces... hence I returned the shoes. I don't get that pressure point with the single dial on the Bontrager's.

    A neat "bonus" with the single dial on the Bontrager's is that once I pop the dial to release the tension, I can instantly pull my foot out of the shoe w/o any more fiddling. Almost magical

    BTW, these shoes are some kind of nylon composite, not carbon, but are pretty darn stiff (I can't noticeably bend them with my hands like I can with some nylon/plastic soled shoes). However, they're still not cheap.

    IMG_20190301_185644.jpg
    Gotta love that arctic camouflage. I'd have a hard time choosing between that and the slime green Shimano shoes.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmf View Post
    Yes, I would pay the extra money. The soles are different too. You keep missing that. But its not the question of what I would do. You are the one contemplating spending the money. Do the XC7's suck? Probably not. Are the XC9's 33% better because they cost 33% more. Probably not. Like everything in cycling, its diminishing returns. The more you pay, the less you get incrementally. I would venture to say that the XC9's are probably nicer. I doubt you'd regret buying either shoe. All I know is shoes last me at least 5 years. That's around 20,000 miles (and that's kind of a low ball estimate). Every one of those miles will be spent with my feet in those shoes. There's nothing else in my cycling wardrobe that will be on every mile I ride. I don't blink at spending $100 on a pair of bib shorts. Or $150 on a helmet.

    Like a girlfriend I once had liked to say -- you never regret buying the best. But then again, what did she know ... she dumped me for her room mate.
    OK, thanks for your input. What can I say about your ex gf?
    "With bicycles in particular, you need to separate between what's merely true and what's important."-- DCGriz, RBR.

    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein



  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmf View Post
    Gotta love that arctic camouflage. I'd have a hard time choosing between that and the slime green Shimano shoes.
    I would choose "slime green" as it's more visible. Camo and bikes are not a good mix.
    "With bicycles in particular, you need to separate between what's merely true and what's important."-- DCGriz, RBR.

    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein



  23. #23
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    So, CF in a shoe is a relative idea. Ratio of CF to resins is at play. If it is heat moldable, lots of resin, CF isn’t heat moldable on its own... So, a wide, lightweight pedal with pins, like on my MTB is a great option and will not cause you any loss of power. Use a decent shoe like a 510. My MTB pedals are super light. But the size nullifies any concern for stiffness, within reason. In your case, after billions of attempts to get a shoe hat fits, I’d punt and accept any formula that has a shoe that fits and work around that. Cycling isn’t a boot sport. It isn’t very demanding of shoes. If you want to clip in, and I do recommend it to avoid shin hits, you only need a comfy shoe that doesn’t flex under load. Keep it simple.
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  24. #24
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    I still have a pair of well used 101's. Haven't used them since the mid. 80's.
    If your opinion differs from mine, ..........Too bad.
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  25. #25
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    When I first started with clipless back in 2009 I was using nylon soled Shimano road shoes, I developed hot spots on the outside of both feet on rides over 20 miles. I switched to carbon soled shoes and the hot spots disappeared. I even use carbon soled MTB shoes as well. My feet don't hurt at all anymore. I'll won't ever go back to a nylon soled cycling shoe.
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