Quick transitions are vital when competing in a triathlon, so your triathlon cycling shoes will have to be easy to put on and take off. Choose triathlon cycling shoes that use a Velcro® securing system rather than traditional laces, and avoid any shoe that is difficult to get in and out of when you try it on in the store. You will most likely need to try on several pairs of shoes before finding the ones that fit you best and work best with your transition; above all, choose triathlon cycling shoes that have a stiff sole and accept the cleat that fits your pedals.
Triathlon cycling shoes, like regular cycling shoes, need to have a stiff sole so no power from your pedal stroke is lost to the shoe flexing. All of the power from your pedal stroke should go directly to the cranks, which in turn power the drivetrain, which propels the bike forward. Choose a shoe with a hard plastic sole if you are on a budget; if cost is not as much of a concern, choose a shoe with a carbon sole. Carbon is a lightweight, stiff material that allows the shoe to remain light without sacrificing strength.
You will be sweating during your triathlon, and there's no telling what the weather will be like. This means you must choose a pair of triathlon cycling shoes that have a breathable upper section. This means moisture is allowed to pass through the upper part of the shoe, effectively allowing the foot to vent. Your foot will stay dry, preventing hot spots and blisters, as well as drastic changes in body temperature. Choose a shoe that allows such venting, but one that is not made flimsy by the venting material.
The fit of your triathlon cycling shoes will determine your performance overall. An uncomfortable shoe will hinder your riding performance, so choose a shoe that is comfortable and snug without being too tight. If you, like many triathletes, do not wear socks inside your cycling shoes, be sure to try on several pairs of shoes barefoot so you can find any seams inside the shoe that may cause discomfort while riding. All cycling shoes feature some sort of strap system or laces to tighten up the shoe; avoid laces, as they are cumbersome during transitions. Choose a shoe that features easy-to-use Velcro® straps that can be secured quickly during a transition. Some shoes feature a ratcheting buckle system, which allows you to secure the shoe quickly. They are sometimes difficult to get undone at the end of a cycling leg, however, so sticking with just Velcro® straps is the best option.