Punish Stuff: Bike Shoes That Look Like Regular Shoes

If you are new to cycling and you don’t “clip in” to your pedals, then stay on platform pedals and move on to the next article. Nothing to see here.
If, like me, you drank the clip-in kool-aid and you feel that you must clip in whenever you ride, then you may find this review interesting.
But first, Google, “the shoe ruse” and read it. If you still must clip in after reading that, then proceed.

This review is for cyclists who want to wear normal looking shoes when they clip in. SPD is a good system for clip-in shoes that are truly walkable: they can pass the “don’t dent wood floor” test when the cleat is pushed most of the way back.

$85; Made in China
PROS: look super normal, will make all of your dreams come true. CONS: don’t breathe well, which may lead to premature funkiness; laces fly all over the place.

$100; Made in China
PROS: super comfy, breathe well, best lace “keeper” out there. CONS: sport-o looking.


The Perl Izumi X-Alp is a line of shoes that come in a bunch of different options and colors. The “Seek” is the cheap, lace-up, daily driver shoe in the X-Alp line. I’ve grown to really like this shoe for mountain bike rides and as a daily tennis shoe.

In styling and feel, it’s more “running shoe” than sneaker, which is not really that “normal” looking for me. My friend Rachel has a pair and finds them to be normal on her scale, so if you feel that running shoes is a normal look, then these shoes might be worth a try.

I’ve tried about a dozen SPD shoes. I like laces (instead of buckles and straps), so it’s interesting to come across a shoe that solves the lace “keeper” in a different way. A lace keeper holds the laces to the shoe so they don’t go flying into your chain. Nearly all solutions involve a flexy strap that lives over the middle of the tongue on the shoe. You cram the laces under the strap and that’s that. But either the strap is so tight and fussy that you’re trained not to use it (Keen Austin, Chrome), or it’s so loose that the laces fall out after a few miles (DZR, Shimano MT-60). The X-Alp Seek has a strap up higher on the tongue, and a pouch to stuff the lace loops into. It works better than any other keeper solution I’ve tried.

The X-Alp comes in men’s and women’s sizes and is generic enough in styling to be sort of “genderless.”


The DZR sneakers are just cool. I’m a Vans guy. I also like Converse low-tops. If that’s your thing, then just go for the DZRs. The GMT-8 Sneaker is the most low-key of the SPD sneaker offerings from DZR in my opinion.

I’ve worn my DZRs for nearly two months straight. They’re comfy. They’re true-to-size. They totally and completely do not look like nerdy bike shoes.

And they’re barely bike shoes. Like most SPD “normal” shoes (including the X-Alps), you shouldn’t expect super stiff soles. The soles are certainly stiffer than Chuck Taylors, but they’re not what you’ll be used to if you wear racing shoes.

Since the DZRs are canvas, they like to absorb and hold water. And they don’t breathe well. And since I’ve worn them nearly every day for two months, they are getting a tad funky. I wear “liner” wool socks with them in the summer, but they’re still pretty steamy.

The super, overly-long laces are not held down well by the limp “keeper” either.

So they’re not perfect, but they are wearing exceptionally well. I’m hard on shoes and this pair has yet to blow out or start unstitching after many miles of riding and walking.

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