The classic MX331-Cross shoe from Lake. © Cyclocross Magazine

The classic MX331-Cross shoe from Lake. © Cyclocross Magazine

When you first start racing ’cross, if you don’t come from a cycling background, the equipment list can be daunting. For the newbie, the question of mountain versus road versus ’cross shoes can be a confusing one.

There are a handful of cyclocross-specific shoes out there, but the majority of racers find that standard mountain biking shoes work great. Mountain bike pedals are standard, and they are compatible with mountain bike specific shoes. However, ’cross-specific shoes may be slightly better if you tend to run a lot in races. Lake was one of the early adapters of a cyclocross shoe, and recently made a few adjustments.

Mountain bike (and ’cross) shoes have outsoles with cleats to give you traction when walking on unstable ground. These built-in cleats enable the pedal cleat to sit in a recessed space, which keeps the bottom of the shoe flat when walking or running. (Road cleats sit directly on the outsole, and make walking and running fairly difficult, as well as clipping in when things get muddy.)

If the course is dry, you can get away with flat pedals and sneakers, but problems will arise when you try to run up a steep icy hill, and there are many affordable pedal/shoe setups which will make racing in those conditions much easier. As anyone who’s raced knows, racing with clipless pedals is infinitely easier than racing with flat pedals, but don’t stress if you’re just getting started and that’s all you have!

Check out our shoe reviews here, and for more, check Issue 24, where we reviewed four new pairs!

Get schooled in cyclocross with our Cyclocross Academy class list here, and make sure you’re subscribed to Cyclocross Magazine, your guide for getting into the sport, and upping your ’cross knowledge. Not subscribed yet? For the newbies, our Issue 21 has a great feature on buying your first cyclocross bike, and Issue 22 has a story on how to get into racing and what to expect at your first race.