There are two main reasons why professional cyclists wear white shoes:
- Aesthetic preferences
- Status symbol
Some cyclists wear white shoes only because they like the color.
White components look fresh and often create a contrast against the bike and the rest of the cyclist’s clothing. (Hence why white bar tape and shoes stand out so much.)
A Status Symbol
White shoes and tape can also be a status symbol – an indication that one is a professional cyclist or at the very least highly dedicated to the sport.
People often say that “white stuff gets dirty easily”. Technically, this is an incorrect statement. White doesn’t have some magical properties making it attract more dust and dirt than other colors.
The proper statement is “white exposes dirt” or in other words, the white background makes contaminations more visible. If you wear the same white T-shirt for days, people will notice. If it’s black, however, the dirty spots won’t be as visible due to the lack of contrast.
Consequently, one needs to take extra care of white clothing to look clean.
White shoes and bar tape are an indication of that extra care that only a pro or a high-level cycling addict would perform.
If a bike is constantly ridden, and yet the cyclist’s gear remains white despite the high mileage, the only possible explanations are:
- The cyclist makes it their business to look presentable and thus invests additional time in preparation.
- The cyclist has lots of bikes, parts and gear – an indication that cycling is a high priority in a person’s life.
- The cyclist has a team of mechanics that keep the bike looking fresh as well as a sponsorship deal with a company that has supplied the rider with lots of gear that he/she puts on rotation.
White = Road; Black = MTB
It’s somewhat irrational, but some people associate white components and gear with road cycling whereas black parts are considered more common for MTB.
One of the reasons for that is that road cyclists ride in more “sterile” conditions and thus they can afford to have a white “suit” whereas MTB riders spend a lot more time in a muddy environment.
Easy Sock & Shoe Connection
Cyclists who care about aesthetics often combine their socks and shoes in a way that makes the two look like an extension of each other.
The easiest and simplest way to achieve that is to match blacks shoes with black socks or white shoes with white socks.
However, since most cyclists wear black shorts, some like to opt for the white socks + white shoes combo to create extra contrast. This is especially true when the bike is black too.
Not all Pros Wear White Shoes
White shoes have an on/off popularity. Sometimes they are dropped in favor of more colorful shoe & sock game.
However, colorful socks make it a lot harder to create a unified look because it’s often difficult to find matching shoes. Basic colors like white and black solve that problem.
Additional Advantages of White Cycling Shoes
- Less heat
White parts do not retain as much heat as black components. Thus, one can argue that white cycling shoes are better for hot weather. That said, the extent of this effect could be too miniscule to make a noticeable difference in practice.
- More visible
White is more visible than black in traffic. Consequently, one could also make the argument that white shoes are safer. Of course, this statement could be criticized successfully because no serious cyclist relies solely on their shoes to be more visible in traffic – lights, reflectors and high-visibility shirts are a lot more effective.
The Disadvantages of White Cycling Shoes
The major disadvantage of white cycling shoes is that they make dirt as well as wear and tear visible. Thus, a white cycling shoe could lose its shine faster than models of darker colors.
Another downside is that you will get judged negatively if you combine the shoes with more vivid colors.
The unwritten rule of cycling aesthetics says that white shoes look best when combined with white socks.
Tips For Keeping White Cycling Shoes Clean
1. Regular maintenance is key. Cleaning the shoes after every ride is the only way to keep them looking fresh for as long as possible.
If white shoes are left dirty for prolonged periods, the white quickly becomes dull because the contaminations (dust, dirt…etc.) sink into the deeper layers of the material.
For that reason, it’s important to clean the shoes regularly. If you clean them occasionally, they will quickly transform from white to dirty/yellow-white.
2. To clean the shoes, one can use a brush and soapy water.
3. Bring a set of wet wipes in your saddlebag, tool bottle or jersey pocket for emergency cleaning. (Wet wipes are surprisingly effective for grease and dirt that gets on your hands when doing repairs.)
4. Wear overshoes when it’s wet outside. The overshoes will protect not only your feet but the shoes too.
5. If you’re going to wash your shoes in a washing machine, put them in a laundry bag for “delicates” along with a cotton towel to ensure that the shoes don’t damage the machine.
Also, use a cycle for delicate laundry.
If the shoes have real leather in them, don’t use a washing machine.
6. Don’t put on the shoes until they are dry inside and out. If they’re used while wet, it’s easier to contaminate them because the “pores are open”.