The more serious cyclist will eventually want to try actual biking shoes. These are shoes that clip onto special pedals on bikes for maximum use of energy. They cause the pedals to move with both the up and the down motion of the leg, rather than just with the down motion that traditional bikes with traditional pedal use. These shoes use more muscles in the legs, while making use of a motion that has to happen anyway. You end up using both legs for the whole ride rather than one at a time, allowing for faster travel.
Cycling shoes used to be stiff pieces of nearly total plastic that had clips on the bottom. Since there was little walking involved in the shoes, they were not necessarily built for comfort. They were built for durability and support. Now, however comfort is part of the package. People are demanding variety and choice in their cycling shoes. As a result, the more serious cyclist now has several options to choose from.
All cycling shoes are designed to be stiff because stiffness prevents energy from being lost during the pedaling motion. Cycling shoes are designed for maximum efficiency and maximum energy transfer between the cyclist and the bike. This leads to less energy loss, less exertion, and faster speeds. Bike shoes are not required, but they are definitely favored for those who cycle or mountain bike for sport.
The beginner is going to want to assess his or her reasons for biking. The casual biker and the commuter will probably not want to spend a great deal of money on stiff shoes. However, the person who wants to cycle for the sport of cycling may want to consider trying them. The beginner may want to try a casual shoe that is not as stiff as a regular shoe, but makes walking more comfortable. Specifically, look for hybrid shoes that work with a clipless system.
The more serious cyclist has a variety of options. The shoes for these cyclists are stiffer, but often offer a wider variety of options. Shoes for the more serious cyclist tend to be lighter weight and streamlined in order to reduce wind resistance.
Things change constantly. There are new fads and new demands along with advances in technology. The idea of barefoot running has taken off, and now cyclists are demanding barefoot biking shoes for a more natural feel of the pedals. There are many minimalist options that get close to barefoot shoes, but technology and science continue to push on for a better, more minimalistic shoe. Whatever comes out of the shoe factory over the next few years, one thing is for sure, we will have plenty of options to help us move from one place to another.