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Cycling Shoes

July 16, 2019

Cycling Shoe Styles

Cycling shoes are divided up into 4 styles: Spin, Peloton, Road, and Mountain.

There are many reasons to consider upgrading to cycling shoes from sneakers. The first is that the upgrade increases your pedaling efficiency. Instead of just pushing down on half of the pedal stroke, you can also pull up on the back half of the stroke because you’re connected to the pedal. Being connected to the pedal helps you round out your pedal stroke and use muscles more evenly. This becomes apparent, especially when you’re climbing.

In general terms, cycling shoes should fit closer than a running shoe, but not nearly as tight as a ski boot. You want to leave room for your foot to expand while you’re working out. Especially in hot conditions, feet can swell in your shoes and you need to have space for that to happen. Properly fit cycling footwear will allow your toes to move around liberally, but not slide front to back a lot. Your heels may lift out of cycling shoes while you walk, and that is of no concern. That happens because the soles are so stiff that your heel “pops” up a bit when walking. While cycling, you don’t replicate that same motion so it doesn’t affect performance.

Spin shoes are used for spinning at your gym. About 90% of all Spin clubs use SPD cycling shoes and pedals with a 2 hole pattern. The cycling cleats are recessed into the shoe sole and these shoes will be walkable, even with the cleat installed.

A very few clubs use Look Delta pedals and for those clubs, you’ll need a 3 hole pattern shoe.

It’s very important to check with your club before you purchase bike shoes so that you buy the correct version.

As pictured above, the shoes do not come with cycling cleats (the part that clicks into the pedal at the club). Those are purchased separately and should be custom installed for each rider. The placement of the cleats is very important as it controls where your foot lands on the pedal, alignment with your knee and hip, and overall proper fit and comfort on the bike.

Peloton bikes use a Look Delta pedal and require a 3 hole pattern shoe as pictured above. The cleats will protrude from the bottom of the sole of these shoes and are not walkable, so please be careful when wearing these. Look Delta cleats are not compatible with the newer Look Keo technology (even though they do look similar), so be sure to get the proper Delta cycling cleat for Peloton use.

Road cycling shoes are usually the 3 hole pattern, but in some cases, riders choose a 2 hole SPD set up so that they will be able to walk around comfortably off the bike. In road shoes, there are many, many choices ranging from basic to incredibly light and stiff. The stiffer the sole of the shoe, the more efficient your pedaling will be. The stiffest soles are full carbon and are accompanied by a higher price tag. There is a difference in the methods of closure; you’ll see velcro straps, ratcheting buckles, and Boa closures and there is no right or wrong answer here- it’s strictly based on preference. The more basic road bike shoes shoes will tend to use a velcro closure and the higher end shoes will use the ratcheting buckle and Boa closures.

Mountain Shoes use the 2 hole SPD pattern for walkability. Like road shoes, the stiffer the sole, the more efficient your pedaling will be. However, with mountain shoes, you’ll need to make sure that you can still walk around comfortably, as you tend to get on and off the bike frequently.

Whichever style of cycling shoe and pedal combination you’re using, it’s really important to wear properly fitting shoes and to have your cycling cleats installed to allow your knees to track in line with your feet. Cleat placement is a huge part of overall cycling comfort and helps you avoid injuries.