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What Are Clipless Shoes? [SPD Bike Shoe Guide]

When looking at which shoes may be most suitable for your bike and riding style, cycling jargon and the sheer amount of choice on the market can sometimes be a bit overwhelming.

But fear not as we are here to help answer your questions regarding clipless shoes and pedals, explain what types of riding they are most suited for and the pros and cons that come with using them.

Clipless Pedals vs Flat Pedals 

First and foremost, clipless pedals, unlike flat pedals (sometimes referred to as platform pedals), have a special mechanism that allows the pedal to fit into a cleat which is positioned on the bottom of the clipless shoes.

This mechanism allows the rider to be attached to their pedals through their clipless shoes and cleats, in contrast to flat pedals, which are just a standard conventional pedal which your shoe rests on instead of being fixed to. 

Furthermore, clipless pedals do tend to be more expensive to buy in comparison to flat pedals which are often much cheaper. Not to mention the added cost of the relevant shoes to accompany your clipless pedals. 

Lastly, flat pedals are more user friendly as you can wear pretty much any pair of shoes while using them. Clipless pedals however require a certain technique to clip into and out of the pedal by pushing down to clip in and a twist of the ankle to clip out of the pedals.

Clipless Pedals: Pros and Cons 

There are numerous pros and cons to using clipless pedals, especially for commuters. The table below shows the three major factors for both. 

Clipless Pedals ProsClipless Pedals Cons
More efficient way of ridingCan be tricky to get used to
Can manoeuvre up curbs easierThey are more expensive than a flat pedal
Allows you to be pedalling in the same position regarding foot positioning Have to pull out of the pedal at traffic lights, junctions etc

Arguably the pros outweigh the cons due to the added efficiency in pedalling but it really depends if you are willing to spend the money to equip your bike with clipless pedals and invest in new shoes.

Do Clipless Pedals Need Special Shoes? 

In the vast majority of cases, clipless pedals will need special shoes to go with them. A compatible pedal cleat set up is essential to being able to clip in and only specific shoes will match to certain cleats. The reason for this is that a cleat must bolt onto the sole of the shoe and, depending on the type of cleat/pedal that you have chosen, it will only bolt into a specific bolt pattern. 

Most notably, the two main cleat bolt patterns are for road cleats, which are three bolts in triangular shape, and also off-road cleats, which are just the two bolts side by side. Shoes that possess both bolt patterns are a rarity. 

However, there are clipless pedals available on the market that also have a platform around the clipless system. These pedals can be a fantastic middle ground as they can be used with clipless shoes, like a normal clipless pedal, or alternatively like a flat pedal with regular trainers.

SOURCE: Blue Bird from Pexels

What Are Clipless Shoes? 

Clipless shoes are a type of cycling shoe that are compatible with the cleats used to click into clipless pedals. Clipless shoes feature the aforementioned specific bolt pattern on the sole of the shoe in order to attach to the cleat. 

These shoes are often designed specifically for either road or off-road use, however you can buy clipless shoes that are mainly oriented towards commuting or even clipless shoes designed for use in spin classes. 

What Are SPD Bike Shoes? 

SPD stands for Shimano Pedalling Dynamics and are clipless shoes used alongside SPD pedals. They allow you to attach your shoes to your pedals with cleats on the bottom of the shoes.

SPD compatible shoes are available from many different brands and in various styles to suit the individual’s needs. 

Can You Walk in Clipless Shoes? 

You can walk in clipless shoes although it can be a little tricky when it comes to slippery surfaces such as wooden floors. Equally, road SPD shoes are more difficult to walk in due to the cleat protruding more from the sole than its off road counterpart.

Walking in clipless shoes does get easier over time but can also damage the cleat as harsh surfaces can wear away the cleat underneath the shoe. To preserve the life of your shoes it’s therefore best to limit walking time in clipless shoes. 

Are “Cycling Shoes” Necessary? 

Cycling shoes are not necessary if you feel that your cycling performance is fine with regular shoes, such as a normal pair of trainers combined with flat pedals. All riders’ specific needs will be down to personal preference.

Cycling shoes and pedals are worth trying if you are curious but they are not for everyone. Some people may find them a little uncomfortable and comfort should be a main priority while riding. 

SOURCE: Pixabay

Are Clipless Shoes Worth It? 

Clipless shoes are arguably worth it due to the benefits of improved pedalling efficiency as the clipless systems allow for a better power transfer from rider to pedal in comparison to using a flat pedal and a normal shoe.

The improved efficiency comes from the fixed shoe position that allows you to pull up as well as push down on the pedals, which is something that is not easily achieved with a flat pedal and non clipless shoes, and helps you to go faster and/or further for the same amount of energy. 

Equally, the soles of clipless shoes tend to be stiffer than normal soles, aiding the the power transfer and thus efficiency. 

Are Clipless Shoes Good for Commuting? 

Clipless shoes can be a great addition for anyone commuting because there are many great commuting specific clipless shoes available that are a lot easier to walk in, while still giving you all the benefits of the clipless system.

Ultimately, who doesn’t want to ride faster and further for the same energy? Especially after a long day’s work when all you want is to get home ASAP!

Charlotte Broughton
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Charlotte Broughton

Since Charlotte was a young child, bikes have played a paramount part of her life. She races bikes, rides bikes and also loves writing about bikes. It’s always just been a way of life for Charlotte and a passion that she now loves to share with others. You can follow Charlotte on social media via: Instagram: @charbroughton Twitter: @char_broughton

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