What Kind Of Shoes And Pedals Should I Get For Riding?

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Cycling shoes and clipless pedals?

What kind of shoes and pedals should I get for riding? This is a question which deserves more concern than it might get. In this discussion, I will not recommend any particular brand or style, but rather the process to make the decision.

First, there are a couple of questions:

  1. Is it important to be able to walk in the shoes?
  2. Are these primarily for casual riding, touring, or racing?

The clipless pedals and shoes have to work together as a system to connect the power plant (you) to the transmission (your crank). The connection should be secure enough that there is no slipping off of the pedals, or losing control of the bike. They also have to allow you to step off of the bike with no hesitation, to prevent zero mph falls. Few things are more frustrating and embarrassing as falling over in a parking lot or at a stop light, only because you could not get your shoes off of the pedals.

Let’s discuss the shoes. There is quite a range of available shoes for road riding. Their fit is as diverse as regular street shoes. Different brands are built around different lasts, or forms. This produces shoes with different shapes to the toe box, heel counter, and in step. What fits one person will not necessarily fit another whose feet measure the same length. So once your foot length has been measured, you can determine the metric size shoe which will probably fit. Even then, however, you should try on the actual shoe make and model before committing to the purchase.

Shoes can range from “ballet slippers” with cleats (racing only) to “combat boots” which also happen to mount cycling cleats. The more stiffness is built into the sole of the shoe, the more of your energy will get connected to the transmission. The more stiffness is built into the shoe, the less comfortable they will be to walk in. Racing shoes have soles which are slick and hard, designed solely for riding, not walking. These are great on the track where comfortable walking is really not a concern. Touring shoes will have a walking type sole with recessed cleats. There are sneakers built to mount cleats. There are even sandalsicon and clogs iconbuilt to mount cycling cleats.

Choose shoes that fit your intended purpose.

(Read more at The Ultimate Guide To Buying Mountain Biking Shoes)

Now, let’s discuss pedals. They come in three fundamental categories

    1. Shimano off road
    1. Shimano road
    1. Others

This is the case because Shimano virtually wrote a new standard with their Shimano Pedal Dynamics (SPD) system. Most shoes are built to be compliant with mounting cleats compatible with Shimano pedals. The group of “others” are also very good and perhaps should be considered, however, the lion’s share of the market has chosen to be Shimano compatible.

The Shimano off road group (SPD-M) has gained wide acceptance from the road cycling community for the simple reason that they are so user-friendly. Many, if not most, can be used on either side. The cyclist does not even have to look down to clip into his pedals. After a learning period, he can simply step down with his foot on either side of the pedal. Having found the pedal, he can clip in by feel and ride away with confidence, knowing that his shoes are well secured.

The Shimano road pedals (SPD-R), on the other hand, are clearly preferred by the racing community, because they offer better performance, with increased ground clearance, improved aerodynamics, and less weight.

The cleat mounting system on the SPD-M and on the SPD-R are different, and the shoes which will mount will generally not mount the other, so the choice of pedals and shoes should be made as a system.

Personally, I chose to do some research about which pedals were well liked by those who did the extensive rider tests. I found words like venerable, reliable and rock solid to be good recommendations for the Shimano M-747 pedals, (now superseded by the 858). I found (Shimano) shoes which were built for walking, in that they had a fully trodden sole and they also had a totally stiff sole. So it seemed like a good combination, considering that the shoes were not only affordable but available, not an easy feat for size 14. I sought out the pedals on Amazon and found some available. The above process has provided a shoe & pedal combination which is totally predictable, easy to clip into and with shoes which are perfect when the hill gets so steep that I need to walk.