Clipless pedals are a key upgrade that can significantly improve cycling power, efficiency, and control compared to traditional platform pedals. However, they require special cycling shoes with cleats that lock into the pedals. Many wonder if normal everyday shoes can be used with clipless pedals, allowing you to test them out before buying cycling shoes.
The short answer is yes, you can ride clipless pedals with normal shoes under certain conditions. While not ideal for serious cycling, it allows you to experience the benefits of being attached to the pedals before fully committing.
This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about using normal shoes with clipless pedals:
Clipless Pedal and Cleat Systems Overview
Before getting into using normal shoes, it helps to understand the different types of clipless bike pedals and cleats:
Road Bike Clipless Pedals
- SPD-SL – Made by Shimano, common on road bikes. Very wide and thin profile, large cleat. Difficult with normal shoes.
- Look Keo – Popular road pedal with large cleat, moderate platform size. A bit easier than SPD-SL but still not ideal with normal shoes.
- Speedplay – Unique zero float cleat fits in pedal recess. Small amount of platform space, so also not great with normal shoes.
Mountain Bike Clipless Pedals
- SPD – Shimano’s MTB pedal system. Small 2-bolt cleats, moderate sized platform area. Easier for normal shoes than road pedals.
- Crank Brothers Eggbeater – 4-sided entry, smaller cleats. Recessed enough for normal shoe use. Float is fixed based on model.
- Shimano SPD Clip-In – SPD clip one side, platform on the other. Makes normal shoe use easier.
Touring/Commuter Clipless Pedals
- Shimano Click’r – Platform pedal one side, SPD clip-in on the other. Ideal for normal shoes.
- MKS Lambda – Large platform pedal with SPD on one side, strap over cage on the other. Great for normal shoes.
- Issi Flip – Double-sided pedal, clip on both sides with strap over cage. Versatile option for regular shoes.
- Eyelets – Toe clips and power straps added to some clipless pedals improve normal shoe stability.
So in summary, road bike style clipless systems are difficult to use with normal shoes, while mountain and commuter/touring styles are much more compatible.
Can Any Normal Shoes Work With Clipless Pedals?
While the clipless pedal systems make a big difference, the normal shoe you select also matters:
Shoe Features That Work Best
- Stiff sole – A firm rubber or synthetic sole transfers power better. Flexible soles sap energy.
- Grippy tread – Lugged or textured outsole provides traction when engaging the pedal. Avoid excessively slick materials.
- Low to moderate cushioning – Some cushioning helps but thicker soles reduce pedal feel and power transfer.
- Even platform – A uniform sole shape interfaces with the pedal better than irregular shoe bottoms.
Types of Normal Shoes Generally Compatible
- Athletic sneakers – Running, trail, cross training, skate shoes. Avoid highly cushioned styles.
- Hiking boots and shoes.
- Rain boots.
- Work/motorcycle boots.
- Casual retro or minimalist sneakers.
- Leather dress shoes or boots (not ideal but can work)
Problem Shoes to Avoid
- Excessively flexible shoes – Flip flops, slippers, ballet flats.
- Totally smooth soles – Dress shoes, running racers, eccentrically shaped soles.
- High heels.
- Oversized chunky platforms.
So optimal normal shoes will have stiff, grippy rubber soles in a moderate platform shape without excess cushioning.
Adjusting Clipless Pedals for Easier Use With Normal Shoes
Clipless pedals are designed to be used with cleated cycling shoes. But some adjustments can make them more accommodating for flat-soled normal shoes:
- Lower pedal tension – Turn adjustment screws to reduce cleat engagement force. This allows easier clip in/out with normal shoes.
- Add toe clips/straps – Helps keep normal shoes properly positioned on the pedal. Prevents feet slipping off.
- Angle cleats downward – Having cleat screws angled slightly down makes it easier to clip in with normal shoes.
- Use pedal washers – Thicker washers under the cleat plate can help reduce its height for a smoother transition on/off the pedal.
- File down cleat edges – Taking down sharp cleat edges and corners prevents them from catching normal shoe treads during engagement.
- Choose pedals with large platforms or cages like MTB and commuter styles. More space improves normal shoe stability and control.
These adjustments allow non-cycling shoes to work better with clipless pedals designed for rigid cycling cleats.
Step-By-Step: Riding Clipless Pedals With Normal Shoes
With the right pedal system and shoes, here is the process for riding clipless pedals with normal shoes:
- Position shoe over pedal – Place the ball of foot over the front of the pedal. Angling foot slightly can help.
- Apply downward pressure – Press down firmly, normally until you feel/hear the cleat engage. This may take more force than with cycling shoes.
- Rotate foot forward to lock in – Roll foot forward once cleat engages to fully secure shoe to pedal.
Tips: Use pedals with tension adjusted to lowest setting. Lean against wall or pole when clipping in to stay balanced.
- Twist heel outward – Rotate heel laterally to unclip rear of shoe cleat from pedal.
- Continue twisting foot to unclip front – Keep rotating all the way until shoe releases fully from pedal.
- Pull foot upward to detach completely – Lift foot upward off the pedal as you unclip.
Tips: Unclip cleat earlier than normal when stopping. Press down before unclipping to stabilize.
Practice clipping in and out smoothly in a controlled setting like a lawn before hitting roads. As with cycling shoes, clipping in/out becomes second nature with experience.
Tips for Safely Using Normal Shoes with Clipless Pedals
Switching to clipless pedals with any shoes takes practice. Here are tips to make the transition safer and easier with normal shoes:
- Start indoors or on grass – Clipping in/out on a trainer or grass prevents falls as you learn the motions.
- Add toe cages/straps – Keeps feet properly positioned and avoids slipping off when riding.
- Keep pedal tension low – Avoids stuck shoes. Improves engagement and disengagement ease.
- Choose stiff, grippy shoes – Prevents feet moving around. Allows applying enough pressure to clip in.
- Angle cleats downward slightly – Makes it easier to clip in normal shoes with cleats.
- Lean on something when clipping in – Helps you stay upright while getting shoes attached to pedals.
- Unclip well before stops – Don’t wait until the last second. Build in plenty of margin to avoid toppling over.
- Pedal/coast without hands – Keep hands on handlebars at first for stability until proficient clipping in/out.
- Stick to flat terrain initially – Get secure pedal control before hitting hills or uneven terrain that requires clipping/unclipping quickly.
And most importantly, wear a helmet and ride safely! Having feet secured takes time adjusting to.
When Normal Shoes Don’t Work Well with Clipless Pedals
While regular shoes can be made to work with most clipless pedal systems, there are some cases where cycling shoes with cleats are required:
Performance Cycling Situations Demanding Rigid Shoes
- Racing or training where maximum power transfer is critical.
- Any fast riding where you need to pedal/unclip quickly and control the bike at speed.
- Downhill mountain biking where loose shoes put you at major risk of crashes and injury.
- Long endurance rides where shoe support and efficiency is key to avoiding fatigue or injury.
Certain Riding Conditions are Difficult With Normal Shoes
- Severe terrain like technical mountain bike trails with roots, rocks and uneven terrain. Normal shoes lack the stability, grip and pedal control required.
- Muddy and slick conditions where lugged MTB shoes provide necessary traction normal shoes can’t match.
- Frequent start/stop riding where the ease of clipping in and out with proper shoes prevents loss of control at intersections.
So for any truly demanding cycling, stick with proper shoes and cleats matched to your pedal system. Casual riding is where trying clipless pedals with everyday shoes works fine.
Long Term Considerations of Using Normal Shoes
Occasionally using normal shoes with clipless pedals should not pose issues. But frequent, extended use can lead to some drawbacks versus cycling specific shoes:
- Premature wear on pedal – Grippy shoe treads can scrape off pedal platform finish over time much faster than smooth cleats.
- Reduced power transfer – Lack of rigid sole means more flex and energy absorption with each pedal stroke versus stiff cycling shoes.
- Decreased comfort – Softer normal shoe soles provide less support than stiff cycling shoes leading to possible foot or knee pain over time.
- Difficulty walking in cleats. The recessed cleats on cycling shoes make them easier to walk in than having bulky cleats exposed.
Frequent clipless pedal users are still best served by getting shoes designed specifically for the purpose long term. But trying them out with normal shoes is a great way to start.
Getting Started with Proper Cycling Shoes and Clipless Pedals
Once comfortable riding clipless pedals with normal shoes, purchasing cycling specific shoes with matched cleats is recommended to maximize performance, comfort and enjoyment. Here are tips for making the transition:
Selecting Compatible Components
- Determine your riding style – Road, mountain, commuting, etc. This helps narrow pedal and shoe choices.
- Consult local bike shops on best options – Their expertise can recommend the ideal pedal system and cycling shoes tailored specifically for you.
- Factor in price considerations – Cycling shoes range from $75 up to $400. Expect to spend around $150-$225 for a quality pair. Entry level pedals start around $30.
Getting the Right Fit
- Get professionally fitted – Proper cleat position and shoe that fits your foot anatomy is crucial for power and comfort.
- Consider aftermarket insoles – Added insoles provide more arch support and customized fit if needed.
- Start with lower cleat tension – Easier to clip in and out until the motions feel natural. Then increase tension gradually.
- Practice clipping in/out on a trainer first – Before hitting the road, spend time learning engagement/disengagement motions in a safe, controlled environment.
Investing in a proper set of cycling shoes and pedals tailored for your riding needs is highly recommended. But testing clipless pedals with normal shoes allows you to start experiencing the key benefits like improved power transfer and pedaling efficiency as you progress to dedicated cycling footwear when ready.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are combination pedals a good idea for using normal shoes?
Combo flat/clipless pedals allow easily riding normal or cycling shoes. They provide added versatility for those who want flexibility but do come with a weight penalty.
Is it bad for clipless pedals to use normal shoes occasionally?
Occasional use of normal shoes with clipless pedals is fine and causes little issue. Just avoid abrasive tread or extended everyday use to prevent excessive pedal wear.
Do stiff soled hiking boots work as well as cycling shoes?
Stiff hiking boots can work relatively well for casual riding thanks to their rigidity. But the lack of arch support or proper cleat adjustments make them less than ideal for any serious cycling.
What are the best commuter pedals to use with normal shoes?
Pedals like the Shimano Click’r PD-T8000 provide an SPD cleat on one side and flat pedal platform on the other, making them ideal for riding normal everyday shoes.
Should I start with mountain or road clipless as a beginner?
Mountain bike style clipless pedals are generally easiest for beginners to start with. The recessed cleat and platform cage provides more support when riding with normal or cycling shoes.
Riding clipless pedals with normal shoes allows you to get a feel for the improved pedaling efficiency and bike control before upgrading to full cycling shoes and cleats. With the tips provided, you’ll be pedaling your way to a smoother and more enjoyable cycling experience.