How To Use Bicycle Shoes? [A Complete Guide]

How To Use Bicycle Shoes

Bicycle shoes are specially designed to facilitate cycling and improving the feet’ grip. Many people may prefer not to buy a pair of bicycle shoes and think that normal shoes would suffice. But this misconception gets washed away when they buy an acknowledged cycle. Only then do they realize how important it is to have specially designed riding shoes. 

However, even after realizing it, people fail to understand which shoes to use and how to use them properly. There are a lot of bicycle shoes types that you have to know and use accordingly as each has distinct features. As you understand the cycle type and shoes you need to have, you would also learn how to use them accurately.

Here, I would guide you on how to use different bicycle shoes and get the most out of them. So, get ready guys!

4 Tips On How To Use Bicycle Shoes:

Before you learn in detail about how to use bicycle shoes, I want to give you some basic tips that you must follow in order to use bicycle shoes effectively. 

So here are the four tips on how to use bicycle shoes:

1. Find The Cleat:

The first step for you is to find the cleat below the shoe in the outsole and see the pattern of it. It can have three or two holes. See the design of the cleat and only then you can go for the next step. 

Cleats are there for attaching your shoes to the pedals so that your feet don’t slip off the pedal and you can make more effective and strong pedal strokes. 

2. Align And Clip In The Cleat:

The second task is to align the cleat with the pedal. You have to find the place where the cleat would fit and then pull down the cleat into the clip. This is important to do perfectly. Otherwise, your shoes would fall off the pedals. 

Therefore, clipping in the cleats into the pedal is the next part to take care of. 

3. Pedal Forward:

You have to pedal forward first. As you clip in, your leg would be in a bent position putting the pressure on the pedal. Now, the first stroke has to be in the forward direction. Only then you would understand that your shoe cleats have fitted into the clip. 

Pedal forward and then your legs would go straight putting complete pressure on the pedals. Now, you would see your cycle moving forward. 

If you pedal backward, the cleats may get off the clips. So, make sure to pedal forward first and then you will be able to ride smoothly. 

4. Practice Clipping In and Out Before Riding:

It is important to practice clipping in and out before you ride your bicycle. Clip-in and out at least 25 times before you start your ride. If you are a new cyclist, you have to practice it every day so that you don’t face any accidents due to this. 

Clipping in and out is not so difficult if you understand the technique. Master the technique and you will be ready to go. 

3 Different Types Bicycle Shoes With Comparison Table:

Before going any further to learn how you should use bicycle shoes, let me show how you can differentiate between the three basic shoe types. It would help you to handpick the one you want and know the cycle pedal types too. Only then can you learn how to use them.

Here is the full comparison table among 3 different types of bicycle shoes:

ParametersRoad Cycling Bicycle ShoesMountain Riding Bicycle ShoesCasual Cycling Bicycle Shoes
Shoe Outsole TypeSmooth, lightweight, and curved solesGives a good grip for a better frictionSmooth Rubber Sole like sneakers
Shoe Sole QualityStiff and SolidSolid Usually soft 
Cleat TypeSticks out of the soleAttached into the soleAttached into the sole
Pedal TypePedal with three holes (Look, SPD-SL, and Time)Flat or Clipless pedal with two holesEither clipless or flat. Include holes if clipless

As you can see, the cleat, sole, and pedal types vary a lot between the three shoes. And if you want to learn about how to use bicycle shoes, you need to learn about them separately. 

So, let me guide you on how to use each bicycle shoe:

How To Use Road Cycling Bicycle Shoes? 

Road cycling shoes are the most common and popular riding shoes that people use for street cycling. These shoes are extremely durable with solid and compact outsoles. It is nowhere like a normal shoe with a rubber sole. It is distinctive and specially designed for cycling purposes. 

These soles make you put pressure on the pedal efficiently so that you can have a smooth high-speed ride. Remember that these shoes are not good for walking on the road as they have extended cleats that would make harsh sounds if you walk with them on. Also, you may even slip as it is very uncomfortable with such a sole. 

The cleats that extend out of the shoe are attached to the pedal of a clipless cycle. The irony is, though the name is clipless, it actually uses clips to attach the pedal with the shoes. Interesting, right?

Let me come back to the point. So, your shoes may have cleats with two or three holes. The standard road cycling shoes have three holes. You can remove these cleats and install them again before a ride. But how to attach the cleats to your cycling shoes? 

Here are the steps:

  • Wear the shoes and feel your feet ball inside the shoe. This is the area where you have to attach the cleat. It would help your strokes to be firm and easy. 
  • Place your feet comfortably on the pedal in the forward direction. Be easy. You must not feel any pain or discomfort. The feet should smoothly sit on the pedal. Now attach the cleats just under your feet ball in the outsole. The cleat is supposed to be straight on the pedal; not tilted or twisted. 
  • Now see that all the cleat screws are fastened tightly. As the cleat is straightly positioned down the outsole, you should firmly feel the cleat on your ball. Check if the cleat is moving or not. It should not rotate or move after joining it tightly with the sole. 

You are done with attaching the cleats to your shoes. But how to use or place them on the pedal? I am here to explain that to you. 

You would see clips on the pedal. You need to slide the cleat through the clips. You can see the clips (can be of three or two holes) on the pedal. Place your cleat over the clips and slide down to the forward direction and the cleats would be locked into the clips. You would feel that your shoes are now stuck into the clip. 

To unfasten the shoe, you have to rotate your heel area a bit and the cleats would come out of the clip. As you don’t twist your feet during cycling, there is no risk of the cleats detaching from the clip. Therefore, you get a secure and safe ride. 

Remember that different shoes have different cleats. Most shoes have Shimano cleats, but others may have Look or SPD-SL cleats too. Others have Time or Crankbrothers cleats. So, before you buy a riding shoe, check the compatibility of the shoe with your pedal type. 

How To Use Mountain Riding Bicycle Shoes?

In this category, you would find both clipless and flat soles. If you choose the clipless shoes, you would see two holes that are attached to the sole permanently. These cleats don’t stick out of the shoes and thus, you can comfortably walk with these shoes on. 

For mountain rides, long rides, and non-technical rides where you want to go for relaxation, ride, halt, and enjoy, these are the best shoes as you can both walk and ride smoothly with these shoes on. 

If you are buying shoes with cleats, you need to use them similarly as you do with a road cycling shoe. As the cleats are already there, you just need to push down the cleats into the pedal clip, and you are done. Check the bike pedal and see if it has two holes in the cleat or not. Only then, buy a mountain riding clipless shoe. Checking compatibility is necessary. 

However, if you are choosing shoes with a flat grippy and durable rubber sole, you would find a wide platform with a comfortable footbed area. The sticky and malleable rubber sole sticks strongly to the pedal and you can get off and on the bike easily as you don’t need to attach or detach cleats. 

The flat platform shoes are suitable for casual rides, trail rides, and fun rides where comfort and ease are the priorities. Mountain rides become more casual and effortless with these shoes. 

How To Use Casual Riding Bicycle Shoes?

As the name suggests, these are the shoes that you use regularly and casually for transport and short rides. These shoes are more or less like a sneaker with soft rubber soles. The only difference between a sneaker and a clipless casual riding shoe is that the riding shoes would have embedded cleats, while sneakers don’t feature any cleats. 

If your casual riding shoe, which looks normal and usual from the outside, has embedded cleats, it would be compatible with pedals having two-holes clips. The clips would hold the shoes in place. But remember that these are for casual purposes. The soles are not sturdy and you can only have casual rides even with the clipless design. These are good for roaming around the city, walking, and cycling, hanging out, and for short trips. 

If you choose a pair of flat sole shoes, they are also for casual riding and walking. These offer a good foot grip but won’t allow you to put hard pressure or stroke on the pedal. It would be the best for casual rides, a stylish look, walking, and roaming inside the locality or city. 

Both the clipless and flat designs are for casual usages. They are not as solid or stiff as mountain riding shoes or road cycling shoes. They are crafted distinctively for riding purposes, while casual riding shoes are for day-to-day rides and casual days. So, use them accordingly. 

How Should Bicycle Shoes Fit For The Best Uses? (5 Factors)

If your shoes don’t fit well to your feet, you can’t use them properly. To use the shoes comfortably, the first condition is to find a pair of shoes that fit you well. So, how should bicycle shoes fit your feet for the best use? 

Here are the 5 factors that you need to look into when selecting the right shoe size:

  1. Don’t choose a tight-fitted shoe. Your feet should go smoothly into the shoe. It should softly glide into the shoes and have enough room for your feet into the shoe. 
  1. Your toes must have enough room to move freely. If you can’t move your toes flexibly inside the shoes, you would feel suffocated and your toes can even become numb if your toes are pressured. This would hamper your cycling. So, your toes have to have enough space and room inside the shoes. 
  1. The footbed should be straight on the sole. The sole should feel soft and comfortable to your footbed and it should sit snugly on the sole. Your footbed should not be bent or feel stressed. Only then the foot grip would be the best. 
  1. The arch to the heel area should be supported well. If you feel strong enough after putting on the shoes, this is the right size for you. If your arch and heel don’t feel firm and safe, you should find a smaller size. 
  1. Your feet should not glide or move vigorously inside the shoes. If the shoe is loose on your feet, it is not the right size for you. If your feet slide and move with the shoes on, you can’t have a comfortable fit or ride. 

The best-fitting is when the shoe would snugly hold your feet. It would offer enough support to your footbed, heel, and arch, and make you feel confident and secured. Check the size chart carefully if you are buying the shoes online. 

How To Use And Maintain Bicycle Shoes Properly?

If you want to use bicycle shoes properly, you have to maintain the shoes too. Proper usage means proper care too. If you take care of the shoes, they would be long-lasting and more comfortable to use for a longer time. 

So, how should you take good care of your bicycle shoes? Let’s see:

Clean Your Shoes:

You must not let mud, dirt, water, or pollution settle on your shoes. Both the interior and outside of the shoes should be cleaned thoroughly after you see dirt on them. Even if you see no dirt, you should wash them at least once a month to get rid of the sweat stink.

Wash them with water and soap, and dry them well too. If you don’t dry the shoes properly after cleaning, the water would damage the internal crafting and make it weaker.

Therefore, to keep the crafting neat and proper, washing the shoes is necessary. 

How To Clean Bicycle Shoes?

Replace The Cleats:

People who are using cycling shoes with cleats must remember that cleats do wear out with time. Due to regular usage and gliding into the clips, the cleat holes would wear out and become less polished. Also, the lubrication of the cleat would reduce with time too.

Initially, the cleats glide smoothly inside the clips. But gradually, it would not slide into the clips effortlessly. You would struggle to fit the cleats into the clip when the cleats wear out. In that case, you have to replace the cleats with new ones. 

Go to the local cleat shop along with the shoes. The shopkeeper would find and match the right cleat to your shoes. As you already know how to fasten the cleats, you can attach them by yourself. But if it is a casual or mountain cycling shoe, let the professional attach the cleats to your shoes. 

These are the two factors that you have to consider for the best usage of your bicycle shoes. Only then you are using the shoes in the right way. 


I have provided a detailed note about how to use different bicycle shoes and how you must take proper care of the shoes. You have learned how to use the shoes in the right way. If you use the shoes properly, you will have a comfortable cycling experience. 

So, now I expect you would buy the right pair of shoes, use your bicycle shoes carefully, and get the best riding experiences.

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Shamim Ahmed

My journey with cycling started in 2011 and I have been cycling since then. I am a self-taught bicycle enthusiast who has collected a lot of knowledge about it through the years. On this blog, I share my passion and experiences with cycling, as well as insights and recommendations. This blog is also useful for any riders out there who want to improve their cycling skills and techniques.

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