BicycleSource Newsletter

In cycling the use of proper equipment and correct technique is essential for comfort, safety, performance and injury prevention.

The use of appropriate shoe gear when cycling cannot be overemphasized. Whether you are a recreational or serious cyclist, you should wear a stiff-soled cycling shoe with a cleat. When your foot is on a bike pedal, it is perched on the ball of the foot, and the stiff-soled shoe will help support the heel and the arch. This will result in increased efficiency and help prevent injury by allowing the power from your legs to be transmitted to the pedals wihout placing undue stress on your foot. There are models appropriate for cyclists of any level, from touring shoes which are comfortable for walking and are inexpensive, to models geared towards the competitor. In addition, you should use bike shoes with cleats. The cleats secure your shoes to the pedals allowing you to pedal more efficiently. Some cleats are free floating and allow your foot to rotate and assume its natural in or out toed position while others are adjusted with screws. Have someone at your bike shop experienced in cleat adjustment to assist in your set up.

Aside from the lack of support that a non-cycling shoe provides, shoes such as cross-training, aerobic, running or court shoes are typically made of thicker soles, causing them to fit improperly on the pedal, and wider heels will hit both the crank arms and chain stays, requiring you to ride with an unnatural, in-toed position. If your cycling is limited to 20-30 minutes, three times a week on a stationery bike in a gym, you probably don't need to run out. However, if you have flat feet or over-pronate (feet collapse inwards), and have knee problems, you too should ride with a stiff-soled shoe. Cyclists of any level who over-pronate may need the additional support that only an orthotic can provide, particularly if they have been experiencing knee pain despite proper training and bike adjustments.

Maintaining high RPM's with low resistance (referred to as 'spinning') is the key to correct pedaling technique and will enable you to ride further with less fatigue and strain on the joints and muscles. Cleated cycling shoes will keep your foot in contact with the pedal allowing an efficient high RPM spin. Instead of focusing on how fast or far you are riding, you should try to focus on maintaining a cadence of 80-90 RPM's whilst staying within your target heart range, adjusting the gears accordingly to maintain this cadence. Also try to maintain a smooth pedal stroke ("pedal in circles"). In other words, don't just "mash" down on the pedals during the downstroke, neglecting the bottom of the stroke and the upstroke (the cleated shoes will help here). Spread the energy utilized throughout the stroke.

This should provide a brief overview of some of the key elements in comfortable, safe and injury-free cycling. If you have any questions or desire additional information, please contact me.

By Dr. Ehrenberg,, who specializes in sports medicine, is on Bicycling Magazines fitness advisory panel and has treated many top bicycle racers.
Post a Comment
3 comments posted so far.
Posted By: Bubba on November 18th, 2009
This article argues that stiff soled shoes with cleats is the only way to ride safely. Yet the article is topped with a banner image of a world famous bicycle race in which most competitors use flexible soled shoes and none use cleats.

The foot needs adequate support, which can come from the shoe or the pedal. The foot should be positioned correctly on the pedal, which can be achieved through a mechanical interface or you can put your foot in the right spot. Keeping it there while pedalling is a learned technique. Mechanical restraints are another way to achieve that. I'm sure there is a wrong way to walk, but doctors don't tell all walkers to wear an exoskeleton to force them to walk correctly. There are many wrong ways to hold a golf club, but you learn to hold it right. People can learn to use a bike correctly.

Cleats and cycling shoes have benefits, but they are not the only way to use a bicycle correctly, efficiently and without injury. Cycling shoes and cleats are not necessary to avoid injury, and plenty of cyclists experience injury from these items. The true solution is more complex than this article suggests.
Posted By: Eddie on September 19th, 2008
Hello Newish Cyclist:

You can actually take a multipurpose pedal like the "Shimano PD-M324 - Multipurpose Pedal" on the same page you linked to and simply attach a toe clip to it.

One side of those pedals is just a normal pedal you can use with normal shoes. You can see in the side of the pedals there is a slot on each side where the toe clip strap goes through, as well as a hole on the front where the plastic part of the toe clip will go through.

Good Luck!
Posted By: Newish Cyclist on September 18th, 2008
Maybe you can answer this question which I have as yet not been able to get answer to. Spin bikes in the gym frequently have a wonderful combo-type pedal which allows for riding with cleat/clip type shoes and regular workout shoes (that don't have clips). There's a cage on one side for riding with regular shoes and the other side of the pedal has the clip/cleat type system for using with those special shoes. I want this sort of pedal system for my road/touring bike. I have searched and searched and asked the spin teachers and trainers at the gym I use plus I've asked at REI and nobody seems to tell me whether or not such a pedal mechanism is available for road/touring/et al bikes (vs. spin bikes). Do you know whether such a thing exists and would this ( - see the "Pedal & ToeClip Set" listed here) be equivalent to those Spin pedals?

Thank you very much for any help you can provide on this.