Shoes are a cyclist’s best friend, they come in a multitude of different shapes, sizes and colors and there’s a pair for everyone. The committed racer, the causal roadie, the off-road junkie and of course in this time of restricted outdoor movement, the indoor cyclists and spinners. However, although all those disciplines have a lot in common when it comes to shoes, there is also a lot that separates them. This article will show you these differences and explain the types of cycling shoes, cleats and pedals with a specific focus on spinning after looking at some spinning specific cycle shoes on the market today. This article is especially prevalent for those beginner cyclists who are looking to take the next step up in their cycling journey and enter the world of clipless pedals.
Best Men's Spinning Shoes for Spin Class
1. Santic Men’s Cycling Shoes
Santic have created a traditional cycling shoe for use on a spin bike. That means it looks, feels and performs like a standard road bike shoe but can also be used of course on any standard spin bike. So, Santic have created a shoe that will begin its life indoors but with the aim of transferring that pedaling energy outdoors on a road ride or touring adventure.
This is because Santic cycling shoes have a large cleat area that is compatible with all the different pedal and cleat types discussed above, so perfect for any stationary bike you may use at home or in a gym environment. Maximum comfort is provided by the anti-slip inside surface and robust buckle that works in unison with two Velcro straps. The breathability of a shoe is crucial for indoor cycling and this provided by vents and synthetic material. Certainly not as breathable as the more trainer style shoe on this list but the Santic has both the outdoors and indoors to think about. A minimalist camouflage aesthetic is not to everyone’s tastes, but you do have the choice of a grey, red or green accented design.
2. Tommaso Milano Men’s Spike Bike Cycling Shoe
If you like your cycling shoes to look as normal as possible, you will love the Tommaso Milano. At first inspection they just look like a pair of standard trainers, that is until you flip them over and see the recessed two bolt cleat area, ready to take any SPD. As noted above, if you’re using a Peloton® bike that comes with three bolt cleats as standard, you will need to invest in some SPD pedals and swap them over on the bike.
This not only makes them stylish but functional too as you can stroll around in them without stumbling about like Bambi on ice. This recessed cleat is coupled with a flexible sole makes the Tommaso Milano as competent a trainer as it is a cycling shoe. As a result, it is not only ideal for spin classes but for commutes too. The shoes are topped off with a classic looking lace system that they say offers precision fit and will firmly hold your foot in place for maximum comfort. These shoes are the perfect starter kit for beginners who are keen to enter the clipless pedal club.
3. Giro Berm Men’s Cycling Shoes
The Giro Berm acts as a sort of hybrid of the Santic and Tommaso Milano shoe. It takes a pinch of the performance elements of the Santic and marries it with a pinch of the comfort and style of the Milano. The Berm ignores the buckle or lace closure system and instead opts for two robust and practical Velcro straps that are convenient and easy to use. The recessed cleat bolts are ready to take any two-bolt cleat as standard so are perfect for all type of SPD.
The top surface of the shoe is made of a durable synthetic fibre and mesh that allows for plenty of toe movement and breathability when the efforts ramp up. A reinforced heel and toe, rubber outsole and an aggressive tread pattern means that the Giro Berm acts as well off the bike than on it. Once again, bold and all-inclusive designs lead the way here. You have the pick of an all-black with red logos colorway or a slightly more eye catching black and citron green style. These features mean that Giro have gone for practicality over anything else with the Berm and this results in a shoe that is perfect to just chuck one you need to use it on the indoor trainer.
Best Women's Spinning Shoes for Spin Class
1. Louis Garneau Women’s Multi Air Flex II Bike Shoes for Indoor Cycling
Louis Garneau have created a shoe that just screams cycling performance when it comes to their Multi Air Flex II, and this can of course be extended to spin class performance as well as on and off-road quality. Like so many in this roundup, this is a versatile shoe that adapts well to both indoor and outdoor pursuits. A roomier fir than its predecessor, the shoe is slightly wider which allows for a little more comfort as three hook and loop straps hold you in place.
Louise Garneau have put a lot of thought into their breathable design and aim to prevent your feet from overheating at spin class thanks to its synthetic leather and mesh upper and ventilated insole for ample airflow. The shoes are SPD ready and are flexible for walking thanks to its nylon and fiberglass composite sole that flexes at the toe and supports the heel while walking. The ‘Multi’ in Multi Air Flex II may well refer to the multitude of different patterns and colors that Louis Garneau have released this shoe in. Colorways include navy, asphalt grey, black and pink, magenta, turquoise and grey and neon yellow. Unlike the men’s styles, they don’t hang around when it comes to design.
2. Tommaso Terra 100 Women’s Spin Shoe
The Terra 100 Women’s proves that Tommaso can create a fantastic looking performance shoe as well as their urban style Milano highlighted in the men’s shoe section. Tommaso directly aim this shoe at spin class riders and say that the shoe will both help you step up your game and make sure you look great whilst doing it. SPD ready with a recessed cleat area which means when you get back to the gym there shouldn’t be much bother in transit from your car or the changing room.
The performance element comes thanks to the stiff fiberglass reinforced sole which allows you to ride longer and further whilst using less energy. In spin class, this means maximized power transfer and less hitting the wall. Although all this stiffness sounds uncomfortable, Tommaso reverse this with a good amount of padding in all the important areas so that your feet aren’t uncomfortable when you’re pedaling hard. Three straps and synthetic mesh finish the shoe off and hugs your feet for all day comfort. These are also great mountain bike shoes so are pretty rugged and robust. As a result, they are not as breathable as the Multi Air Flex II or Slipstream but are perfect if you’re looking for a multi-use shoe.
3. TIEM Slipstream – Indoor Cycling Spin Shoe
Arguably the best-looking shoe of the lot, the TIEM Slipstream’s are ideal for indoor cyclists who value style and comfort above all else. On first look, you’re more likely to categorize these as running trainers rather than cycling shoes, but the sole gives the game away and it is surprising to see the 2-bolt cleat system in such a lightweight pair of shoes. Compatible only with SPD’s, the recessed plate means that even with a cleat attached, they are still act as lightweight easy walkers.
The athletic nature of these shoes isn’t for everyone though, especially riders who are used to a little more support and structure. A soft upper with plenty of mesh, these shoes deliver big on breathability. Convenience and style are at the heart of these shoes and with a single strap it’s easy to see why they are simple to slip-on and off. The Slipstream avoids the slightly lazy women’s industry standard of “let’s just make it pink or light blue,” and offers a range that includes blue and yellow, black, navy, grey and deep red colourways. TIEM have seemingly created a shoe that is not alien to the beginner spin cyclist and is not over packed with specifics like BOA dials and rigid soles. As a result, these are the best bet for new riders who only need them for their spin class. It is important to note that TIEM recommend you choose a half size down from your normal shoe size for an optimal fit.
Types of Cycling Shoes
Road Bike Shoes
Road cycling shoes don’t look like your standard sports shoe. They have a low profile and streamlined design, often with a mesh top for ventilation. They have rigid soles for maximum power transfer and efficient pedaling. The main identifying factors can also include straps, buckles or BOA cord lacing, aimed to fasten your feet in place, on the top of the shoes and cleat compatibility on the bottom (we’ll come to this). There are about as many different road shoes as there are types of road cycling, so the range is pretty vast. They are the ideal spin class compatriot if you are particularly performance conscious.
Mountain Bike Shoes
Mountain bike shoes are the complete opposite to these streamline road shoes and can be categorized more obviously by their more functional looking design. This includes lugs and grips on a sole with an aggressive tread which allows the shoes to be competitive both on and off the bike. They also have a different cleat system than road shoes which means they only take two-bolt SPD’s and not three-bolt cleats (but again more on that next), and are usually made out of slightly tougher, more water resistant materials as they are more likely to be splashed with mucky spray and mud when used out on the trails.
Like road shoes, there’s a large range of different styles with some designs suiting the more practical rugged rider and others that are slightly more trainer like for casual riders or style conscious downhillers. This means that you can not only get summer mountain bike shoes with lots of ventilation but also shoes with very minimal ventilation and thermal liners that are more akin to winter walking boots. If you are looking for true versatility and comfort not just for the spin class, mountain bike shoes are your best bet.
City/Urban Bike Shoes
The city, urban sector encompasses a wide array of cycling shoe that essentially takes elements from mountain and road bike shoes and then mixes them with a more practical everyday design and functionality. Overall, they are probably closer to mountain bike shoes than road shoes but serve a very different purpose to their off-road siblings. They are made to be efficient for both cycling and walking as they most commonly used in towns and on commutes. These are shoes that are practical but also don’t look out of place when you lock up your bike and go about your errands. If you want to look good and feel comfy whilst at the spin class, these are the shoes to look at.
Women’s Bike Shoes
Women’s specific cycling shoes can be road, mountain and urban shoes and will offer all the same features as the types already mentioned but with a better fit for female cyclists. This means a narrower heeler and slightly less space between the sole and the upper. Apart from these subtle differences they are basically the same as their male equivalents, but it is important to note their characteristics before we get on to the product roundup later on.
Sizing is also huge factor here. Every brand uses a different sizing chart that does not necessarily match with the numbers listed. This means that a 48 in one brand could be a 50 in another brand. Plus, as you will have no doubt just noticed, cycling shoes follow the centimeter informed European shoe size guide rather than the inch led UK/US size guide. This means that it is best practice to properly measure your foot length and width and match them to the different brands conflicting size guides, before you dive headfirst into Amazon’s cycling shoe section. So be prepared to maybe go up or down a size in relation to your standard everyday shoes.
Types of Pedals
There are a wide range of different pedals and pedal systems but to keep your mind from being completely overloaded with the huge range of sub-types we will just focus on the four main ranges as a whole.
The most instantly recognizable pedal system there is, flat pedals are the first type any rider learns to master and are super easy to use as you can just take your foot off without any resistance. The biggest pro is that you can wear any footwear imaginable. The main issue with these pedals however is when it comes to any type of performance is that you lose full power of the pedal stroke on the upstroke as you are not attached to the pedal, this will quickly result in a loss of power. Of course, we all have tall tales to share of getting whacked in the shins by a flat pedal which often resulted in quite the bruise.
After flat pedals, next comes old faithful, the toe clip pedal. Used for generations up until the invention of clipless pedals, you may still use this style at the gym or your local spin class. The strap holds your foot in place and simulates a clipless pedal but there is still quite a lot of lateral movement so not totally the best for spin classes. A great place to start but not to end.
When you naturally progress through the pedal ranks you will eventually end with the trusty clipless pedal, a daunting system at first but one when mastered will quickly revolutionize your cycling. You get mountain bike, road and hybrid systems but they essentially all work the same way, a specific pedal design that marries with your cleat to more or less (more on that later), keep your feet in the same position, when you pedal. There are a huge plethora of different designs and styles in both the road and mountain bike systems, but the basics remain the same, a spring mechanism on the pedal that allows you to clip the cleats on your shoes in and out of the pedal.
Clipless pedals allow for a full range of motion and which in turn activates more muscle groups on your pedal stroke which results in more efficient pedaling and power transfer and thus greater forward propulsion. You can get double-sided SPD clipless pedals for mountain biking and cyclocross or the more traditional one-sided style like the Look system that most road riders will start off on. There is also the round double sided Speedplay style which are perfect for riders who experience knee pain as there are many points of adjustability. When it comes to spin class, clipless pedals are the best ones to use as they maximize performance and make sure you’re using all the necessary muscles groups. If you use any of the other pedals listed, you will not get the result you are looking for out of the spin class.
These pedals combine all the perks of the clipless and flat pedal system into one neat package. This allows for flexibility to decide which footwear to go with, so this system is perfect for commuter cyclists. However, they are pretty weighty so don’t use them if you don’t have to, for example on an indoor trainer.
Types of Cleats
After looking at the types of pedals it is obvious that for spin class cycling your best bet is probably clipless pedals. We now have to look at how they actually work with the cleats and the different types of cleats there are. Not all clipless pedals can be ridden with every type of cleat, so it is important to know the differences before you try and jam your three-bolt cleat into an SPD pedal.
Two Bolt Cleats
This cleat system is used most effectively with double-sided SPD pedals. These types of cleats are the best for clipless novices as you don’t have to worry about what side your pedal is on. A small metal cleat attached to the shoe plate via two bolts clips in with the corresponding pedal surface. They are often used with off-road shoes or hybrid shoes as they are small and can be recessed into the tread, making it easier to walk when you’re off your bike. Shoes that take a two-bolt cleat will have a plate in the sole of the shoe usually accessed via two vertical channels. The plate will have four holes in it so don’t get confused, this is just for maximum adjustability of the cleats position. Two bolt cleats like an SPD are ideal for beginners to learn to clip in and out of.
Three Bolt Cleats
The three-bolt cleat system is used for road cycling and is much larger than the two-bolt cleat. They are easily identifiable as you can’t walk – comfortably at least – on a two-bolt cleat as they are not recessed. As a result, many café car parks resemble a tap-dancing class on a standard Sunday morning. A large plastic cleat attaches to your shoe via three holes. The corresponding shoes are easily identifiable as they are usually the more sleek and rigid design as mentioned earlier and will have three or even five holes in the base of the sole. Unlike two bolt cleats, this system is only one sided so you must work out the correct orientation before clipping in. As they are larger, they are more stable and as result enhance your power transfer and performance. For spin classes, these are the gold standard pedal, with a little practice of course. It is important to note that Peloton® bikes pedals are only three-bolt cleat ready so adjustments will have to be made before use if you wish to use an SPD two-bolt cleat instead.
Four Bolt Cleats
Four bolt cleats are far less common than the other two systems but work in unison with the Speedplay pedals previously mentioned. Luckily, you don’t need to worry about getting the correct shoe to match this cleat as they come with adaptors to convert two/three bolt systems into a Speedplay friendly four bolt cleat system. Whereas the other pedals rely on the pedal platform for power transfer, four bolt systems rely on the cleat itself, so you have to be particularly thorough in looking after the cleat as it is integral to your pedal stroke. Like the two-bolt system they are double-sided, so they act as a sort of best of both worlds, if not a little bit more high maintenance.
How to Clip-In
Clipping in can be a daunting experience but with some practice, you will master it in no time and the process will become second nature. Of course, it’s not so daunting if you are just using clipless pedals with a stationary spin bike as you’re not exactly going to go anywhere if you have an issue, but if you ever want to use them outside, it’s best to master them on a standard bike first. All cyclists fall over the first time they use clipless pedals, that’s just a fact so be prepared for that. As a result, it’s probably best to practice first in your garden or in a park where there’s a soft landing.
People tend to topple over because at first the process is unnatural and new cleats and pedals can be a little stiff. As you have no doubt noticed, there are many different shoe, pedal and cleat systems but luckily the process of clipping in and out is one thing the manufacturers all agree on. Clipping in is simple, just push your foot forwards and down onto the pedal until the cleat goes into place. Your foot will then stay in the same position until it is time to clip out. With most systems you clip out by twisting your heel outwards, the cleat is then released from the pedal and your foot is free. At first, this can be quite difficult as there are a lot of things to think about and you tend to have a little bit of a mental block but trust us, you will be an expert in no time.
What is Float?
Float is a little bit of pedal jargon that refers to how much movement the ball of your foot has directly over the center of the pedal when you are clipped in. More float means more rotational movement when you are clipped in. You may see float charts when coming across new pedals and cleats and these refer to the exact degree of movement the pedal has to the left and right when you’re clipped in. Float is important to take into consideration if you know that you have an over pronating/supinating foot. If you have this issue you will want to find a pedal system that has less float as it will stabilize the movement.
If your foot is a little more neutral, any float goes as your foot will naturally stabilize in the pedal. Float isn’t just something riders who have these issues should take into account though, a fixed float is better for performance but can result in long term knee strain, therefore for most spin class riders, a bit of float is best. Seemingly, as with most things in the cycling world when it comes to geometry and comfort, too much and too little float can be an issue. Too much float means your body will use extra energy to stabilize your foot whereas too little float results in your knee absorbing the extra natural movement that your leg wants to use. Simply, the best way to work out the right amount of float for use on your spin bike is through trial and error. Either change out the cleats or readjust the cleat.