22nd December 2016. If someone asked you to name the equipment you need to use cycling for fitness, the answers you'd receive from most people would probably be relatively basic. Items such as a bicycle (obviously), a helmet, and perhaps some light or reflective clothing to remain visible would be the most likely choices for a mention. What about shoes, though? For most people who cycle casually or as a form of cardio exercise, regular athletic shoes are more than sufficient for the job. That's because you'll often be using regular flat pedals, the ones that came on your bike. However, the reality is that shoes can make a difference in your cycling experience. If you've ever looked at the shoes worn by professional racing cyclists, you've probably noticed they have a unique design. Instead of being like a regular shoe, they're designed to connect with the bike's pedals. These bikes feature what is known as clipless pedals, as opposed to the "cage" style pedal some other cycles use. There are some distinct advantages that cyclists can experience while using this combination of special shoes and pedals. However, it's not for everyone. When you're looking for ways to improve your cycling experience or to push yourself harder in training for a race, you may wonder if it's time to invest in some serious cycling shoes. Before you do, let's drill down and find out what really makes them worthwhile. Like anything, these shoes also have some drawbacks. We'll examine the pros and cons to each, and then ask the question: are they really worth your time? Let's find out.
The benefits of using cycling shoes
For the serious cyclist, there are many potential plus sides for switching away from flat pedals and wearing clip-in cycling shoes. Of course, that requires the desire to experiment. If you're up for it, though, consider what you could gain from using these shoes. The first question you probably have is: are they more comfortable? For most cyclists, the answer is yes. Why? When you clip your shoes into the pedals, you gain a lot of stability. That equates with comfort. Consider what it would be like to ride in very rainy conditions. With regular athletic shoes, it's not uncommon for your foot to slip and slide off the wet pedal. It's hard to find a good grip to use to push the pedals through each revolution. Not only does this waste a lot of energy, but it's not helping you work out, either. With cycling shoes, you'll feel directly connected to the bike. Even in the slickest conditions, you won't need to worry about losing your ability to pedal effectively. Speaking of better pedalling, you'll find that cycling shoes can assist you in that area as well. Once you get used to wearing them, you'll discover you can pedal with more power than with regular shoes. There are two reasons for this. First, cycling shoes require your feet to be in the best possible position on the pedal. Otherwise, they won't lock in, and you won't be able to move them. With these shoes, you're able to use a "lifting" action with your leg muscles to pull the pedal up and then back into the downstroke. Overall this equals a noticeable boost in efficiency. Naturally, this also means you'll waste much less energy on inefficient movements. Instead, you'll be able to convert much more of your muscle power into cycling power. Believe it or not, safety is a positive benefit too. You might not think so because you are locking your feet into the pedals. It's true that it can be difficult if you need to quickly dismount your bike, though you can quicken the process with practice. Even so, clipping in to your pedals with special cycling shoes allows you much greater control over the bike. Not only is it easier to avoid hazards by shifting the whole bicycle, but you can also better sense where you're going. When you need to swerve to avoid something suddenly, your feet will stay where they should be, right on the pedals. If you have the dedication to find more power and push yourself harder on the bike, cycling shoes can yield many of these benefits with practice. However, there are some other points about this footwear worth considering.
What are the drawbacks of special bike shoes?
Perhaps the most obvious "con" to cycling shoes is the fact that you'll need to purchase them in the first place. It's not just that you'll need the right shoes, though there's plenty of variety regarding shoes to sort through, too! You'll also need clipless pedals to go with them. Not only could this potentially represent a substantial equipment investment, but you'll also need to know how to change the pedals on your bike. If not, someone will need to do it for you. If all you want to do is keep on riding your bike as normal, making the switch to a particular cycling shoe could be more trouble than it's worth. We've already discussed the potential hazard presented by an emergency where you'll need to "bail" away from the bike. There's a learning curve when it comes to using the shoes as well. First, you'll need to learn how to "clip" in and out of your pedals. It can be difficult to learn how to do this comfortably while still maintaining your balance. Likewise, if you're coming to a stop, it can take lots of time practising to avoid getting stuck with your feet locked into the pedals. Everyone who's used cycling shoes knows what it's like to fall over sideways when you're still learning how to use them. For a casual cyclist or the individual who only hops on their bike a few times a week for some quick cardio, these drawbacks, while minor. can have an adverse impact on a fitness routine. It's important to maintain your level of comfort while cycling in order maximise its effectiveness. Therefore, before you make the decision on whether or not to try cycling shoes, you should consider all the information carefully.
Figuring out if cycling shoes are right for you
Do you like to spend time working on your bike, tinkering with things until it runs just right? You'll probably enjoy the experience of using cycling shoes. Do you find that flat pedals are simply the most comfortable way for you to ride? Then, by all means, stick with them! If you get your exercise over long distance rides, cycling shoes may be more trouble than they're worth for you. If you're planning to use cycling as a serious form of exercise or as your sport of choice, though, cycling shoes have a lot to offer. The mere fact that so many Tour de France participantsuse this combination of shoe and pedal speaks volumes as to its effectiveness. From improving your power output to giving you greater finesse in control, they're well suited to racing and road bikes. No rule says you must make the switch permanently, either. Plenty of cyclists ride with both regular and speciality cycling shoes depending on the day or occasion. You can, too, if you find they both suit your needs. Whether you choose two different bikes or you simply learn how to swap out your pedals quickly, this is certainly a solid option. It's hard to deny that these shoes are "worth it" for some cyclists.
Focus on your form no matter what you choose
Cycling shoes can help you develop more power, and can help you become more "in tune" with your bike. However, changing up your shoe and cycling style isn't for everyone. Consider carefully the things we've outlined, and don't be afraid to head down to your local bike shop and ask some questions. Speaking to someone with greater experience is always a good place to begin. In the end, the most important thing is to pay close attention to how you cycle. We've all got bad habits and compensations we make during exercise; no shoe can fix that on its own, even if it puts your feet in the right spots. However, with a thoughtful approach to how you exercise, you can always find ways to improve your form and ability. Whether that comes from changing your footwear or something else is ultimately up to you! Follow @SportNessUK