Bike Shoes, Pedals, and Cleats Buying Guide

Bike shoes, pedals, and cleats buying guideBike shoes, pedals, and cleats… Oh my!

If you've decided you want to make the move to clipless pedals, but you're having a hard time figuring out which shoe is compatible with which pedal, we can help!

To get started, we'll explain a few terms…

A bike shoe is a shoe specifically designed for biking. The sole is stiffer than a regular shoe to transfer more power to the pedal. Clipless Pedals allow the shoe to attach to the pedal so they don't slide off. Cleats are the metal/plastic pieces (one for each foot) that bolt onto the bottom of the shoes and click or "clip" into clipless pedals. The bolt pattern is the number of bolts needed to attach the cleat to the shoe.

Bike shoes, pedals, and cleats must be compatible for road cycling

Bike shoes, pedals, and cleats must all be compatible for mountain biking

If you want to know why they are called clipless pedals, take a quick look at our Why Are They Called Clipless Pedals? article.

If you are looking for shoes for spin class at the gym, take a look at our Spin Class Bike Shoes Buying Guide article.

Everything—the bike shoes, pedals, and cleats—works together as a system, and so they must be compatible. You can start shopping with shoes or with pedals. If you have a good idea what pedal/cleat style you want (or already have pedals), skip down the the Pedal First Shopping Method. Otherwise, let's start with shoes.

Shoes First Shopping Method

Bike Shoes

Select what type riding you plan to doYour final shoe selection will come down to your personal taste, riding goals, and budget. We have designed our shoe category to help you narrow your choices and get to that perfect shoe faster.

  1. Go to the Bike Shoes section of our website.
  2. In the left navigation column, under Bike Shoe Type, select the type riding you'll do with these shoes. You can select more than one option. Play with it a little bit.*
  3. You can use the left navigation column to narrow your search some more: Men's Bike Shoes vs. Women's Bike Shoes, Manufacturer, Size, Color, etc.
  4. You can use the control in the upper-right corner to sort by price.

* Commuter shoes and BMX/dirt jump shoes will typically have the most casual styling. Tri shoes are designed for the demands of multisport events, where you need to get them on and off quickly and might not be wearing socks. Mountain bike shoes have the most traction so you can push your bike up a hill on loose terrain. Road shoes include aerodynamic shoes for racing and less expensive models for recreational riding.

Now that you've narrowed down the choices, read through the descriptions of the shoes you are interested in to learn about the features specific to that model. A very stiff sole is a benefit for racing, but a flexible sole is more comfortable if you'll be walking off the bike. Many shoes have simple, secure hook and loop closures. Some shoes use stylish laces. And other shoes use a knob to tighten a wire that weaves throughout the shoe and provides an all-over fit.

Cleats/Bolt Pattern

The bolt pattern makes your shoes compatible with some cleats and not others. Because cleats must match the pedals, you need to know your shoes' bolt pattern before you choose your pedals.

In the listing for your shoes, go to the Additional tab and make note of what it says for Cleat Bolts. Most shoes are either the 2-hole or 3-hole bolt pattern. However, some shoes will list both because the manufacturer has designed them to be compatible with both.

You need to know the bolt pattern of your shoes before buying pedals

If you are planning on mountain biking, make sure your shoes are 2-bolt compatible. If you are into (or getting into) triathlon or serious road biking, make sure your shoes are 3-bolt compatible. Bolt pattern is less strict for commuting and recreational riding; you'll find plenty of pedals to choose from in either pattern.

Your new pedals will come with cleats, so you do not need to buy them separately.

Pedals

You need pedals that are compatible with your shoesNow, all you have left to do is pick out your pedals. Our website is designed so you can find ones compatible with your shoes.

  1. Go to the Pedal & Cleats section of our website.
  2. In the left navigation column, under Pedal/Cleat Type, select Pedals.
  3. In the left navigation column, under Cleat Bolts, select the option(s) that match(es) your shoes.
  4. You can use the left navigation column to narrow your search some more: Color, Manufacturer, Cleat Style.*
  5. You can use the control in the upper-right corner to sort by price.

* Color is fun way to narrow things down. Cleat style is more functional. If you are working off a friend's recommendation or some reviews you have read, select that specific cleat style. It's common to not make a cleat style selection.

As you browse through the pedals, read the descriptions and make note of what features are important to you. Do you want pedals that shed dirt well for mountain biking? Would you like pedals with a platform on one side so you can wear regular shoes when you use this bike for errands? Do you want to be able to adjust how much force it takes to release from the pedal?

Pick the pedals that sound best to you. Because you narrowed the selection with the cleat bolt pattern, you'll have no trouble installing the cleats on your shoes when your package of bike shoes, pedals, and cleats arrives.

Pedal First Shopping Method

If you already have pedals, start at the Cleats/Bolt Pattern section below. If you simply know which kind of pedals you would like to buy, continue with the Pedals section here.

Pedals

If you know what cleat style you want, you can choose pedals firstSo, you have a pretty good idea of what kind of pedals you want, but you just want help finding them? You are in the right place. (If that's not you, try our Shoe First Shopping Method instead.)

  1. Go to the Pedal & Cleats section of our website.
  2. In the left navigation column, under Pedal/Cleat Type, select Pedals.
  3. In the left navigation column, under Cleat Style, select your favorite cleat/pedal interface.
  4. You can use the left navigation column to narrow your search by Manufacturer.
  5. You can use the left navigation column to narrow your search by Color.
  6. And you can use the control in the upper-right corner to sort by price.

Cleats/Bolt Pattern

Your new pedals will come with cleats. You will need to make sure you buy shoes that are compatible with those cleats. Fortunately, our site is designed to make this easy.

In the listing for your pedals, go to the Additional Information tab and make note of the Cleat Bolts and Cleat Style. You'll need the cleat style in the future to buy replacement cleats. You need the bolt pattern ("Cleat Bolts") right now to get the right shoes. Take this information and jumps down to the Shoes section below.

You need to know the bolt pattern of your pedals before buying shoes

If you already have pedals, you might not have cleats for them and will need to buy some.

  1. Go to the Pedal & Cleats section of our website.
  2. In the left navigation column, under Pedal/Cleat Type, select Cleats.
  3. In the left navigation column, under Cleat Style, select the style for the pedals you have. (If you need help figuring this out, give us a call.)

Shoes

The cleat bolts pattern is importantNow, all you have left to do is pick out your shoes. We've made it easy to find ones compatible with your pedals.

  1. Go to the Bike Shoes section of our website.
  2. In the left navigation column, under Cleat Bolts, select the number of bolts your pedals/cleats use. Any of these shoes will be compatible.
  3. You can use the left navigation column to select the type riding you will be doing under Bike Shoe Type.
  4. You can use the left navigation column to narrow your search some more: Men's Bike Shoes vs. Women's Bike Shoes, Manufacturer, Size, Color, etc.
  5. And you can use the control in the upper-right corner to sort by price.

Now that you've found the compatible shoes, read through the descriptions to learn about the features. Finally, pick the ones that appeal to you most.

Go Out and Ride!

We hope this explains everything you need to find compatible bike shoes, pedals, and cleats on our website, but you have any questions, let us know!

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Katherine is our Content Champion. She has done triathlons in the past, and now focuses on mountain biking and long-distance gravel riding. She still has a soft spot in her heart for weird multi-sport events like indoor triathlon and aquabike. She also teaches indoor cycling.

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