Can I use normal shoes on clipless pedals?

While technically it is possible to ride a bike that has clipless pedals with your normal shoes (depending on the type of clipless pedal you’re using), it’s not recommended. So let’s take a look at the reasons for this…

Why can’t I use normal shoes with clipless pedals?

In case you’re not already aware, clipless pedals are designed for special shoes, that have a metal mechanism, or cleats, in the sole which clicks into the pedal mechanism, securing the two together, until you rotate your foot to detach your shoe from the pedal so you can put your foot down on the ground for instance.

Some clipless pedals are almost solely comprised of the mechanism itself, and so are virtually impossible to ride with regular shoes balanced on the pedal.

Other types do have some amount of flat pedal platform around the clipless mechanism, some including a decent amount of protruding metal for grip also – though very rarely if ever do they include an array of incredibly sharp and grippy grub-screws like the most popular mountain bike flat pedals do.

They’re really designed this way with a bit of a platform around the clipless mechanism to allow you to get a few pedals in even while unclipped (either intentionally, or accidentally), and are not intended to be ridden any real distance, or over real rough or high speed terrain while unclipped.

It is also worth considering how wet conditions can impact your riding, if your shoes are slipping and sliding around on the clipless pedals – and likely slipping right off at the least beneficial moment when you’re riding down the trail. This is almost certainly going to result in a bad time.

Clipless pedals also usually have a much smaller surface area than flat pedals, and so even if you CAN ride with regular shoes on them, they’re not going to be at all comfortable for any length of riding time.

It is worth noting that you can get hybrid pedals that are clipless on one side, and a flat pedal on the other, so you can pick and choose.

Personally I wouldn’t want to ride these as when you’re mountain biking with flat pedals sometimes you’re going to either lose your footing momentarily, or need to dab a foot down or something, and you want to know that the instant you find your pedal with your foot again, that you’re good to go, without having to muck around trying to rotate the pedal to the correct side for what you’re needing.

What are the benefits of using cycling shoes with cleats with your clipless pedals?

Wearing actual cycling (or mountain biking) specific shoes that have the cleats in the soles allows you to clip in to the pedal securely, and gives you better power transfer, pedaling efficiency, and control of the bike regardless of how rough the terrain you’re riding over is.

While I typically ride flat pedals while mountain biking, I wouldn’t want to try and ride with clipless pedals even using my very tacky soled mountain biking shoes designed for flat pedals, as the connection just won’t be nearly as dependable as either flats OR clipless setup.

The bottom line regarding clipless pedals and shoes….

Just pick one or the other, clipless or flats – and use the right shoes for the pedal type you choose – and get out and shred those trails, knowing that your feet are going to be connected to those pedals when you need them to be!

(Shout out to all the scars in my shins and up the back of my calves!)