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What should one look for when purchasing spin shoes?

I will mainly be using these for indoor spin classes and occasionally on a road bike.

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@MandyK - What type of biking are you doing and what sort of pedals do you have? The choice of shoes for a road bike will often be different than what one would choose for a commuting bike. And when you say "spin" shoes, are you talking about what you would get for a gym spin bike? – user313 Apr 21 '11 at 18:11
I would mainly be using these for indoor spin classes and occasionally on a road bike. – MandyK Apr 21 '11 at 18:15
I'm not sure if I would recommend them for spin classes. Because of your foot being locked to the pedal in an exact location, this will put a lot of wear and tear on your knee and ankle as you pedal. On your own bike, you could eliminate this by adjusting the pedal perfectly, but in the gym's stationary bike, it's unlikely that everything would be adjusted well enough. – Joel Spolsky Apr 21 '11 at 18:21
@Joel: All the adjustment is done on the cleat, not the pedal, so that makes no sense. – Mike Baranczak Apr 21 '11 at 18:27
Hmm. What about seat height? Maybe you're right there, and it is possible to get a cleat perfectly adjusted to a spin class cycle, but be honest... nobody does this, and they end up grinding up their knees. – Joel Spolsky Apr 22 '11 at 3:07

You would probably want a shoe that's designed for an SPD clipless pedal. In my experience most gym spinning bikes use an SPD type pedal. As long as your road bike has SPD pedals, you can use the same shoes.

I suggest going to a bike shop or outdoor store with a good selection of cycling shoes and try on a few pairs so that you get a good fit. Good fit is subjective, so that's why I say to try on a few. Mountain bike shoes are probably the best option. They look like sneakers and have SPD mounts. Also, the SPD cleats are recessed in the tread of mountain bike shoes, which makes walking more comfortable. In addition they work just fine for occasional road bike riding...that is as long as you have SPD pedals on your road bike...

Now that I think about it. It's possible that your gym spinning bikes are equipped with "Look" type pedals. If that's the case, you'll need a road shoe with cleats that match your road bike. I travel a lot and take spinning classes when I travel; and very rarely run into spin class bikes with Look pedals. So, odds are, you want an SPD compatible shoe.

For the typical spin class bike, you can adjust...

  • The seat height
  • The seat fore/aft position in relation to the handlebars
  • The handlebar height

Often, but not always, the spin bike will feature a double-sided pedal. Typically, one side is "strap in" and the other is quite often SPD cleated.

So, when you get to your spin class, make sure that the bike is adjusted correctly. For me, I try to duplicate my road bike as closely as possible. Otherwise, and especially if you're new to it, the spin class leader should make sure that you have made the correct adjustments on the bike.

And how to choose the shoes? Complicated? Not really. With the OP criteria, just get a pair of good-fitting mountain bike (SPD) shoes, and you'll be fine.

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Cycling shoes can clip (attach) to the bicycle pedals. I think there's a 'cleat' on the shoe and a corresponding socket on the pedal. There are several types/shapes of shoe/cleat, which need to match the type of pedal. So part of the answer is, "buy the type of shoe which matches the type of pedal". A common type of shoe/pedal is called "SPD". One advantage of this type (compared with some other types) is that it's possible/easy to walk in them, because the cleat is recessed into the sole of the shoe (some other types of shoe with an exposed cleat are apparently not easy to walk on; for this reason SPD is recommended to e.g. 'commuters' or 'mountain bikers' who may want to walk a little in their shoes).

When you buy shoes for your own bike you can buy the corresponding pedals (e.g. SPD). For a spinning class you may want to find out what type of pedals they have already and get corresponding shoes (assuming you can't change their pedals).

When I was buying mine, I was in the shoe section at the front of the bike store looking at the shoes on display. I told the salesperson that I'd heard it's good to get a shoe with a stiff sole (which distributes the force over the whole of the bottom of the shoe), at which he went and fetched a pair/style from their store room which wasn't on display, a Shimano M087, and recommended it. The first one I tried that's theoretically my size seemed just a little tight. I'd rather have a shoe too big and tighten it than a shoe too small which I can't loosen, so I asked to try the same but the next size up: and I've been happy with that. There's room for my toes, and it's easy to adjust the tightness.

The cleats are adjustable but I think have no 'float'. I did actually develop knee pain within the first 3 weeks (cycling 2 1/2 hours per day), due to a combination of several factors that wouldn't necessarily apply to you, for which I adjusted my seat height and the position of the cleats in the sole (and other things).

If you're going to use them on a road bike too, advice people gave me was:

  • Practice away from traffic until you've fallen a few times (because everyone falls, until unclipping has become automatic / second nature)
  • Practice in winter so that you're wearing a coat to fall on when you do fall

On my bike I chose pedals which clip on one side but not the other: so I can use them with ordinary shoes as well (not that I do) and I can ride with bike shoes but without clipping in (which I find very occasionally useful e.g. when the road surface is bad and I'd like to be able to put my foot down extra-easily in an emergency). I'm not strongly recommending a half-pedal of that sort, but they are available if you might find that useful.

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Perhaps not just 'can clip' but 'should clip': a) lets you pull as well as push, from which circular 'spinning' instead of linear 'mashing'; b) that uses more of your muscles; c) having your feet attached enables you to spin faster i.e. at a higher 'Cadence'. – ChrisW Apr 22 '11 at 16:49

Hoo boy, that brings back painful memories!

A couple of important things:

  1. Do a lot of practice on some super-soft lawn somewhere. The first few times you try to stop and realize that you can't get your foot off the pedal easily, you'll fall painfully. I did this a few times!

  2. Make sure that your seat and pedals are perfectly adjusted. Having your foot clamped onto the pedal can put a lot of pressure on your knee if everything isn't perfectly aligned.

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great point about practicing; cannot stress that enough.You may need to loosen the spring on your pedals which allows for an easier disengage. – fady Apr 21 '11 at 18:15
Or my patented maneuver - stop at lights, unclip right foot, turn around to look at something on your left, slowly fall over to the left, get laughed at. – mgb Apr 22 '11 at 3:03
I downvoted because your answer has nothing to do with the choice of shoes. – user313 Apr 22 '11 at 3:55
@wdypdx22 - True, but this question is fairly broad, and isn't specifically limited to choosing shoes. (I downvoted the question for that reason.) This answer covers some of the same ground that's in ChrisW's well-written answer that addresses some of the implied, related issues that someone getting shoes for the first time will encounter. – Neil Fein Apr 22 '11 at 17:00
@Neil - Fair enough. – user313 Apr 22 '11 at 21:00

Good fit. I purchased some semi-cheap shoes that initially fit well, but after some serious riding, my big toe was rubbing against the inside way to much, causing lots of pain. I went ahead and purchased a size bigger, which solved the problem. Also, check on the return policy, as Mike's Bikes in SF does not accept the shoes after installing the cleats, even if you have not left the store!

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