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I am looking at buying a pedal/shoe system as the clips and straps I am using are hurting my feet again.

It's been a long time since I have bought a road pedal / shoe system, and I have forgotten the differences between SPDs, Look pedals and all the others.

Can someone give a short comparison of each pedal system with pros and cons of each? My usage is/will be mainly city street cycling and then road cycling (recreation, not racing).

I'd prefer if people would give the pros and cons of each and not their opinion on the "pedal system war". :) However, "I use them because I find XYZ and it helps in ABC ways" is very useful.

Thanks in advance.

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4 Answers

up vote 18 down vote accepted

First up, I'd strongly recommend switching to clipless pedals. I had the same discomfort issues you're describing with normal shoes and toeclips and find clipless pedal so much more comfortable and secure (therefore safer).

When comparing and evaluating clipless pedal systems, some of the more important attributes are:

  • Float - This is the property where the foot can swivel on the pedal while clipped in. Some pedals allow the float to be adjusted independently of the tightness, while other pedals have only a single adjustment for both. Also, see this answer.
  • Ease of entry - Some pedals require the pedal and cleat to be lined up carefully before the cleat can clip in. Others are orientation agnostic and a good stomp is usually enough to engage the cleat.
  • Compatibility with shoes - Most shoes have either the 2 bolt SPD pattern (typically mountain bike and more casual style shoes) or the 3 bolt SPD-SL pattern (typically lighter and more stripped down road shoes)
  • Availability - How easy it is to buy parts, cleats and pedals.
  • Surface area - The size of the contact point on the shoe. This can make a difference in how evenly the pressure of the pedal is distributed to the foot.
  • Walkability - How easy it is to walk while wearing the shoe with the cleat.

These attributes for a number of different brands are compared in the table below. Table of comparison

Shimano SPD

The most common style of commuter and mountain bike pedals.

SPD Pedal SPD Cleat

Shimano SPD-SL

The most common form of road bike pedals

Shimano SPD-SL

Look Keo

The first popular road bike clipless pedal.

Look Keo

Speedplay

The speedplay pedal is becoming more popular with many professional riders now using it. One advantage is that there are no moving or wearable parts on the pedal, providing exceptional durability.

Speedplay pedal and cleat

Time Atac

The Time Atac is another mountain bike style pedal

Time Atac

Time equipe

Time equipe is the road shoe style Time pedals

Time equipeTime equipe cleat

Crank Bros Eggbeaters

Crank Bros Eggbeaters are commonly used on mountain bikes where their simple design is good at shedding mud. There is some question about the durability of the bearings, however replacement kits are available, making these pedals more repairable.

Crank Bros Eggbeater Crank Bros cleat

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I'm sure I've missed some pedal styles, and pros/cons. Feel free to edit the question or leave comments and I'll update it. I don't have any experience riding anything other than SPD and SPD-SL so other input welcome –  Mac Apr 30 '12 at 2:07
    
@OMGPonies thanks for the comments. I've updated to include the eggbeaters and a short description up front. Are you sure eggbeaters are compatible with SPD? I can't find a source for that eg: answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20101117130226AA8XIvB –  Mac Apr 30 '12 at 3:36
    
Good answer, but I would add Look Keo system to your list. Where I am, far more popular than Crank Bros or Time. –  prototoast Apr 30 '12 at 6:04
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A complete review would discuss the "walkability" of each style. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 30 '12 at 10:38
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Great answer post @Mac. I wish I can give you more up votes. :) –  milesmeow May 6 '12 at 20:00
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The Look Keo's are very popular, but until recently they had a problem in gritty areas, because the contact edge would erode quite quickly. Newer versions have a metal strip added there, so look for that if this is an issue.

I'm currently riding Mavic pedals very similar to the Looks, but I wouldn't recommend them. The cleats wear twice as fast as my old, pre-Keo Looks, and they seem to be harder to clip into than others I have used.

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As a large rider, I personally prefer Look pedal systems, as they have one of the larger platforms to connect my feet to the pedals. (SPD-R, and Speedplay potentially are getting closer in size).

The classic SPD is nice on Mountain Bikes, as it hides nicely in the shoe sole (which Look most definitly does not) and you can walk in them off the bike.

Speedplay where most of the hardware is on the shoe, and the pedal itself is simplistic is also pretty good.

Then there are the less common systems like Crank Brothers Egg Beaters and the like which focus on easier entry/exit.

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One important point is that you can walk with relative comfort with the "mountain" SPDs (and compatible shoes), and you don't tend to seriously wear down the cleats or scar floors doing so (though still stay off of nicely finished floors with them). The others are not generally "walkable". –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 30 '12 at 1:18
    
@geoffc ask Daniel asked the question - are Look pedal shoes "easy" to walk in? Could you ride to work and then walk around the office/school in them for 6-7 hours? Leaving aside if they looked weird or not - I am more concerned with function at the moment. Thanks. –  Bernard Tyers Apr 30 '12 at 7:46
    
@BernardoNeumaticos I would NOT walk around in Look shoes. You look like you are in high heels, and will go slip sliding around and probably kill yourself if you try to wear them all day. I can walk with them, holding a bike for balance. But I do not walk in them much... –  geoffc Apr 30 '12 at 18:18
    
Hi @geoffc thanks. Do you know if Looks are any "worse" than walking in SPDs? From memory they are ok to walk in for a few hours. –  Bernard Tyers Apr 30 '12 at 20:38
    
@BernardoNeumaticos Looks are WAY worse than SPD (small ones) assuming the SPD shoe has them recessed. I do not know about SPD-SL (Or SPD-R) but I imagine they must be the same, since they too cannot be recessed in the sole. –  geoffc May 1 '12 at 2:11
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I ride about 2500 miles per year, mostly road.

At one time, I used SPDs (Shimano SH-51), but I got knee pain from a misaligned cleat. In addition, I prefer to ride with my feet slightly pronated (heels in, toes out, like a duck), so I felt like I wanted more float from my cleats. SPD cleats offer around 5 degrees of float. Too, the shoes I had for SPDs were not stiff enough in the sole, so I was getting hot spots on longer rides. After 40-50 miles I couldn't wait to get off the bike.

I switched to Speedplay Zeros about 4000 miles ago, and I've been very satisfied. They offer a huge amount of float relative to SPDs (15 degrees, about three times as much). The cleats for Speedplays are not cheap ($40 vs. $20 for SPDs), and they do wear, but you can fight the wear to a certain extent with covers (http://www.keeponkovers.com/Product.html). The Speedplay cleats need to be lubed-- I use Pedro's Ice Wax-- and as a result they do pick up dirt, which, if you are careless, can make it harder to clip in.

I know riders who do three times the mileage that I ride, and they're good with SPDs.

Bottom line, all of the contact point stuff-- bars, saddle, shoes, pedals-- are a personal matter, and to a certain extent you need to find what works for you. The bars, saddle, shoes, and pedals that work for me may not be so good for you.

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+1 for Speedplay Zero. –  Stephen Touset Apr 30 '12 at 14:43
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Regarding the detailed answer above, with photos, on the MUPs and roads around here, most of the roadies are using SPDs, SPD-SLs, Look Keos, or Speedplays. In my experience it is very unusual to see Egg Beaters on a road bike. Previously Crank Brothers did offer Quattros, which are no longer made, for road use. Another thing which might be useful to include in the review is what one needs to look for in a cycling shoe to use a particular cleat system. For example, you can't put Speedplay cleats on an MTB shoe, as such shoes only accommodate two-screw designs (i.e., SPD & Crank Bros.) –  Zippy The Pinhead May 1 '12 at 0:41
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