I've had my SPD touring shoes for about seven years. The cleats are the originals and are now quite worn and I noticed recently that one of them (not pictured) is at a rather wacky angle that can't be doing my pedalling action any good.

As the shoes are more or less OK, I'd like to replace the cleats.

The problem is that the cleat bolts (hex-shaped) are jammed with grit, mud, stones and whatever else I've walked on in the past 7 years. So the allen key won't go in.

SPD cleats with mud/stones/grit in the hex-bolt holes

Last night I tried picking the dirt out with needle-nose pliers, chiselling it with a nail and hammer and even resorted to trying to drill the bolt out. This last attempt barely damaged the bolt, but heated it up so much the bottom of the shoe started to melt.

Is there any way to prevent this from happening or to fix it when it does?

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    Generally speaking picking/washing the dirt out is a good start - you might try changing from wet<->dry to soften it as well. Be gentle though - hammer and nail will likely chew up the head. It's possible to jam a stone right in to a bolt head. If the thread goes in to metal, a penetrating oil may loosen it, into plastic (as I would expect here) oil is more likely to make it worse by making the plastic swell. I've had success (not on cleat shoes) with using a Drmel-type tool an cutoff wheel to add a screwdriver slot to the bolt head when the hex is ruined.
    – Chris H
    Aug 14, 2013 at 10:41
  • Frankly, if it's been 7 years the screws are probably rusted in place anyway. But first make sure you're using the right Allen wrench. Pretty sure these are metric, but likely there's an English that seems like it "ought" to fit but won't. Aug 15, 2013 at 1:15
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    Note to self: Change cleats more frequently than seven years. Aug 15, 2013 at 3:48
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    BTW, when drilling hard steel you need a SHARP bit, go SLOW, with lots of PRESSURE, and use a few drops of OIL on the bit. "Spinning" the bit (such that it doesn't grip) wrecks the bit and overheats the workpiece. If you're doing it right you can feel the bit "biting" into the steel. Oct 19, 2013 at 0:17

10 Answers 10


I've had a similar question in mind for a while. I have yet to try this, but my thought is to install new cleats, then fill the bolt holes with shoe-goo or something similar to prevent the issue. It's pretty soft, so you may have to re-apply often, but it would be easier than removing destroyed bolts! I am going to try this next time I install new cleats!

  • +1 This sounds like a really good idea. A colleague suggested silicone bathroom sealant to me yesterday. If I can find some I'll use that, or I may try wood glue, which dries fairly rubbery and could easily be removed later. Pictures to follow... Aug 15, 2013 at 8:25
  • The idea is great but think you'd need to use something like Vaseline rather than shoe-goo. Shoe-goo won't bond to anything in the bolt so will just fall out. I've used it to seal holes in leather soled shoes while waiting for the other side to wear out (I can be cheap!). The hard dried goo plug will just fall out. Something like Vaseline will attract a layer of dirt but should stay in and be removed easy.
    – DWGKNZ
    Sep 5, 2013 at 8:21

Try a pipe nipple extractor or similar stripped screw extractor (Example: http://www.plumbingsupply.com/extractors.html). It is designed to grip the inside sides of a pipe using the same turning direction that will unscrew it. It shouldn't need much depth to work and it will try to drill itself in. You may still have to drill some of the junk out, but go slow and select a bit that is smaller than the head opening.

  • Nice tip. I didn't have a masonry bit small enough at the time and didn't want to spoil any metal bits on road ballast. Aug 14, 2013 at 14:12
  • I have found in the past that a left-hand drill works better than a screw extractor - however they're even harder to get hold of!
    – Chris H
    Aug 14, 2013 at 14:55

I tried with bathroom sealant (supposed to be white, but dried clear/grey). After a couple of months cycling in all weathers it's still in there. Seems like a cheap and easy solution. Shown below in the right hex-bolt only.

I'll now be adding this to the other bolts too. (Some credit should go to Darren Cope who suggested something very similar).

Right hex-bolt protected with bathroom sealant

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    While you have the sealant tube in your hand, squeeze some into the open slots ahead of the cleat, to help keep water and crud out of there. Not waterproof, but it helps a bit. Oct 19, 2013 at 0:14

I've got heaps of torx bits from various old sets. One way is to hammer in an oversized torx bit so that the six points bind up into the six corners, then undo with a lot of inward force and a lot of leverage. For me that's holding it in a vice and using a long-arm socket ratchet while pushing down. Expect the torx bit to be sacrificial, they tend to round off or snap the tips off. You can file them flat on the end for the second bolt.

First though, pre-soak the area in penetrating oil to try and free up the threads.


After a few months my tests with beeswax are looking very promising. I melted the stub of an old candle and dribbled it in. Beeswax seems stickier than paraffin candle wax, and is biodegradable.

A key requirement for me was that I'd be able to remove it on a campsite with only my touring tools (I sometimes hike in my SPD shoes, and that can be nicer without cleats). With wax, in the worst case a warm tool should finish the job.

Today I needed to retighten my cleat bolts, and a screwdriver got the (rather gritty after hiking on sand at the weekend) wax out with no trouble; warming the hex key made it easy to push right in and there was no rust in the head.

Unlike vaseline or grease, it shouldn't be a risk to carpet once dried and any excess removed.

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    I did the same thing for my current set of cleats (1.5 years old) with a wax solution in camping gas. I put a bunch on the exposed cleat plate and unused bolt holes too. Results are promising so far! Much less rust than without the treatment.
    – MaplePanda
    Jan 16, 2022 at 9:16

I've used the edge of a blunt'ish steak knife in the past and it has worked a treat. The tip fits perfectly down inside the bolt, pick out dirt and grit then return to cutlery draw for future use!


This isn't that big of a deal to clear up. Just use the tip of a metal pick to scrape out the gunk. A pick set is a great assortment of tools to have for all sorts of odd jobs (removing/installing o-rings, for instance). They're very cheap as well - $1.59 as of the time of this answer at Harbor Freight.. In the absence of a pick you can use other tools as a makeshift pick, although it's not very good for them. Eyeglass screwdrivers will work, as will much smaller (eg .5mm) hex wrenches. You might even be able to use a paperclip in a pinch.

  • A good sharp ice pick should do the job. Sep 4, 2013 at 23:56
  • What is it about a pick set or ice pick that would succeed where a sharp nail failed? Sep 5, 2013 at 7:51
  • @JamesBradbury picks are normally thinner and bent. Rather than a nail, try a (sewing) needle, but they will snap if you try to bend them into a more useful shape without serious heat.
    – Chris H
    Sep 5, 2013 at 9:40

Last time I had this problem I ended up using pliers+screwdriver to break that washer between cleat and screws. After removing cleat I was able to get screws out with the same pliers.

Trying to drill them out was a complete failure for me too.


If you don't have a screw extractor, you can use a dremel tool cutting wheel to put a slit across the cleat bolts and try to remove it with a standard flathead screwdriver.

Obviously the destructive method of removal, may damage the small oval shaped plate that distributes the force of the bolts across the cleat as well.

  • If you have a screw extractor as BPugh suggested, that's probably preferred, but this could work in a bind.
    – Benzo
    Dec 10, 2015 at 21:03

The thing that you want to prevent the most in these allen type assemblies is the melting which will lead to loose threads. It will make removal and assembly so hard to do as it won't bite the allen tool anymore.

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