I bought Shimano SPD pedals and shoes for MTB. They’re great for uphill and straight gnarly sections.

There is one problem - when I’m clipped in I have a ton of movement. I have tightened the spring but there is lots of movement so how do I get a tighter feel?

  • Can you edit you answer to add the model of shoes and pedals you have? Jan 23, 2019 at 21:10

3 Answers 3


You're probably talking about "float", the way your foot rotates over the pedal. This is considered a feature, not a bug. There are different cleats you can get with different amounts of float; looking around, I do see there are "zero float" cleats that you can get for SPDs, and others with only 4° of float. The spring adjusts your release tension, not your float (I think).

After having ridden zero-float pedals for a long time, I'll take all the float I can get.

  • 2
    In my experience/opinion the problem is not the sideways float but there is a tiny amount of vertical play and tilting which does feel bad. Almost feels like loose pedals/bearings. That being said, there is some research which shows that pulling on the pedal doesn’t improve power output. If you keep some pressure on the pedal this play doesn’t matter.
    – Michael
    Jan 22, 2019 at 12:40
  • Another problem can be interference from the sole preventing the cleat from fully seating. This can be due to a miss-positioned cleat or you may need to carefully carve away a few bits of the sole material. Jan 22, 2019 at 13:29
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    @Michael you wouldn't have a source for that research handy, would you? Just curious because it sounds counterintuitive to me.
    – user35915
    Jan 22, 2019 at 13:47
  • 1
    @user35915 - GCN did a segment on this very topic a while ago.
    – Adam Rice
    Jan 22, 2019 at 19:10
  • @DanielRHicks I prefer to trim the pedal - in my case it was plastic that interfered with the shoe. Pedals are cheaper if you take too much off and a missing grippy but could often be replaced with a grubscrew.
    – Chris H
    Jan 22, 2019 at 20:34

Shimano makes two different SPD cleats for MTB-pedals. One that has only lateral play and another one with vertical play as well.

The dual play SM-SH56 type is meant for casual riding and trekking riders who don't feel too secure with tightly clamped shoes and they are mainly used on roads. They unclip with left and right movement and upwards motion. Those might make you feel insecure on a trail because they permit some upward float before unclipping.

The other type SM-SH51 only unclip if you turn the heel sideways, in or out. For both the left and right right freedom is +/- 3°

As other comments pointed out, tightness meaning the point when the pedals releases the cleat is the only possible adjustment. Float is built-in to lessen the load on the knee and cannot be adjusted. This is a road pedal only feature to be achieved with one of three different types of cleats.

  • 1
    You're quoting Shimano in saying the SH51s only unclip by twisting outwards, but they should know better as they designed the symmetry in them. They unclip perfectly well twisting inwards if you don't kick the chainstay. What the SH56s add is the ability to come out upwards (which I've always thought rather defeats the object)
    – Chris H
    Jan 22, 2019 at 20:36
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    @ChrisH I also think think that the 56 is rather odd. IMHO they are meant for insecure riders who don't pull on pedals and just push them forwards. In any other case the shoe comes off. I've never used them. True, the 51 comes off by any sideways twist. It's probably been lost in translation from the original JP text. ;-)
    – Carel
    Jan 23, 2019 at 8:11

If your shoes are actually loose on the pedals i.e. there is play between the shoe and pedal in the vertical or lateral directions, your cleats might not be installed correctly, or you have shims underneath the cleats that are too thick.

Check the cleat installation. If you have shims under the cleat, try removing them. This moves the cleat further up into the shoe so the sole is held more firmly against the pedal body.

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