I've recently returned to cycling after a couple of decades, and I'm trying to get familiar with the current gear and components.

I still use toe clips and straps on the pedals on my 1990 Trek road bike. But clips and straps are so far out of fashion that you wouldn't even know that they used to be common. I can hardly find a mention of them anywhere.

Why have the modern pedals and and shoes so completely replaced the old-style clips and straps? Are they really that big an improvement?

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    Greetings from a fellow toe clip user :-). I also still use them, simply because they can be used with normal shoes, so are more suitable for every day biking in regular clothes. IMHO both toe clips and clipless have their place.
    – sleske
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 12:08
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    There's nothing wrong with clips, or half clips. If you like them, keep using them. Welcome back to cycling !
    – Criggie
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 8:33
  • I use pedals that have an option to clip in on one side, and are a regular pedal on the other. I love them. LOVE them. They feel so secure. I can't imagine straps being as efficient or snug!
    – Nova
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 21:02
  • I rode with toe clips for years on my road bike and liked them just fine. I finally bought some SPD pedals and shoes, and I'm happy with my purchase. Considering that I used to ride wearing sneakers, the biggest improvement is having a stiffer sole, which make my feet hurt less after long rides.
    – rclocher3
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 0:23

6 Answers 6


The simple answer is that 'clipless' pedals and shoes just function better than toe straps.

They are easier to get into, easier to get out of, locate the foot more accurately and solidly on the pedal, and allow for better transfer of power all the way around the pedal stroke. The position of the foot on the pedal can also be precisely adjusted, as can the range of float and retention force.


Clipless pedals hold your feet more securely and release easier than toe-straps and clips. As you are probably aware, it is possible to to tighten straps to the point where they must be released before the foot can be removed from the pedal. A properly functioning clipless pedal will always release the riders foot.

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    I would add that once you get used to them, they are far easier to clip into than trying to get your foot into a strap. This can be a safety issue in traffic.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 13:58
  • I'm wondering about flex in the sole of a clipless shoe versus the straps which have very little give. Don't some velodrome racers still use some type of strap setup (could be a strap with special shoe combination)?
    – rcgldr
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 17:01
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    Velodrome racers use straps since they output incredible amounts of torque for stationary starts. Accidentally popping out would cause them to crash, and straps are guaranteed to stay attached.
    – Jonathon
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 17:21
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    Track racing seems to be also far more traditional than road racing. If you for example check this photo collection from 2017 world championships, you'll find not only few clipless pedals, but also three piece cranks and some non aero helmets: cyclingtips.com/2017/03/…
    – ojs
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 9:32
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    Trackracers use clipless pedals together with straps to further secure the foot to the pedal.
    – Carel
    Commented Aug 24, 2019 at 15:10

For me, a big benefit of cycling with "clipless" pedals is that when I "clip in" to my "clipless" pedals my foot is instantly firmly attached at my ideal pre-set position-- fore/aft, inboard/outboard, toe in/toe out. When using "clips and straps" I am endlessly wiggling my foot to try to find the best position.

All this is adjustable by adjusting the position of the cleat on the shoe.

Also, purpose-built cycling shoes have a sole that is more rigid than other athletic shoes. This supports the foot during cycling, which is not what your feet have evolved to do well. Riding without proper footwear (beach cruiser and flip flops, in my case) can give you tendinitis surprisingly quickly!

I don't have the reputation to comment, or I would have just commented on one of the above excellent answers.

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    Old-style toe-strap shoes had slotted plates nailed (leather soles) or screwed (plastic soles) underneath where the slot caught the rear plate of the pedal to hold the foot in a fixed position.
    – Carel
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 16:51

Apart from being safer from the clip and toe-strap pedals, the wide use of "clipless" pedals has come from marketing and fashion. You need to buy clipless shoes to be used with clipless pedals; you will not be able to wear casual shoes for the clipless pedals.

The clip and strap assemblies are still available and these are to be fixed onto normal flat pedals. I still use them myself.

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    You are late to the game. During the fixed gear fad of early 2010s toe clips and Power Grip straps were popular despite all advantages of clipless.
    – ojs
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 6:41
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    If you get something like Shimano M323 or M424 you can ride with normal shoes, at least for short rides. These are mountain style clipless pedals (SPD) but a lot of people use those on road bikes. There are also double sided SPD/flat pedals but I detest them
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 6:43
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    Fancy bike shoes certainly aren't limited to clipless. bicycling.com/bikes-gear/mountain-bike/g20046461/… Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 13:50
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    While vastly superior for riding, clipless shoes are pretty much completely horrible for walking around in. I find the idea that people are using clipless pedals because they want to wear the shoes to be laughable.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 13:54
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    @VladimirF "They are light and comfortable, and won’t look out of place if you find yourself in an unexpected social situation." This line from your link makes me laugh... MTB shoes look like oversized toddler sneakers and look absurd anywhere but on the trail. Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 17:09

Despite @ump's combative tone, he does back up what he's saying with links to evidence. GCN has also done one or two episodes that mostly debunk the benefits of being locked into your pedals. As far as I can tell, all the tests that attempt to prove or disprove the benefits of clipless pedals have been done on a treadmill in a lab; it may be that the benefits are amplified when riding in the real world. I know that I (unscientifically) just prefer to be locked in.

But the question is not about flat pedals vs clipless, it's about toeclips vs clipless. Between the two, I greatly prefer clipless pedals, for reasons already mentioned in this thread.

If you are riding with clips and straps, you either want a platform pedal that gives good support (these do exist), or you want a fairly rigid shoe so that you don't get hotspots from the pedal's plates digging into your feet. And if you're wearing special shoes anyhow, it's not a stretch to go clipless.

In any case, clipless pedals weren't intended to replace street shoes with toeclips, but slotted cleats with toeclips. Cleats have most of the disadvantages of clipless pedals, plus being much less comfortable (a tight toe strap can cut off circulation) and of course harder to get out of the pedal. The advent of SPDs made it practical to have clipless pedals with shoes that are OK to walk in.

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    The thing about a fixed bike in a lab is that it's clean and dry. Unless you can choose to only ride in those circumstances the studies are worthless - feet not slipping is a big benefit
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 17:32
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    -1 GCN has also done one or two episodes that mostly debunk the benefits of being locked into your pedals. Yeah, because having your feet come off the pedals when your sprinting at 1000+W and 120+ RPM and you're going 40 mph is a great feeling... Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 20:33
  • OP's question is "Why have the modern pedals and and shoes so completely replaced the old-style clips and straps?" This is a good answer because it covers old-school nail-on cleats.
    – Criggie
    Commented Aug 23, 2019 at 12:12

Opinion: Loved my Speedplays more than anything. During a hiatus, my nueropathy kicked in but good. I've gone back to toeclips feeling safer dismount, hopefully just until i can legs really suercharged back to past seasons ability.

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    Hi, welcome to bicycles! This doesn't really address the question if clipless in general are better. In fact it's not even clear which you're saying is better.
    – DavidW
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 2:39
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    Good start - could you edit the answer to show what your answer is? You seem to have experience of both, and are aware of pros/cons that haven't been mentioned yet, but so far this just says "toeclips are safer-feeling for dismounting" This answer has promise so do your best.
    – Criggie
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 4:23

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