I've just bought my first MTB shoe that has carbon sole. When I wanted to put on the SM-SH51 cleats, I saw that it has some claws, that would (in my opinion) damage the carbon sole of the shoe. So I was wondering, is this what cleat backing plates are used for, to protect the sole against these claws? If so, why don't they just make the clips without claws (probably wouldn't give enough grip to hold it in one place)?


Just to be more clear about what I mean by 'backing plate':

enter image description here In many websites these things are referred as 'backing plates'.

And this is how the sole on my foot looks like (NW Rebel 3): enter image description here

Without these plates, am I going to destroy the sole (because of the claws the cleats have)?

Thanks, Mat

  • Could you look at what I'm calling "sheet metal" bicycles.stackexchange.com/q/89101/48599 and tell us whether this is what you are referring to as cleat backing plate? FWIW I've had trouble with these thin sheets. Installed on a rubber sole (such as the one pictured) makes them prone to snag during clipping and get bent as pictured. Installing them on a harder sole means that there is not enough friction between cleats and sole, and the cleat ends up rotating (despite proper torquing at 5 N.m). It would appear we are stuck and have to make the cleats dig into either kind of sole.
    – Sam7919
    Aug 8, 2023 at 17:30
  • 3
    You can see that plate is meant to be used in place of the part that came with the shoe, knowing nothing about SPDs except that cleats attach with bolts. Both the holes in the shoe and the holes in the plate are threaded. If you put the silver plate on as well as the shoe's own threaded plate, you won't be able to get it properly tight. You may not even be able to get the 2nd bolt in without a tilt on the outer plate. If it looks like you're expected to engage 2 threaded parts like this, something is wrong. (locknuts are a different matter, but they're not used on shoes)
    – Chris H
    Aug 8, 2023 at 20:06
  • 1
    The claws of the cleats always "bite" into the sole, leaving (shallow) marks. This is normal and even helpful, as the marks allow you to position the cleats exactly as before in case you have removed them (e.g. for cleaning).
    – Erlkoenig
    Aug 8, 2023 at 20:32
  • 2
    @Erlkoenig the downside is that when you test ride them, they have to be tight. Then small adjustments are tricky because the cleats pull in to the old bite marks. But more realistic adjustments are fine, so it's rarely a problem.
    – Chris H
    Aug 8, 2023 at 21:11

4 Answers 4


I've only used cleat backing plates to shim out the cleat away from my foot when the sole or lugs of the shoe were interfering with cleat engagement.

I've put carbon-soled shoes from a couple of brands through absolute hell and never needed to use a backing plate.

You don't mention which shoes you have, or what searching you did to investigate if their manufacturer happen to recommend such plates. So unless you're having trouble getting the cleats to engage, I wouldn't bother with the plate.

Update from OP posting photos

That backing plate is meant to go on the inside of the shoe to receive the cleat's bolts. The four threaded holes we see in the sole of the shoe in the question indicate that this shoe already has that type of backing plate installed.


I have SPD (road) shoes but had to research a bit:

The plates that come with Shimano SPD cleats ("cleat nut" in their lingo) go into the sole in a specific pocket and are not meant as protection or spacer, spacers may also be additionally used if the cleat is too tight with the pedal. It is an interface to screw the cleat into (and probably meant to provide some structural strength in this area, too).

I haven't found any YouTube videos that cover this part but this page/tutorial mentions it: https://accidentalrandonneur.wordpress.com/2017/10/27/the-clipless-diaries-part-8-spd-cleat-setup-and-adjustment/

Some shoes seem to have specific plates/cleat nuts pre-installed and you usually don't need them on cleat replacement, so Shimano is selling the cleats with and without cleat nut.

The claws are actually meant to grip into the sole and I would assume, a SPD-compatible shoe is build to deal with that damage without compromising stability.


I took a shot of my old shoes, these already have that kind of plate pre-installed (you can see the shape under a layer of protective foil), so there was no need to use the one packaged with the cleats

enter image description here


Shimano lists SPD Cleats with and without a cleat nut.

Shimano cleat and cleat nut listing

A cleat nut is also available separately under the code name SH-A200 (google).


I'll just elaborate on some of the side questions you asked.

Keep in mind that unless these shoes will only be worn on an indoor trainer, they're going to get scuffed, scratched, and dented from rocks and other environmental debris. In comparison, the dents made by by the cleat teeth are nothing to worry about.

You're right that the cleats probably won't hold properly without the teeth. The 2-bolt interface looks to be able to handle tension on the cleats pretty well, but the design appears to offer less resistance against rotation and lateral movement.

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