peloton cycling shoes

Do You Really Need Cycling Shoes?

Join the clip-in club.

By Team PelotonMarch 10, 2023


Would you like to end your cycling workout satisfyingly spent, but without any lingering aches and pains? Whether you’re new to indoor cycling or a seasoned pro, having the proper equipment—down to your cycling shoes—is a must. 

If you intend to ride regularly, your feet (as well as your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core) will thank you for choosing the right type of footwear from the get-go. Good quality cycling shoes can have a huge impact on the quality of your ride and how much you enjoy it. The shoes you wear while cycling help you pedal more effectively and comfortably, for a better and safer overall ride. 

What Are Indoor Cycling Shoes?

Indoor cycling shoes are special footwear made to be worn while riding an indoor, stationary bike – such as a Peloton Bike or Peloton Bike+. They secure your foot to the pedals of the bike, improving your pedal stroke. 

There are two main types of indoor cycling shoes: 

  • Clip-In Shoes. These are designed to snap into place on a bike pedal, via 2- or 3-bolt cleats that attach near the ball of the foot. They are also confusingly called clipless because they don’t require the bike pedal to have toe clips/toe cages. 

  • Flat-Pedal Shoes. These are flat-bottomed cycling shoes. They don’t involve the use of cleats and are instead meant to slip into a toe cage atop a bike pedal. These shoes include certain features – such as a stiff midsole and rubber grip along the bottom of the shoe – that make them a better choice for cycling instead of everyday athletic shoes. 

Of the two, clip-in shoes are preferred for both road and indoor cycling because they offer superior comfort, energy efficiency, and safety over cycling shoes that don’t use cleats. 

Why Use Indoor Cycling Shoes? What Are the Benefits?

If you plan to indoor cycle regularly, you’ll definitely want to invest in proper cycling shoes.  

Benefits of using clip-in indoor cycling shoes include:

  1. Smoothness. Clip-in cycling shoes are ergonomically engineered to work with the design of road and indoor bikes, so you enjoy a smooth and balanced pedal stroke, each and every time you ride. 

  2. Strength. A prominent feature of these shoes are their stiff soles, which keep your feet from bending while you pedal. This disperses the impact of each pedal stroke across the entire surface area of your foot for maximum transfer of power. In this way, the kinetic energy you create is more easily and fully conveyed from your leg to the pedal, with nothing wasted in the process. 

  3. Positioning. Indoor cycling shoes directly connect you to the bike and ensure proper knee-hip-foot alignment.

  4. Stability. Once you’re clipped in, you won’t lose your footing or have one of your feet accidentally slip out of place. This helps to avoid injury, discomfort, and fatigue during a ride. 

  5. Comfort. Clip-in indoor cycling shoes are simply more comfortable than other types of shoes, due to their unique design, which offers greater stability and efficiency while pedaling. 

  6. Safety. You can quickly and safely shift your weight during a ride, as well as pedal at varying degrees of intensity, knowing your feet are securely positioned to help prevent accidents.   

  7. Ride Quality. You engage more muscle groups with a clip-in cycling shoe, giving you a more well-rounded workout and allowing you to ride stronger for longer. Quads are the primary muscle group used during downward pedal movement. When you are clipped in, your glutes and hamstrings are also put to work each time your feet pull up on the pedals. 

peloton cycling shoes

How Cycling Shoes Make a Difference

Cycling shoes are built to help you perform better on a ride. When you invest in a good pair of clip-in indoor cycling shoes, you should notice that you’re able to pedal harder and faster for longer periods of time, and that you’re more comfortable while doing so. Clipping-in also provides more control, stability, and a safer, more enjoyable ride. 

What to Consider

As you shop for clip-in cycling shoes, consider the following: 

Fit, Style and Comfort 

Cycling shoes should fit snugly. You don’t want your heel moving up and down inside the shoe. Likewise, your arch should be properly supported – using insoles, if necessary. Proper arch support can help the shoes fit better and deliver less friction while cycling, ensuring your feet remain cool and comfy. Insoles can also help if you have plantar fasciitis or flat feet. 

Whether you have standard, narrow, or wide feet, there are indoor cycling shoes to fit you. Are you looking at Peloton shoes and you have wide feet or are between sizes? We recommend sizing up. Another tip on finding the right fit for the ultimate comfort: try shoes on toward the end of day, when your feet are most likely to be a little swollen; this will help ensure a snug but not too-tight fit. 

Weight and Stiffness

When you handle or wear cycling shoes, the first thing you may notice is how rigid and inflexible the shoes are. This is by design. The stiffer the sole, the more efficient the transfer of power from your legs to the bike – and the more energy available to power your ride. Each manufacturer of cycling shoes uses its own stiffness index and, generally speaking, the higher the number, the stiffer the shoe and the better the transfer of energy during pedaling. 

Cycling shoes also tend to be heavier than regular athletic shoes. As long as the shoe you choose is comfortable, the effect of its weight is likely to be negligible on your ride. With a heavier shoe, it may be harder to get started pedaling, but it will be easier to sustain your momentum once you get going and it will make climbing more efficient. 

Material and Quality 

You’ll want to aim for cycling shoes with breathable, high-quality material uppers and with proper venting. Quality material will add to your shoes’ ability to endure as well as require much less break-in time. Soft textures add comfort and protect your feet while pedaling. The last thing you want is hard, unyielding material that presses into the top of your foot, pinching nerves, and causing numbness or a pins-and-needles sensation while biking.  


Choose socks made of a material that wicks away moisture to keep your feet dry and help prevent blisters while cycling. Most often, this means looking for socks made of synthetic materials such as nylon or polyester. 

Hot Spots 

Sometimes called “hot foot,” swelling and too much flexibility in the foot during long rides can pinch nerves and cause painful hot spots. Burning and tingling sensations are common, as is numbness in the toes. This is why proper shoe fit – and using stiff-soled, clip-in cycling shoes – is so important.

Wear and Tear 

When you use cycling shoes, you won’t wind up with uneven wear and tear. That’s because these shoes are designed and used for cycling only – not running, aerobics, or other activities that could reduce the function or feel of your cycle shoes. 

Choosing a Cycling Shoe

What’s most important when shopping for an indoor cycling shoe? No. 1 has got to be compatibility: the shoe must be able to work with your bike’s pedals. 

If you have a Peloton, for example, you’ll need clip-in cycling shoes with 3-bolt cleats, to match the way the shoes clip into the Peloton pedals. For this type of shoe, we offer the well-regarded gold standard shoes for indoor cycling, as well as an updated cycling shoe with a single, wide Velcro hook-and-loop fastener that makes putting them on and taking them off a breeze. 

After compatibility, you’ll want to make sure the shoes have an appropriately stiff sole, fit well and are comfortable, and are made of breathable, quality material. Finally, style and price will depend on your personal preferences and budget.  

Pedal Systems

Bike pedals may accommodate 2- or 3-bolt cleats, or they may include toe clips / toe cages to accommodate flat-pedal (cleat-free) cycling shoes. In some cases, a bike may offer a hybrid solution, with a toe cage on one side of the pedal, and a clip-in mechanism on the other side. 

Most common are shoes and pedals that accommodate 2-bolt cleats. With the 2-bolt system (called SPD, for the brand Shimano Pedaling Dynamics), energy transfer occurs within a relatively small point of contact, where the two bolts connect shoe to pedal. 

The 3-bolt system (referred to by brand name Look Delta) features a much larger point of contact – essentially, the broader triangle-shaped area between the 3 bolts – for increased support, control, and more efficient energy transfer while pedaling. Peloton bikes and cycling shoes use the larger, 3-bolt system. 

bottom of cycling shoe

Are Indoor Cycling Shoes Essential for Beginners?

What about those who are new to cycling – when is it time to invest in proper cycling shoes? The answer depends on why and how often you intend to cycle. If you’ve already purchased a Peloton Bike or Bike+, chances are you enjoy indoor cycling and want to do more of it. With high quality, clip-in cycling shoes, you can optimize your experience and make it more likely you’ll stick with your cycling routine. 

Can You Use Regular Shoes?

While you can use regular sneakers with an indoor bike, it may not be the best experience. Sneakers or general athletic shoes are more pliable than cycling shoes. To cycle efficiently and comfortably, your feet should be stable and flat during pedaling. Using cycling shoes is the safest and most effective way to transfer power from your legs to the bike. 

Final Thoughts

If you want your rides to be the most enjoyable and efficient,  specially designed, clip-in cycling shoes are a must-have for indoor cycling. 

With the right cycling shoes, you’ll work out more muscle groups, and you’ll feel more comfortable, powerful and less fatigued in the process. 

Make sure you’re well-equipped to reap maximum benefits from every ride you take. Explore all the cycling accessories available at Peloton.


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