Question: I like to use my mountain bike pedals and shoes for road biking, but I get funny looks on group rides. How much performance am I giving up if I use mountain bike shoes and pedals? What shoes do you use? — Dave W.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: I wore Shimano carbon-sole road shoes for years. A while ago, I switched to the new Specialized Body Geometry road shoes designed by Andy Pruitt, a leading bike-fit/injury expert.
But on solo training rides, I frequently wear Specialized mountain bike shoes. I like the convenient walkability of the recessed cleat. Sole stiffness may be a bit less, but it’s sufficient. They’re a bit heavier, but for training what difference does it make?
The soles of off-road shoes are a bit more flexible to aid walking, but any power you lose for that reason will be negligible. Also, they’ll probably weigh a bit more (and it’s rotating weight, which counts the most) but for touring this isn’t a big issue.
In fact, off-road shoes are a good choice for most recreation riding. The recessed cleats mean you can walk without damaging them or slipping on a store’s hard floor and pitching headlong into the Twinkie display. These benefits outweigh the small performance penalty.
One more advantage: Mountain bike pedals let you clip in from either side. This may be marginally easier than flipping over a single-side road pedal.
Of course, as you’ve found out, you may be an outcast in true roadie circles if you wear mountain bike shoes. So when I train or race with a group, I wear my road shoes.
And in competition, small differences add up, so you want to use light, stiff road shoes.