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.
Read More About Pedals and Shoes
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred's full bio.