Can You Wear Cycling Shoes Without Cleats – Bicycles In Motion

Can You Wear Cycling Shoes Without Cleats

Can You Wear Cycling Shoes Without Cleats

For cleats to be helpful, you also need the correct type of pedals on your bicycle. A good rule of thumb is to wear the shoes that match your pedals and wear cleats if your pedals use them.

However, it is technically possible to ride on the wrong type of pedals with both cleatless and flat shoes. Can you wear cycling shoes without cleats?

You can wear clip-in cycling shoes without the cleats and flats, which don’t attach to pedals. If your cycling shoes are meant to have cleats, you should install them whenever you ride or risk damaging the shoe. Otherwise, to avoid cleats entirely, get toe-clip compatible shoes or flats instead of taking the cleats off of your other shoes.

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Do You Have To Use Cleats With Cycling Shoes

It would be best to always use cleats with cycling shoes except in three circumstances. First, some cycling shoes are not compatible with cleats.

This style, called flats, is generally made for mountain bike riding only. They offer greater flexibility in the sole so that you can dismount and, if necessary, carry your bicycle over obstacles.

Secondly, some cycling shoes are made to be convertible from SPD clips to cleats. It’s essential to pay attention to whether the shoes are intended to be convertible, which is somewhat uncommon.

It’s easy to mistake a cleated shoe with no cleats installed for a convertible shoe.

The third is when you are using toe-clip-only shoes. It would help if you only used cycling shoes on the wrong pedals for short distances. You don’t want to damage the soles on accident.

Are Cleats Necessary For Cycling

Cleats aren’t necessary for cycling but having them is a good idea if you plan to get serious about it. Some people are wary of clipping their feet to the pedals.

Still, cleats are necessary for spin class or Peleton regulars and road bike riders who want to go for long distances or participate in racing.

To be clear, you can absolutely ride without cleats, but there are a lot of advantages to using them.

Getting into cycling can feel very daunting with all the expensive equipment and clothing, but you shouldn’t let cleats or anything else stop you from enjoying a good ride.

If you have clippie pedals, swap them out for flats, and when you don’t feel comfortable in bike shorts or bibs, put on your jeans.

Having cleats and other high-end gear is more like voluntary leveling up than a requirement.

Having cleats will unquestionably help you ride smoother and expend less energy, but if you don’t want them, it’s not going to stop the crank from turning.

Pros And Cons Of Wearing Cycling Shoes Without Cleats

There are two sides to every debate, and cleats aren’t suitable for every rider. I’ve broken down both sides of the argument, so you don’t have to wonder.

If you’re debating trying them out, I always recommend giving cleats a shot, but you don’t need them to ride, even if it’s a spin class or road bike.

Here are the pros and cons of wearing cycling shoes without cleats.


  • Cleats will clip your feet to your pedals, so you’ll lose a fraction of a second if you need to bail during an accident. You’ll be able to react faster without cleats if you need to crash safely.
  • Some riders don’t feel comfortable with their feet locked in position. Moreover, it can cause cramps to have inflexible shoes holding your feet in the optimal place for long periods. Work up to it rather than trying to go hard the first few times you ride with cleats or skip them entirely for more flexibility and comfort.
  • Shoes with cleats are not made for regular walking or hiking. You should bring different shoes if you plan to make stops or walk anywhere since it can damage the cleats and shoes or opt for cleatless cycling shoes.
  • A good pair of cleat shoes will cost you over a hundred dollars. Additionally, most companies sell the cleats separately. If you don’t buy clippie shoes, you don’t need to worry about compatible cleats, and you generally save a little money.
  • Clipping into your pedals is also a unique process. There is a learning curve, though not a huge one, but if you wear flats, you don’t need to worry about learning how to do this at all.


  • Three words come to mind immediately when you look at the benefits of cycling shoes with cleats. Efficient energy transfer. Cleats keep your legs and feet where they need to be to put the most energy, up to ten percent more, directly into your pedals, chain, and wheels. Without cleats, you lose more power.
  • Not only do you get to utilize more of your energy with cleats, but it’s a little like drafting because you can save more energy. You don’t have to push so hard to achieve the same distance or power. Cleatless shoes mean working harder, but that can also be a health benefit, so this is only ‘sort of’ a downside.
  • Professionals and serious cycling enthusiasts tend to look down on those who don’t use the proper high-end equipment. That includes cleats. Although it sounds petty, you may get made fun of for wearing cycling shoes without cleats.

Can You Use Clipless Shoes Without Cleats

You cannot use ‘clipless’ shoes without cleats because the term clipless refers to using cleats. If that sounds confusing, let me explain.

There are two systems for clipping into a bicycle pedal. One uses a toe clip, and the other is called clipless but refers to cleats. The third option where nothing attaches is called flats.

Flats are more common among mountain bike riders. However, this style offers more flexibility and toe box room.

Plus, MTB flats often have more arch support, and you can walk around in them without worrying about damage because mountain flats are made for pedaling and terrain.

Best Cycling Shoes Without Cleats

Finding the best cycling shoes without class can be challenging. I’ve been riding for years, and I’ve tested out more brands and styles of cycling shoes than I can count.

After careful consideration, I’ve narrowed the choices down to two sets of cleatless cycling shoes, one for road bikes and the other for ladies.

1 – Road Cycling Shoes Without Cleats: (Santic Unlocked Cycling Shoes)

Santic makes high-quality flats for a road bike or MTB riding. The Santic Unlocked Cycling Shoes from Amazon are cross-compatible shoes that never lock into a pedal and leave you a little bit more flexibility than a rigid cleat-bearing shoe.

However, you won’t be sacrificing efficiency for comfort in these well-designed shoes.

You’ll appreciate the velcro and ratchet closure and PU upper on Santics. Plus, there are plenty of colorways to choose from to suit your style. Learn more about Santic Unlocked when you click here.

Santic Lock-Free Cycling Shoes
  • Upper Material:PU
  • Shoe Width:Medium(B,M)F
  • Optimal Comfort: The Santic cycling shoes are ergonomically designed for your feet,which provides comfort on your toughest rides, also provide maximum power transfer and efficient pedal strokes
  • Cycling Sneakers : For cycling beginners reduce the problem for rider not understand lock shoes will not lock, and reduce not unlock in time to cause a fall.
  • Cycling Shoes Quality: By offering our Santic shoes factory direct, we are able to offer a level of quality and value that the competition cannot touch. In case any broken problem happens, contact the seller of Santic without hesitation to solve the problem until satisfaction.

2 – Ladies Cycling Shoes Without Cleats: (Five Ten Freerider)

It is almost impossible to find women’s clipless shoes for cycling. The only brand I know that makes a women’s-size-specific clipless shoe for bicycling is Adidas.

The Five Ten Freerider Mountain Bike Shoes from Amazon are meant to have more padding, toe box space, and flexibility than other shoes.

While these aren’t road bike shoes, they are one of the only inclusive companies that make any ladies’ non-clip cycling shoes.

More importantly, these flats are incredibly comfortable on long rides. To have a pair delivered to your door, click here.

Five Ten Freerider Mountain Bike Shoes
  • Five Ten Freerider Women's Flat Pedal Shoe: Black/Purple 8

Helpful Tips To Know About If You Can Wear Cycling Shoes Without Cleats

You can wear cycling shoes without cleats. Whether you choose to remove your cleats or buy cleatless cycling shoes, a cleat is a feature, not a requirement.

Here are more helpful tips to know about if you can wear cycling shoes without cleats.

  • People with high arches frequently have trouble finding a good fit in cycling shoes, especially those with cleats. Cleated shoes are very rigid and fitted, so adding an insert for arch support can be problematic when it changes the fit.
  • Always read the reviews on cycling shoes. Some styles, especially those with cleats or dual cleat compatibility, tend to run narrow. A too-narrow cycling shoe can cause foot numbness.
  • Cycling shoes should be wearable right out of the box, so getting a precise fit is vital. Don’t expect your cleatless shoes to stretch like a sneaker.

Final Thoughts

Most cycling shoes have cleats. Fortunately, there are other options like flats and SPD’s if clipless cleat shoes aren’t your style.

However, if you choose shoes with cleat attachments on the bottom, you should install and wear the cleats to prevent damage to your shoes.

Whenever possible, always use the correct shoe and pedal combination or minimize the amount of time you spend in the saddle and replace either the shoes or pedals as soon as possible for a smoother ride.

Brian Smith

Brian is the founder of Bicycles In Motion and an avid cyclist for 17 years. On the weekends, he enjoys exploring new bike trails and countryside roads to enjoy the outdoors.

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