If indoor cycling is your workout du jour, you’ve likely considered picking up your own pair of spin shoes. After all, you don’t rent your sneaks! And while you can always rent shoes for free here at HB, we get it. #SweatyFeet
Plus, picking up brand new workout gear can be fun—and leave you looking forward to your next session in the saddle.
The problem: Where do you start?!
The answer: Right here. We have the answers to all of your how-to-buy-cycling-shoes questions, courtesy of our very own Handle Bar instructors.
Consider this your go-to guide. You can print it out. We won’t judge.
Choose the Right Shoe
There are three different types of cycling shoes: mountain bike, road, and universal road shoes—all of them can be used for indoor and outdoor cycling, says HB instructor and veteran rider Elise Petersen.
But let’s be real, choosing shoes can be overwhelming. Amazon alone has entire sections dedicated to the topic. So consider Pearl Izumi and Shimano—two popular, reliable brands. “Shimano is kind of a cycling standard,” says instructor Brendon Pires, who wears the Shimano R088s ($90; nashbar.com).
Ultimately, though, picking a pair is all about personal preference and style—which is why making the purchase in person might be best.
“Most indoor cycling shoes are based on European sizing,” says Petersen. If you know the size of your HB rentals, that’s probably your go-to. But—as is true with all gear—every brand is different.
Buying online? Product reviews can help reveal whether or not a particular brand runs big or small, says Pires.
And when in doubt, size up.
“You want to make sure you have ample room in the toe box of the shoe so that the shoe doesn’t pinch your feet, which can be very painful!” says Petersen.
Pro tip: The harder the bottom of the shoe, the better.
“A hard bottom allows you to put all of your energy and power into your pedal stroke. If the bottom of the shoe is flexible at all, some of the energy that you put into each pedal stroke will go into stabilizing your foot,” she says.
All About Those Cleats
The part of your shoe that hooks into the bike pedal is called a clip or a cleat, says Pires. “Know these terms so you can sound like a pro when you go shopping.”
The two most common types of clips used at indoor cycling studios are Look Delta and SPD clips, adds Petersen. All three of the Handle Bar studios require SPD-compatible clips.
Remember: You might have to buy cleats separately.
But most employees at athletic stores (Petersen got her two last pairs at the South End Athletic Company) can help you find them. They’re usually also willing to install them, she says. (Bonus!)
If you’re buying online, pick up a bicycle multi-tool or hex wrench for installation. “If you do any outdoor cycling, this’ll be handy for minor bike maintenance, too,” says Pires. Screw your cleats onto your shoe nice and tight, too. “If they’re loose, they can get stuck in the pedal when you unclip,” says Petersen.
Once your cleats are on, you’re likely good to go with them for a year or so, says Pires. But if you’re a big sweater, always dry your shoes off—it’ll help them last longer, he says. And if you ever notice your cleats flying in and out of the pedals, let the HB desk staff know. Sometimes it means the pedals need to be tightened, he says. No luck? It might be time for new cleats.