Mountain Bike Shoes for Road Biking?

Here’s an idea I’ve been rolling around in my head for awhile…

I’ve been riding my current shoe/pedal setup for over two years now. But I’m wondering if there’s a more comfortable arrangement. Now, I’m not having any major foot problems. In the heat of summer, I get the occasional hot spot on my foot, usually if I’m putting in more miles than usual on a hot day. But those don’t occur during most of the year.

It’s just something I’ve seen, really. Bikers who wear a less aggressive cycling shoe — a touring style or mountain bike shoe, and who use pedals that fit those shoes but offer a flat platform as well

Lots of long distance cyclists and touring cyclists seem to use these, like the ones in the picture. I see those shoes, and I think “comfort.”

Only problem is, they’re SPD-style cleats, which have a fairly small area, and I’ve seen anecdotal accounts of people getting hot spots more often with SPDs than a delta-shaped cleat. I figure if the SPD cleats were coupled with a flat platform, it might make a good combination for comfort over distances.

The pedal I have in mind is both SPD-compatible, but offers a wider flat surface for the foot. It’s the Shimano A520, and is described as a “road touring” pedal with a “practical” platform. It looks like it has the width I would want on a longer ride. It comes at a reasonable price.

What’s the big advantage an SPD-compatible shoe offers? It’s supposed to be that you can walk more easily in these shoes, since the cleats are recessed into the sole. But you know, I don’t really care about walking all that much. I can get from my bike to a convenience store counter just fine with the shoes and cleats I have.

So, why am I even thinking about changing shoes and pedals? No reason in particular. I have mentioned before that I expect my riding to evolve into something more laid back than it has been. And it strikes me that a more laid back shoe would help foster that kind of riding.

I don’t suppose I’ll act on this idea anytime soon — it’s just, as I said, something I’m rolling around in my head. I’d like to get your input, though. What do you think? Do you use a touring shoe, or a mountain biking shoe, on road bike rides? What pedals do you couple with them? Or is it not a big enough deal to bother with?


  1. Tim says

    I never get hot spots on my commute bike. I have SPD pedals with wide platform and recessed cleat shoes so I can walk normally. On the other hand I usually don’t ride 70 or 80 miles at a whack on this bike either.
    I get the same hot spot problems with my delta shaped cleats on the road bike, usually starting at about 60 miles.

    I have never tried SPD style on a road bike. But I think that as long as the sole is stiff enough, a different style shoe might be worth a try.

  2. Richard says

    I wear mountain bike style shoes with Time cleats/pedals. Gives me shoe options that are comfy, good for walking into a store, and a bit larger cleat & pedal. 40, 50, 60 miles on the bike – no issue. Will be doing a century this summer in a pair of sandals on them. :)

  3. says

    I’ve been riding SPD forever now, and only just got SPD-L pedals and shoes for the new bike.

    SPD’s are great for walking around in, only reason why I bought SPD-L’s is because that’s my race bike.

  4. says

    I use mountain bike shoes both on and off-road. I do this because I’m too cheap to buy two different shoes, and you definitely need to be able to walk when you’re riding trails … it helps on the road bike too.

    Depending on how laid back you want to go, you could get some platform pedals. Then you can use any shoe you want.

  5. says

    I use SPDs for everything. Here’s my reasoning:
    – I’m a mtn biker in background, so I had them already
    – I only need 1 pair of shoes (and several pedals)
    – I don’t have to worry much about damaging cleats walking on pavement
    – SPD pedals and cleats are easy to find and generally pretty cheap (comparatively)
    – SPDs are quite easy to clip into, since most pedals you can clip into either side – no fumbling after a stop to flip the pedal around

    I’d give it a shot. Only thing with the ones you list is that they are NOT double-sided entry – you might think about checking out one of the ones that is, like the PD-M424 (if you still want the platform around it). Or you could just try the base MTB pedals like the PD-M520L – only $33 on Amazon – and I bet you can find a lightly-used pair online or at a local shop for even less.

  6. Janice in GA says

    I ride with platform pedals these days, but I have knee issues. I also don’t trust myself to be able to hop off the bike quickly with clip-ins.

    I do often ride with touring-type bike shoes (stiff soles). But I don’t have to, with the platform pedals. :) But I’m not generally riding for performance. I’m more of a utility cyclist for most of my riding, bopping around town on my bike.

    BTW, when I clicked over from the RSS feed to this site on my laptop, I got a “not trusted site” warning here. I didn’t have a problem when I came directly here on my desktop via a Google searchlink. Not sure what’s up with that, but thought I’d pass along the info.

  7. Dom W says

    I use Shimano A530 (SPD/platform) pedals with Specialized BG Tahoe MTB shoes; these are my first clipless pedals so I wanted the comfort of a platform if I wanted to ride in “normal” shoes and the MTB shoes were a comfortable fit. Will change to a touring shoe (with straps rather than laces) sometime this year. Not experienced any problems with hot-spots, but generally only ride for about 20 miles at a time.

  8. says

    I use Time ATACs on both my bikes. They’re not SPD compatible but they are a mountain bike cleat. I have both a mountain bike and a road bike. Having 2 sets of nice shoes seemed costly so now I can just get 1 set of really nice shoes :-)

    I’ve never had any hot spots with the ATACs. I’ve done multiple centuries and even multi day rides and the pedals and cleats were always the least of my problems. I like being able to easily walk in the shoes. Plus they don’t slide around on pavement so they’re safer to walk in as well. If I were a racer and needed every millimeter of ground clearance then that would be different. But I’ll likely never go back to “road” cleats again.

  9. says

    I use the Shimano PD-M324 Clipless/Clip Pedals on my road bike. These were my first set of pedals for cleats, and it has been nice having a flat side for those occasional times when I want to hop on and ride without switching shoes.

    I use them with Mountain Bike shoes and have been pleased with that. It is nice to have a little grip in my shoes if I need to walk a bit. I sometimes need to cross a bridge that has a metal pedestrian walkway where cyclists must walk their bikes, and it can get a bit slick.


  10. says

    I use mountain bike shoes exclusively. It started when we got the tandem. As captain, I wanted sure footing as we come to a stop and I need to step down. It wouldn’t be a good thing to slip in those road shoes and drop your sweet bride on the ground. The benefit is the walkability of those shoes. I slipped on wet concrete and fell hard once in my road shoes, and I never worry about that in my SPD compatible ones.

    I use the A520 pedals you pictured on both the tandem and my road bike, and standard SPD’s on my commuter because the standard ones give me two sides to clip into (makes it quicker and easier in traffic).

    If you go with nice rigid mountain shoe, you don’t really lose any performance from the different style, but if you go with a sandal or one of the lace up versions of the touring shoe, you lose some rigidity and performance.

  11. Barbara says

    I run SPDs on my commuter which is a cyclocross. Never thought too much about the walking part til one night last spring I got the first of a long series of flats….an hour and a half later and after using all my tubes to try and change the tire without success….I ended up having the hike the bike home since my rescue(husband) was teaching class. 3 hours and 9 miles later….was thankful I didn’t have to duck walk the bike the whole way home!

  12. Metzger says

    Having started from SPD cleats and A530 pedals later moving to KeOs, I can’t recommend going back. Just thinking about it now brings back reminders of hot spots in the middle of my feet on a horribly rough chipseal road. The flippable pedal idea seemed great when I got them but I never put it to use. Pulling the pedal uphill suddenly felt a lot better when I changed to the KeO cleats.

    The shoes were reasonably comfortable to walk in, but still necessary to remove while driving or when you are concerned about damaging flooring material. It’s possible a high end MTB shoe may overcome some of the issues, but my feet dread the idea of using SPD on the road again.

  13. Mel Hughes says

    I have been wearing Sidi Dominators for the last year. The shoes fit very well (especially in the “mega” width.) They are relatively stiff and comfortable. I have been using Speedplay Frogs for thes last four years. I went to the Frogs for several reasons. The maintenance on them is great. It is very easy to flush them with grease every few months. They offer a high degree of float as well as being very easy to engage and disengage.

    Having said that, the last few months I have been experimenting with platform pedals and a variety of differnent types of shoes. I have been using MKS “Grip King” and “touring” pedals. They have been extremely comfortable and stable. My feet seem to be able to seek a natural position whenever they need to shift or change. Mounting and dismounting is effortless. I am seriously thinking about retiring the Frogs and the Sidis…

  14. says

    I had already decided that when I get my road bike that I will stick with SPD style pedals/cleats since that is what I’ve been using for the past 16 years. I based that decision on what I’ve seen as I’ve observed roadies appearing to have great difficulty clicking in and out of their pedals. They just seemed overly heavy and cumbersome. If you switch to SPD I think you’ll notice how quickly you can get in and out of your pedals. I haven’t really noticed any problems with the “load” (ie, contact area) on my pedals since the soles of my MTB shoes are really stiff and it spreads out the load very evenly.

  15. marcv says

    anyone try adapting a MTB shoe to a three bolt “delta” cleat?? i love my dura ace pedals but would prefer a more comfortable shoe such as the Specialized Tahoes. would most adapters i see work both ways ( three bolt to spd and vice versa?)

  16. Dwight says

    I ride a Velokraft recumbent lowracer, and have been using SIDI Dragon Carbon SRS mtb shoes combined with Bebop Titanium pedals. This works fine for distances up to 30 miles or so, but get up to 60+ miles and my feet are absolutely killing me!!! I’m seriously considering some Speedplay Zero pedals combined with a nice pair of road shoes. These pedals & shoes seem to have a larger platform which should spread pressure over a larger surface area and be more comfortable on longer rides. The only downside other than the outright cost of converting would be, not being able to walk in the road shoes.

    • Mel Hughes says

      Dwight, I used Speedplay Frogs for several years. The big advantage of a Frog pedal and its cleat is that it was designed for MTB shoes. It has many of the advantages of the road Speedplay pedal/cleat combinations without having to go to a road shoe. You can still walk around with these cleats too! I don’t know if it would address your hot spots as the cleat foot print is not much different than a traditional SPD cleat. But it is another option.

      You can also get the Frogs in Chromo or titanium…

      This won’t help you, but Ihave retired my Frogs and Sidi’s. I am not riding a recumbant either. But I have been using the Ergon PC-2 Platform Pedals. They are working as well if not better than the MKS Grip Kings.

  17. Aitor says

    I used SPD on road bikes from 1990 or whenever SPD was first released; but for the last few years I’ve used Eggbeaters, which I find just as comfortable, plus you don’t have to flip the pedal ever, and they are lighter. I’ve never actually tried Look though – I’ve always needed walkability.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *