As you become more serious about cycling, cleated shoes can become a central part of your cycling wardrobe. These shoes, married to cleated pedals, improve the efficiency of pedal stroke. Whether you are a road or mountain cyclist, you can benefit from wearing cleats while cycling.
Before You Start
Before going out for your first ride with cleats, practice clipping in and out at home with your bike resting in a stationary trainer. The more comfortable you are with the process of getting out of the pedals, the safer you will be out on the road if you have to unclip quickly. Detaching your cleats requires you to swing the heel of your foot outward at a 45-degree angle.
On the Road
Put on your cycling shoes with cleats before clipping into your pedals. Straddle your bike and position one foot with the cleat above the clip on the pedal and slide down until you hear and feel the connection of the pedal and cleat. Begin pedaling and insert your other cleat into the pedal. Pedal as you would normally, doing your best to keep your knee tracking forward.
As you develop a level of comfort with your cleats, you can begin to add techniques to increase the power and efficiency of your pedal stroke. Think about pushing down from the 12 o’clock position of the pedal stroke, scraping bottom as if getting mud off your shoe and then initiating the down stroke again just before reaching 12 o’clock again.
Finding the Sweet Spot
Cleats attached in the correct place allow your feet, ankles and knees to feel comfortable. When your foot clips into the pedal, you'll want to feel as though your foot is facing straight ahead. Too much of a variance from straight ahead can put undue pressure on the knee or hips. Some cleats and pedals have a “float” that allows a little rotational freedom and helps you align yourself in a position that matches your natural foot angle. The cleat should be positioned so that when you clip into the pedal, the ball of your foot is aligned with the center of the pedal. If your cleats are positioned too far forward or backward, you could strain your Achilles tendon.
And Being Patient
Finding the perfect placement for your cleats might take trial and error. You might have to adjust the position of the cleat on your shoe several times before finding the ideal placement. If you feel any twisting or stress in your legs when pedaling, alter your cleat position to find a more comfortable ride.