Can you use running shoes for cycling?

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As you may or may not know, cycling shoes can be quite expensive and often difficult to walk in. But do you actually need them? Can’t you use regular running shoes to ride a bike? Well, you can cycle with flip-flops, or even barefoot, if you want. But that might not be a good idea in many cases. In this article, we will compare running and cycling shoes, discuss the implications of cycling with running shoes, as well as inform you of what other options you might have.

If you only ride your bike occasionally or take it out for short journeys, then using running shoes are not really a problem at all. However, if you are serious about cycling and want to go for much longer rides, then cycling-specific shoes are a must. They will offer a much better experience and improved performance. After all, you wouldn’t play basketball with golf shoes now would you? For all-round use on and off the bike, mountain bike shoes or any casual cycling shoes are a great option.

Running Shoes vs Cycling Shoes

From common sense we can tell that running shoes are made for running and cycling shoes for cycling. Therefore, there are going to be differences in their designs. One major difference is that running shoes have to be softer and more flexible while cycling shoes have to be the exact opposite and be quite stiff. The stiffness of the soles promotes efficient transfer of power to the pedals. Whereas, when we run, our feet have to flex a lot and require some cushioning from the impacts with the ground.

Cycling shoes also have a very snug fitting to reduce energy losses by preventing movement of the foot. Running shoes on the other hand, allow slight lateral movement of the feet. The toe box is also wider so that the big toe is not compressed. These features are important to aid in balance and stability while running.

Road cycling shoes

Road cycling shoes | Source:

Pros and Cons of Cycling with Running Shoes

Well we won’t lie to you. There are definitely more cons to using running shoes for cycling than there are pros. So let’s discuss all of them.


  1. Decreased Performance: The flexibility of running shoes and their lack of cleats mean that power from your feet to the pedals is transferred with less efficiency. So, you won’t get as much out of your bike as with cycling shoes.
  2. Can Cause Injury: You may experience irritation, cramping, and/or numbness in your feet, especially if you have been pedaling for a long time. The softer material cannot protect your feet from the pedals as effectively. Also, without cleats, there is a chance of your feet slipping off the pedal, hurting your leg or losing control of the bike in the process.
  3. Muscle Imbalance: When using proper cycling shoes with cleats, you can not only push down on the pedals but also pull up during the upward stroke. Therefore, your quads, hamstrings, and glutes all get worked. With regular running shoes, you will have to rely only on your quads to push down and keep the bike moving. Hence, you risk overworking or overdeveloping them.
  4. Damages Your Shoes: If you haven’t noticed, the surface of many pedals can be rough. While this is good for grip, it will eventually eat away the soft soles of your running shoes.


  1. Easy On/Off: Without the need to clip in, you can get on and off the bike very easily. This is especially useful in traffic where you have to take one foot off the pedal frequently.
  2. Walkability: Unlike running shoes, cycling shoes can be difficult to walk in due to the stiffness. This is even worse for road cycling shoes where the cleats extend out of the sole. Hence, if you are going to be walking (or running) a lot when you reach your destination, running shoes are preferred.

When should you cycle with running shoes?

Despite the disadvantages of running shoes, there is nothing to stop you from using them to ride your bike. There are many cases when they are perfectly fine to use. For example, when you are just going grocery shopping or taking a casual ride around the block. If you are tight on cash and are not too serious about cycling, then it makes no sense to buy expensive cycling shoes. There’s also non need for them if you are commuting to and from work, unless you want to carry an extra pair of shoes.

Cycling with non-cycling shoes

Cycling with non-cycling shoes

Types of Cycling Shoes

There are several types of cycling shoes you can choose from, Choosing the right type of clipless shoes for your specific riding is important to help you get the maximum efficiency in power and also get the most comfort. Below you will see that I have split the cycling shoes into 3 main categories: mountain bike shoes, road bike shoes and city bike shoes.

Road Cycling Shoes: Triathlon and time trial shoes also fall into this category. They are designed to deliver power transfer at maximum efficiency. They have cleats that protrude out of a stiff and smooth outsole. Usually, they come with a setup for 3-hole cleats. What makes them so good for cycling makes them equally bad for walking.

Mountain Bike Shoes: Shoes for mountain biking are typically not as stiff. Instead, they feature rubber soles with a tread for decent traction on various trails. You can get two types of shoes for mountain biking. For clipless pedals, there are those that have a 2-hole cleat setup which is recessed into the sole. Hence, walking is made easier. Then there are shoes without cleats that can be used with flat pedals.

➥ We hope, this article will help you to choose your desired comfortable Road & MTB Cycling Shoes.

Casual Cycling Shoes: These shoes are designed for commuters or recreational riders who want comfortable and stylish kicks but also some of the stiffness of bike shoes and perhaps even cleats to attach to pedals. Just like with MTB shoes, they also have 2-hole cleats that recessed into the soles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the best option for both on- and off-the-bike use?

Ans.: There are options suitable for longer rides that also let you walk with ease when you get off the bike. We would suggest mountain bike shoes or casual cycling shoes. These shoes are not as stiff as road cycling shoes, especially the ones designed for casual use. Moreover, the cleats are recessed into the sole. Many of these shoes also look like sneakers and do not stand out if you are, for example, meeting your friends at a restaurant. Therefore, you can pretty much go wherever you want without losing too much pedaling efficiency.

Mountain bike shoes

Mountain bike shoes | Source:

Q2. Can I use other non-cycling shoes for cycling?

Ans.: Running shoes are not your only option when it comes to taking out your bike with non-cycling shoes. In fact, there are specific shoes that would actually be better than running shoes. Basically, you should look for anything with a stiffness that matches or is greater than that of running shoes. Examples include:-

  • Tennis Shoes
  • Skateboard Shoes
  • Golf Shoes
  • Indoor Soccer Shoes
  • Trail Cross Shoes

Q3. Can I get cycling shoes for wide feet?

Ans.: Traditionally cycling shoes have had a sleek and narrow design. This leaves many people with wide feet at a disadvantage. Fortunately, modern designs by the cycling shoe industry put a greater focus on the general shape of feet instead of just the length. Numerous manufacturers like Bont, Simano, Lake, Giro, Bontrager, and Sidi now produce shoes that can accommodate wide feet. A pair of properly fitting cycling shoes will significantly improve your performance on the bike, as well as prevent any discomfort you would have faced with narrower shoes.


In the end, whether you use running shoes for cycling or not is completely up to you. For quick rides and casual use, there should be no problem. However, for longer rides and for performance gains, it will be worth investing in a good pair of cycling shoes. Or you could try out any of the other options that we have mentioned. It’s your choice after all!

My name is Dion Lewis. I’ve been cycling since my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions. In my college life, I took a part-time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally. Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or bike gear.

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