Do you need special shoes for indoor cycling?

ApexBikes is reader-supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through the links on our site. Learn more.

As most of us already know, cycling-specific shoes are important gear for avid bike riders. But are they necessary for indoor cycling? Are there any special indoor cycling shoes? In this article, you will find out everything regarding shoes for cycling indoors.

No special shoes are needed for exercising on a stationary bike. Indoor cycling shoes are just the same as regular cycling shoes. Most indoor bikes come with clipless pedals giving you the option to clip-in. But you can use any kind of sports shoes or running shoes. In that case, you can use toe cages for a secure fit. Toe cages are also usually included in stationary bike pedals.

Types of shoes for indoor cycling

When anyone talks about shoes for indoor cycling, they mean the same cycling shoes that are used outdoors. These shoes are stiffer than other sports shoes and most of them feature a setup for cleat attachment. The cleats attach to the pedals, letting you become one with the bike. There are three types of cycling shoes that you can use, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

  1. Road Cycling Shoes: Designed with performance in mind, road shoes are quite stiff and usually have a snug fit. This allows for maximum transfer of power and a high pedaling efficiency. Nearly all road shoes come with a 3-hole design but some are compatible with both 3-hole and 2-hole cleats. When cleats are attached, they stick out of the sole. This along with the sole stiffness makes them uncomfortable for walking.
  2. Mountain Bike Shoes: A typical mountain bike shoe features a 2-hole design. However, the sole is designed to have more grip, and the cleats stay recessed into the sole. These shoes are also slightly more flexible than road shoes. Hence, you can walk around with them without losing much pedaling efficiency. Many MTB shoes look similar to sneakers, so they don’t look out of place when worn outside the gym or studio.
  3. Flat Pedal Shoes: These shoes are made for cycling but do not have any cleat attachment. The soles are still made stiffer than other sports shoes. Flat shoes are great for beginners and those who want to get on and off the bike easily. They are meant to be used with flat pedals and/or toe cages. Most flat pedal shoes are classified as either mountain bike shoes or casual/urban bike shoes.
Various cycling shoes

Various cycling shoes

Non-cycling shoes you can use

Not everyone can afford to buy an expensive pair of cycling shoes. Fortunately, cycling shoes are not mandatory. You can cycle wearing pretty much any kind of sports shoes you want, as long as it has some stiffness. These include tennis shoes, golf shoes, indoor soccer shoes, trail cross shoes, etc. Running shoes may not be as good an option since they are made to be flexible. The softer rubber soles of these shoes will eventually get damaged as well from the rough surface of the pedals. Nonetheless, you can use them.

Benefits of using cycling shoes

Cycling shoes offer plenty of advantages, especially if you exercise frequently on a stationary bike. These are listed below:-

  • The efficiency offered by cycling shoes allows you to perform a lot better and keep going for longer. In turn, you will enjoy indoor cycling a lot more than before.
  • Without cleats, you will only be pushing down on the pedals and working mostly your quads and glutes. But by clipping in you can also pull up the pedals and engage your hamstrings. This results in better and more balanced muscle development in the legs.
  • Clipping in also promotes a good cycling posture. This prevents cramps and overuse injuries. Additionally, there is no chance of slipping off the pedals and hurting yourself.

Indoor cycle pedals

The pedals and the shoes you use need to be compatible in the case of clipless pedals. Meaning, clipless pedals are designed either for 2-hole cleats or for 3-hole cleats. If you are not using cleats, then toe cages are necessary. They are not as efficient as clipping in but they keep the feet secure and allow you to push and pull the pedals. Fortunately, most stationary bike pedals are dual-sided. One side will be flat with toe cages, while the other side will be clipless, usually having a 2-hole setup.

It is possible to change the pedals of any indoor bike. Nearly all pedals use a 9/16 inch thread. This way you can match them for the shoes that you already have. In case the pedals of your indoor bike do not have toe cages, there’s no need to buy a whole new set of pedals. You just have to look for compatible toe cages that can be installed on the pedals.

Dual sided pedal

Dual-sided pedals | Source:


Finally, you have to buy suitable cleats, given that you choose to wear clipless shoes. Yes, cleats are sadly not sold with cycling shoes. However, shopping for a set is not difficult at all. Shimano SPD cleats are practically the only 2-hole cleats that you can get. As for 3-hole cleats, you have to choose between only two options – Look Delta and Shimano SPD-SL. So, unlike with shoes where you have to get the right fit and consider a bunch of other features, there’s not much of a decision to make when buying cleats.

2 bolt cleats vs 3 bolt cleats

2-hole cleats (left) and 3-hole cleats (right)

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Can I rent cycling shoes?

Ans.: That depends on the gym or spin class that you attend. Some will have the option to rent a pair of shoes and some won’t. Some places may even lend them to you for free in exchange for the membership fee that you pay. This might be a solid option for a lot of people. The downsides are that you might not get the perfect fit and the fact that other people use it as well. Ultimately, it is up to you if you want to rent or not.

Q2. What is the difference between 3-hole and 2-hole cleats?

Ans.: Both types of cleats are excellent for efficient power transfer from your feet to the pedals. However, 3-hole cleats do offer just a bit more stability and efficiency. Which is why they are the standard for road cycling shoes. Other than that, there isn’t much of a difference. The choice of cleats for indoor cycling really only comes down to your choice of shoes.

Q3. Do you need special shoes for Peloton?

Ans.: Just like with any other stationary bike, you don’t need special cycling shoes for a Peloton. Any sports shoes will be just fine. However, cycling shoes will deliver the best performance and make the workout more enjoyable. Peloton pedals are compatible with 3-hole cleats. So, you will need road shoes to clip-in. You could also buy Peloton branded shoes but those are quite pricey.


Most people who work out on stationary bikes simply use the shoes that they already have. But if you are serious about indoor cycling and want to take your training to the next level, then a pair of mountain bike or road cycling shoes with cleats attached is a great choice. They will provide you with the boost you need. No need to put too much pressure on yourself. Just pick the shoes that you like and most align with your goals.

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.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

      Leave a Comment