Can Indoor Cycling Shoes be Used Outdoors?

You don’t have to wear cycling shoes when you ride a bike. Many people ride regularly and successfully without them...

You don’t have to wear cycling shoes when you ride a bike. Many people ride regularly and successfully without them and choose to wear trainers or sneakers instead. 

Experienced indoor and outdoor cyclists often recommend cycling shoes, but, like most performance-related clothing and equipment, they can be expensive. If you already own an indoor pair, it's understandable to want to use them outside too, but can you?  

Cycling Cleats

What are cycling shoes? 

Cycling shoes are specialist shoes for cyclists. They have small nub-like protrusions on the soles called cleats, allowing riders to ‘clip in’ and secure each foot to the pedal. When riders are ready to dismount, they must first detach their shoes from the pedal. If they don’t, they’re likely to lose their balance and fall to the ground while still connected to the bike. Compare this to regular trainers or sneakers, where riders can lift their foot off the pedal without thinking about it. Different cycling disciplines have different styles of shoes. Road shoes, for example, have more prominent cleats than mountain or indoor ones. Some are more rigid to help prevent painful pressure points from building up on long rides. Some have ventilation to allow airflow.

People wear cycling shoes for several reasons, but many believe they transfer more power into the pedal (although some disagree). Outdoor riders often say it makes the bike more responsive and helps with stability and control. Indoor riders usually wear them to maintain speed and cadence at high speeds. Indoor and outdoor cycling shoes are often marketed to their specific (indoor or outdoor) audiences, but can you mix them up and wear indoor cycling shoes outdoors? 

White Shimano cycling shoe on a grey background

What’s the difference between indoor and outdoor cycling shoes? 

Indoor cycling shoes are easier to walk around in because the cleats aren’t so prominent, and they’re lighter too. As stationary bikes don’t generate airflow as outdoor riding does, there’s ventilation in the shoes to cool the feet. 

Most indoor cycling shoes use the SPD system. It’s the most popular and uses a two-hole (two-bolt) system and a rectangular design, which is more flexible. Some indoor cycling shoes will use Delta, which has a three-hole systemIt’s important to know what’s compatible with your pedals because although indoor studios commonly use SPD, Peloton, for example, uses Delta, and the different systems aren’t interchangeable.

You could, however, look for a bike with reversible pedals to accommodate both types, or you could also physically swap one set of pedals out for another.

Can indoor cycling shoes be used outdoors? 

Yes, but you’ll need to check that the systems are compatible first. As we mentioned earlier, you can’t use Delta shoes on an SPD pedal and vice versa. A lot of road bikes take Delta. A lot of indoor cycling bikes use SPD. Don’t assume it’s a straight swap. If the systems are compatible, you can wear indoor cycling shoes outside, but here are a few things worth remembering.

          • Indoor cycling shoes aren’t going to be as durable as outdoor ones because they’re made for the cycling studio and not for outside weather, road or terrain conditions. You may need to replace them more quickly depending on the type of riding you do.
          • Indoor shoes are better ventilated, so if you’re riding in cold weather conditions, you may have to factor this in because your feet will get colder more quickly.  

          • Indoor cycling shoes aren’t made to stand up to rocks and debris or the types of crashes or accidents you can have on an outdoor bike. You should check the kind of protection it offers before wearing it outside.
          • If you’re using one set of shoes both for indoors and outdoors, then you’ll have to contend with tracking mud and dirt into your home. You may need to allocate more time to cleaning and drying them off.  

          • While many indoor cyclists and mountain bikers favour SPD, road cyclists often opt for the delta system because it’s believed there’s greater power transfer between the rider and the pedal. You may find that the opposite system works best for you.

If your cycling shoes are compatible with your outdoor bike, then nothing stops you from using indoor shoes outside. Personal preference will probably dictate what you end up doing and for some people having a separate pair of shoes, especially for cold weather or terrain riding, is better. Try it out and see. There’s also a wide range of cycling shoes for different budgets, and buying a second pair doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank.

Got the shoes but looking to upgrade your indoor cycling bike? The electricity-generating RE:GEN is available to pre-order,



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