Do You Need Special Shoes for Indoor Cycling? An Instructor Explains

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robbie ferri headshot
By Robbie Ferri CPT

CPT & Indoor Cycling Instructor

Indoor cycling is a lot of fun, and there’s nothing for us that compares to a workout on the bike. When it comes to indoor cycling, the equipment you use does make a huge amount of difference. If you invest in the correct gear, the experience is going to be much better than using the wrong gear. 

We are often asked a lot of questions at Girl Bike Love about indoor cycling. One of the questions we often encounter is, “Do you need special shoes for indoor cycling?” In this article, we’re going to be answering that question by speaking about:

  • What Indoor Cycling Shoes?
  • Do You Need Indoor Cycling Shoes?
  • What Are The Benefits Of Indoor Cycling Shoes?
  • Understanding The Cleats And Pedals
  • Our Recommendations For Indoor Cycling Shoes
  • Getting The Right Indoor Cycling Shoes For You
Indoor Cycling Shoes Featured

What Indoor Cycling Shoes?

Indoor cycling shoes are designed to be used on a stationary bike. They are created to give you the best experience possible while cycling indoors and are used by the majority of avid spinning enthusiasts. 

Indoor cycling shoes come in many different shapes and sizes. One of the key features of many indoor cycling shoes is that they have the ability to clip into the pedals. This means your feet stay bolted to the pedals and don’t come off.

Many people question, “Are they the same as outdoor cycling shoes?

Yes, they are very similar to outdoor cycling shoes, but they have many differences, which you can find out here in one of our other articles: Indoor Vs Outdoor Cycling Shoes.

To use indoor cycling shoes, you require the correct pedals and cleats to suit. You get a few different types of pedals, but the main type used is called an SPD, not to be confused with SPD-SL, which is different. We will talk about the different types later in this article.

Indoor Cycling Shoes upright

Do You Need Indoor Cycling Shoes?

You don’t need indoor cycling shoes to ride a spinning bike. In fact, most budget indoor bikes don’t come with pedals for indoor cycling shoes, so you need to upgrade them. If you have indoor cycling shoes, you get a much better experience, and it comes with a huge amount of benefits we will speak about next.

Can You Use Regular Shoes On A Spinning Bike?

You could use any shoes you want on a spinning bike, but for the best experience, you will want indoor cycling shoes or trainers as a minimum. Anything else isn’t going to offer comfort, support, efficiency, or the style you will get from indoor cycling shoes. 

shimano indoor cycling shoes

What Are The Benefits Of Indoor Cycling Shoes?

Indoor cycling shoes have a huge amount of benefits compared to using just general trainers. Here’s what you need to know:


It is not rare when using trainers to feel uncomfortable on your feet when indoor cycling. Having the right shoes make indoor cycling much easier, and comfort is key on any ride, whether it be long or short. There’s no point in riding through pain just because you’re wearing the wrong shoes for you and your bike.


Then we have stability. Using proper cycling shoes gives you a much better support system and offers the stability that a lot of people need when indoor cycling. It gives a lot of riders the confidence to stand and power through, knowing that they are not going to slip and fall back onto the saddle or off the bike

Increased Efficiency 

Using proper cycling shoes does make you much more efficient. Interestingly enough, you can see power figures to be around 10-20% more over a ride if you are clipped in and fitted correctly to the bike

Power Transfer

Probably the best thing about indoor cycling shoes is the fact they give you a much better power transfer. They connect you to the bike so well it means you can dig into the pedals so much more and produce a much higher wattage.

indoor cycling shoes yellow


When cycling indoors, it can easily get very warm, and you are not going to want your feet to overheat. Indoor cycling shoes are made to give the best ventilation possible. This keeps your feet cool and can stop them from swelling up and you getting uncomfortable. 

Reduced Risk Of Injury

You will also find that cycling shoes offer a much lower chance of getting injured. There’s much less chance of your feet slipping out, and it also fixes your foot in one single place, which does mean your body can adapt to one single position and work efficiently there. 

They Increase Confidence

As a spinning instructor for many years, I always recommended indoor cycling shoes for riders. There are many reasons we have spoken about above, but one of the main ones was confidence. Being clipped in just feels much better, and you can ride harder knowing the bike has you secured. 

They Look Good

There’s no denying that indoor cycling shoes look much better than trainers when being ridden. They also make you look much more professional, and it’s nice to have separate shoes for the job. 

spd sl indoor cycling shoes

Understanding The Cleats And Pedals

Indoor cycling shoes come in all shapes and sizes. If it’s not hard enough to pick already, you must think about cleat and pedal fitments. In this next section, we’re going to break down the different types of pedals and cleats to suit.

Flat Pedals (Toe Clips)

indoor cycling shoes worn 1

Flat pedals are what you see on a lot of budget bikes. They typically come as standard just to get you going. They are flat like a general cycling pedal, but going through them, you find a small strap that can be used to strap your foot to the pedal. 

Flat pedals are designed to be used with normal trainers. They work, but you find it’s easy for your foot to slip. They are uncomfortable and don’t always give you the structure you might want and need. 

SPD Pedals

shimano spd cleats

Then we have SPD, often known as mountain bike clip-ins. These pedals are double-sided, and you can clip into them. They have a small oval-like design in the center and often come double-sided with flat on one side and SPD on the other.

SPD pedals are designed to be used with cycling shoes. SPD cycling shoes have two bolts that sit next to each other. They have a small metal oval cleat made of metal so you can clip in. They offer excellent structure, a secure fit, amazing power transfer, and make you pedal efficiently.

SPD-SL, Look Delta Pedals

SPD SL Look Delta pedals

Finally, we have SPD-SL, Look Delta. These are another type of pedal that typically wasn’t used on indoor bikes much, but with the rise of Peloton using them, they became very popular as these were what Pelotons came with. These pedals can only be used with the cleats they are designed for, which are only on cycling shoes.

They are designed to be used with a different type of cleat which, instead of having two bolts next to each other, have three in a triangular shape. These offer a wide platform, securely grip your shoes, and are easy to adjust. 

shimano spd sl shoes zoom
SPD-SL Shoes

Tip: You can easily change the pedals of your exercise bike. You can watch our detailed video on how to do it.

Getting The Right Indoor Cycling Shoes For You

Getting the right indoor shoes for you can be challenging, and there’s a lot to consider when searching. Here’s the questions you need to be asking yourself when searching:


When you buy indoor cycling shoes, the size has to be perfect. We highly recommend ordering the size for you, and if they have got your size move on to another set. We see people all the time try to go slightly bigger or smaller, and it never tends to work out. 


When looking for indoor cycling shoes, we highly recommend having a budget in mind before shopping. If you go in without a budget in mind, it’s very easy to end up with a set that is way too cheap and won’t last long or is way too expensive. 


It’s important to get a style of shoe that you really like. If you don’t like the look of shoes, there’s much less chance of you wanting to pick them up and use them. Having some personal style and going for shoes you think suit you is much more important than people may think. 


Although you can get some cracking deals from lesser-known brands when it comes to shoes, using the big brands generally gets you a better shoe. The shoes typically get much more research and development and last much longer.  

What Cleat Fitment

Another thing that’s important to look at is cleat fitment. You must ensure you have the correct cleat pattern for the pedals you’re using. Typically SPD or SPD-SL. If not, you can end up with another bill for pedals or another set of shoes. 

Indoor or Outdoor

A lot of cyclists use the same shoes indoors as they do outdoors. If you are one of these indoor cyclists, you must ensure the shoes are made for outdoors too. Certain spinning shoes are designed solely for indoor cycling and are not designed for use outdoors, as the conditions can be damaging to them. Ensure you have the correct shoes for the job. 


Then we have the attachment. Indoor cycling shoes come with all different types of ways they attach to your feet. You get Velcro, Boas, and even laces. Think about the type you want, as many cyclists x them out later after making the wrong choice. 

Our Recommended Shoes

There are a lot of different shoes for cycling available, and you will never struggle for choice. When it comes to specialist shoes made for indoor cycling alone, there are actually very few. Here are our recommended shoes made purely for indoor cycling only. 

TIEM Slipstream (Women)

TIEM Slipstream SPD Indoor Cycling Shoe (Women's)

The Slipstream is a performance cycling shoe that doesn't sacrifice the style and comfort of your favorite pair of sneakers. Its breathable mesh toe box, slip-on construction, and single-strap closure system make it the most comfortable shoe you'll ever wear to class. 

Price & Reviews
  • Style: Casual
  • Cleat: SPD
  • Cost: $96
  • Color Options: Multiple
  • Sizes: 5-11

Tiem makes a few different kinds of cycling shoes. One of our favorites is the Slipstream. Not only does it look excellent, but it’s extremely functional and a great example of the quality that they can produce. 

The first thing to mention is the style of these shoes. They are casual-style spin shoe that mimics a general trainer. Perfect if you are planning to walk to the gym for spin class or are doing a mix of workouts at home. 

You get a wide range of colors and styles to choose from to suit your personality or even your bike. Also, you get a lot of options when it comes to sizing too, going from 5 all the way through to 11. Overall we really like them and highly recommend them to anyone looking for a casual shoe.

Shimano IC1 (Unisex)

SHIMANO SH-IC100 Indoor Cycling Shoe (Unisex)

The IC1 is a breathable and comfortable shoe especially designed to boost your indoor cycling workouts. Made from durable mesh and with a cross strap for a firm and customized fit, the IC1 is compatible with all popular pedal systems.

Price & Reviews
  • Style: Sport
  • Cleat: SPD and SPD-DL, Look, Delta
  • Cost: $100
  • Color Options: Black
  • Sizes: 5-18

Shimano is a big brand in cycling and makes some incredible products, from components to clothing. The IC (Indoor Cycling) range was one of the biggest shoe ranges to hit indoor riders and changed the direction many manufacturers were going in.

The IC1 is an excellent shoe that is designed for indoor riding and nothing else. It has a unique sporty look and only comes in stealthy black coloring. As far as sizing goes, you have a huge range for men and women from 5 to 18, which is a very impressive range. 

They can fit all different cleats as they have a special dual system that offers both SPD and SPL-SL, Look Delta. We found them very comfortable; the material is flexible and can wrap around your foot. 

Ultiant Cycling Shoes (Unisex)

  • Style: Sport
  • Cleat: SPD-DL, Look, Delta
  • Cost: $60
  • Color Options: Multiple
  • Sizes: 6-15

Suppose you’re looking for a set of cycling shoes that are a little more budget-friendly and will give you an excellent experience, then look no further than the Ultiant Cycling Shoes. They not only look great in a variety of different colors, but they also offer a comfortable fit too.

Coming in sizes from 6-15 and designed for both women and men, this is an ideal solution for many riders. The cleat fitment is SPD-SL, Look Delta, and it doesn’t have that dual system like the Shimano shoes. 

They wrap around the foot with Velcro straps which give a secure fit and have excellent ventilation. We highly recommend investing in the Ultiant Cycling Shoes, especially if you want to save a few dollars. 


Indoor cycling shoes can really improve the experience when riding a bike indoors. Not only does it improve comfort, but also performance, and can help reduce pesky foot injuries. We highly recommend investing in a set as they make a positive difference, and the best thing is how much more fun you will have.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do Indoor Cycling Shoes Make A Difference?

Indoor cycling shoes make a huge difference. They make you feel so much more connected to the bike. You get a more comfortable ride, better performance, and less injury risk. Once you start using indoor cycling shoes, returning to normal trainers is tough. 

Can I Use Road Cycling Shoes For Indoor Cycling?

Providing your cleats match the pedal. Then you can use road biking shoes. You will find they will do an excellent job and are the closest thing you will find to an indoor cycling shoe without it being one. 

Do You Wear Socks With Indoor Cycling Shoes?

It’s highly recommended that you wear socks with your indoor cycling shoes. Not only is it more hygienic, but it also offers protection against blisters and stops your indoor cycling shoes from smelling after they have had a lot of use. 

Should I Wear Thin Or Thick Socks Cycling?

For the best experience, we recommend thin socks. They ventilate much better, are designed to be lighter, and look much more suited than your typical thinker, longer socks. 

Can You Cycle Indoors Bare Footed?

You can, but it’s going to be very uncomfortable, and there’s a big risk of injury when doing it. We personally don’t think it’s a very good idea. We don’t recommend it and question why you might want to. 

How Often Should You Change Your Indoor Cycling Shoes?

It all comes down to how much you use them more than anything. As soon as they start to wither and break down, then they will need changing. I personally, as an indoor cyclist, change my shoes every 2-3 years.

Robbie Ferri CPT

Robbie from “Riding with Robbie” is a Personal Trainer living in in Norfolk, UK. He has bikepacked all over the World, and also raced ultra distance at a top-level. He has worked closely with industry leaders such as Shimano.

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