Condensed Answer: It’s possible to use clipless pedals with normal shoes, but the pedaling won’t be comfortable because the pedal will dig into your foot. Also, there’s a greater chance that your foot will slip, especially when riding in wet conditions.
Clipless Pedals + Normal Shoes = Problems
When combined with regular shoes, clipless pedals create the following issues:
Clipless pedals are designed for dedicated cycling shoes. Most models are very slim and have an attachment mechanism sticking out.
When you combine such pedals with regular shoes, you are very likely to get tender spots on your foot due to the slim profile of the pedal consistently stressing the same area.
You may not feel pain at first, but the next day, the ball of your foot may be notoriously sore.
With cycling shoes, this effect is minimized because they’re very stiff and connect to the pedal via small cleats bolted to the sole.
2. Poor Grip
Clipless pedals are very secure when coupled with cycling shoes, and it’s close to impossible for your foot to slip involuntarily.
But when you use regular shoes, the story changes for the following reasons:
- Unlike platform pedals which operate with standard shoes, clipless pedals do not have pins to increase grip.
- Clipless pedals are slim. As a result, the contact patch between the foot and the pedal is very small.
If you use clipless pedals with shoes that have a slippery sole without any thread, your foot may slip. The possibility increases greatly in wet conditions.
When your foot slips, the pedal may hit you in the shins and cut your skin (a very painful experience). You may also lose balance and fall.
1. Flip the Pedals
Ideally, you shouldn’t use normal shoes with clipless pedals. But if you find yourself without another option (e.g., somebody stole your cycling shoes, and you have to go home somehow), there are ways to minimize the discomfort.
The most basic method would be to flip the pedals and cycle with the attachment mechanism pointing down.
If you have pedals with attachments on both sides this approach will not work.
Note: This is an emergency solution only and doesn’t reduce the likelihood of your foot slipping.
2. Use Hybrid Pedals
Another option is to buy hybrid pedals which have a clipless system such as SPD on one side and a platform on the other. Those types of pedals will have you covered in both situations.
Having said that, hybrid models have a notable downside – you may have to spin them a couple of times before getting to the side that you want to use.
Clipless Pedals That Work With Regular Shoes
The table below contains clipless pedals which can also be used with regular shoes when flipped:
|Double Shot 2 CrankBrothers||Aluminum||395g|
|Shimano PD-T421 SPD||Aluminum||418g|
|Tatze Pedal MTB Two Face||Aluminum||435g|
|BTWIN 100 CLIPLESS DUAL PLATFORM||Aluminum||360g|
3. Clipless-to-Flat Pedal Adapters
Another solution is to carry clipless-to-platform-pedal converters that attach to the clipless system of the pedal and provide a platform of their own.
Below are three products that fit this description:
- Fly Pedals
- Pocket Pedals
The adapters are light, and you can carry them in your saddlebag or pouch. Make sure that the ones you buy are compatible with the mounting system of your pedals.
The downside of this approach is that you add a bit of weight to your pedals. Also, some users say that the adapters have poor grip compared to “legit” platform pedals.
4. Make a “Ghetto” Clipless-to-Platform Adapter
You can make your own “ghetto” clipless-to-platform adapters by screwing a set of old cleats onto a piece of flat wood (e.g., plywood, a piece from an old skateboard…etc.) and mounting them to the clipless pedals that you have.
To increase grip, it’s recommended to cover the pedals with sandpaper/grip tape such as the one found on skateboards.
This approach is the cheapest, but has some cons, namely:
- The wood will provide poor grip and will be quite hard on your feet.
- The aesthetics of your bike will suffer tremendously.
- The pedals will get “taller”.
5. Switch To Flat Pedals
If riding with normal shoes is a priority, you can consider switching to flat/platform pedals for good.
At the end of the day, the boost that one gets from clipless pedals isn’t super impactful in the world of recreational cyclists. The extra gains matter only to competitive athletes.
Truth be told, average riders will be just as slow or fast (depending on how you look at it) with or without clipless pedals.
6. Switch to Toe Clips
Toe clips are an old-school foot retention system as old as road cycling itself. Unlike clipless pedals, toe clips allow you to cycle with a greater variety of shoes.
Having said that, some people consider this system archaic and subpar in comparison to clipless.
In reality, ordinary cyclists aren’t going to lose a perceivable amount of power upon starting to ride in toe clips.
7. Switch to Flat Pedals + Straps
Flat pedals (e.g., BMX pedals) combined with straps is a common set-up among fixed-gear riders. This system allows you to cycle with a great variety of shoes, looks “urban” and still provides a foot retention mechanism.
The downside? The straps get dirty…and many people consider thе combo non-aesthetically pleasing on a road bike.
8. Get a Beater Town Bike
Alternatively, you could consider buying a second bicycle with an upright geometry and flat pedals for running errands or commuting.
FAQ: Will non-cycling shoes damage clipless pedals?
It’s highly unlikely that a metal pedal will be damaged by your soles. The biggest concern, in this case, is the cyclist’s comfort and safety rather than equipment protection.
Having said that, the pedals may get contaminated from the dirt on your soles and may require cleaning to operate smoothly again.
FAQ: How can I minimize the negative effect of combining clipless pedals and regular shoes?
The downsides of this combination are the most pronounced when you’re cycling with thin super flexible soles.
If you ride with shoes that have firm soles with lots of thread, you will experience less discomfort and grip problems.
That said, this practice is not recommended either because it’s still uncomfortable and will reduce your sensitivity.
Summary: What You Need To Know
1. You can combine clipless pedals and normal shoes, but the ride quality will be low due to consistent discomfort. If you ride with a thin sole, it’s possible to develop an overuse injury.
2. The risk of your foot slipping is greater when using clipless pedals with regular shoes. If your foot slips, the pedal may hit you in the shins and cause an accident.
3. If you want to combine normal shoes + clipless pedals, you can consider the following solutions:
- Buy a hybrid pedal (clip-in on one side/flat on the other)
- Buy clipless to flat pedal adapters (or make a “ghetto” version yourself)
4. If you’re consistently annoyed by clipless pedals and their inability to operate properly with regular shoes, you can change your pedal system.
The options are:
- Switch to flat pedals for good
- Switch to toe clips
- Switch to flat pedals + straps
5. If you want to be extreme, you can buy a second bike with relaxed geometry and flat pedals for commuting/running errands…etc.