What are Clipless Cycling Shoes?
The term clipless cycling shoes seems backward as these cycling shoes do indeed clip into pedals to keep your
foot securely fastened. The name refers to the days when feet were secured to pedals by metal 'toe clips' that
wrapped over the top of your foot and were fastened by a strap.
Today cycling shoes have a metal or plastic protrusion on the sole called a cleat to attach them to the pedal.
They are called clipless as you no longer have the metal cage wrapping over the top of your foot. However the shoes
do indeed clip or snap into the pedal to keep your foot securely attached.
The toe-clip system is still used on occasion for casual use when you want to use a normal street shoe on your
pedal and you still want your foot to be securely attached to the pedal. However clipless systems are regarded as a
much safer system due to the ease of releasing your foot from the pedal.
With toe clips and traditional cleats if your foot was securely fastened with the toe strap, you were required
to bend over and with one hand loosen the strap before you could pull your foot out.
I can attest to the fact that I fell over more than a few times at stoplights while trying to get the strap
loose enough to get my cleat free from the pedal. Don't let anyone try and tell you toe clips and straps are a
safer way to go than clipless.
As everyone knows the devil is in the details. If you are wearing a street shoe with any kind of
tread, the tread will act like an old style slotted cleat in the picture above firmly holding your shoe
to the pedal. Unless you are really good at paying attention to the traffic flow while reaching down, holding your
line and braking all at the same time, you are likely to end up doing a face-plant at the intersection while you
fumble with your straps.
Back in the day slotted cleats like the one shown above were attached to the shoe with tacks making adjustment
difficult and giving no lateral movement or float to account for a laterally uneven pedal stroke. Modern clipless
shoes offer easy mounting and installation of cleats and most offer a decent amount of float or room for your foot
to pivot on the pedal.
The future is definitely here with clipless shoes and pedals. They come in many flavors with a few main systems
in use today. Check out clipless cycling shoes and cleat systems here.
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