Why You Should Buy Cycling Shoes if You Use an Exercise Bike at Home

The shoes you choose can impact how you use an exercise bike. Here's how clip-in cycling shoes can help prevent exercise bike-related knee pain, increase motivation, and more.

Are cycling shoes necessary?

When gyms and fitness centers closed in early 2020—in response to Covid-19—gym rats across the country were forced to rethink their fitness and exercise regimens. According to an Economic Average report from Yelp, interest in home fitness equipment jumped by 436 percent during the first quarter. One of the most popular pieces of equipment? The exercise bike.

It’s easy to see why. Not only does a stationary bike take up very little space, “it’s a great piece of equipment for building up cardiovascular fitness, as well as muscular strength, endurance, and power,” says Samantha Clayton, a certified master trainer in Malibu, California.

“You can do steady state aerobic training to help you burn calories from stored body fat or perform HIIT style intervals to work your anaerobic system,” she says of its versatility for all ages and fitness levels. “You can climb hills to boost your posterior chain muscles and alternate easily through different types of elevations.”

Once you have the exercise bike, there’s really only one other piece of gear that’s crucial to an effective workout: A pair of cycling shoes. And while regular sneakers are an adequate choice, clip-in cycling shoes can take your workout to the next level.

Here, discover all the benefits of investing in a pair of the best cycling shoes for exercise bikes you can find.

Woman Using Exercise Bike in a HomeRichLegg/Getty Images

A balanced workout

While many people may think of biking as pushing down on the pedals so that they rotate in circles, proper form actually involves pushing down and pulling up on the pedals. Wearing cycling shoes that secure your feet to the pedals makes this much easier to achieve.

“Clip-in shoes make it easier to pedal as the quads do not have to work as hard on the upstroke of the rotation,” says certified personal trainer and yoga therapist Samantha Parker, CEO of Neoteric Movement Systems, where she helps people overcome chronic pain through movement.

Instead, the work is balanced between the quads, the muscles on the front of the thighs, and the hamstrings and glutes, the muscles in the back. That makes for a workout that hits all of the large, calorie-burning muscles in your legs.

Cycling shoes can also help keep your foot flat, avoiding the toe-down peddling style that engages only the quads and puts undue strain on the joints, adds Parker. “This can help you go faster, increase your speed, and get the most power out of your stroke rotation as you pedal.” Up your game even more with these products and accessories for your exercise bike.

Proper body alignment

“Clip-in shoes allow you to have a secure connection to your pedals, which is great for promoting good cycling biomechanics,” says Clayton. To get the most out of your workout and avoid injury while cycling, your knees should face forward and your ankles should never twist. If you’re wearing a pair of cross-trainers, however, your feet can move around inside the peddle cage, upping your risk coming out of this alignment.

“Cycling shoes promote good alignment of the foot, ankle and knee,” adds Clayton. “Plus, they make the transfer of weight as you peddle much more even.”

Why alignment is important: According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, maintaining proper alignment and moving in ways that will promote it puts less stress on your joints, significantly lowering your risk of injury.

Injury prevention

A sturdy shoe that keeps the foot flat helps protect against nearly all the possible indoor cycling injuries. “It limits the angle of the foot pointing down, which can increase the possibility of the calf cramping,” says Parker. “For someone who suffers from chronic lower back pain, shoes that keep the foot flat activate the glute muscles, limiting how much the pelvis is shifting while riding and taking pressure off the back.”

The secure connection of the shoe with the peddle also keeps your knees from coming out of alignment. That prevents any of the cycling-related knee pain commonly caused by irregular lateral movements, which can cause ligament strains and tears.

“If you’re not using cycling shoes, it’s very easy for your shoes to come off the pedals and for you to subsequently smash your shin against the pedal, even if you use the pedal straps,” says Jason Kozma, a Los Angeles-based fitness expert and personal trainer. Conversely, the biggest gripe people have with cycling shoes is that they’re difficult to get unclipped.

Finally, feelings of unsteadiness and instability on the pedals can cause cyclists to lean forward when they’re out of the saddle, putting too much weight on the handlebars. This posture puts excessive stress on the wrists and elbows. It also takes the stabilizing work out of your abs. If you’re securely connected to the pedals, you’re more likely to hover in the proper position, with a loose grip on the handlebars and the nose of the seat brushing your backside.

Increased motivation

For many people, simply owning specialized workout apparel, like cycling shoes, makes them more likely to exercise regularly. In a 2018 survey from athletic-wear company Barbell Apparel, 79 percent of respondents said that owning good gym clothes was an important first step towards accomplishing their fitness goals. And 88 percent said that simply putting on that gear helped motivate them to work out, even when they weren’t feeling up to it.

Investing in a pair of cycling shoes—and even slipping them on in the morning if you know you want to get a ride in—can significantly increase the likelihood that you stick to your exercise regimen.

Sources
  • Fitt Insider, from Yelp: "8 Charts that Explain Covid-19's Impact on the Fitness Industry"
  • Samantha Clayton, ISSA-CPT, certified master trainer, Malibu, California
  • Samantha Parker, MS, CPT, C-IAYT, certified personal trainer and yoga therapist and CEO of Neoteric Movement Systems
  • National Osteoporosis Foundation: "Proper Body Alignment"
  • Jason Kozma, personal trainer and champion bodybuilder
  • SWNS Digital: "The secret to getting fit is getting new clothes, study finds"