What Makes a Good Pair of Spin Class Cycling Shoes?

Wow, it’s January again already? We could have sworn that it was November about six minutes ago! Temporal anomalies aside, all that festive cheer has taken its toll, and many of us have returned to work with pants that don’t fit quite as well as they did a few weeks ago. So, with the weather doing its best to ensure that we’ll all be driving boats soon, the gym is looking like a winner – and one proven way to shed those extra pounds is to brave your local Spinning® class. No – not that type of spinning! We don’t want to learn to make a woolly jumper here; we’re trying to lose weight! For those who don’t know, Spinning is a lot like riding an exercise bike, except that it’s infinitely more hardcore and comes complete with its own instructor and thumping soundtrack!

Spin bikes feature a large flywheel at the front, and the connection to this can be adjusted – allowing the difficulty level to be increased or decreased. Along with the rest of the class, you’ll be varying your degree of effort at the behest of an instructor – who will probably be on a bike themselves. The collective aspect of spin training, as well as the motivational benefits of being pushed to your limits by another person, have ensured that it has become a popular form of calorie burning up and down the UK – and most mainstream gyms now offer a spin class of some description. Although spin is designed to ensure that you exert yourself, the adjustability of the bikes ensures that it needn’t be total murder.

Whilst this means that spinning makes ideal off-season training for anyone who likes cycling, there are a few things that you should probably consider if you want to have a comfortable experience and get the most from it. Probably the most important of these is a good pair of spin shoes – which is what we’re going to discuss here.

Clipless confusion

Most spin bikes are fitted with pedals which will accept either normal trainers (generally using toe-clips) or specialist cycling shoes with cleats fitted – where you clip the shoe into the pedal. Just to confuse people, this system (where you clip yourself into the pedal) is known as a ‘clipless’ system.

Although you can go spinning wearing normal flat-soled shoes, you will get much more from the experience if you invest in a decent pair of cycling shoes. The main benefit of this is that you’ll gain the ability to physically connect yourself to the bike. This is similar to the benefit you gain from a toe-clip arrangement – but magnified many times. With clipless pedals, there’s very little risk of your foot accidentally coming loose on the pedal compared to a toe-clip – because with most systems you have to twist your foot in order to release them. Because you are firmly connected to the pedal, your workload effectively doubles – because you are responsible for pulling the pedal up as well as simply pushing it down. You can also go all out with your pedalling – because you know that your feet aren’t about to come loose. Almost all spin pedals you’re likely to encounter are compatible with Shimano’s SPD clipless system – although it’s definitely worth checking with your gym/club before you buy – just to be 100% sure.

Given that (outside of spinning) the SPD system has been aimed primarily at mountain bike riders, many compatible shoes are in fact mountain bike specific. Whilst these will allow you to clip into a spin bike, they may not be the best choice. For starters, many mountain bike shoes are waterproof –which is great when you are… well … up a mountain – but it doesn’t work so well when you’re sweating out calories in the gym! This type of shoe also tends to feature heavy gripping on the soles – which would be unnecessary in this situation.

No one likes a sweaty shoe!

What you really want when you’re in a hot and sweaty gym is a shoe with good ventilation. Some of the best models for this tend to be triathlon shoes – which are designed for absolute maximum exertion. These come with the added bonus of being easy to get on and off your feet – because triathletes are constantly in a rush. Another bonus of this type of shoe is that they tend to have a pretty stiff sole. Whilst this isn’t great if you want to get off the bike and walk about, when you’re pedalling hard it’s just what you need! The stiff soles will allow you to maintain a high cadence without putting undue stress on your feet – because they will offer support where you need it most.

One of the potential pitfalls of buying a spin shoe is mistaking ‘SPD-SL’ for ‘SPD’. SPD-SL is a totally different system to SPD, which works off three rather than two mounting bolts – and the majority of spin bikes won’t work with it. If you’re unsure, then just give us a shout, but in 99% of gyms you’ll be wanting an SPD compatible shoe – not SPD-SL or anything else. It’s worth noting at this point that if you already own a set of three-bolt cycling shoes but want to use them to spin occasionally, then you can buy an SPD-SL to SPD adapter for just that purpose.

We sell a few different shoes that would be well-suited to spin use – including the Shimano TR31 tri shoe pictured earlier and the Shimano WR32 women’s road shoe.  Please note that when shopping for shoes made by Shimano, we recommend that you purchase them one size larger than you normally would.  This is because Shimano tends to size their shoes quite small.  Whilst this is annoying, going up one size almost always solves the issue.

Whilst both of the shoes above will ensure great ventilation and be easy to get on and off quickly when you’re at the gym, we also sell some other less focused shoes which might be a better ‘fit’ if you want something a bit more multi-purpose (and if you’ll excuse the pun!). If you’d like a shoe that is almost as good for walking around town as it is for spinning up a fuss, then check out our range of touring shoes. These come with the added bonus of looking pretty much like normal shoes – especially in the case of models like the stylish Giro Republic. Although full-on mountain biking shoes would be a bit of a strange choice to wear in the gym, you can still get some off-road focused shoes that wouldn’t look too out of place. Enter the trail shoe. Something from Scott Trail would be ideal for this – and come in women’s specific fitment too.

So go on – take some spin shoes for a … spin! You’ll be amazed at how much difference it will make to your sessions – and you’ll be much more confident on the pedals. In addition to all that, you’ll look the part too! Bonus!  Don’t forget to bring a water bottle! Now, just to recap on everything above, we’ve included a handy checklist for buying your new shoes below:

Check what type of pedals the bikes at your gym have. This is almost always Shimano SPD, but you want to be sure.

Choose some shoes that are compatible with the system they use at your gym (probably SPD). Bear in mind that Shimano-branded shoes tend to be on the small side in terms of sizing.

Don’t forget your cleats! For the SPD system you’ll want SH51 cleats. If you want to fit some matching pedals to your bike at the same time, then check out the M520 pedals. These only cost a few pounds more than the SPD cleats by themselves but come supplied with a set! Bonus!

Set up your new shoes and cleats. There’s a little bit more to this than simply bolting them on (you need to align them comfortably), but Bike Magic have a good guide on what to do. As always, please just give us a shout if you get stuck. Bike Magic recommend using anti-seize when you fit your cleats – which is a good idea if you think you might want to remove them in the future – and if you don’t have any allen keys around the house then we sell those too (because you’ll need them!).

Go get ’em!

And finally …

Are you a spinner? Do you have any protips that we missed? Recommendations? Recipes for low-carb chocolate brownies? Below is the place to put them! Best comment this time wins a lightly used pair of spin socks and a flapjack (or you would if we hadn’t eaten it). Just the socks then … oh well.

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