Is it OK to Use Running Shoes for Cycling?

Is it OK to Use Running Shoes for Cycling?

If you’re an avid runner who’s looking to get into cycling, you may be wondering if you can just strap on your trusty running shoes and hit the road.

As someone who loves both running and biking, I totally get it.

But while your running shoes may feel comfortable for a jog around the neighborhood, they aren’t ideal for cycling.

In this article, we’ll take a practical look at whether it’s okay to use running shoes for cycling.

I’ll go over the key differences between cycling shoes and running shoes, the pros and cons of using runners on your bike, recommendations for the best cycling shoes, and some final tips.

So lace up and let’s get rolling!

Is it OK to Use Running Shoes for Cycling?

The short answer is yes, you can use running shoes for casual cycling.

But it’s NOT ideal, especially if you’re cycling frequently or over long distances.

Running shoes are designed for forward motion and impact absorption.

That makes them flexible and cushioned.

Cycling shoes are stiffer with a rigid sole to maximize power transfer and efficiency when pedaling.

Riding in running shoes can feel inefficient because your foot rocks side to side.

That said, if you’re just doing short rides at an easy pace, running shoes will work.

But for performance cycling and comfort over many miles, stiff cycling shoes are the way to go.

The rigidity helps reduce fatigue by supporting your foot better.

One exception is mountain biking.

The flexible sole of running shoes allows better control on variable terrain.

Just be aware that the tread can catch on the pedals.

So while you can make running shoes work for casual cycling, long term it’s better to use proper cycling shoes matched to your riding style.

Let’s look at why next.

Do You Really Need Cycling Shoes?

For recreational cycling at low intensities, cycling shoes aren’t strictly necessary.

But they make a big difference in power, comfort, and injury prevention once you start riding faster and farther.

Here are some key benefits of using cycling shoes:

More Power

The stiff sole provides a solid platform to push against the pedal and maximizes power transfer.

You get more bang for your buck with each pedal stroke.

Foot Support

Cycling shoes stabilize and support your foot and arch better than a flexible running shoe.

This helps reduce fatigue and keeps your foot position optimal.

No Slippage

Shoes made for cycling have cleats that lock into the pedals for no slippage or loss of power.

Running shoes can slide around on flat pedals.

No Pressure Points

The best cycling shoes have rigid soles evenly distributed over the entire foot.

Running shoes can create pressure points leading to numbness or pain.

Aerodynamics

Shoes designed for cycling have a sleek, low-profile fit that cuts through the wind better than bulky trainers.

Less drag can mean higher speeds.

For casual riding and commuting, running shoes work fine.

But as your skills progress and you ride faster, farther, and more frequently, cycling shoes really start to shine.

Your feet and entire body will thank you on long rides.

What Shoes Should You Use for Cycling?

When you’re ready to invest in dedicated cycling shoes, consider what type of riding you’ll do most.

Here are some top picks:

Road Biking

Choose lightweight road shoes with a very stiff carbon or composite sole, external cleats, and a snug anatomical fit.

The stiff sole maximizes energy transfer when pedaling hard.

Brands like Shimano, Pearl Izumi, and Giro make excellent road shoes.

Mountain Biking

Opt for shoes with a grippy rubber-lugged sole for traction when you have to walk or carry your bike over obstacles.

They have recessed cleats so you can still walk normally.

Check out options from Five Ten, Giro, and SHIMANO.

Spin Class

Indoor cycling shoes have a stiff sole for power transfer and an external cleat that’s compatible with studio spin bikes.

Popular brands include Shimano and Venzo.

Or get spin shoes with an SPD cleat to clip into an indoor bike or Peloton.

Commuting/Touring

For riding around town, choose practical cycling shoes with a recessed cleat you can walk in.

Styles range from casual sneakers to formal oxfords.

Check out options from Chrome Industries, Specialized, and Giro.

No matter the style, look for a snug fit, breathable upper material, appropriate cleat system for your pedals, and a stiff high-quality carbon or nylon sole.

This optimizes power transfer and keeps your feet comfortable mile after mile.

What Not to Wear When Cycling?

While running shoes work in a pinch, there are several types of shoes you’ll want to avoid for regular cycling:

Flat-soled Shoes – Shoes without a stiff sole like sandals, flip flops, and non-cycling sneakers don’t support your foot during pedaling.

This can lead to foot fatigue and knee pain when riding longer distances.

Work Boots or Hiking Boots – The heavy, inflexible sole of these shoes makes pedaling difficult and awkward.

Lugged treads can also get caught in bike pedals.

Dress Shoes or Boots – Slick leather or rubber soles have little traction and are slippery on pedals.

Heels change your pedaling position and put strain on your calves.

Cleated Football or Baseball Shoes – The cleats are designed for traction in grass or dirt and won’t interface properly with bike pedal systems.

They’re also very uncomfortable for walking.

Skate Shoes – While the grippy flat sole works for skateboarding, it provides no pedaling support and can catch on pedals when cycling.

The bottom line is you want shoes specifically engineered for cycling.

They provide stiffness where you need it – under the ball of the foot – and flexibility in the toe box for comfortable pedaling.

With the right cycling shoes, you can ride faster, farther, and in total comfort.

Final Thoughts

Yes, you can wear running shoes for casual cycling, but they lack the stiffness and pedaling efficiency of purpose-built cycling shoes.

The right bike shoes allow you to ride faster and farther by maximizing power transfer, eliminating slippage, supporting your feet, and streamlining aerodynamics.

Invest in road, mountain, or commuter cycling shoes with stiff soles, anatomical fit, breathable uppers, and cleats that interface with your pedal system.

Avoid flat, flexible shoes or heavy boots which can lead to discomfort and knee pain.

Don’t be afraid to spend a little more for high-quality cycling shoes.

Your feet will thank you during long rides.

And know that you don’t have to give up running – there are shoes designed to seamlessly transition between cycling and running.

Thanks for taking the spin on this topic with me!

Ride on in comfort and style in your cycling shoes.

And as always, be safe out there on the roads or trails.

Let me know if you have any other cycling gear questions!

Avatar photo
Joey B. Ramsey
Passionate cyclist, father, and blogger.
I've been riding bikes since childhood and enjoy sharing my knowledge with fellow cycling enthusiasts.
My diverse bike collection allows me to write reviews and advice based on personal experience with various bikes and accessories.
join me email cta
Join me
Join me for more cycling related content and deals.

Related Articles