Are Cycling Shoes Really Worth the Investment?
Find out how much your foot gear impacts your workout!
The question: “I love to cycle, but I only do it two times a week, so I’m having trouble justifying buying cycling shoes. Am I missing out on major benefits by not wearing cycling shoes on the bike?”
The answer: You might not be getting the full advantages of your cycling class if you’re wearing your regular kicks for it, says Buschert. There are four main ones:
The Power Factor
Unlike typical sneakers, cycling shoes have a very stiff sole so that the power produced by your leg muscles goes straight to the pedal instead of being absorbed by the cushion of the shoe, says Buschert. This makes it easier to pedal—which means you’re able to amp up the resistance more than you could while wearing non-cycling shoes.
The Alignment Factor
If you wear sneakers on the bike, you need to make a conscious effort to stay in the proper position. But since cycling shoes lock into place (or, in cycling speak, “clip in”), they don’t slip around, which means you’re more likely to stay aligned—and can better avoid ankle, knee, and hip injuries, says Buschert.
The Comfort Factor
Another advantage of clipping in is that it keeps your feet more comfortable, says Buschert. She says that people who have bigger shoe sizes have a hard time keeping the balls of their feet over the center of the pedals (a.k.a. the optimal cycling position) and end up pedaling with their toes, which doesn’t feel good. On the other hand, people with smaller feet tend to put their feet all the way into the cages that go over the pedals, which means the arches of their feet are over the center of the pedals; that also doesn’t feel so great. Clipping in means avoiding either of those situations.
The Muscle-Building Factor
Cycling shoes can also help you target your glutes and core better during your workout, says Branker. She says that since cycling shoes fix your feet into place, it takes a lot of stress off other parts of your body that aren’t necessary for the workout, like your hip flexors and shoulders, for example, and therefore improves the quality of your sweat session.
OK, OK, so you get the benefits of cycling shoes. But like you said, you only cycle a couple times a week—will cycling shoes really make a big difference? Buschert says yes, that the advantages far outweigh the cost of the kicks, even if you don’t cycle that often. “If you ran twice a week, you wouldn’t do it in flip flops,” she says. The same idea applies here, she explains, adding that if you’re only cycling a couple of times per week, wouldn’t you want to get as much out of those workouts as possible?
Branker also says that even those two “measly” workouts are enough to validate buying a pair of cycling shoes. “In one or two classes, you could be doing up to 40 miles of biking,” she says. “It’s a lot of work for your body.”
If you still can’t bring yourself to invest in cycling shoes, there are a few things you can do to get the most out of your workout without clipping in: First, if the bike you’re using has cages for your feet, concentrate on pulling your knees up to your chest and dropping your heels. This engages your glutes and core more effectively, says Branker. Also, make sure the balls of your feet are over the center of the pedals, and be sure to tuck your shoelaces into your shoes to keep them from getting caught in the crank, says Buschert.
By: Ashley Oerman at Women’s Health
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