Can you use mountain bike shoes for road cycling? 

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Have you ever wondered if you can use your mountain bike shoes for road cycling? 

Well, it’s possible, but doing so might affect your performance and comfort on the road.

As you may already know, there are differences between mountain bike and road bike shoes, and the pedals and MTBs and road bikes are often not compatible with each other. 

But there’s more to this, so let’s get started!

Can I use mountain bike shoes on a road bike?

Yes, you can use mountain bike shoes on a road bike, but it may not provide the same level of efficiency and power transfer as road bike shoes do. 

Mountain bike shoes are designed with a different sole and cleat system compared to road bike shoes. They have a more flexible sole and recessed cleats designed for off-road use, while road cycling shoes have stiffer soles for optimal power transfer. 

The rugged sole design of mountain bike shoes is meant to provide better grip and traction when walking or riding off-road. And the recessed cleat also makes it easier to walk around in the shoes.

On the other hand, road bike shoes have a smooth, stiff sole that maximizes power transfer to the pedals. They usually have a larger, exposed cleat that attaches to the pedal for a more secure connection.

If you already have mountain bike shoes and want to use them on a road bike, you can look for road pedals that are compatible with mountain bike cleats.

Some pedals have a two-sided design—one side for road cleats and the other side for mountain bike cleats. This allows you to use the same pedals with different types of shoes.

Is it okay to use MTB cleats on road bikes?

It’s possible to use MTB cleats on road bikes. But it’s not ideal for optimal performance and efficiency because MTB cleats and road bike cleats have some differences in design and functionality.

If you’re familiar with MTB cleats, you will know that they usually have a two-bolt attachment system compared to the three-bolt system of road cleats. 

Also, mountain bike cleats are often recessed into the shoe sole, which allows for easier walking and provides a stable grip on uneven surfaces, but may affect pedaling efficiency on road bikes.

On the other hand, road bike cleats usually have a three-bolt pattern and are larger and more exposed on the sole of the shoe. Road bike shoes often have a stiffer sole for better power transfer, and are not as suitable for walking off the bike.

Using MTB cleats on road bikes can potentially lead to power loss and reduced efficiency, especially during high-intensity efforts.

Also, the recessed nature of MTB cleats means the shoes will sit higher off the pedal compared to road bike cleats. This can affect your stability, potentially leading to discomfort or a less efficient pedal stroke.

If you already have MTB cleats and shoes and want to use them on a road bike, you should consider buying an adapter or conversion kit that allows you to use two-bolt cleats with a three-bolt pedal system. These adapters can help improve the connection and stability between the shoe and pedal.

Road Bike Shoes

Fizik Unisex Road Cycling shoes
Fizik Overcurve R5, Unisex Cycling Shoe

Tommaso Strada Mens Road Cycling Shoes
Tommaso Strada Mens Cycling Shoes for Road Bikes – Universally Compatible with All Shoe Clips & Bike Cleats, from SPD to Look Delta to Speedplay – Bike Shoes for Road Biking & Indoor Cycling

Ultiant Road Cycling Shoes for Men & Women
ULTIANT Cycling Shoes Mens Womens Compatible with Peloton Road Bike Cycling Shoes with Look Delta Cleats Indoor Outdoor Bicycle Riding Shoes

ULTIANT Mens Womens Cycling Shoes
Mens Womens Cycling Shoes Compatible with Pelaton Road Bike Pelaton Shoes Riding Shoes Bicycle Pre-Installed Delta Cleats

Road bike and Mountain bike shoes: how do they compare?

When it comes to cycling shoes, choosing the right type can significantly improve your riding experience. Road bike shoes and mountain bike shoes have different designs, and each have their own unique features and functionalities. 

Let’s explore the key differences between these two types of cycling shoes and how they compare in terms of design and functionality.

Sole stiffness

Road cycling shoes have a stiffer sole compared to MTB shoes. This stiffness maximizes power transfer from your feet to the pedals, allowing for more efficient pedaling on smooth road surfaces. MTB shoes often have a more flexible sole to provide better comfort and walkability off the bike.

Cleat systems

Road shoes generally use a three-bolt cleat system, while MTB shoes use a two-bolt cleat system. The three-bolt cleats on road shoes provide a larger contact area with the pedal, offering a more secure connection. MTB cleats are typically recessed into the shoe sole, allowing for easier walking and providing traction off the bike.

Traction and grip

MTB shoes are designed with lugs or tread patterns on the sole to provide better traction when walking on uneven or slippery surfaces. Road shoes usually have a smoother sole without significant tread, which can make them less suitable for walking or hiking.


Road cycling shoes are primarily designed for use on smooth pavement, emphasizing aerodynamics, efficiency, and speed. They are suitable for long road rides, racing, and high-performance cycling. MTB shoes are built for off-road and trail riding, with features that prioritize durability, walkability, and grip for technical terrain.

MTB Shoes

Tommaso men’s mountain biking shoes
Tommaso Montagna 200 Mens Mountain Bike Shoes Men Spin Cycling Shoe Gravel SPD Shoes Compatible with SPD Cleats MTB Shoes for Men, SPD Cycling Shoes for Men Cycling Bike XC Spin Shoes No Cleat - 43

Giro Mens Mountain Cycling Shoes
Giro Rincon Cycling Shoe - Men's

Will mountain bike cleats fit road shoes?

If you’re wondering if you can put mountain bike cleats on road bike shoes, then the answer is NO. 

It is not possible to directly put mountain bike cleats on road shoes without the use of an adapter.

Mountain bike cleats have a two-bolt pattern, while road shoes are designed for three-bolt cleats. The hole patterns and shapes are different, so they are not compatible. 

However, there are adapters available that allow you to convert a road shoe with a three-bolt pattern to accommodate a two-bolt mountain bike cleat if you wish to use mountain bike cleats on road shoes.

Here are some of the best adapters you will find on Amazon:

CyclingDeal Bicycle Shoes Cleats Adapters: best MTB shoes-to-road bike pedal adapters

Corki-15 Clipless Platform Adapter Pedal: best clipless pedal-to-platform pedal adapters

With the use of these adapters, it is possible to fit mountain bike cleats onto road shoes, but it’s important to note that this setup may not provide the same level of efficiency and performance as using dedicated road cleats and shoes.

What is the difference between road bike and mountain bike cleats?

It’s important to choose the right type of cleat to suit the riding you’re doing, because there are differences between road bike and mountain bike cleats that impact power transfer, walking ability, and overall functionality.

Here are the main differences between road bike and mountain bike cleats:

  • Cleat Attachment: Road bike cleats use a three-bolt attachment system, while mountain bike cleats use a two-bolt attachment system.
  • Cleat Design: Road bike cleats are larger and more exposed compared to mountain bike cleats, which are recessed into the shoe sole.
  • Pedal Compatibility: Road cleats and pedals are generally not compatible with mountain bike cleats and pedals, and vice versa.
  • Shoe Compatibility: Road cleats are designed for road cycling shoes, while mountain bike cleats are compatible with mountain bike shoes.
  • Float: Road bike cleats often have limited float or fixed options, while mountain bike cleats offer more float to accommodate varied terrain and provide foot movement.
  • Sole Stiffness: Road bike cleats are designed for stiffer road cycling shoes, while mountain bike cleats are compatible with more flexible mountain bike shoes.
  • Traction: Mountain bike cleats often have tread patterns on the sole for better traction and grip when walking off the bike, while road cleats have a smoother sole.

It’s worth mentioning that despite the differences between road bike and mountain bike cleats, there are still some similarities and areas where they overlap. 

And there are pedals systems, like the Shimano Dual-sided Bike Pedal, that offer dual-sided pedals with one side compatible with road cleats and the other side compatible with mountain bike cleats, providing flexibility for riders who want to use the same pedals on different bikes.

Why does using the right shoe for each type of cycling matter?

Using the right shoe for each type of cycling—road cycling and mountain biking—matters for several reasons:

Performance and Efficiency

Proper cycling shoes are designed to maximize performance and efficiency for their intended discipline. 

Road cycling shoes have a stiff sole that efficiently transfers power from your legs to the pedals, allowing you to generate more speed on smooth road surfaces. 

Mountain bike shoes, on the other hand, have a more flexible sole that provides comfort and better grip when navigating off-road trails.

Also, road cycling shoes are optimized for a stable and efficient pedaling motion on the road. The stiff sole and secure connection with road cleats and pedals ensure a more direct power transfer and minimize energy loss. 

Mountain bike shoes offer a more forgiving and comfortable pedaling experience with some degree of foot movement due to the additional float in the cleats, which helps accommodate varied terrain and enhance control.

Traction and Stability

Mountain bike shoes are specifically designed for off-road riding, where traction and stability are crucial. 

The tread patterns and rubber compounds on the soles of mountain bike shoes provide grip and traction when walking or riding on uneven and slippery surfaces. 

Road cycling shoes, with their smooth soles, are not designed for off-road traction and may be less secure or slippery in such conditions.

Protection and Durability

Mountain bike shoes are often built with additional protective features like toe guards, reinforced uppers, and rugged construction to withstand the rigors of off-road riding. 

They provide better protection against rocks, roots, and other trail obstacles. 

Road cycling shoes prioritize lightweight construction and ventilation for road riding, as they don’t require the same level of protection against rough terrain.

Wrapping up

Using the appropriate shoes for different types of cycling boosts your performance, comfort, and safety. 

Specialized cycling shoes are specifically designed to meet the specific needs of road cycling and mountain biking, making your overall cycling experience better in each discipline. 

So, choosing the right shoes ensures you get the most out of your ride in terms of enjoyment and effectiveness. 

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BikeCrunch offers the best riding tips and guides to help you get the most out of your cycling adventures. We offer in-depth bike and accessory reviews, unbiased buying guides, how-to guides, and much more. Mountain biking, road biking, commuting, touring, and recreational cycling are some of the topics we cover.