Are Indoor Bike Shoes the Same as Road Bike Shoes?

With so many road bike shoes in my cupboard, was another pair needed to ride my new indoor bike trainer? After talking to my local bike shop and taking them for a spin, here is what I found out.

Are indoor cycling shoes the same as road bike shoes? For those who use turbo trainers or bike rollers in their homes, your road bike shoes will work perfectly as you will use the same bike and pedals for both. Stationary, spin, and exercise bikes often use flat or different pedal types and cannot be used with road bike shoes.

For those using a turbo trainer, you might want to switch out some things with the bike to make it easier to use with your training setup, but your pedals and shoes will most likely not be one of them.

Do I need special shoes just for my indoor turbo trainer?

Of course, there are always reasons we can validate buying new cycling gear, so don’t write off some nice new shiny gear just yet.

If you are like me, you don’t need much of an excuse to buy something new regarding cycling.

New gear means new confidence, which means faster riding. It all makes sense, right?

But do you need a dedicated pair of cycling shoes for riding your indoor bike trainer?

Realistically, no, you are riding the same bike with the same pedals as you ride on the road. Because of that, you can ride in the same shoes you use on your road ride without any issues.

But there are a few reasons you may consider a new pair of cycling shoes apart from just expanding your cycling gear collection:

  • Clean shoes means clean carpets. A dedicated pair of indoor shoes means no bringing dirt, grime, or oil in from a recent ride, especially if you live with variable weather conditions.
  • Spare shoes can come in handy when riding in cold, snowy, or rainy parts of the world. Ever get caught in the rain on a long ride? Those shoes can take forever to dry! A spare pair means you are back on your trainer in no time until the weather improves.
  • The perfect time to experiment. Trainers are a great way to try new things. Cadence, riding position, and even shoes and pedal combinations. All without the danger of an embarrassing fall in front of that attractive driver at the traffic lights.
  • For the more fortunate, you may ride a different bike on your indoor trainer to try new gear or save moving bikes in and out of the trainer every time. If they have different pedals, then, of course, different shoes will be required.

Can I ride my trainer in regular sports shoes?

As you are riding indoors, the benefits of the construction of dedicated cycling shoes are not really needed when it comes to protection from the elements.

Short of dropping your coffee on them (am I the only one that rides with coffee?), your feet don’t need the same protection.

That raises questions. Can I jump on the trainer in my normal sports shoes and save the trouble of gearing up for every indoor ride?

If you are riding to keep the body moving, that will work, though you will want to switch out your clip-in pedals to a clipless flat pedal with a much wider profile, making riding in regular shoes much more comfortable.

Riding on clip-on pedals without the stiff sole of a riding shoe for any extended amount of time is not a pleasant experience.

Worst still, you may injure a tendon or muscle in the foot and put you off the road altogether.

Remember, though, the benefit of riding with clip-in pedals, even on an indoor trainer, is lost with a flat pedal setup, so if you are looking for a realistic simulation of your outdoor riding experience, flat pedals will not provide the best solution.

You can help with accessories such as cages and foot straps to keep you more secure in a flat pedal and get you closer to your normal clip-in shoe feeling, but the difference will still be noticeable.

If you are training to be ready for an event or to simulate outside riding, it will always be best to ride in the same gear you ride on regular roads to ensure you keep your form as consistent as possible.

Do cycling shoes make much of a difference in bike trainer results?

Just like when you do your regular rides on the road, the advantage of riding in clip-in cycling shoes and pedals comes with the efficiency of the pedal stroke and the increase in power transference, especially when out of the saddle.

If you have connected your indoor trainer to indoor training apps like Zwift or Peleton, you will want your indoor riding to be as realistic to your outdoor riding as possible.

With the fantastic competitive rides these cycling apps provide, you will want to be as comfortable as possible to ensure the best position on the leaderboard and maximum bragging rights.

Besides, the last thing you want to develop on your trainer is bad habits that you bring back on the road.

Remember, perfect practice breeds perfect results.

Summing things up

So are indoor bike trainer shoes the same as your road shoes? Absolutely, as you are most likely riding the same bike on the road and on your bike trainer, you can wear the same shoes.

But are a new pair of road bike shoes necessary? Well, it depends on your situation, your budget, and how forgiving your partner is.

They provide an opportunity to experiment with different pedal and shoe setups that might help you when you are next on the roads, and a spare pair of shoes is never a bad idea when riding in the elements.

If you are like me, any excuse is good for new cycling gear, rain, hail, or shine.

Related Question

What other equipment do I need for indoor cycling apps like Zwift? Apart from your bike, shoes, and your trainer, if you want to use apps like Zwift, you may need a power meter/speed sensor and a way to mount your smart device to watch the peloton and readings in real-time.

Can you use any bike on a turbo trainer? Using any bike in an indoor bike trainer is safe, whether a mountain bike or road bike. Make sure not to over-tighten your trainer when connecting your bike, and you may want to think about buying a cheap back tire to avoid wearing out your more expensive road bike tires.

Can I leave my bike in my trainers? As long as you have connected it correctly in the first place, you should see no issues with leaving your bike in your trainer for extended periods of time. Just ensure you have the trainer properly adjusted for the size of your rear axle, and you will be fine.

Are indoor bike trainer shoes the same as spin-class shoes? No. Depending on the class, spin classes usually use either a flat pedal with a cage or Shimano’s SPD clipless pedals. SPD clipless pedals will most likely differ from those you use on your road bike and are more commonly found in mountain bike shoes.

Adam Johnson

As a middle-aged, 40-something cyclist, my riding goals have changed over the years. A lover of all things retro, and an avid flat bar cyclist, I continue to live off past triathlon glories.

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