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How to install cleats on bike shoes

Updated July 20, 2017

Using clipless pedals on your bike can improve pedal efficiency and control. However, before you can use your clipless pedals you will need to install cleats to the bottom of your cycling shoes. Not all cycling shoes are the same and neither are the cleats. Whether you’re using road cycling shoes or off-road shoes, and the brand of the pedals will all determine your cleat set up and installation. You will also want to make sure the cleats are positioned on your shoes so it’s comfortable when riding your bike.

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  1. Watch how your feet naturally land when you walk. You will want to set up your cleats to mimic this position while pedalling your bike. Improper cleat positioning can lead to problems with your knees, hips, and ankles.

  2. Use a screwdriver to bolt the cleat onto a road cycling shoe with three screws provided by the cleat manufacturer. Don’t completely tighten. Adjust the cleat on the bottom of the shoe so it is comfortable and natural for you to pedal. The cleat can be moved forward, backward, and side to side. The ball of your foot, just behind your toes, should rest directly above the spindle of the pedal. Make sure the toe of your shoe is not facing too far out or too far in. Tighten the three screws once you have found a comfortable position.

  3. For off-road cleats install the metal cleat to the bottom of the shoe using two bolts, which normally require a hex tool for tightening. Repeat the same steps of adjustment as you would for a road shoe.

  4. Mark your cleat position using a permanent marker that has a contrasting colour to the bottom of your shoe. Cleats will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. It is important to mark the cleats' position for easy reinstallation and proper fit. Bike pedals and the cleats that go with them are designed to be level and flat. If your foot doesn’t naturally sit level you may need to add an insole to the cycling shoe.

  5. Tip

    Road cycling shoes will normally have a three hole cleat installation where off-road shoes normally have just a two hole cleat installation. If you have problems with proper cleat fit you can check with your local bike shop and they should be able to help you adjust the cleats for a more comfortable ride.


    If you begin to have pain in your knees, hips or ankles check with a bike fitting professional.

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Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Hex tool

About the Author

Aaron Smith has been writing since 2003 and has been published in a number of articles including recent works for "Jefferson City Magazine." After switching majors his junior year in college, he decided to obtain a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from National University.

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