Bike Shoes Flat Vs Clipless – Which Is The Better Riding Option?

group mountain biking in beautiful landscape

Flats are the most common type of mountain bike shoes. They are more convenient for riding on paved roads, sidewalks, and other flat surfaces.

Clipless mountain bike shoes are more popular among cyclists who use them for cycling on hilly terrain or off-road riding. These type of shoes have cleats that provide a secure connection to the pedals.

Which is the best riding option entirely depends on the type of riding you do and what you feel comfortable with. Clipless shoes stay locked to the pedals for maximum power, but you are connected so if you fall over, you can’t jump off the bike when necessary.

What Skills Does Each Mountain Bike Shoe Need To Meet Your Needs?

When you’re looking for a new pair of mountain bike shoes, it can be difficult to know which shoe is best based on your needs. That’s why we have compiled a list of what skills that different mountain bike shoes have and how they compare to each other.

This list will give you some insight into what styles are best for specific uses. It will also help you decide on the best type of shoe for your riding style and needs.

These are the two main mountain bike shoe types:

  • Clipless mountain bike shoes: These are the best choice if you are looking to push 100% of your power into the gears, but at the same time your shoes are mechanically connected to the pedals.
  • Flat pedals shoes: Flats looks and mostly feel like wearing a pair of sneakers, a pair of Vans, or some hiking boots even. They do not connect to the pedals, so these are like the shoes you wore as a kid when you jumped on your bike. They are also easier to clean compared to other styles of shoes since they do have the same deep crevices of the cleats.

Clipless shoes hook into the pedal for a positive lock, whereas flat pedal shoes look like normal sneakers in most ways.

Both can work very well depending on your needs as long as they fit your feet and work for your type of riding. The key here is that mountain bike shoes really make a difference in keeping your feet from slipping off the pedals so if and when you can, getting them is a great idea and an investment in not skinning your shins.

Why Do Mountain Bikers Choose To Wear Clipless ?

Clipless pedals are the most common type of cycling pedals. If you want shoes that will not come off the pedals at all no matter what, then clipless shoes may be the choice for you. They often are the go-to shoes when you want total leg power to go into the crank and you don’t want to have to use any power to hold the feet onto the pedals.

Many bikers prefer clipless, especially for XC trails and such since there isn’t as much risk of falling off of the bike or having to jump off.  For more extreme downhill you may want to choose flat shoes however.

Clipless shoes have been around since the 1970’s, but they have evolved over time. The first clipless pedal was a simple platform with spikes that could be engaged by pressing down your heel into it. This design proved very popular because it allowed riders to stay in contact with their bike while also adding some level of safety.

Which Mountain Bike Shoe Should You Buy?

Most times you are choosing between flat and clipless shoes you area really deciding between road shoes or mountain bike shoes.  Think of those as your four major categories.

The first step to is deciding what type of terrain you are going to be riding.  If it’s mostly road, then I’d just get road cycling shoes.  If it’s either part of each or full mtb, which entails dirt, mud, etc ..  more or less not pavement. If you are going to do any mtb riding, then get the mtb shoes.  That simple.

Choosing between flat and clipless shoes however is a tougher one since there are strong arguments for each. Sometimes one just feel better.

I myself had no doubts with buying flat pedal shoes. I’ve had enough crashes and had to bail enough times I do not want my feet attached to the pedals. So that rules out clipless shoes for me right there. However, it doesn’t mean flats are any better. It’s just when I looked at mtb shoes I could only be comfortable with flats. I knew that mountain bike shoes are highly recommended but I didn’t want to stick with sneakers forever when riding.

Budget may be a major considering when choosing which type of mtb shoe to buy.  Even for the cheaper shoes, they are typically more than your run-of-the-mill sneakers but they are completely worth the price when you see them as one of the major biking equipment pieces.