How to Install SPD Cleats on Mountain Bike Shoes? (Step-By-Step Guide)

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Want to know how to install SPD cleats on mountain bike shoes? Then you are in the right place.

Installation of SPD (Shimano Pedalling Dynamics) cleats does not require any complexity. However, the positioning of these cleats might matter a lot.

That’s the main reason we are here to discuss the whole installation process without any further ado:

What are SPD Cleats?

Before we start the whole installation process, beginners need to know what SPD cleats are. SPD is short for Shimano Pedalling Dynamics and it refers to the clipless pedals introduced by the brand. 

Now coming towards the cleat explanation, it’s a small metal accessory that gets attached to the insole of mountain bike shoes. You have to properly position and adjust them in a way that they can lock your foot on the pedal easily.

How do SPD Cleats Work?

Once you properly position and adjust the cleats on your biking shoes, they get themselves locked to the pedal for a perfect pedal stroke.

In doing so, your feet are completely locked to the pedal axle and they cannot get displaced or dislocated no matter how harsh trail you ride.

Thus, with this locking mechanism, a road rider feels more energetic and efficient during uphill rides and can maintain the balance and stability of their bike at the same time.

That’s one of the reasons many professional cyclists prefer locking their feet on the pedal via SPD cleats to ensure an efficient biking experience.

Learn How to Install SPD Cleats on Mountain Bike Shoes

Installing SPD cleats does not require any complex assembly or knowledge. With the availability of bike tools, you can easily attach and tighten cleats on your pair of shoes.

For proper installation, we take a look at some of the important things you’ll need as follows:

Things You Will Need

  • Mountain bike shoes (Ones that have got cleats installation space)
  • Mountain Bike Matched Cleats
  • Attachments (base plate, cleat bolt, etc.)
  • A hex wrench or tightening tool.

Got them all? Let us now take a look at how to install them in 7 easy steps:

Remove Bottom Plate

Turn your shoes over and find a cutout in the sole. It’s probably visible in the middle. Take a hex wrench and remove the bolts as well as the bottom plate from the cutout properly.

We will attach the cleats here! If your shoes’ do not possess the bottom plate, then simply skip this step and move to the next one.

Install Cleats Base Plate

After removing the default plate from the cutout area, you will now need to install the base plate that comes with the cleats. For that purpose, locate the empty slots and insert the base plate there with care and attention.

If you already see a base plate attached to your MTB shoes, skip this step. That’s because the default base plate in a shoe is generally better when you attach a cleat to it directly.

All in all, locate and install the base plate underneath the shoe sole and properly adjust it to install the cleats later on.

Decide Whether You Need a Spacer or Not

The next step involves deciding on whether you need a spacer between your shoe and the cleat or not. The best way to find out is to check that if the rubber shoe sole of the shoe catches in the pedal cage or not.

If it does not get caught, then you will not need a spacer.

But if it does catch, then you will need a spacer between the shoe and the cleats. It will keep the shoe sole away from getting stuck into a pedal cage while you ride harsh trails uphill.

Position and Align the Cleat

After installing the base plate and checking whether your shoe needs a spacer or not, start with adjusting the cleat position. Adjust the position of the cleat over the metal band protective plate, but do not tighten it as of now.

That’s because you will steel need little alignment or adjustment of the cleats to enjoy efficiency during mountain biking.

Align the Cleats with Bolt Holes

Simply insert the inside of the cleat on the metal plate and make it aligned with the bolt holes of the base plate that you installed earlier. The cleats won’t be installed properly if you do not align them with care and attention.

When done, follow the next step;

Insert and Tighten the Bolts

Take out the bolts that come with the cleats and insert them into the holes accordingly. Secondly, use a hex wrench and start tightening them to an extent that you can still move and adjust the position of the cleats.

Do not tighten them too much as you will steel need some adjustments in the cleat positioning when you ride the bike. After attaching the cleats to the base plate, find yourself a decent riding position, adjust the cleats, and then tighten the bolts.

You can align the cleats according to the natural position of your feet as well. Take your bike out for a test drive to see whether the cleats do their job perfectly or not.

Final Tightening

The last step involves final tightening with the help of a hex wrench and we recommend this step only when you have found the right alignment for the cleats.

Make sure that you tighten the cleats properly or else they will get displaced while you ride those harsh and bumpy terrains. If the cleats are tightened enough, you will comfortably enjoy your ride either uphill or downhill without facing any problems.

However, when loose, the cleats might get stuck into the pedal cage and you won’t be able to take your feet off the pedal whenever you want.

So, it’s recommended that you properly tighten the bolts and align the cleats accordingly to save yourself from extra hassle and embarrassment.

How to Position Your Cleats for Clipless Pedals?

Positioning of the cleats plays a significant role in making a rider’s ride heaven or hell. Thankfully with the SPD cleats, you can adjust their position with the sliding interface and make them aligned according to your natural feet position.

This option allows the bikers to customize the placement of the cleats and enjoy an efficient yet comfy pedaling experience.

Now, a common method of placing the cleats on shoes is forward and it works quite well when you want to ride with speed and pace only. It will cause knee pain as soon as you hit an uphill trail. 

As we are talking about mountain biking here, we do not focus on speed only. That is, the cleat adjustment for clipless pedals in a mountain bike would be slightly different.

Professional mountain bikers prefer adjusting their cleats further back. In doing so, it puts less stress and strain on the calf muscles, which allows a rider to cover long distances without any hassle.

Not only that but the rearward position of cleats also ensures stability and balance as you are putting less pressure on your leg muscles and calf muscles and utilizing your quads more.

On the other hand, if you adjust the cleats even further back, it will allow your heal area to drop down completely. Thus you could get additional stability while riding uphill or downhill.

Even with all those assumptions, we will still suggest that you adjust the cleats on your shoes the way you are comfortable with. If far forward works good for you, then do it and if the further back position offers more reliability, then go with it accordingly.

How to Install SPD Cleats: FAQ

How do SPD cleats attach to the bike shoes?

SPD cleats get attached to the base plate that’s already installed in MTB-specific shoes. Once you align the cycling cleats onto the base metal plate, place bolts into the holes and tighten them but not too hard. Adjust the position of the cleats and then properly tighten the bolts using a hex wrench accordingly.

Where should SPD cleats be placed?

Many riders prefer placing the cleats further forward under the ball of the foot to enjoy more speed and efficiency. For mountain bikers, however, the ideal position is further back as it ensures more endurance and keeps the calves away from extra stress and pressure.

Can you put SPD cleats on road cycling shoes?

SPD cleats could also be installed on road shoes and the installation process is almost the same. An experienced rider could easily manage to install them with the instructions that are shared above. 


Installing SPD cleats on mountain bike shoes is as easy as cutting butter with a sharp knife. The problem arises when you have to position the cleats according to your personal preference.

Always remember that you will get good at improving the position of the cleats through trial and error. So, keep practicing the alignment until and unless you find the position that suits your biking ventures.

Good Luck!

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Written By

From riding to school since the age of 13, attending BMX races and events with his dad to himself conquering 50+ trails across the globe. For Rob, his Giant Stance 29 2 2020 is the friend that makes everything better. He is also a proud member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

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