MTB Shoes vs Road Bike Shoes: Everything You Ought To Know

MTB Shoes vs Road Bike Shoes

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Wondering if you can use your MTB shoes for road biking or vice versa? Well, before you do so here’s the main differences about it and why choosing the right shoes is so important.

Let’s jump straight to it.

The Difference Between Road Shoes and MTB Shoes

Road Bike Shoes

When riding a road bike, your body maintains the same position for a long time. The only time your body position changes are when running over bumps and sprinting. Riding a mountain bike subjects you to making different body movements as you tear through a rough and even terrain.

Therefore, road shoes are made to ensure your power input does not go to waste and offer comfort for a long period. The shoes’ soles are stiff and don’t bend. Not only are they lightweight and sleek, but they are also uncomfortable to walk in.

In fact, wearing your road bikes shoes off the bike is self-torture, and the high-end versions come with expensive lacings and knobs and wooden insoles inside carbon fiber soles. The shoes are stiffer and are not recommended for any other activity apart from riding a road bike.

The Cleats

The hilarious thing about talking about cleats is what people with little to no knowledge about cycling think. If you don’t know what we are talking about, they are mechanisms tied tightly under the shoes to peg the shoes to the pedals. Road shoes use a different type of cleats to that of MTB shoes.

A road shoe cleat uses three bolts. The road bike shoes require their type of pedals, such as the SPD-SL or the Look pedals. The cleats are large, which allows you to put your constant effort onto the pedals. The large cleats reduce the amount of pressure under your foot and give you more comfort.

MTB Shoes

Mountain bikes shoes are comfortable on and off the bike. These are shoes the bride and groom can wear to their wedding and ride to their honeymoon as newlyweds without struggle.

MTB shoes are more complicated to design than road shoes. They have a rugged and flexible sole because mountain bikers have to flex their feet as they ride.

MTB shoes are so comfortable. You can run or walk on them. On higher elevations, climbing with your mountain bike may prove to be a challenge, and it will be easier running all the way up than pedaling all the way. Well, you might break your feet while trying to do that with road bike shoes.

These shoes are also heavier, but the weight doesn’t matter much in MTB riding. Does it, weight whinnies? Mountain bikes are easy to clip and easier to adjust when riding in different positions on the pedals. It’s for this reason that we find most gravel bike and hybrid bike riders using MTB shoes. Some road bike beginners prefer MTB pedals and shoes, too, when starting.

Related: How Long Your Cycling Shoes Will Last?

The Cleats

Mountain bike shoes do have smaller metal cleats that last long, compared to the large plastic road bike cleats that you’ll need to replace a couple of times. MTB cleats will last forever. The small size allows you to use smaller SPD pedals to reduce vibration to your feet.

The MTB cleats appear to be recessed into the shoe under the sole. Their small size makes them easier to use even when your shoes are muddy underneath. Besides, their metal nature ensures that they survive the harsh conditions that mountain bikes are meant for.

The biggest advantage of MTB shoe cleats is how easy they are to unclip, unlike road cleats. If you are about to fall or your bike slides off the trail, you have a quick chance to unclip and land safely. It’s not the same for a road biker.

Going Deep into the Cleats

The first cleats to be developed were the SPD cleats, now being used for MTBs, and gravel racing. Later on, the SPD-SL cleats were developed, and they became the main thing in road cycling pedaling. The SPD-SL cleats are light, while SPD cleats are heavier and smaller since they are made of metal.

SPD-SL uses three bolts to attach them, while the SPD ones use two. You can attach MTB SPD Cleats on your mountain bike shoes well as road bikes but you can do vice versa. There are adapters available that you can use to convert your road shoes to MTB shoes.

Why You Should Get the Right Shoes

Getting the right cycling shoes is important. It’s okay to ride a road bike with MTB shoes as there will be no consequences to your foot. The feel will change, though. However, if you use road bikes for your MTB, your ride will not be comfy, and as a result, your feet will be burning and hurting like fire.

So, make the right choice when choosing the right shoes for your bike. You’ll be able to improve your overall bike experience if you use the proper shoes. The right MTB pair of shoes for your MTB will improve your power, grip, efficiency, control, and comfort, and so will the proper road bikes for your fast road bike.

If you want to hate mountain biking, try riding with your road shoes. Even though you can use MTB shoes for road cycling, they are uncomfortable for longer riding because your feet keep flexing with the shoes. Road shoe’s nature allows you to distribute all pressure to your whole foot and provides maximum power to push the pedal hard.

However, if you decide to take one type of shoe for your MTB and road bike, you better choose the MTB shoe option. They provide confidence with MTB or road cycling and also gravel riding. MTB shoes can ride many types of bikes. Also, you can walk and run on these shoes, and they are the best for duathlon events that include cycling.

Reasons Not to Get Road Bike Shoes

Horrible to walk in

When you try walking with road bike shoes, you will be hearing the annoying click and click sounds, and guess what will be more horrible. Walking on them! In short, you have no life of your road bike, and you might as well remove your shoes and walk in your socks.

Therefore, if you walk mostly, let’s say you work in town and prefer commuting on your road bike while exercising, you better carry an extra pair of shoes or wear MTB shoes instead. If you live in a city with many cases of cyclist abuse, MTB shoes will give you a better chance to defend yourself.

Road Cleats Wear Out Fast

Road cycling cleats are replaced sooner than you think. They are not expensive, but you might also hate having to replace them frequently. If it’s something you find annoying, then you need to use MTB cleats instead. They last a lifetime!


You can use a single pair of pedals for all your bikes. Let’s say you attended an MTB race last weekend, and this week, you’re to attend a gravel or road race. You can use the pedals you are used to, and that makes it more comfortable. In this case, the MTB shoes offer more flexibility.

Also, whenever your pedals catch mud, you will not clip in unless you remove all the mud. Now imagine you are in a gravel race with road bike shoes, and this happens. The race will be over for you, even if you were leading the peloton. However, MTB shoes will still clip in with mud.

Related: Top-Rated MTB Shoes for Wide Feet

Disadvantages of using MTB shoes on Road Bikes

If there were no shortcomings in using MTB shoes for your road bikes, then there wouldn’t be any road shoes at all. As much as MTB shoes can be convenient to use with your road bike, they are not recommended for road racing and long-distance road bike riding. Here are some of the cons.


MTB shoes are made of more durable material, to be tough, and sometimes none breathable. This means that when the sun hits you hard, you’ll feel it in your feet. The heat might be unbearable and discourage you from riding.

After you get rained on, the MTB shoes will take longer to dry up, unlike road shoes. Ever felt the hot spots under your feet when wearing your MTB shoes? The conditions of riding an MTB help ease those hot spots, but the relaxed nature of riding a road bike will increase them, especially if you are wearing MTB shoes instead of road shoes.


If you are fun riding, this is a none issue. However, if you are racing, every watt counts. The power input that would have gotten you to the finish line faster will get wasted and cost a win.

The main reason for getting on that road bike during a race is to win, and you don’t want to compromise that.


Mountain bikes shoes come with a more durable under sole, which is flexible but heavy. They are usually almost double the weight of road shoes.

When it comes to road cycling, weight is a disadvantage. Try to minimize it as much as possible. Riding with MTB shoes will disadvantage you unless, again, you are leisure riding, not racing.

Final Remarks

Whether to use road bike shoes or MTB shoes for road riding is up to you, but don’t try using SPD-SL pedals with an MTB unless you want to make the trails more horrible to ride. Make the wisest decision. If you have any questions, we are always here to help.

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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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