Can You Use Bike Shoes For Walking?

Shoes are sort of synonymous with walking. I mean, whenever we think about walking, we think about shoes. A common question in this regard is whether you can walk in bike shoes. They are shoes after all. The answer depends on what kind of bike shoes you have. Road bike shoes don’t allow walking and you would be damaging the shoes or the cleats if you try to walk in them. Mountain bike shoes allow you to walk but it depends on what kind of mountain bike shoes you have. Shoes for pedal-intensive riding are harder to walk in like trail MTB shoes. Downhill MTB shoes are easier to walk in.

In this article, we will discuss why it is hard to walk in bike shoes and what kind of bike shoes are suitable for walking.

Types of Bike Shoes

While bike shoes are a category in themselves, they have further subcategories based on riding styles. But bike shoes are generally categorized into two categories that are as follows:

Road Bike Shoes

As the name suggests, road bike shoes are made for road riding. Road biking is the most pedal-intensive of all the bike riding styles. Road bike shoes are made to provide support for long periods of pedaling. The shoes have extremely stiff soles for efficient pedaling.

Budget shoes use to have wooden outsoles which have now been replaced with synthetic nylon composites. Outsoles can have fiberglass-reinforced nylon like in the Shimano SH-RC100, also known simply as the RC1. Or carbon-reinforced nylon like in the Fizik Tempo R5 Overcurve. Premium shoes like the Lake CX241 have 100% carbon-fiber outsoles.

The reason is that flex in the sole absorbs the energy being transferred to the pedals from the feet like springs. Energy absorption is not desired during road riding because every bit of energy counts, so road bike shoes have soles with no flex. The lack of flex is not only important for power transfer but it also provides support to the feet when pedaling for longer periods.

To increase the pedal efficiency, road bike shoes are almost always clip-in shoes with large 3-hole cleats also known as the SPD-SL cleats. Some beginner shoes like the Giro Cadet and the PEARL iZUMi Quest also support 2-hole or SPD cleats. The larger 3-hole cleats provide more surface area for energy transfer and also reduce pressure on the soles of the feet. But they protrude under the balls.

The upper of the shoes is lightweight to reduce fatigue during long hours of pedaling and highly ventilated to get rid of sweat. The lightweight construction of the shoe ensures that you are dragging less weight on your feet as you pedal reducing fatigue.

Mountain Bike Shoes

MTB shoes are made for riding off-road and sometimes on tough terrains. Mountain bike shoes are further categorized based on the types of MTB disciplines. Some MTB disciplines are pedal intensive and so their structure is somewhat closer to road bike shoes. Giro Rincon MTB and the Fizik X5 Terra are a couple of examples of such shoes. Gravity-oriented shoes are bulky and heavy but they offer more protection with the toe box and the heel cups often reinforced.

The soles of MTB shoes are almost always rubber and show varying amounts of flex depending on the riding style. The upper is also thick compared to the upper of road bike shoes. MTB uppers are often mud, water, and abrasion resistant.

In the MTB world, flat pedal shoes are as popular as clip-in shoes. Flat pedals provide more freedom to the feet which is essential in some MTB disciplines like gravity riding. In such disciplines, riders have to be able to put their feet down quickly and frequently to change direction instantaneously. Clip-in shoes require some time to release the feet. But they are more popular for trail riding and cross-country (XC) riding, disciplines that are more pedal intensive.

Can you use road bike shoes for walking?

As you would have guessed by the structure of the road bike shoes mentioned above, they are not for walking. Walking requires flex in the shoes and the soles of road bike shoes don’t offer any flex. Walking with these shoes will not only feel awkward but will also cause you a lot of pain. Walking without flexing the feet will put pressure on the toes, especially the big toe because that is how you push forward.

Road bike shoes also have large cleats which protrude under the balls of the feet. It’s like wearing a pair of heels backward. The cleats are made of plastic so you will damage them if you try to walk in them. You will then have problems engaging the pedals with damaged cleats.

However, the company VeloTowel has recently introduced the VeloSandal which allows road bikers to walk with ease. The name VeloSandal is quite misleading as this product is not a sandal. It is a rubber sole with a cut-out for the cleats. Road riders can get off their bikes, insert their cleats in the soles and start walking. The lightweight soles can be packed easily.

Can you use mountain bike shoes for walking?

MTB shoe manufacturers are aware that riding on rough terrains involves waking. Some MTB disciplines involve a lot of walking like hike-a-bike adventures and others involve less walking. MTB shoes have rubber soles and can also have an aggressive tread pattern to provide grip on rocks and loose muddy surfaces.

Unlike road bike shoes, MTB shoes use a smaller 2-hole cleat made of metal so that they don’t get easily damaged or wear out quickly during walking. The cleats are also recessed within the soles to make walking easier. Flat pedal shoes are also popular in the MTB discipline. While walking may not be as smooth as in a normal walking shoe, it’s certainly much better than walking in road bike shoes. Learn more about road vs. mountain bike shoes here.

The walkability of MTB shoes depends on the stiffness of the rubber sole. XC and enduro shoes like the Giro Guage are stiff because they are used for more pedaling. Gravity riding shoes like the Ride Concepts Powerline, while bulky and heavy, may have softer soles.

You can also find flat pedal shoes specifically for hike-a-bike adventures. The Five Ten Trailcross series deserves a mention here with their entry-level Trialcross LT being the most popular. The Trailcross Clip-in is the only clipless shoe in the series. The Pearl iZUMi X-Alp Flow is another excellent shoe for hike-a-bike.  If you want to walk during your rides, then pick a pair of MTB shoes that suits you.

Final Thoughts

Bike shoes are not meant for walking, well, at least not all of them. Road bike shoes are extremely uncomfortable to walk in. Their large cleats protrude under the balls of the feet and walking in road bike shoes feels like wearing high heels backward. Walking in road bike shoes can also damage the cleats. MTB shoes are somewhat easier to walk in depending on the type of shoes. The clipless MTB shoes have recessed cleats and flat pedals to make walking easier. Some flat-pedal shoes are made for hike-a-bike adventures and are much easier to walk in. If you are going to be walking a lot during your rides, then you should definitely opt for MTB shoes.