There are tons of options when it comes to bikes, components, apparel and accessories in the world of cycling. If you're new to biking, just selecting a pedal system can seem overwhelming -- but you'll quickly learn that there are many benefits to riding with clips over platform or cage pedals. Speedplay makes both road and mountain bike pedal/cleat systems that many cyclists love. If you've decided to go with Speedplay pedals, you'll need to make sure the biking shoes you select are compatible.
Speedplay cleats have two distinct benefits for roadies. First, they have a larger platform than many other systems, which helps to distribute pressure across a larger foot surface area, reducing discomfort or "hot feet." They also offer a greater amount of "float" than most systems, which allows the foot to follow a natural path during a pedal stroke. Speedplay road cleats utilize a 4-hole system, so if you have shoes with a 3-hole attachment system, you'll need to get an adapter to place between the shoe and your Speedplay cleat. As long as you have a shoe with four holes or an adapter for a 3-hole system, your bike shoe will be compatible with a Speedplay road cleat.
For Mountain Bikers
Speedplay also manufactures pedal systems for mountain bikers. The primary difference between road and mountain cleats is that mountain systems are recessed to make walking around easier. Mountain bike shoes tend to be heavier and more durable with less rigid soles. Speedplay's "Frog" shoes utilize a 2-hole mounting system that's found on most mountain bike shoes, but they're also compatible with popular SPD-style road shoes. So if you're looking for a recessed, walkable cleat to pair with your road shoes, this off-road cleat may be just what you're looking for.
Features to Look For
Since the only real considerations in Speedplay compatibility is a hole system that matches the road or mountain cleat you're using, there are some other things you should keep in mind when looking at cycling shoes. If you're a casual cyclist who only rides a few miles at a time, or are more interested in using your bike for short commutes rather than long training rides, a casual or hybrid shoe may be a good choice. These types of shoes usually have 2-hole, SPD systems, which will work with Speedplay mountain bike pedals. For the avid roadie who's more interested in high-mileage riding, opt for a road or tri shoe that has a stiff midsole, lightweight construction and offers plenty of ventilation. Finally, mountain bikers should look for rugged construction, comfort, durable outsoles, and 2-hole cleat compatibility.
Once you've purchased your Speedplay-compatible shoes, you'll need to carefully attach the cleats. The fore/aft position and angle of a cleat can greatly affect your pedal stroke -- and if your cleat position forces your foot into an angle that's not natural for your body or places you out of alignment, you'll find that just a few millimeters and degrees can make a huge difference when it comes to comfort and injury prevention. If you can't have a professional fit specialist set up your bike and align your cleats, make sure you purchase a system with plenty of pedal float to keep your knees happy.