Cycling shoes and cleats

Cycling shoes and cleats

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Your cleats and pedals are a key contact point between your bike and body. Not setting them up correctly can result in poor performance, discomfort and even injury. Phil Burt, Great Britain Cycling Team lead physiotherapist and Bike Fit author, shows you how to position your cleats and reveals the common tell-tale signs that something may not quite be right.

Setting up cleats

By following this simple process you can make sure your cleats are setup correctly.

Fore and Aft

-  With your foot in your shoes, feel along the inside of your foot for the large bony prominence at the base of your big toe. Use a marker pen to mark its position.

  • Do the same with the outside of your foot for the prominence at the base of your little toe.

  • Take off the shoe and draw two parallel lines across the base of the shoe. The first straight across from the first mark and the second from the second mark.

  • The midpoint between these two lines indicates the fore and aft position for the centre of the cleat.


  • Once you know the fore and aft position, if you position the cleat in the middle of the shoe based on this, you’ll have a neutral setup which is a good place for the majority of riders to start, especially if you’ve chosen cleats and pedals that offer a reasonable amount of float.
  • However, look at the way you stand and walk. If you tend to have your toes pointing out, slightly rotate the alignment of your cleats to allow for this. Similarly, if you have a toes in stance, rotate your cleats to accommodate this.

Problem pointers

  • We are all different so, although a neutral set-up is a great starting point, your biomechanics and/or injury history may mean that it needs tweaking.

  • Signs of rubbing on the crank or inside of the shoe may mean that you do have a duck toed stance and, along with rotating the cleat, you may need to use a spacer to increase stance width to accommodate this.

  • Don’t forget, we are not symmetrical. It is not unusual to have different cleat set-ups for each shoe.

New shoes and changing cleats

  • Always put new cleats on new shoes, that way you can use your old setup as a reference.
  • Take a picture of the position of your cleats on your shoes or draw around the outside of them with a marker pen before removing.
  • Don’t trust the manufacturers’ markings and grid lines on the bottom of shoes, they are often way out.

Phil Burt's book Bike Fit: Optimise Your Bike Position for High Performance and Injury Avoidance can be purchased from Bloomsbury with 30% discount for British Cycling members.