Should I Invest in Spin Shoes?
Ah, spin class. One of my favorite ways to work up a sweat. I’ll be honest though, after my first Ride class at Courthouse I thought I’d live a happy life never sitting on a bike again. Ok, never is a little dramatic, but I definitely avoided class for a few days. Having never been an outdoor rider myself, my foray into the indoor-cycling world was basically a head-first dive, and everything was sore.
Like most things, if you stick with it, it’ll get easier. The same is true for cycling. After those first few weeks I felt really comfortable on the bike, had started to play with heavier resistances, and even toyed with the idea of instructing classes I was enjoying it that darn much. But this entire time, over a year later, I finally realized I’d been doing myself a huge disservice: I was cycling in my everyday sneakers.
You may be thinking about your gym shoes now and wondering, “So?” You’ve cycled in them before and felt fine, right? That’s what I thought before, too. Once I was finally set to get a regular class to teach on my schedule, I figured I’d better look the part from head to toe. For those of us in Salem, we have a great resource for cycling and running gear at Scott’s Cycle or Gallagher Fitness, and all I had to do was walk in and ask for indoor shoes that would fit Courthouse Bikes. So easy.
With nothing left to do but test the shoes out, I hopped on the bike for class and was instantly blown away. I was racing faster, climbing heavier, and had clocked a solid two and half miles more than I ever had before. But it couldn’t be all because of the shoes, could it? The answer my friends, is yes. Here’s why:
The design of cycling shoes are based on three things: riding control, power, and efficiency.
Control: The main difference between your tennis shoes and cycling shoes, is that your tennis shoes can’t attach to the pedal in a way that will prevent slipping as you ride. Most cycling shoes come with the ability to clip directly into the pedal of your spin bike, just check that your shoes and your bike are compatible. Once you’re clipped in, that foot and pedal become one moving unit until the ride is over and you decide to unclip and hop off, no need to worry about slipping.
Power: This is an important factor to consider for any serious rider or regular exerciser. With cycling shoes you are able to recruit more muscles to work than you can in just your sneakers. Without clipping in, you can run the risk of overloading the quadriceps as the hamstrings aren’t fully involved in the pedal stroke. When your shoe can clip in, your hamstrings and glutes fire up to help with each pull of the pedal, giving the quads some relief before the push comes again.
Efficiency: Most cycling shoes are made with stiff soles and an inflexible upper. This allows for energy to transfer more effectively to the pedal, generating more power and creating a smoother stroke. You’re not necessarily doing less work with cycling shoes, but more areas are working together to allow for a longer, faster ride that's easier to maintain.
After that first ride with my new shoes, I knew I was never going to ride in my tennis shoes again. However, there was one side effect I didn’t know I would experience. The next day whenever I made a squatting or a lunging motion, knee pain. It felt like someone had taken a screwdriver and tightened the muscles around my knees so tightly they could barely bend. It took me another two weeks or so (and the help of a more experienced rider,) to figure out that since my foot position had changed due to my new shoes, that my bike setup needed to change too.
The most glaring issue I was facing was that my bike seat was both too close and too low. By adding the cycling shoes to the mix, I had added maybe less than an inch to my pedal stroke, but it was enough to cause serious discomfort. If you have never experienced any knee pain in your tennis shoes, but do when you make the switch to spin shoes, your bike setup is the most likely culprit.
If you still aren’t sold on the idea, consider how often you’ll use your cycling shoes. If your class attendance is hit-and-miss and you haven’t had any issues in your regular shoes, then the money would probably be more useful elsewhere. But if you find yourself riding either indoors or outdoors a few times a week, expect to pay around $100 for a good pair that could last for years.
So before you head out to go shoe-hunting ask yourself these questions: Are you looking to add regular cycling to your workout routine? Do you want your current rides to be more efficient and powerful? Finally, are you willing to invest a little chunk of change for a long-term product? If any of those answers are yes, grab your wallet, and I’ll see you in class with your new shoes.