If you are looking for a low-impact cardio workout you can do in any weather, indoor cycling is a great option. While you can wear any kind of shoe when riding an indoor exercise bike, a specialized indoor cycling or spin shoe can lead to the best workout, according to our experts. That’s because these shoes physically slot or clip into the bike pedals, completely transforming the way the ride feels and the way your body moves.
To help find the best indoor cycling and spin shoes for you, we spoke with fitness instructors to understand how these shoes affect your workout, how they should fit and which they recommend.
What are spin shoes?
Spin shoes are specifically made for exercising on an indoor exercise bike. These shoes have a stiff, hard-soled bottom that supports the foot’s arches and transfers power more effectively from your foot into the pedal stroke, says Jules Peckinpah, a senior master instructor and manager of training at CycleBar.
The soles of these shoes typically have a slot for a cycling cleat. When you slide that cleat into a compatible bike pedal, you’re connected to the bike, or “clipped-in.” Being clipped-in changes the feel of the exercise, letting you activate your muscles not only while pushing the pedals down, but while pulling your feet up, activating the calves, hamstring, glutes and quads, says Peckinpah. Being clipped in can also be safer when pedaling at a fast cadence, as your feet won’t accidentally slip off or slide around the pedals, says Alexa Arent, a senior spin instructor at Spin City Massapequa (Arent is also the leadership coordinator for Commerce at NBC News.)
How we picked the best spin shoes
We spoke with spin instructors to better understand how spin shoes affect an indoor cycling workout. Using their advice as a guideline, we chose shoes based on the following criteria:
- Fit: Indoor cycling shoes should fit snug, according to our experts, with little movement or rolling of your foot inside the shoe. Our recommendations come in a range of men’s and women’s sizes, so you can find your ideal fit.
- Fastening system: Almost all of our top picks have hook and loop straps that make adjusting the fit fast and easy, even while riding.
- Compatibility: Check what type of cleat your bike’s pedals use — they will take either a parallel, two-bolt cleat (SPD) or a triangle-shaped, three-bolt cleat (Delta/SPD-SL). Nearly all of our shoes are compatible with both types of cleats. Most spin shoes do not come with cleats, so you’ll have to buy the right cleat for your bike separately.
The best spin shoes in 2024
Our top picks come from expert-recommendations, cycling-specific brands like Tiem and Shimano as well as fitness brands like Nike.
Peckinpah has owned over a dozen cycling shoes throughout her career and has loved every pair of Shimano shoes she’s used. She finds these C100s snug and comfortable. The upper is made of a breathable mesh, with additional cutouts for ventilation on the bottom of the shoe, according to the brand. They have one long strap that criss-crosses across the shoe for tightening, and are compatible with both two-bolt and three-bolt cleats (cleats are sold separately).
Sizes offered: 8.5-14 men’s, 5-9 women’s, including half sizes | Cleat type: SPD and Delta/SPD-SL | Fastening system: Hook and loop strap
Arent recommends these cycling shoes for anyone spinning more than once a week. The bottoms are stiff and tough, the upper is breathable and comfortable, and the shoes does a good job turning your effort into speed on the bike, says Arent. They also look similar to normal street shoes compared to other cycling shoes. They are a bit easier to walk in if you want to grab a cup of coffee after your workout class, as the bottoms have some grip and the cleat is slightly recessed.?
This shoe is only compatible with two-bolt SPD cleats, which are sold separately.
Sizes offered: 8-13 men’s, 5-12 women’s, including half sizes | Cleat type: SPD | Fastening system: Hook and loop strap
NBC Select video producer Joshua Rios cycles three to four times a week, and has used these shoes since 2020. They are easy to adjust on the fly, and comfortable for his 30 to 45 minute rides. The shoes come with three-bolt Delta/SPD-SL cleats in the box, but are also compatible with two-bolt SPD cleats.
They are not the most breathable shoes compared to our expert-picks — Rios says that his feet get warm when exercising in hotter rooms.
Sizes offered: 4.5-13 men’s, 6.5-15 women’s, including half sizes | Cleat type: SPD and Delta/SPD-SL | Fastening system: Hook and loop straps with buckle
For indoor and outdoor riding:
Many clip-in outdoor cycling shoes can be used on indoor exercise bikes since they use the same cleats. These road cycling shoes have a stiff bottom plus two and three-bolt compatibility. The shoes use a Boa dial fastener — you loosen and tighten the fit by rotating the dial. This is easy to adjust while riding in my experience with other cycling shoes that have Boa fasteners.
The Giro Cadets have a breathable upper, but these are still outdoor shoes — they may be warm compared to indoor shoes, especially models with large mesh sections like the Shimano SH-IC100.
Sizes offered: 6.5-15 men’s, 5-10.5 women’s, including half sizes | Cleat type: SPD and Delta/SPD-SL | Fastening system: Boa dials
For Peloton lovers:
If you regularly use a Peloton exercise bike, you may want to pair it with the brand’s own cycling shoe to match the aesthetic. These shoes have two hook and loop straps and one ratcheting clip to make fine adjustments to the fit and feel, according to the brand. They come with three-bolt Delta cleats included.
The shoes are not offered in many half-sizes. If you fall between sizes or have a wider foot, Peloton recommends sizing up
Sizes offered: 3-13.5 men’s, 5-15.5 women’s, few half sizes| Cleat type: Delta/SPD-SL | Fastening system: Hook and loop straps
For Nike fans:
If you’d prefer to stick with a more general fitness brand, these shoes from Nike can fit on most exercise bikes. Similar to the Tiem Slipstream, these shoes have one strap that criss-crosses across the top of the shoe to adjust the fit. Unlike our Shimano and Peloton picks, the bottoms of these shoes have rubber additions under the heel and toe to give you more traction when walking off the bike, according to the brand.
Cleats are sold separately.
Sizes offered: 6-15 men’s, 5-10 women’s, including half sizes | Cleat type: SPD and Delta/SPD-SL | Fastening system: Hook and loop strap
How to shop for spin shoes
Moving from flat shoes to clip-in spin shoes can completely change your riding experience, according to our experts. At the same time, a shoe that’s too tight, stiff or stuffy can make a ride worse. Our experts highlighted a few things to keep in mind as you shop.?
Proper fit is essential
Like a good pair of running shoes, the best spin shoes have to fit your foot well. They should fit snugly, but not so tight that your toes do not have room to expand or wiggle during the ride, says Peckinpah. They should be firm in the heel area, with little movement or rolling inside the shoe, says Mary Wolff, a fitness trainer at Obé Fitness, an online training platform.
If you are between sizes, Arent recommends going up a half size rather than down, as most shoes have straps or some other mechanism to tighten them.
Don’t forget the cleats
Most spin shoes do not come with cleats. Check what type of cleat your (or your gym’s) bike uses and choose a shoe that will fit that pedal. Cleats are sold by a variety of brands, but Shimano SPD cleats and Look Delta cleats are some of the most popular.
Meet our experts
At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Jules Peckinpah is a senior master instructor and manager of training at CycleBar, an indoor cycling studio with locations nationwide.
- Alexa Arent is a senior instructor at Spin City Massapequa. (Arent is also the leadership coordinator for Commerce at NBC News.)
- Mary Wolff is a fitness trainer at Obé Fitness, a digital training platform.
Why trust NBC Select?
Harry Rabinowitz is a reporter at NBC Select who covers technology and fitness including guides to running shoes, fitness trackers and workout earbuds. To better understand the intricacies of spin shoes, he spoke with fitness trainers and instructors and got their recommendations. He also researched highly rated options from online marketplaces.