Why do cyclists wear cleated shoes?

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Ah, cycling shoes. They’re so elegant when you’re on a bike – but they can be really awkward when you’re not.

Like many things in my middle-aged athletic “career”, I was introduced to cleated shoes through injury.

I’d given up running and reluctantly embraced sports cycling as my primary form of exercise, but as the distances grew, my feet rebelled – the spongy-soled running shoes I favoured gave no support, and plantar fasciitis turned me into a hobbling degenerate every morning. It was time to join the click-clack shoe brigade.

It’s funny how much mystery and even animosity these sensible, comfortable items can stir among non-cyclists. Any punter is allowed to buy a golf club collection to rival that of a professional, or a quiver of surfboards for every size and shape of wave imaginable … but don cycling-specific footwear, and you think you’re off to ride the Tour de France, don’t you? It’s almost as bad as the silly whingeing about Lycra.

Of course, you absolutely don’t have to wear them – I know of people who’ve cycled across continents in street shoes. And regular footwear is the go for me if I’m doing easy, short trips.

But if I have any serious distance to cover – a race over mountain-tops, a Scandinavian odyssey – I reach for purpose-built shoes. So, for the uninitiated, the converted, and everyone in between, here are a few observations about clipping in.

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