Should I move my cleats back?


Came across the following:

Seems to be some evidence for putting the cleat in the arch of the shoe, although people point out how it would likely make technical riding on a MTB harder. I certainly can’t imagine riding this way, but may make sense for the true XC types? Then again, if there’s really 9% to be gained, wouldn’t all of the roadies have adopted this by now?

Curious to hear your take. Keep up the good work!


Hey Eric,

This is a great question. I wanted to address it in excruciating diagrammatic detail, but I realize that’ll never happen, so here goes:

– There are lots of variables: your biomechanics, what you’re used to, your effective seat tube angle, your pedaling technique, blah blah. In the end, you have to rock what works for you.

Why moving your cleats back might be a good idea

– Joe Friel is a highly regarded athlete, coach and author. I’m inclined to consider his ideas.

– When you lift heavy in the gym, you’re taught to drive through your heels. So, logically, pedaling “through your heels” might make you stronger.

– If you have issues with your calves or Achilles tendons, this can relieve some stress.

– Moving your cleats back moves your feet farther forward in relation to your hips — much like moving your saddle back or slackening your seat tube would. This moves the pedaling work away from your quads and into your hips. I pedal best with a slack seat angle; this might create a similar effect.

Why it might be better to leave your cleats forward

– Your calves, while not as big as your quads and glutes, are not weak. I’ll bet, if you went to a gym, you could calf-raise more weight than you can squat. I doubt your calves are the weak link in your pedaling.

– If you talk to Greg Romero (Olympic BMX coach who knows a lot about pedaling power), you’ll hear a lot about the Triple Extension of your hips, knees and ankles. Humans are designed to move this way. Placing your cleats under the balls of your feet helps you generate power with this natural, running-like motion.

– For technical riding, you need as much range of motion as you can get. I just measured, and I get 3-4 inches more travel at the ball of my foot than at the arch. These inches will be very handy — especially with a high seat. For a cross country mountain biker, this might be the deciding factor. You need to make great pedaling power at full seat height, and you need the ability to move and groove. The farther backward your cleats, the harder this will be.

Testing, testing …

Don’t do anything solely (ha! SOLEly!) because of tradition or habit. If you’re curious about cleat placement, experiment.

Flat pedals makes this easy. Try pedaling with your feet forward, then back. Then go for a ride and see where your feet end up.

Here’s one more reason I need a power meter. Lee Likes Testing!

— Lee

Know more. Have more fun!

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