Most of us install cleats on our cycling shoes by just eyeballing them. Line up the screws in the middle and off you go. That might work, but for some of you, it might not. Getting your cleats set up correctly could help you avoid injury and even make you go faster.
There are two basic things to sort out when it comes to setting up cleats on your cycling shoes – the angle of the cleat on the sole of your shoe and the fore-aft position of the cleat.
Badly angled cleats can cause knee pain if not rectified – but a few adjustments to the first angle you try are usually all you need to find one that works for you. Bear in mind your cleat angle might not be the same (in the mirror image) for both feet.
The other job is the cleat’s fore-aft location. It is generally accepted that positioning the cleats so that the center of the pedal axle will be in line with the ball of your foot is biomechanically the optimum for pedaling efficiency and power transfer. Here is a step-by-step guide to finding the ball of your foot and marking your shoe.
- Start with cleats removed from the shoe
- Put your shoes on and locate the ball of your foot
- Mark the ball of your foot
- Mark a line along the sole
- Line the ink up with the mark on the edge of the cleats
Most cleats provide a marker on the side, by way of a notch or line to indicate the center of the pedal axle, so it is just a case of lining up your mark with theirs.
SETTING UP THE FORE AND AFT
Move the cleat side-to-side to influence how close the foot sits to the center-line of the bike. If you ride with your knees wide at the top of the pedal stroke, move your cleats inwards to move the foot outwards.
FLOAT AND TENSION – WHAT ARE THEY?
Float allows your foot to find its natural position while pedaling and allows for any discrepancies in cleat position. Cleats come in different colors each representing a different amount of float. Look offers three cleats: black is fixed, grey gives 4.5° and red gives 9°. Shimano’s red cleats are fixed, blue gives 2°, and the yellow ones give 6°.
Tension is simply how easy it is to get in and out of your pedals. Most have some form of adjuster screw that allows the user to decide how tightly clipped-in they want to be.
Here is an article that further explains cleat setup: