How to install cycling cleats

Bikewagon - BWCC

Positioning your bike cleats properly is a very important part of fitting your bike. Cleats that aren’t adjusted to fit your body can cause discomfort and pain while riding, and over time can even contribute to knee, hip and ankle injuries.

While cleat positioning differs slightly for each person due to different biomechanics, the basic procedure for installing and adjusting cleats is straightforward and will save you a lot of time and grief in the meantime.

It is important to note at the beginning that shoe choice can have an impact on comfort. Some shoe manufacturers offer designs for people who tend to over-pronate, for example, or who have high arches. Before installing your cleats, make sure you have the right shoes.


Time required: 10 minutes

Tools and supplies required:

  • Cleats
  • Cycling shoes
  • Clipless pedals
  • Allen wrench (usually size 5 or 6)

Step 1: Find the center line of the cleat (from side to side). Most cleats are marked on the center line to make this easy. The middle of the cleat, and thus the axle of the pedal, should sit around the ball of your foot, just behind the widest foresection of the foot.

Step 2: Put on your cycling shoes, sit on a chair, and locate the ball of your foot. Once you have found the ball, use a marker to draw a line across the bottom of the shoe marking the middle of the ball of your foot.

Step 3: Now, align the midline of the cleat with the line you have drawn, and install the cleats by using your allen wrench to screw them into place on the sole of the shoes. If you ride more technical terrain or desire more control, you can move the cleat about 5mm to the rear; if you ride ultra-long distances, you can move it back slightly further.

Step 4: Check to be sure the cleats are evenly positioned on each shoe by placing the shoes with the cleats over the edge of a table; the toes should extend the same distance. Adjust if necessary.

Step 5: Attach your shoes to the pedals to assess the side-to-side positioning of the cleat. The heel of the shoe should be about one half inch away from the crank arm; riders with wider hips may need to angle the cleats slightly for greater clearance. In general, cleat angle is a personal preference. Most people prefer a straight cleat because the play in the cleat generally makes it ok. Whichever final cleat angle you choose, there should be no twisting sensation in the knees, ankles or hips.

Step 6: Take a test ride. Carefully note how each shoe feels - some riders need to set up each shoe individually, since each foot might be a different size, or legs might prefer different dynamics. Adjust the cleats as necessary. It may also be good to have a more experienced rider watch you ride and suggest adjustments; they will often have recommendations for knee angles and foot positioning.

Step 7: Enjoy your new, more efficient footwear. Just remember: after your first long ride you may need to retighten the bolts on your cleats.