Can I Wear Trainers On A Road Bike?

Trainers are popular footwear for many and are widely available and affordable. Many people, on taking up cycling, often wonder if you can wear trainers on a road bike instead of purpose-made clipless (or clip-in) cycling shoes. Can the pedals fitted to your road bike be changed to allow the use of trainers?

Trainers can be used with road bikes fitted with flat pedals, but they are not ideal. Use adapters to convert clipless pedals to flat pedals. Wearing soft-soled, flexible trainers on road bikes can lead to foot injuries due to the lack of foot support and incorrect foot placement on the pedals.

Wearing everyday trainers while cycling on a road bike is doable but comes with risks. Let’s look at the risk involved in cycling with trainers and what other options are available to convert clipless pedals to flat pedals suitable for use with trainers. Scroll down for some ideas for choosing a trainer for cycling on a road bike and how to protect and keep your trainers clean.

Can Trainers Be Worn On A Road Bike?

It is possible to use trainers while cycling, but you risk losing control or incurring an injury when your foot slips off a pedal as the flat pedals do not offer a firm grip on the trainer. Using trainers often leads to poor foot placement (such as riding on the toes) because the trainer is free to move around on the pedal, requiring constant readjustment.

A good trainer has a flat flexible sole allowing for multi-directional movement, with excellent tread and the ability to absorb impact. The flexibility of the sole makes the trainer unsuitable for long-distance cycling because the foot will constantly curl around the bike pedal. This constant action can lead to repetitive stress injury of the ligaments and soft tissue of the feet.

By comparison, road cycling shoes encapsulate your foot, thus ensuring a secure and firm fit that helps you to engage better with the pedal stroke as the shoe cannot bend. The strong soles help to transfer the power produced by the leg muscles straight to the pedal instead of being absorbed by the cushioned sole of the trainer.  

How To Select Trainers When Cycling With A Road Bike?

When searching for the best trainers to use for cycling with a road bike, it is essential to remember that the sole of the shoe must be stiff. Foot fatigue and injury often result from using soft, flexible trainers for cycling.

What To Look For When Selecting Trainers For Road Bikes?

Select a shoe that fits snugly around the foot and provides good arch support, or else pick a shoe that is slightly too large so that you can insert a custom inner sole for extra foot support. After-market inner soles are a great way to enhance often poorly designed shoes with limited arch support. An advantage of using inner soles is that they are easy to replace, extending the life of the trainer.

What To Avoid When Selecting Road Bike Trainers?

Avoid selecting trainers that are too large if you are not planning on using custom inserts, as your feet will tend to slide around inside the shoe. A loose-fitting trainer will cause friction and discomfort around the toes and heel areas. An ill-fitting trainer can also cause a loss of support for the arches of the foot, leading to serious health issues over time.

Avoid trainers that have long, tie-up laces. The laces can hook around the road bike’s chain or other exposed bicycle parts. Besides ending up with shoelaces that are full of oil, snagging a shoelace can cause a severe fall. Instead, buy a trainer that does not use traditional laces or cut the laces shorter and tuck their ends securely away.

How To Change A Road Bike’s Pedals To Accommodate Trainers?

You can change the pedals on your road bike to fit the type of shoes you will wear. Entry-level road bikes typically come with standard flat pedals designed with trainers in mind. Each pedal has a row of teeth on the pedal’s edge for gripping the trainer’s soles. While flat pedals work well for the causal cyclist, other pedal options are available.

Road Bike Pedal Upgrade Options

You can upgrade to dual-platform pedals, for example, Shimano’s M324 SPD clipless pedals. These pedals have a double-purpose design in that one side of the pedal acts like a standard entry-level flat pedal suitable for use with trainers. The other side of the pedals accommodates clipless cycling shoes.

Clipless cycling shoes refer to the new clip-in system that replaces the old toe-clip or strap system used years ago. A clipless system is a three-part pedal system that consists of a pedal, a cleat, and a cycling shoe. One side of the cleat screws onto the bottom of the shoe while the other side clips into the pedal.

Convert Clipless Pedals To Flat Pedals Using Adapters

It is easy to convert clipless pedals into temporary flat pedals using an adaptor such as the patented Fly pedals. The Fly pedals, made from lightweight aluminum, have a flat platform with Velcro straps (much like toe clips) on one side and cleats on the other. Clip the adapter into the pedal for an instant transformation to a flat pedal.

How To Protect Your Trainers While Cycling On A Road Bike?

Your trainers have a hard life while cycling. Protecting your trainers from oil and dirt in an abrasive environment is essential. Here are a few ideas on what you can do to protect your trainers:

  • Shoe covers are an excellent method for keeping your shoes clean and dry and your feet from freezing in cold weather. These range from fully waterproof to water-resistant, made with semipermeable materials to facilitate breathing.
  • The cheapest option to protect your trainer is to slip a plastic bag over your shoe. While not very practical and durable, it is one way to keep your trainers dry and clean during a sudden downpour.
  • Plan ahead and buy a pair of silicon shoe covers that slips over your shoes. Made from silicon, they are soft and light, making them ideal for carrying with you when cycling.
  • Toe caps, made from neoprene, are a great option to protect the tips of your shoes. Not only do they protect your shoes, but they also keep your toes dry during wet weather.


While cyclists can wear trainers on a road bike, they are not the ideal shoes. There is a real risk of a foot slipping off a pedal, and a general lack of support for your feet can cause serious foot injuries to develop over time. Using road cycling shoes will significantly enhance your cycling experience and cause you to utilize your bike more efficiently.


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