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Choosing bike features - pedals

Many shoes, especially athletic shoes, support your feet with lots of spongy material. If you ride using regular old-fashioned pedals, you push down on them to roll forward. That requires you to waste energy squeezing your shoes with every push.

For greater efficiency, you can get clipless pedals. These require you to wear special shoes that snap onto the pedal. This lets you apply muscle power all through a pedal's circle of travel. Also, their stiff soles transmit force efficiently. The ones in the photo below are an older style; there are several forms of connector available.

Clipless pedal with shoes on a road bicycle

If you use clipless pedals, then ideally you'll have ones that work with both your special shoes and any regular shoes. That way, if you want to make a quick trip without using cycling shoes, the bike is still useful. Before using clipless pedals for the first time, you definitely should practice attaching and detaching.

It's possible to find touring shoes or mountain bike shoes that attach to your pedals and yet look and function like regular shoes. However, these shoes are designed to be stiff, not cushy, so they might not be comfortable for long periods of standing/walking.

If you prefer to wear ordinary shoes, you can at least use pedals with toe clips, as shown below.

Toe clip and pedal on a mountain bike

Pedals with toe clips and straps have two benefits:

When you want to slip your foot into a toe clip, it will not be conveniently angled as shown in the photo. You'll have to put your toes on the pedal and drag backward; that will force the pedal to rotate into the position shown in the picture. You can then slide your foot in. This becomes easy and nearly automatic with practice.