Cleat float increases knee injury?

Dear TrainerRoad-Team and Forum-Users: I´m riding bikes for about 10 years and am always using SPD-L pedals on my road bikes. The first cleats i got came with the pedals and had the ±3 degree float (yellow ones). I never thought about it, but recently someone told me the more float the more strain on some knee muscles that have to keep the fibular perpendicular (so it can work like a piston) and keeping it from wiggling to left and right. He uses the red ones (no float at all). I like the comfort of changing the position of my feet just a few mm if i want. What is your opinion on cleat float?

Thank you for the answers and of course 5-star rating for the podcast!

greetings from germany
Peer

It is certainly true that if there is no float there is less movement in the pedal position. However if you are stuck in the wrong position that is even worse.
I like some float (I think I have 6 degree yellow on my SPD-L) as I feel that I can get my foot out quickly if necessary.

There is nothing worse than falling sideways off your bike in front of your cycling buddies because your foot is caught in the pedal.

If you are not getting pain I would not worry. If you are then look at how your cleats and shoes are aligned.

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Correction about the Shimano Cleats:

YELLOW, RED, OR BLUE?

Shimano cleats come in 3 different colours these days.
The latest version is blue, which hasn’t been around for long but is definitely worth considering.

Shimano schoenplaatjes verschillen

Note that the Blue cleats have +/-1* float (2* total) and the location of the rotation pivot (front of cleat) is different from the Yellow cleats (center of cleat). Red cleats are the fixed (no float) ones.

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We are not perfectly aligned at all times, all positions, and all power outputs. IMHO, float is needed in most cases because we are malleable machines.

As mentioned above, if you go with no float, it better be PERFECT or you risk the chance of injury due to misalignment in all those reps of pedal revolutions. If you aren’t having problems, don’t go to less float, because you may well find some problems…

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I’m a former yellow cleat user now converted fully to the blues…

They have waaaaay more float than the stated 1deg but don’t give me that sloppy, lateral slipping that the yellows do once they’ve started to wear down a bit. They do require more care in fitting though so take that into account.

FWIW I’m a 38 year old with one knee all blown to hell from old injuries and I’ve always ridden spd sl and yellow cleats prior to 2018.

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I’ve two types of pedal-caused pain, both with the same degree of float (the grey Look Keo cleats).
The first was a pain, very sharp, just above the achilles tendon, in the calf. I discovered this was due to the cleats having too much “roll” float (think roll on an airplane - rotation around an axis front-to-back). This was due to cleat and pedal wear.
The second was discovering my knees weren’t over the pedals correctly, and wedges actually fixed that. I’ve not had an issue with lateral float as my feet tend to “settle” in the right spot (which ideally is in the middle of the float with properly adjusted cleats).
N=1 cases for sure, but if you are worried, a decent bike fit might set your mind at ease.

I’m also yellow --> blue.

Also consider your shoes. If they aren’t a great fit, being locked in can cause all those hot spots etc. to flare up much faster than with more float.

Had 6 degree float and tried 0 degree float. After about 3 or 4 rides I started having knee pain. I didn’t immediately relate it to the float so I rode on 0 float for another week and knee pain got worse.

Finally went back to 6 degree float, but it took about 4-6 weeks for my knee to feel right again. Now, 1 year past my 0 degree float experiment and I’ve never had an issue or pain since. Goes back to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

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I had lots of patellar tendinitis early in my cycling and I to this day hate float and would say YES to the question.

My solution has been found with squats.

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Knee discomfort was a problem for me when I started cycling. Someone suggested changing from yellow to blue cleats - and that did the trick.

Plus when you give the pedals some stick there’s a lot less slipping around.

How is this “stick” done?

One thing to add. People need to recognize that the difference between the Shimano Blue and Yellow cleats goes beyond the simple angle. The location of rotation changes and that has a measurable impact that makes the potential impact on the rider more than we might expect based on the angle alone.

Pardon the rough drawing, but this is a rough shape and size of my shoe.

  • image

  • The left side is the Yellow cleat with the +/-3* angles with center cleat rotation, that gives the horizontal heel displacement range.

  • The right side is the Blue cleat with the +/-1* angles with front cleat rotation, that gives the horizontal heel displacement range.

  • Notice how close the actual heel displacement is despite the different in Yellow (6* overall angle) and the Blue (2* overall angle). This means we only end up with a slightly reduced heel shift when we might expect it to be much smaller from the angle only.

  • Notice that the biggest difference is minimal displacement on the fore foot from the Blue compared to the Yellow.

Just an interesting observation, not sure it really matters?

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I know the spec says otherwise, but I really feel like I have a lot more than the advertised rotational float with shimano cleats and esp the blue.

As mentioned above I think the big upgrade with blue is the lack of lateral movement that’s so common with the yellow cleat. Maybe not an issue for some but I definitely notice it on hard efforts and other users seem to experience the same.

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thx chad, that answered a lot of questions for me. :grinning:

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Local steep hill - out of saddle - sprint for all you’re worth
Feels like the bike is connected to your feet with the blue cleats rather than slopping and slipping around with the yellow

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Here’s how I think of it…yes, a fixed float will keep the knee in specific alignment, but those folks who say that this lack of movement will completely prevent rotation are ignoring that most of us do not have a perfectly aligned knee or hip or ankle. Your body is still going to TRY and move through this lack of alignment. But with the fixed float, when your body tries to rotate through these imperfect alignments, it’s met with resistance. It’s going to push against that resistance with small muscles and connective tissues that aren’t meant to push against resistance. So now instead of shifting slightly through the range of motion, it’s shifting slightly against resistance! That can certainly cause pain and injury. Forcing a specific range of motion using a fixed float cleat doesn’t fix the alignment issue, it just forces the joints to conform to the prescribed range of motion. When trying to fix something, how often does “force it” work well for things?

As someone with a severe misalignment in my right leg, I can use two hands and try and force my leg to flex and extend in perfect alignment…it’s not comfortable!