Is there a noticeable difference in power, between road & MTB shoes?

Hi Guys,

I have a road bike with MTB shoes & pedals for the last 5 years. I’ve heard people in the past suggest that road shoes allow you to more efficiently transfer power through the pedals & thus have a higher FTP or lower calorie burn for the same amount of power with road shoes vs MTB shoes.

I’m curious if there is any data out there or even anecdotal stories on the power differences between road & MTB shoes?

Power aside, can road shoes offer more comfort or better heat loss?

Cheers guys & thanks in advance,


3 bolt could offer a more secure feel, tiny aero advantage at the pedal, a few grams lighter on comparable models and probably an imeasurable wattage difference (if any!). Plenty of very stiff 2 bolt shoes out there.

One argument I have heard is that because MTB shoes tend to flex more to allow people to walk easily they lose some power vs road shoes which are generally way stiffer as they’re not for walking and can transfer the power more efficiently.

It’s hard to tell sometimes in cycling what is broscience & what’s legit.

If there was a measurable difference, the marketing teams at the shoe sellers would be telling us.

1 Like

It’s intuitive to think a stiffer shoe would do better at transferring power efficiently. Not sure if that’s been proven scientifically with road vs. MTB shoes though.

I ride my road bike with mtb shoes. Much more convenient when commuting & didn’t make a noticeable difference for me when I switched.

What I have seen tested is that plantar pressure is much higher in carbon soled (stiff) shoes which can increase issues with comfort.

1 Like

Following with interest.

I’m trying to work towards getting my FTP to 4 w/kg, currently around 3.6 w/kg and still riding in flats (trainers, but feels like a fairly stiff sole). I was wondering if I could make any gains by switching to clipless?

I was maybe leaning towards MTB shoes as I race cross.

1 Like


Good point mate


Good point on comfort, hadn’t considered. My feet for the most part with MTB shoes feel fine though on long rides on the trainer of 2 hours plus I can feel my arches starting to get sore & hot.

1 Like

There are some advantages in terms of security while sprinting or out-of-the-saddle efforts, in control while cornering or bunny-hopping obstacles, and also in positioning the foot consistently when it comes to bike fit.

I’m not sure that any of advantages these translate to an improved FTP.

1 Like


That’s an impressive W/KG, fingers crossed you can get it to 4.

1 Like

Thanks mcalista.

I guess I was hoping for some sort of efficiency gain throughout the whole pedal stroke and maybe a better transfer of power with a stiffer sole. I’ll need to do a bit more reading to understand if it is worth the switch to clipless or not.

Yes, it’s worth the switch! … unless you’re always MTBing on really technical stuff. And even there, my preference is clips whereas just about everybody else is in flats. I can remember way back when, when I first switched. It was amazing how much more efficient you become on the bike. Clip-in pedals, plastic telemark boots, MTB suspension, fat skis … they were/are all game-changers.

1 Like

I have noticed that Enduro mtb pedals with spd cleats feel extremely solid. I think on par with an SPD-SL.

I think the feeling of power transfer comes when you have a larger platform to push down on. Most mtb pedals are smaller in platform than road pedals. I don’t think it’s the cleats that matter most in this regard

But thats my 2 cents.

If you’re at very high levels of power there may be a difference in power transfer but if you’re at that level the very sight aero advantage of road pedals may play a part too.

I used mtb pedals (crank brothers candy) for many years and only switch to road shoes when I broke two shoes in a row where the cleat mounted which was probably more from the way the bars on the candy pedal pressed into my shoe but if I needed new pedals and shoes anyway… Switch to SPD-SL. Standing is much easier as I feel more securely attached (shoe doesn’t have any rocking side to side)

No real regrets but have a feeling if I just switch to SPD (the mountain bike one) I would have been just as good.

If you have knee pain and need a more adjusted fit road can be a major advantage as they are more adjustable but have a feeling most people don’t need that

Didn’t the TR gang cover this in a Podcast last year? Not certain but I feel like it was the one at the Specialized wind tunnel.

I seem to remember that the key takeaway was possible aero loss/gain depending on what type of peddler you were. Basically, do you point your toes down or are you heels down.

Arches sore and hot on long rides sounds like you have a higher arch than a standard insole (many people do I think) and would benefit from a custom orthotic insole. Or the cheaper and possibly less effective alternative is a standard insole with a higher arch. I’ve used both options and always will because it eliminated my foot pain and hot spots.

I’ve only used mtb shoes for all mtb, cx, road, gravel riding and racing my whole life. I’ve never tried road so maybe something there I would like if I did, but I doubt it. The good carbon mtb shoes are super stiff, I am certain road doesn’t have any improvement on stiffness. I feel you can’t spend too much on shoes, the most expensive are worth it to have best comfort which prevents injury. I also have heard the argument that sprinting in mtb shoes is dangerous but I’ve never had any hint of coming out of my shoe in a sprint. I do run my pedals at the tightest adjustment because I like a secure feeling. I only use xtr or xt spd mtb pedals. There is a big benefit for your foot/body and bike fit to have the same shoe and pedal on all bikes I think to prevent any minor problems that could become major over time. In my opinion there is no legitimate reason to add the complexity of multiple shoe types.