SPD Pedals "Trail" vs "XC"?

Has anyone noticed a comfort difference between “trail” pedals and “XC” pedals? The local bike shop is telling me that there is really no appreciable difference in foot pressure between something like the PD-9000 and the PD-9020, and that the cage is really just there to have something to pedal on when you miss a clip in gnarly conditions. Switching over from years on road pedals (Look Delta and SPD-SL) to SPD on my gravel bike, I’m noticing a definite (bad) difference in comfort and foot numbness. The SPDs I have mounted on the bike are ancient M-535s, and float seems fairly limited, plus they are squeaking, so, this is a good excuse to upgrade. I should specify that my main interest in cycling is long days 200-300km, and that I use stiff carbon soled shoes (2 week old Shimano RX-8). With my road setup Giro Empires and SPD-SL pedals I can bang out 300k and still feel pretty ok. With the RX-8 and M-535 my toes are numb after 100k. With my previous low end SPD shoes and the M-535 my toes were numb after like 50km, so the new shoes have been a big help anyway. I’m also considering the Look X-Race for its wider contact area and extra 2 degrees of float, but again, that raises the question of how that compares to the “trail” version the X-Track EnRage.

With the RX8 (which I also have), you aren’t going to get a benefit from the cage, which is more helpful for softer compound trail shoes which have more flex.

If you have having numbness, it’s probably a footbed issue in the shoe.

I’ve had really good results with these to replace the stock footbeds


Whilst not a direct answer, one common misconception is that the platform of the SPD pedal is smaller than it actually is.

Whilst the cleat is indeed smaller than a road cleat, the rubber lugs of a MTB shoe are also designed to contact the body of the pedal, making the total platform much bigger than just the area of the cleat.

Whilst this may still be smaller than SPD-SL, it’s not as small as alot of people think.

In your own case, there are a few variables, notably different shoes, that make it hard to determine the cause of your numb toes. And whilst information on the internet can be helpful, nothing beats just giving something a go and trying it for yourself.

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Personally I like the smaller pedals, not because of weight but I don’t see any benefit to having the front and back portion there aside from having something extra to use to turn the pedal upright to clip in, but I never have issues with that regardless

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I notice a fairly significant difference in support between the different style shimano pedals when using xc-9 s-phyre shoes. Mostly I notice this when cornering hard and landing drops. While cornering I feel like the outsides of my feet want to roll off the M9100’s vs. my M8120’s causing some ankle discomfort. When landing drops the impact also causes ankle discomfort in 9100’s.

For everyday trail riding and training I ride the 8120’s but for xc races and gravel I put the 9100’s on. I also do this because I’ve had to warranty two pairs of XTR 9100 pedals. They don’t seem to last long for me and I worry Shimano won’t warranty them forever.

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I’ve been getting numbness on the trainer with the RX8, on one foot. It’s on the outer 2 small toes.

The Shimano is a bit narrow. I didn’t get the wide, as I bought them online and didn’t realize. I have the XC7 as well, but I got the wide on those. I don’t tighten the BOA as much on that foot, on the RX8. I think it’s a circulation thing, for me. I do know, for me, one foot is bigger than the other by half a size, but can’t recall which one as it rarely comes into play.

I have the Giro Empire VR90 as well. I size up on those, and are plenty comfortable.

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I don’t like tight shoes and leave my boa pretty loose. Otherwise, my feet fall asleep no matter the shoe or the size.

I personally like the larger platform SPD pedals (like the 8020). I use them on all my MTB and Gravel bikes (when I’m not on flat pedals). It’s especially helpful if you have to unclip on an uphill and then clip back in, allowing you to spin the cranks easily even if you miss the initial clip in.

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I’ve been playing with pedals recently. The difference between the Trail and the XC are that the Trail has an surround for rock strikes. The only place your shoe touch the pedals are a very narrow strip next to the cleat.

The Look x-track has less float ‘tension’ and centering than the Shimano pedals. Give those a try.

I had been using the Time ATAC XC and Gravel pedals. The single sided ones are a PITA to orientate. The dual sided XC pedals rock much L/R.

None of these are as good as a set of Speedplay Frogs when they are fresh.

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Thanks guys, I’m going to ask the local bike shop if I can try out a couple different options, just on the trainer, to see how they interface with my shoes. It looks like there is a bit of a stack height difference between the Shimanos and the Looks, but they’re probably close enough for a short ride on the trainer anyway. I’ll try to test out the 8100, 8120, and X-Track Race.

I always run the highest support insoles that come with my cycling shoes, but I feel like I could still use a little more under my arch. Sometimes I can really begin to feel the plantar fascia starting to fatigue and my toes sort of start gripping into the footbed, which I then feel tensing up my calf. Do you find the Icebugs to be significantly more supportive than the high support option that came with the RX-8? Which Icebugs are you running, and how did they fit in the shoe compared to stock?

I’m using the Slim medium. They fit a little tighter in the shoe compared to stock after trimming, but it’s not that noticeable.

The little nub in the middle of the footbed feels weird at first, but should help keep your toes from gripping into the shoe by keeping your foot spread out more.

I regularly ride for long periods indoors without stopping and I’ve been able to easily ride 4-5 hours without stopping without any foot pain, which was a noticeable improvement compared to before.

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I don’t notice a pressure difference. I do get a small amount of forgiveness if I can’t get clipped back in, but it is pretty small.

But I hardly ever clip in for trail riding. I ride with flats on trails, only clipping in for racing.

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I got the Lake MX241 for my SPD setup and they are extremely comfortable. I had a podiatrist create custom full length orthotics for my fallen arches and this pairing is heaven for my feet. I won’t wear any other shoe for cycling if I can help it.

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I started riding 8020s on my “trail” bike because the cage protects the pedal mechanism from mid-Atlantic rocks. I’ve destroyed too many weight-weenie pedals to count over the years. On my XC hardtail I use the “standard” XT pedals.

Maybe the cage provides extra stability with enduro-style shoes or something, but the difference is undetectable with XC shoes.

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I’ve heard nothing but good things about Lake Shoes, seems like everyone who uses them loves them. They were just bit out of my price range, but that’s probably a case of me being penny wise and pound foolish, really the price difference is inconsequential in the long run.

Now can someone explain to me what the difference is between “trail” and “XC”? The word trail sounds like cross country to me. But, the last time I rode a MTB I had pictures of Missy the Missile and Tinker Juarez on my bedroom wall. I’m too damn clumsy for riding technical stuff.

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Sure, “trail” means your bibs have cargo pockets whereas “XC” means the pockets are on the back of your jersey instead.


The iceburgs do yes, but they have that aggressive button. Specialized makes high arch insoles as does Bontrager. The Bontrager ones are higher arch, but are superfirm, which might not mesh well with your unpadded RX8 shoes.

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

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It’s like the difference between an aero race bike and an endurance road bike.