Cycling Cleat Position Solutions: Cleat Placement Adapters

by | Apr 26, 2024

The location of the cleats under a cycling shoe is an important aspect of bike fitting as it influences saddle height, stance width, pedaling technique, muscle recruitment, and where the sensation of foot pressure occurs. Cycling cleat position range of adjustment is limited by a combination of the shoe design and cleat design. For many cyclists, the available adjustment range is satisfactory but there are always those who could use a wider range in order to find a cleat position to alleviate pain or numbness in the feet, or to allow for a more natural pedaling action.

What are Cleat Placement Adapters?

Cleat placement adapters are aftermarket accessories which can enable a wider range of cleat positioning options.  They are an intermediary between the sole of the cycling shoe and the cycling cleat.  So instead of attaching the cleat directly to the shoe, the cleats attach to an adapter, which in turn is attached to the shoe.

There are two broad types of cleat adapters based on purpose.

  1. Cleat Converters: change the style of the cleat on the shoe. The most common type is used to convert a road shoe with 3 mounting holes for road cleats to an SPD-style, 2-hole cleat, found on most mountain bike shoes and spin class shoes.  You can find those here.
  2. Placement Adapters: Increase the cycling cleat positioning options on the shoe sole. The usual requirement is to be able to move the cleats further back from the toes than what the intrinsic adjustment range may allow.  There is “almost” no need to be moving the cleats forward on the shoe (If I said “never” someone will surely have a reason for doing so, and I look forward to hearing about it!)  In some cases, the adapter will allow for sideways (medial-lateral) cleat shift instead of or as well as a fore-aft shift.

Why Consider Using Cleat Placement Adapters

We can consider this from a few angles.  The usual motivation is to shift the distribution of pressure under the feet or to create a stronger feeling of stability on the pedals. The reason this may not be achieved to the rider’s satisfaction with the existing shoe/pedal interface can be due to the location of the cleat screw mounting holes and therefore the cleat position, relative to the rider’s foot structure.  The cleat screw mounting holes in the shoe may be too far forward due to:

  1. Using a shoe too big or too long. This is a common DIY strategy to get a wider shoe but comes with the consequence of putting the cleats further forward than may be desired.
  2. Forward mount position bias. Certain brands of shoes are known to have a bias toward a forward mount position, most notably Sidi.  It can be difficult to position the cleat center behind the big toe with certain foot types in some models.
  3. Fixed cleat mounting holes.  Many modern and higher-priced shoes will have sliding mounting plates that increase the fore-aft positioning range.  Cheaper or older shoes with fixed mounting holes don’t offer this enhanced adjustment range.
  4. The rider has a short arch length and long toes for their foot length.  This attribute makes it difficult to get the cleats back under the forefoot far enough for optimal pressure and functioning.
  5. The rider has a sensitivity to forefoot pressure and is looking for a “mid-foot” cleat mounting option.  This may be due to a neuroma or foot surgery.
  6. The rider needs a shorter lever on the pedal (long levers are not always better) to mitigate muscle fatigue or to open out the knee angle during the power phase.

What are the Options for Cleat Placement Adapters?

Despite a limited selection, cleat placement adapters exist for both 3-hole and 2-hole cleat systems, offering extended cycling cleat position possibilities.

For 3-hole shoes

Wahoo Speedplay

The largest range of options for cleat placement, both through intrinsic design and aftermarket accessories are for users of the Wahoo Speedplay pedals.  The cleat adapters replace the standard 3-hole adapter supplied with Speedplay pedals, and so are not suitable for use with native Speedplay 4-hole shoes – of which there are very few.Form Wahoo Speedplay Cleat Placement Adapter showing how you can move the cleat further back than the stander cleat mount on the right to provide a cycling cleat position solution

Additional rearward positioning of the cleat can be achieved with the Form R20 adapter, which offers up to 20mm of additional rearward movement over a standard Wahoo Speedplay base plate.  Base plate extenders for Speedplay pedals have been very popular items over the years (even before they were bought out by Wahoo in 2019), and this new design is of excellent quality.

Patrocleats also make a Speedplay adapter for more rearward cleat positioning, but we (or rather our customers) have found the Form R20 to be a superior product.

A change in stance width, either closer together or further apart can be achieved with the Form ML9, which offers up to 9mm of additional lateral adjustment.  Increased stance width can also be achieved by ordering Wahoo Speedplay pedals with longer axles (spindles) from an authorized Wahoo dealer, but the adapter plates provide a relatively inexpensive alternative or can be used to test the feel of a longer spindle before ordering those.

A combination of a more rearward cleat position AND wider stance width can be achieved with the Form MLR618.  This is a sleeper product that no one has really discovered yet, but that many Wahoo Speedplay pedal users would benefit from.  It offers an additional 6 mm of lateral movement and 18mm of rearward movement (hence the name 618) compared to a standard 3-hole base plate.

Look / Shimano / Time

Users of regular road pedals/cleats from Shimano, Look or Time can use the Patrocleats Ergo3 adapter plate to achieve a more rearward position.  There is some finessing and care involved in installing these, but they have been a very popular item.

There is no option for a change in lateral position, other than by using wide pedal washers or pedal extenders.

Lake cycling shoes with cleat placement adapters showing an extended cycling cleat position. Left side shows the rearward positioning possibility of a cleat placement adapter vs. the standard cleat on the right

For 2-hole shoes

There are fewer options for 2-hole shoes used for mountain biking or some spin classes, and the options that do exist can be rendered useless by the sole and lug design on certain models of shoes, making them impossible to install and use.  This is an upfront disclaimer! It is less common to use these as most 2-hole shoes have a generous amount of fore/aft adjustment in the cleat mounting plate, and certainly a lot more than most road shoes.  However some people want to go further back than what is allowed, and usually they can do so.

Shimano SPD cleatsPatrocleat Mid-foot cycling shimano spd cleat adapters SPIN 2 full shoe view

The Patrocleats SPIN2 adapter is your best choice, noting the disclaimer above.

Crank Bros

The PatroCleats CRANK2.  We don’t stock these as demand is low, but you can find them in America’s largest online shopping mall.

 

The other option that does not involve adapters is to change to flat pedals with a long platform, like those from Pedaling Innovations.

The Wrap

Cleat placement adapters are tools in the bag of professional and DIY bike fitters to provide cycling cleat position solutions. While they may not be utilized in every fit, they are a significant game changer when installed for the proper reasons.  As with any bike fit equipment change or adjustment, there may be a short window of adaptation required as they are tested out.  Usually, they prove out, but sometimes they don’t.  If using cleat placement adapters pay careful attention to both installation and regular pre or post ride checks on bolt tightness and cleat security.  Remember that changing your cleat position rearwards has the consequence of raising your saddle height by shortening one of the levers between the pedal and saddle, so an adjustment in consideration of that (lowering the saddle) may be needed.

 

John Higgins

John Higgins

John is an elite level bike fitter who works with non-elite cyclists - although a few have won races! Many don't race at all, but ride for fun, fitness, or to compete against themselves. John has worked with 18-80 year olds (and younger and older), novices, age groupers, masters racers and all levels of weekend warrior. These include road riders, mountain bikers, triathletes, tandem riders, tourers, commuters, bike packers and gravel riders and racers. All share a love of cycling and just wanted to ride more comfortably, and in many cases faster. John is the owner of Fit Kit Systems, and provides bike fitting services through BikeFitr (bikefitr.com)

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