Midfoot Bicycle Cleat Position




Introduction: Midfoot Bicycle Cleat Position

About: Mechanical Engineer, driven by learning. I usually have a few very different projects going, with the goal of learning new skills. My overall goal is to become proficient in a plethora of skills, rather than t…

Bike-specific shoes have been around for a long time. Basically, the cleats on your shoes clip into your pedals, allowing you to generate power throughout the pedal motion - not just on the down-stroke. Of course, if you're here, you probably already know that. The problem is that the position of your cleats are fixed, with only a small degree of adjustability.

A couple of years ago I read about some people toying around with a midfoot cleat position. Specifically Joe Friel, writer of the Cyclist's training Bible and Triathlete's training Bible, had a really good argument for midfoot cleats which made sense to me.

The idea is that moving your cleat to the middle of the foot effectively takes a lot of the strain off of your calf muscles, as your are decreasing the moment arm between your ankle and the pedal. This can potentially have a large impact on calf fatigue, which comes in play on particularly long days in the saddle, or especially during multisport (duathlon and triathlon) when you have to get off the bike and RUN a great distance.

Since I made the switch, I've done a 2000+ mi bicycle tour, and a very challenging Ironman race. Which I don't have hard data, in my opinion the new cleat position did improve my performance. It definitely didn't have any real drawbacks for me.

The only potential negatives I can see are:

  • If you are a sprinter and put down some short distance, high power efforts, I would imagine your peak power would be a bit lower with this. This is just a guess, though.
  • Changing to midfoot cleats effectively pushes your feet forward, meaning you are at a greater risk of toe overlap/ With toe overlap, your toe enters front wheel territory; if you are climbing at a very slow speed for instance, and you turn the front wheel sharply, you run the risk of your front tire bumping your toe. It's happened to me a few times, but you adjust to it quickly and I never considered it to be a big problem.
  • Of course, by modifying your cleats, you are voiding any warranty from the manufacturer...but that shouldn't surprise anyone here.

Other considerations:

  • Bike fit will be affected. You will have to lower your seat post significantly from what was previously a good fit. You may also want to lower your stem height (I didn't). So, if you already had a perfectly dialed-in bike fit, be prepared to have to refine it. Personally, I am always tweaking my bike fit as my flexibility fluctuates, so this didn't bother me. There are plenty of instructables dealing with bike fit, so I won't go into that in this post.
  • There are now more options out there for midfoot/midsole cleat positions offered by cycling shoe manufacturers, so if you are worried about damaging your expensive cleats, this may be a more desirable option.

Step 1: Shoe/Cleat Recommendations, Materials

This method will work best with shoes with flat, plastic soles. Carbon is OK, but you'll need to be careful about drilling. Shoes with non-flat bottoms are tricky. I'd suggest trying to fill in the holes to try and create a nice flat surface to work with. I have found a couple of models from Sidi have a nice flat bottom (mine are Sidi T2)

For cleats/pedals, I really like Egg Beaters. Dead simple, easy to use, and they allow for a lof of twisting (good on the knees for long distances). That being said, different cleats should work with this method, but becomes more difficult. With 3-hole cleats (like LOOK), for example, you will have a 3rd attachment point to plan for, and you'll want to make sure the cleat makes good contact with the shoe. Just something to consider.

As far as tools, all you need is a drill, tin snips, and whatever tool to drive in your cleat bolts.

Additionally, you will need 4 Tee Nuts (T nuts) and matching bolts. 1/4-20 size is very common and can be found anywhere. However, I found that with 1/4-20 size hardware, the bolts tend to loosen over time. Instead, I recommend looking for M5x0.8mm Tee Nuts. Harder to find, but will fit the cleat bolts you already own, plus the tighter pitch on the threads means that they are less likely to loosen over time. McMaster Carr has them, but only in pkgs of 100. I found some on eBay. Optionally, thread locker (such as Blue Loctite) can be used to help secure your bolts.

Step 2: Drill!

I measured the longest ditance on the sole from front to back and marked the middle position on the sole with a Sharpie. Then I eye-balled a horizontal line going across the sole from that midfoot position.

Then, using the cleat as a template, I marked my drill points along that line. I wanted to get close to the instep, but far enough away that the shoe didn't lose any strength.

When drilling, remember that you are drilling through plastic. Drill bits tend to bite down really hard and pull quickly into the plastic. Go slow. One trick I like to use it to drill a small pilot holes, then run the final bit spinning in reverse. I find that this will often make a smoother hole.

Step 3: Snip Your Tee Nuts

As-is, the Tee nuts won't fit into the shoe without interfering with each other. You can snip them pretty easily with a good set of tin snips.

You can probably get away with skipping this step. You'll have to bend a couple of the prongs on the Tee nuts, and they will overlap a bit after tightened, but it might not be noticeable after your insole is back in.

After your Tee nuts are cut, put them in place inside the shoe, and test fit your bolts from the outside. Tighten up the bolts (without the cleats) to properly seat your Tee nuts.

Step 4: Fit Your Cleats!

Now install your cleats in their new position! You can see in my picture that I adjusted my cleat position inward as much as possible. Notice where the cleat is in relation to where the standard mount is. I also used a drop of Blue Loctite thread locker on each bolt.

Step 5: Optional: Add Some Cleat Protection

Now, your cleat is going to be somewhat exposed when you are walking off the bike, so you might want to think about protecting it somehow. For a long time, I simply used some old cleat bolts in the original mounting position, and that was it!

More recently, I designed a simple 3D printed solution using a nylon material that's pretty tough. (.stl file attached)

Now go ride!

Be the First to Share


    • Lamps Challenge

      Lamps Challenge
    • CNC and 3D Printing Contest

      CNC and 3D Printing Contest
    • Rice & Grains Challenge

      Rice & Grains Challenge



    2 years ago

    Good news... I used your modified drawing and it worked perfectly for quite some time. The part was made with ABS plastic. I was off my bike for a bit due to an injury and am back riding again! I had my 3d printer modify the drawing slightly (added 1.5 mm to the height). This time he used a different material. It cracked when I mounted it to the shoe. The front of the shoe has a bit of a curvature (see image) and I think the material was too brittle. It cracked when flexing to the curvature of the sole. The printer made the part again out of ABS (he does not print with nylon). It cracked again. He said he may have used the wrong temperature when printing the part so he is yet making it again.

    I think when I mount this one to the shoe I will add a small rubber washer on the front most screw (not ideal) so the part does not have to flex as much. Just curious if you have the name of the printer that you used to make your part? I think nylon is a better material for this part. Strong but flexible. For what it is worth... I love this little cleat protector... It is a game changer.... Thanks!


    Tip 3 years ago

    I'm a big fan of the mid-foot cycling position for long distance riding (I've been doing IronMan 70.3s and need my calves for the run). I haven't quantified the benefit, but my bike run transition is much smoother. Also from an energy standpoint, by not burning calories in my calves it's easier to keep up with energy intake.

    Regarding bike fit: when your foot moves 1.5 inches forward by going to a mid-foot cleat, you will need to move the seat 1.5 inches forward to preserve the seat tube angle and extend the handlebar stem to preserve the reach. I also agree with the need to lower both the seat and the stem.

    My favorite cheat for adapting shoes to a mid-foot position is to buy a SIDI SPD Adaptor Plate and install it reversed (see photo). This moves the cleat backward adequate for me without the drilling!


    3 years ago

    Midsole pedal axles and recumbents - made for each other.

    No question about it in my mind - all recumbent riders should be using them. More comfortable, more stable and most importantly considerably more efficient - less oxygen and energy expended producing a given amount of power/work.

    I first tried midsole cleats on my recumbent exercise machine and I could tell *immediately* that I was expending less effort for a given amount of work - I was able to increase the crank resistance substantially while maintaining the same speed with the same effort.

    Revelatory wouldn't be over-stating it.

    I think this is why;

    when running we use first the gluteals (after planting the heel with leg flexed at the knee). As the thigh passes vertical the quads begin straightening the knee. Finally, at the back of the stride, the calf pushes off the balls of the feet. This last phase is the ONLY one where all three muscle groups are being used simultaneously.

    When pedaling with the conventional pedal axle under ball-of-foot, all three are used simultaneously during the pedal push. With a mid-arch pedal axle the calf is barely used.

    The use of all three groups simultaneously is useful ONLY for producing maximum power, i.e. for sprinting, hence only for brief 10-30 second bursts.

    At all other times one is using an unnecessary amount of muscle mass and hence wasting oxygen and energy.

    I am quite sure the increased efficiency of midsole pedals could be proved to be in the 10% range.


    Tip 3 years ago

    One piece of info that's difficult to find is the precise centre-to-centre distance of the mounting holes/bolts of the various cleat types. For Shimano SPD, eyeballing a ruler laid across the bolt heads of the installed cleats it *appears* to be 14mm, but I'd prefer to be able to use a specified distance.

    I'm modding a pair of Specialized Torch 1.0 shoes for Shimano SPD, the sole is solid, smooth "nylon composite" (let's just call it thermoplastic), i.e. no redundant fluting or grooves, so they're near-perfect for them, but as is often the case with road shoes they're too narrow at the midsole for 3-bolt SPD-SL or Look cleats.

    BTW, this is how I'm modifying the T-nuts (they're M5, 8mm long, stainless) - held in mole grip (locking plier) jaws padded with cardboard, the arrowed areas filed away. With a good, fresh 1/2 " file it was much easier than I expected, took c. 2 minutes each. They can now be set even closer together than required for SPD cleats, and to me it seems the tidiest way of doing it too.

    Götz Heine
    Götz Heine

    4 years ago on Step 5

    Nice manual, but please add that

    1st seat post must be lowered by at least 25mm (up to 40). How much is best to find out about when during pushing high geears/climbs there's no knee pain and no ankle pain while spinning fast.

    2nd stem must be lowered approx 1/2 the seat post slid in.

    3rd owner will lose product warranty when modifying his standard shoes.

    4th better switch to manufacturer's cycling shoes equipped with a twin cleat position (traditional fore foot a n d mid foot, so its your choice where you want to end up with).

    Carbon has been on the market for 18 years already, cheap shoes with nylon sole and twin cleat position coming soon.

    Check it out!

    Have fun, Götz Heine

    smrat alleck
    smrat alleck

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks for your comment. I will add your notes to the first page.


    Question 3 years ago on Step 5

    I liked your cleat protector so much that I sent your drawing to a local 3D printer. They seem to be having an issue with scale. Here is their comment: "What scale is your model
    set at?" "When we import the part
    it appears to be very small at approximately 5mm x 5mm in size." Can you please help with this scale issue?

    Thanks in advace... Richard

    smrat alleck
    smrat alleck

    Answer 3 years ago

    Hi Richard,
    I believe the .stl model is in inches. I have had problems in the past of the 3D printing CAM software (I use Simplify3D) having trouble recognizing this. I would recommend scaling up x25.4 (2540%) . Let me know if this solves your problem.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Sorry to bother you. We tried scaling at 25.4 x and the part ended up being about 6" x 7". Do you know a know dimension for this part so we can scale to that dimension? Thanks... Richard

    smrat alleck
    smrat alleck

    Reply 3 years ago

    I've updated the file so that it should work now without resizing. Sorry about the confusion. The design is also slightly modified with more material.
    FYI, dimensions are 50.50mm x 42.24mm x 9.50mm.
    Please let me know if this works for you.