Why Use Toe Clips on a Bicycle? Pros/Cons and a Comparison of Different Pedals


Toe-clip pedals were first used in the early twentieth century to prevent shoes from slipping off pedals. By simply attaching the toe clips to the front of the pedals, you can easily secure your feet and keep them in place while cycling. Although toe cages are still popular, there are some other pedal systems such as pedal straps and clipless pedals. By choosing the right pedals like toe clips on a bicycle, you can significantly improve your overall cycling experience. In this article, we discuss why you should use toe clips on a bicycle compared to alternative products like pedal straps.

Reasons to use toe clips on a bicycle include keeping the rider’s feet in the right place, stopping feet from slipping off the pedals, improving pedaling efficiency, affordability, and the fact that they do not require special cycling shoes. 

Everything you need to know about toe clips, from why they're useful to the distinctions between pedal straps and clipless pedals, will be explained in this article. 

1. Toe Clips Keep your Feet in the Right Place

Toe clips like these are mostly used to keep your feet in the proper position. Your feet will stay in the correct position throughout the ride if you place them in the toe cage and tighten the strap.

Some toe clips have a strap for added security, while others like these have a half-clip design. 

Depending on your preferences, you can select a suitable option. Half-clips might be enough when riding downhill, but you may need an additional strap to fasten your feet to the pedals for other activities. 

Check out this forum on Stack Exchange to see what other riders have to say about toe clips and ordinary flat platform pedals.

Among the reasons to use toe clips on a bicycle are that toe clip pedals will keep your feet from slipping off the pedals while you are riding.
Toe clips with straps secure your feet to the pedals and keep them in the right position while cycling. Image Source: Amazon

2. Toe Clips With Straps Prevent your Feet From Slipping Off the Pedals

Toe clips also prevent your feet from slipping off the pedals, which is another important reason to use them on your bicycle. if a cyclist's foot slips unexpectedly, an accident or injury may occur. 

Toe clips will keep your feet on the pedals if your pedals don't have enough traction or if your shoes have slippery soles. However, you must always double-check that the straps are properly tightened, or your feet may slip off the pedals. In some circumstances, suitable footwear with slip-resistant soles is required to benefit from the toe clips. We explain a bit more about whether pedal straps are dangerous in our article.

It's important to remember that over-tightening your toe clips can cause your toes to become numb. When stopping at traffic lights or for other reasons, this will make it difficult to remove your supporting foot from its toe cage. To avoid this, make sure your toe clips are neither too tight nor too loose. If you would like to know exactly how to install your mountain bike toe clips and pedal straps read through our step-by-step instructions.

Make sure that your toe clip straps are not too tight as this will make it difficult to get your feet out of the toe clip when riding your bicycle.
While toe clips with straps keep your feet from slipping off the pedals, over-tightening them might make your toes go numb. Image Source: Amazon.

3. Toe Clips Can Improve your Overall Pedaling Efficiency 

Toe clips also allow you to put greater pressure on the pedals, which improves power transfer and overall pedaling efficiency. You can have a more forceful and efficient stroke if your feet stay securely on the pedals.

Research reveals that pedal attachments, such as toe clips, do boost cycling performance and efficiency - especially during high-power, uphill sprints. The effects of pedal types on pull-up action are explained in this article from the International Journal of Sports Medicine.

On the other hand, pedal strap devices don’t really have that much of an effect on bikers' performance during low-intensity riding.

Toe clips can help you to pedal with greater force when riding your mountain bike on extreme terrain.
Toe clips improve overall pedaling efficiency, especially during high-power, uphill sprints. Image Source: MASH SF.

4. Toe Clips are Affordable

Another reason why you should consider using toe clips on your bicycle is that they are pretty affordable. If you don’t cycle regularly, opting for budget-friendly toe clips could be a good choice. 

This pedal and toe clip combo is very affordable and offers excellent grip for your feet. The straps are adjustable to make it easier to take your feet out whenever needed. 

If you are more serious about mountain biking then these toe clips may be more suitable as they are better quality and will last longer - especially if you ride regularly. 

Toes clips are a cost-effective way to keep your feet secured to your bicycle pedals when riding.
These toe clips with straps cost around $33 and are ideal for increasing your cycling efficiency while keeping your feet in the right place. Image Source: Amazon.

5. Toe Clips Do Not Require Special Cycling Shoes

Toe clips are much more cost-effective because they do not require special riding shoes. You can wear any pair of trainer-type shoes that you already own. Not only does this save you money but it also makes cycling more convenient for commuters and city riders.

The only problem is that toe cages are rarely big enough to accommodate boots or other heavy footwear. You won't have any trouble fitting your feet into the toe clips if you're wearing standard sneakers.

Any trainer-type shoes or sneakers will fit into toe clips.
Although oversized shoes don’t always fit into toe clips, you can still wear regular sneakers instead of buying special cycling shoes. Image Source: Amazon.

Make sure to also read our step-by-step guide to mountain bike toe clip installation and use for more detailed information. Additionally, we've written a detailed guide to help you choose between pedal straps vs. toe clips. So be sure to take a look at that related article too.

Bicycle Toe Clips vs. Clipless Pedals

The first clipless pedals were designed in 1984 and were based on ski binding systems. Professional cyclists first used these pedals to help them transition faster and ride faster. Clipless pedals are now largely regarded as the most innovative breakthrough in cycling technology.

When comparing toe clips vs. clipless pedals, use toe clips to secure feet to the pedals, prevent feet from slipping off, increase pedaling efficiency, and save some money. Use clipless pedals to lock feet to the pedals, reduce the risk of them slipping off, increase overall cycling performance during high-intensity riding or on tough terrain, and clip in and out of pedals as needed. 

Theoretically, toe clips can operate just as well as clipless pedals when used correctly. Many professional cyclists, on the other hand, believe that clipless pedals are a significant improvement, especially when riding on rough terrain. Clipless pedals offer you more control over the bicycle and make it easier to clip in and out when needed. This not only increases your overall mountain riding performance but also ensures your safety.

Furthermore, most clipless pedals are quite open so mud and dirt don’t get stuck in your pedals and shoes. This is especially beneficial when riding for lengthy periods of time or in extreme weather conditions. 

Another reason you should consider clipless pedals is that specific cycling shoes are more comfortable than standard sneakers. They are usually more sturdy, waterproof, and durable. 

The main disadvantage of a clipless pedal-shoe combo is that cycling shoes are not suitable for walking. As a commuter or urban cyclist, you should either invest in toe clips or keep a spare pair of shoes on hand.

Because clipless pedals like these are more expensive than toe clips, they are not suited for individuals on a tight budget. If this is the case, you may definitely go with inexpensive toe clips like these that provide almost the same benefits. Furthermore, if you just ride your bike occasionally, there's no need to spend money on clipless pedals.

Although clipless pedals are a great option for cyclists, toe clips can provide the same benefits.
Investing in clipless pedals and cycling shoes is an excellent idea if you are into mountain biking, bike racing, or if you ride your bike regularly. Image Source: Amazon.

For more information, be sure to read about choosing between mountain bike toe clips vs. clipless pedals for more information.

Bicycle Toe Clips vs. Pedal Straps

Toe clips and clipless pedals have both been replaced by pedal straps. While the operation of pedal straps and toe clips is very similar, there are some differences to consider when choosing between the two.

When comparing toe clips vs. pedal straps, use toe clips to secure feet to the pedals from the front. Use pedal straps to secure feet from the sides over the bridge, attach them to any pedal type and modify them as needed, and provide support for heels and/or ankles when riding.

Despite the fact that toe cages and pedal straps serve the same purpose, there are various reasons why you should select pedal straps over toe clips. Toe clips that are too tight might cause numbness so keep the toe clips loose enough to promote blood circulation in your feet. Loosening toe clips too much, on the other hand, will no longer keep your feet from sliding off the pedals, making pedal straps a better option.

Pedal straps, on the other hand, have a 2-inch wide webbing to secure your feet from the sides as we explain in our article that outlines how to thread a pedal strap. Although some pedal straps have buckles, the majority of modern choices have completely adjustable velcro straps. This reduces the chance of your toes becoming numb on extended journeys.

Another reason to use pedal straps rather than toe clips is that they allow you to effortlessly insert and remove your feet during urban or mountain riding trips. This is especially true if you pick velcro straps instead of buckles for your pedal straps. Pedal straps are also fully adjustable and provide additional protection against slipping off the pedals.

Pedal straps, like toe clips, are compatible with a wide range of shoes. Pedal straps are also suited for wider shoes, even if you can't wear boots or clunky shoes with toe clips.

Pedal straps can also be attached to almost any type of pedal, almost making them generic. You may not have to purchase a suitable pair of pedals to use pedal straps, making them even more affordable and convenient to use. 

If your feet keep slipping off the pedals, pedal straps with heel and/or ankle support such as these may be useful. They are made to support your entire foot when riding your bike. Children and adults with special needs who ride tricycles or reclining bikes benefit from pedal straps with heel and ankle support. We actually provide tips and tricks for choosing mountain bike pedal straps with heel support for kids. However, pedal straps with heel support should not be used with regular bikes, as having your feet completely strapped to the pedals can be dangerous. 

In terms of prices, pedal straps are also reasonably priced, costing between $10 and $40. These pedal straps are only $12 and come in various colors, so you can pick the one that you prefer. These pedal straps are of higher quality, will have a longer lifespan, and will work better.

Pedal straps are compatible with most mountain bike pedals.
These triple-layer reinforced pedal straps help keep your feet from slipping off the pedals and are suited for almost any type of shoe. Image Source: Amazon.

What Bike Pedals are Compatible with Toe Clips?

Toe clips are inexpensive and simple to use, however they are not compatible with all bike pedals. As a result, before purchasing a pair of toe cages, do some research to make sure that you will be able to use them with your pedals.

Bike pedals that have fitted reflectors are designed for use with toe clips. They cost between $15 to $30. 

If you are looking for pedals that would be suitable for toe clips, just search for the ones that can have reflectors fitted as toe clips are attached in the same way as reflectors. 

However, some bike pedals like these come with built-in reflectors or reflective safety strips on the sides. In this case, you will not be able to attach toe clips to the pedals. 

These bike pedals cost around $14 and include reflectors on both sides. You can easily remove the reflectors and replace them with toe clips if necessary. Similarly, make sure to read our guide to the different types of mountain bike toe clips that are out there. Our guide should help you decide on the right ones for you.

Are Bicycle Toe Clips Dangerous?

Bicycle toe clips are completely safe when used properly and with the right shoes. They can, however, be dangerous if you don't adjust or tighten them properly.

Bicycle toe clips are not dangerous if used properly and with the right shoes.

When your feet are attached to the pedals too tightly, you may not always be able to remove them from the toe clips in a timely manner. This can cause a problem, especially during road cycling and mountain biking.   

Toe clips are safe when used correctly, but they are not always the best option. According to the CFR and the CPSC, pedals designed solely for use with toe clips do not require a tread surface, and toe clips must be securely fastened. If you don't use toe clips, the CPSC recommends that you use the correct-sized pedals. In this case, bike pedals should be at least 3.5 inches wide.  

Clipless pedals, according to experienced bikers, are a far safer alternative than toe clips. This is especially true in traffic and during intense mountain biking. We explore the benefits of clipless pedals in our article  As a result, make sure you select the appropriate pedal type for your riding style and cycling skills. And if you need to change your pedals check out our article about mountain bike pedal thread sizes in case your pedals are different. 

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