Clipless sandals are not ok

There’s a lot of blending of design when it comes to cycling and all the affiliated industries. Taking two seemingly opposite ideas and mashing them together into some new functional form is de rigueur in the fabled halls of cycling lore.

Look out how mountain biking came about. Or how tubeless has come full circle and been reborn as “no tubes”. Road bikes get bigger tires (and become gravel grinders). Late 80s full rigid 26ers adorn slicks, a rack and then are promptly confused for Surly’s newest model. The beach cruiser, well, is still just the beach cruiser.

It’s a beautiful thing how this melting pot of seemingly good ideas makes our beloved two wheeled bicycle an object of endless fascination and advancement. That’s until you put bike design in the hands of Frankenstein, then some poor dumb bastard gets it in their head that as an avid cyclist that “they should have it all”.

I’ve chased the golden goat that is bicycling perfection. Plenty of people probably all would admit to wanting to have that one perfect do-all bike that can somehow magically carry them from Cat 5 to 3 racing weekend crits, that also is a daily commuter, will handle just the occasional swoopy single track and “oh yeah, maybe use it to do a short tour sometime in the future”.

By the way, that bike doesn’t exist and won’t ever likely. Usually making something that’s good in one area means it sucks in another. That’s cool, you got to accept what your bike’s great out and what it’s yearning to be then just buy another bike if it means that much to you.

And therein lies the reason why clipless sandals suck. They’re trying to be two things that are really just mutually exclusive: Comfortable & performance-oriented. I hate to be dour, but with cycling it’s all a balancing act. You can go all Grant Peterson and tailor your bike to fit you like a well-worn baseball mitt, but that’s at the great compromise that comfort compromises ripping fast and getting those extra watts out of being able to pull on the upstroke.

For the longest time I truly believed that there was some sweet spot where I could confuse cycling footwear with actual shoes made to be walked around in. I eventually caved and compromised, turning a cheek on the edgy performance-oriented neon-colored MTB shoes and went with something that looks like an old hiking boot instead. They’re about as comfortable as they get, but they’re still a cycling shoe, designed for the rigors of pushing and pulling pedals with some marginal benefit over your usual pair of floppy old Vans.

Back to my point. Sandals are comfortable footwear. They’re best when you know you’re going to have wet feet or just be dealing with the hotness and dread the idea of your dogs baking in a close-toed shoe all day. But if you’re thinking you’re going to be battling heat or rain, what’s more important: Ripping fast through it or spinning it out toes waving in the open air?

If you’re planning to rip, just commit to the added discomfort of clipless shoes; Misery is your mantra. Inversely, if maximum comfort is your thing, go full sandal and use a grippy shin burger platform pedal. Then you can pop that bad boy into your triple’s 22T and spin the while away, but for the love of God don’t ever think clipless sandals make sense.


  1. Dan

    As a fan of alternative forms of footwear I remain open minded about the benefits of a clipless saddle, just not the pair that I tried making that one time.

    I hope if the chance arises to try a pair that you won’t pass it by.

    P.s. The phrase ‘Shin Burger’ is not ok

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  2. Justin

    Cycling sandals are awesome!!! I rode with a pair across the US and around Tibet before they eventually fell apart. Now I am on to Shimano cycling sandals and they are the best possible shoe for bike touring for me. I even went to Italy with only my cycling sandals. That trip was at most 1/3 cycling the rest hiking and walking. For sure they are clunkers, but they are the best compromise for some of us…

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