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One of the biggest dilemmas for me this year was the choice of shoes/pedals for the  Oregon Outback.  I have had great luck with clip-less  pedals and Sidi cycling shoes, so going with flats felt like a big risk.  I knew that we wouldn’t go more than 100 miles in any one day, but we would be doing it for 4-6 days straight.

On the other hand, I didn’t relish the thought of running around in cleats on rough ground for the better part of a week.  They add a certain amount discomfort: slippery footing in some situations, and “duck walking” on the ground.  They also introduce unnecessary complexity and technical failure risk if a cleat gets damaged, or a shoe gets lost.

On flat pedals, at least I could comfortably use sandals or bare feet (in a pinch).

I rode on flats for the most part all winter and spring before the ride, with a max distance of about 50 miles.  No problems. I have had occasional knee pain that has developed in the past over longer miles, but I was not as worried about it in this case.  Both my clip-less setup (SpeedPlay Frogs, Sidi Spider SRS) and flats give my knees plenty of float.  I seem to have had the most pain on a relatively locked in SPD setup.

Long story short – flat pedals were great, thin approach shoes were comfy as hell.

About the setup I used:

Pedals: Watch your shins on these pedals – they are grabby and have sharp edges, but after a few nicks, you figure out how to stay away from them.  They lock your foot in really well – there were quite a few “holy crap” bumpy, loose, fast downhills we had to traverse, and I never lost my foot on the pedal – something that has happened to me on other pedal/shoe combos, and scary when you are rocketing downhill on single track or loose fire roads.  These guys just work, and have a large platform to find purchase on.

Shoes:  I’ve got 3 pairs of these – they are the most comfy shoes out-of-the-box I’ve yet encountered.  They are a minimalist approach shoe, but are runnable.  They wear well – I still use all three pairs, and two pairs have gone on several off-road adventures.  Oh yeah – they are fairly inexpensive, too…

I also used some Echo sandals for part of the day when we were in the hotter, more exposed sections of the trail, but I mainly went this route because I had gotten the Cruzers wet, and wanted to dry them out on the back of my bag.  This is an added benefit of flats – spare footwear just works.

After several days on the dusty trails, my feet felt great – no pains or aches, and my knees were fine for the distance.  I hope other folks try out this sort of combo – the cycling community still really pushes clip-less combos for “comfort”.  While some may need an extra stiff sole, I think this may have evolved due to the tiny surface area on most clip-less pedals.  Try some big, flat pedals – you may be surprised…

That’s it for now.  Let me know if you have found similar flat pedal/shoe combos you like.


VP 001 Pedal