When Your Shoes Give You the Slip

A few weeks ago I tried to wear these shoes while riding Marianne. After getting half way down the block I had to return home and change, because they kept slipping off the pedals. Yesterday, I tried the same shoes on Eustacia Vye, and was delighted at the lack of slippage. The Pashley's platform pedals must be grippier than the Motobecane's, though the Pashley has rejected shoes in the past as well.

This brings me to the general issues of footwear on bicycles. I don't like to pretend that something is easy for me when it is not, just for the sake of making cycling seem super-easy and convenient. And finding shoes to wear while cycling is not always easy for me. In my pre-velo days, I wore mostly dressy high heeled shoes, and occasionally flat dressy shoes like the exquisite Italian green ankleboots in these photos. However, I must confess that I find 75% of my footwear problematic to wear while cycling.

The problem is not the heels, but the soles: they tend to slide off the pedals. To me it seems downright hazardous to cycle like that, especially when standing up. An additional issue is when soles are thin and/or flexible: I find it uncomfortable to push on the pedals in shoes like that. As a result, I wear only a small portion of the footwear I own when cycling. And since I cycle pretty much every day, this means that I have basically stopped wearing all those other shoes, some of which I greatly miss.

So ladies, what do you do? Do you get grippier pedals? Textured soles installed on all of your shoes? Or do you honestly not experience this problem when wearing your dressy shoes, like the magical women of Denmark? I want to battle the "shoe slip", but I need a plan.


  1. I would suggest getting pedals with more of a platform. That would give your foot the support it lacks when you wear softer shoes and will help with the slippage issue as well. Like these, http://www.rivbike.com/products/list/pedals_and_so_on#product=14-054 or these, http://www.rivbike.com/products/list/pedals_and_so_on#product=14-053.

  2. I imagine these King Grip pedals are pretty grippy, but so not pretty! What does everyone think of MKS Touring, I recently read bad things after thinking for a long time that this is the pedal to get when upgrading?

  3. Meshkat - When it comes to pedals with the larger platform area, I was thinking that this might actually be problematic for high heels. When wearing heels, the entire heel part of the shoe must be off the pedal (as shown on this photo from Biking In Heels), or else it will change the length of your leg while pedaling and you would have to adjust the saddle height every time you wear heels of different sizes...

    I have heard mixed reviews of all those nice pedals from Rivendell, including the King Grips and the MKS Touring. I have read that the King Grips are "not that grippy" and that the MKS Touring are "heavy". Comments from anybody with first hand experience with these would be appreciated. (The "Spider" pedals I just can't get behind aesthetically no matter how wonderful the grip, sorry!) Also, I wonder whether modern pedals are even compatible with my vintage Motobecane, if I want to keep the original crank arm, or whether I should look for a vintage touring pedal?

  4. I find my more inexpensive heels and dressy shoes are better for cycling -- rubber soles! But I'd say about 90% of my shoes work on my bikes. Le Peug has standard metal pedals (Jon -- which kind?) and the Bat's are rubber and very grippy.

  5. I've not found any problem (although I don't wear very dressy shoes) - the main trick is not to stand up too much on the pedals, so a little slippage isn't a disaster. Even my crepe-soled desert boots, which are a nightmare of skiddiness in wet weather, are fine on the bike.

  6. Wet weather can be a problem, otherwise with most shoes I've learned in short order if I can ride in them or not. So I always have my faves at the ready. With new shoes I always test them out first before I'd ever commit to riding in them.

    It's funny because this is a topic I was getting around to addressing in a post myself. I do have one other trick up my sleeve...TBA

  7. i have first hand experience with MKS touring pedals. i actually think they are a fine pedal, designed as a nice compromise between a rubber-block utility pedal and a road racing pedal. they grip the foot very well without the use of toe clips, they are lighter than rubber block pedals, and they have precision bearings which make them smooth and durable while avoiding the "loose bearing" feel that block pedals so often have. you know the feeling: when you can feel the free-play wobble of the block through your foot when you wiggle your foot on the pedal. very disconcerting for the cyclist, especially one on a loaded tourer, who often has to put all of his weight on the pedals for extended periods of time.

    i'm guessing the motobecane uses french threading for the pedals and that the MKS are not compatible. i've never owned a french bike, but i've heard that french bikes have a lot of compatibility problems with modern standardized components.

    personally i think the MKS sylvan and touring pedals are great pedals for everyday city use as well as touring, but i think it's moot point for the moto.

    the only thing i've heard about the MKS tourings that's negative is that they come from the factory with over-tightened bearings. this is not by mistake, but by a theory known as bearing pre-loading. some subscribe to it, some don't. regardless, some people feel the bearings need to be loosened before the pedals are ever used.

    i would look for french-threaded touring pedals, but i don't know where you'll find them.

  8. I used Dottie's tip to great effect - a wide elastic band, like the kind used to bind bunches of broccoli (anything wide if you don't like broccoli) provides good traction when wrapped around your pedal, and disappears if you don't need it.

  9. I have all my dress shoes modified when I buy them. Because SF is one big hill, leather soled shoes can be difficult for just walking around with. All of my dress shoes go in to the cobbler and get a grippy covering put on them (thin rubber). It keeps the sole intact for longer (less repair) and prevents slippage on the street and the pedal without changing the way the shoe feels.

  10. Peter - Clearly you do not know me if you suggest this : ) I would like to use them on my Motobecane, but I would kill myself in traffic. Maybe next year, once I gain more cycling experience and skill.

    Charlotte - Thanks, I must have missed that post. What a great idea; will certainly give this a try.

    Riding Pretty - Looking forward to reading about your trick; will stay tuned.

    somervillain - Thanks for the description of the MKS. This puts them back at the top of the list for my hypothetical future handbuilt mixte. As for the Motobecane, I will look around for some vintage touring pedals.

  11. I haven't sued the elastic band thing yet, but keep meaning too. I find the slipage when my shoes are wet from rain. Or wooden soles. I'm a rubber sole kind of girl so most work for me.

    My issue is boots. Some boots seem to tight and make my legs feel weird while biking. I can do it, but I feel less free so to speak. that said- I plan to wear boots again soon...

  12. Adrienne - This is what I used to do to many of my winter shoes and boots when doing a lot of walking in the city. Good to know that others find it necessary as well.

    MamaVee - Boots are a "whole nother" story. When they re very form fitting around the calf, I also experience the tightness when the calf contracts during pedaling. But what's worse, is that on the mixte the zippers of some of my boots rub against the twin lateral stays. This is an annoying feeling, and not good for the paintjob of the frame either. So I try to wear boots with a back zipper, or with a leather placket over the zipper when riding the mixte.

  13. Not a lady, but:

    I've already endorsed the Grip Kings. I WILL, however, note that they are not for leather soles. They need something at least a bit soft (like the Ariat Duratread)for the gripper barnacles to grip. They can, if one is inclined to this sort of thing, be drilled and tapped for studs, but those, again, are for rubber soled shoes, to give even more grip in muddy and icy conditions.

    The spider pedals are for people who shave their heads and get web tattoos on their skulls (or wish their mommy and daddy would let them) however well they might work (with rubber soled Vans, not dress shoes). That certainly ain't me. I don't think it's any of you either. As for the looks of the Grip Kings that was the one thing I was a bit leery about before trying them. I'm used to classic Campys, Lyotard platforms and SPDs. Now I've got them on two bikes and a third set is going to go on the Peugeot mixte for my mom. I NOW think a bike without them looks wrong somehow. Might be an acquired taste.

    And the Peugeot brings up that other issue. It's très French. Even the cable housing was made in France, BUT: the pedals and freewheels are English threaded for the American market. This became pretty standard by the mid 70s. The Motobecane is (not meaning any insult) what I call - Franconese. Shouldn't be a problem. It's even easy to tell, just look at the axle ends on the inside of the cranks; if they're stamped "R" and "L", they're English threaded.

    And ya know, I've been meaning to ask, is the Motobecane sufficiently Franconese that the Nitto stem fit without being taken down in diameter? If so, you don't even have to look at the pedal axles; they're English threaded.

    Don't worry about your heels, even the biggest platform pedals aren't anywhere near big enough to put your heels on, no matter how large they look in size referenceless photos of them.

    Here's a trick for leather soles though. Put just a schmeer of silicone sealer (bathroom caulk) or Shoe Goo on 'em. Improves the grip on anything. eliminates much of the "clack, clack" syndrome (although that might be one of your sensual pleasures); and wears out the silicone instead of the leather. Works great on Geta too. Use one of those little plastic spreaders made for the job and it's quick and neat. Wet your fingers first and you won't get 'em sticky if you get some of the goo on 'em. AFTER you get 'em sticky water won't do squat, 'cause, like, it's CAULK.

  14. kfg - No, the stem had to be sanded down a tad in order to fit. It is definitely a very French bike, though I will check the inside of the cranks for R/L; thanks for that advice.

    Now I remember what it was that stopped me from getting King Grips - they are not for leather. Good to know about the sizing too. On the photos they look as if hey are meant to fit your entire foot and that had me concerned.

    The caulk idea is intriguing! Luckily the clack-clack is not one of my sensual pleasures; I like to be stealthy.

  15. "I will check the inside of the cranks"

    Those cranks are Japanese. The odds of them being French threaded are nil.

    "On the photos they look as if hey are meant to fit your entire foot"

    Yeah, when I first saw a photo I was all like, "Holy crap, what do I want pedals that I can put a men's size 14 boot on for?" Then I saw the ones currently on the Riv site with a tape next to them, got out my own ruler and realized how small they really were. Longer than rubber blocks, sure, but not foot long. Just 4 1/2". I took a shot. I like 'em. But then I'm almost always wearing something with rubber soles, even on my token fancy dress shoes. I like to be stealthy.

    "I like to be stealthy."

    I can see we're going to have to watch out for you.

  16. If you use MKS touring pedals, they'll grip, all right. But you may find them uncomfortable with thin-soled dress shoes.

    Try the MKS rubber-block pedals. Harris Cyclery and Velo Orange have them. They're exactly the kind found on old English three-speeds. I use them on my errand bike and can ride anything in them without slipping. And, being in New York, I often come to sudden stops, which also means standing up to start again.

    If Marianne indeed has French threads, a bike shop can tap them into English threads for about ten dollars or so. That might be a good idea, anyway, as French-threaded pedals aren't made anymore.

    Also: Check eBay. Once in a while, French-threaded Lyotard rubber-block pedals show up. Or, if you prefer all-metal pedals, French-threaded ones are often to be found there.

    One more idea: Use friction tape on smooth-soled shoes. The nice thing about that is that you can easily remove the tape if need be.

    I like the caulk idea, too. I might try it!

    It's funny that you have a post on this topic: It's one of the first problems I encountered when I started bicycling to work in non-bike clothes and shoes!

  17. Peter's not to be dismissed so lightly. Go with modern toe clips (such as Avenir) that have plastic clips (don't mar those lovely boots!). Alternately, you can get toe clips with the metal covered by leather. You can run with the straps either very loose or simply removed. So configured, they'll keep your toes from sliding forward without keeping you from taking your feet off the pedals when desired. If I can use them with pointy-toed cowboy boots and sneakers (not at the same time, obviously), I think they won't be as awkward as you imagine. As you get used to them, you can always install/tighten the straps later. They do not work well with sandals or other shoes open on the top, however.

    One reference - my oldest daughter used strapless toe clips with no problems at all the first time she tried them.

    SPD clipless would also work well, but not with your footgear. Unfortunately, they require shoes with cleat mounts, which limit choices to stuff you don't currently own. Though people don't like to admit it, they're also harder to use than toe clips.

  18. Steve - Oh I am not dismissing the good Peter, just saying that there is no way I could cycle with toe clips at this stage without falling off my bike every time I have to make a stop in traffic. I did try them. Your daughter must have more innate skillz than I do in that respect. I do think that toe clips with leather straps are very sexy though. Some day.

    Justine - friction tape? Have to look that up, did not know there was such a thing!

  19. I will vote for the MKS Touring pedals, I use them on my city bike without toe clips. I have some rubber block pedals on my Raleighs, but I suspect the rubber may be getting hard with age. I may try a newer set and see if it makes a difference. All of my dress shoes are leather soled, and will slip a bit on the currently installed rubber block pedals.


  20. Although I cannot remember where, I remember reading a letter to the editor by a turn of the century policeman in the UK. He was disgusted that the department's new bicycles had metal rat trap pedals instead of rubber block pedals. Something along the lines of "Blimey, who thought that up? 'Right busted me shin I did." Probably does not help other than to show that your struggle is not new.

    Love your blog,


  21. Don't they have non-slip shoe covers that might do the trick? We have booties that are non-slip when we need to go into a FOD-free aircraft area. Kind of like cheap galoshes. Speaking of which, rubber galoshes might be an even better choice. They'd have the side benefit of keeping your feet dry. Get some low cut ones and they'd pop into the bag at your destination. I like the cute, yellow ones myself, though you might prefer basic black.

    Might bear some investigation. If they're promising, I might find some for use with my cycling shoes which get a bit chilly when it gets down near freezing. Of course, I'd have to cut holes in the bottoms for the cleats.

  22. Justine:

    "Use friction tape on smooth-soled shoes."

    Oooo, I never thought of that. That trick could come in handy. Thanks. On my very first set of drop bars I actually tried wrapping them with friction tape, because that was all I had (I was 12).

    Bad idea.

    "I like the caulk idea, too. I might try it!"

    Notice that I mentioned Shoe Goo as well. Similar stuff, but not the same. Silicone sealer is softer. It gives more stick, perhaps more than you would like. It will also wear off faster and tend to pick up embedded grit. Shoe Goo is much harder. It gives less stick, perhaps not as much as you would like, but it will wear longer and won't pick up any more embedded grit than your sneakers would.

    Shoe Goo comes in clear and black. Silicone is commonly available in clear, white, black, almond and even aluminum (for your disco shoes). Uncommonly it comes in damned near any color.

    Ya pays yer money and ya takes yer choice. You might want to play around with it on some cardboard sandals first before going at your favorite shoes. That's actually how I started using it; when I was messing around with some ideas on the cheap.


    "Though people don't like to admit it, they're also harder to use than toe clips."

    But easier than toe clips with cleats.


    "Blimey, who thought that up? "

    The guy who invented cleats?

  23. I'm a cheap-skate so let me put forth my equally 'cheap-skate solution' :-D heehee which I had in the pas offered to my lady friends ... successfully. (This has also been a 'kiss-generator'for me ;-D ) :
    Keep the old inner tube of your bicycle ( you may get some free from a bicycle repair shop) . Cut 2 or 3 pieces cross-wise (for ea. pedal)to give you 3/4 inch (1.5cm) bands. Stretch these through you pedals (you may also like to put 2 more length-wise across each pedal).
    Keep the rest of the tube for replacements (It would take a while when this is needed).

    This is of the same principle as Dotties' band solution - except that with the tire-tube you could have the with of the bands to suit the soles of your shoes, they last longer between change , the colour is black .. so not (so) noticeble ... etc.

  24. Ooooops sorry for 'typo' errors in earlier 'comment'.... was 'pestered and hurried' by a pesky and an impatient 5yr old nephew.:-D

  25. Great discussion here - lots to think about! As Charlotte mentioned, thick rubber bands are a good trick for gripping slippery shoes, especially in the rain. I usually keep some on the pedals of both of my bikes. There are two shoes I have that slip a lot - both very high, chunky heels. I throw them in the basket and ride with flats. ( Although the one time the I slipped during take-off enough to hit my *ahem* hard on the saddle was wearing flats with heels in the basket.) Most of my shoes aren't problematic, but I love Adrienne's idea of getting rubber soles - I may do that for some of my favorites. I never stand up while pedaling, and make sure to take it easy if I'm wearing heels.

    My MKS RMX Sneaker pedals are good, but Oma's no-frill platform pedals are much better. I had MKS touring pedals on my first bike and they tore the backs of my legs up. Those teeth will get you when walking the bike or starting and not getting your leg out of the way fast enough.

  26. ahhhh I was looking for Dottie's answer, as she gave me the same advice on my post and it also works for me : ) also, since frosty mornings can be very bad here, especially when walking (I have landed on my 'derriere' few times!), all my winter shoes (even the pretty ones) have grippy rubber soles added and it's great to feel steady and stable either when walking or cycling : ) and they are thin enough you don't notice them at all : )

  27. Dottie - Thanks! I agree about the metal touring pedals tearing up the shins when walking the bike. I had vintage ones on my Motobecane, but then switched with my husband for platform pedals. I will give your rubber band trick a try on my bikes.

    Lorenza - The slippery roads in the frost are very familiar to me! When I lived in the UK I had the soles on practically all my shoes redone. And still fell a couple of times.

    Steve A - The galoshes idea would work, but I feel that if I go that route, I might as well simply wear non-slip shoes on the bicycle and carry the "real" shoes in my basket or bag. And honestly, all that changing or slipping on is too much trouble for my lazy hurry-out-the-door self. I like to look nice, but as effortlessly as possible. Having said that, there are some downright glamorous galoshes out there that even have openings through which you can insert high heels! They do cost over $100, but they look mighty fine.

  28. I would recommend other pedals. I have good mountain bike pedals with saw teeth. Without them I would definitely be lost in the winter when it's wet and snowy :). And for me they are perfect for any type of shoes, slippery or not.

  29. I know this post is old but I put these anti-slip stickers on all of my slick soled high heels and boots:

    I get them at the local cobbler for $4. Then every shoe is a biking shoe. When they wear down buy another.


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