Are SPD Cleats Universal Or Interchangeable?

Shimano SPD cleats are popular nowadays due to their low profile, which translates to stability, durability, and ease of use. So, it’s tempting to get them and pair them with any cycling shoes or pedals. But are SPD cleats universal?

SPD cleats are universal for standard MTBs and road bikes. They’ll fit onto the cycling shoes and pedals without a struggle. They are, however, less compatible with high-end road bikes because their bolt anchoring designs differ.

As you’ll notice in this post, SPD cleats have a 2-bolt anchor system, making them only compatible with two-bolt pedals and shoes. So, it’s only in such cases that we say that SPD pedals are universal.

To help you understand my argument, I’ll explain the details in this post. I’ll also talk about a universal adapter that most people use to turn clip-less pedals into a platform style.

Let’s get into the explanation.

What Is SPD Cleat On Cycling Shoes

Are SPD Cleats Universal? (Going Into Details)

Here’s my finding on the matter:

‘SPD Cleats Are Only Universal On SPD Pedals’

One thing is clear from my finding: SPD cleats are only compatible with SPD pedals. In such a case, they are universal.

However, they are picky for SPD-SL pedals as such pedals require a three-bolt mounting, and SPD cleats don’t fit the bill.

But again, the Shimano model matters when picking compatible cleats. Options like the Boerte Bike Cleats are only compatible with Shimano SPD SM-SH51 systems, despite having a universal 2-hole mounting system.

Going Beyond SPD Pedals

Note that since SPD pedals are only compatible with their kind, they don’t qualify as universal. So, it’s safe to argue that they are not 100% universal.

Here are the reasons for my argument:

a) SPD Cleats Are Shoe-Specific

Most people assume that SPD cleats are universal because they can fit almost all cycling shoes. The word ‘almost’ doesn’t mean completion, which means that the cleats may not fit some boots.

So, that doesn’t make them universal. What it offers you is a lot of options.

Note that SPD cleats are two-bolt cleats. What that means is that they only attach to cycling shoes with two bolts.

And as you probably know, some cycling shoes have three bolts, making them unqualified for SPD cleats. Instead, they qualify for SPD-SL cleats.

Overall, the two-bolt attachment favors mountain bikes and road cycling shoes as it offers your foot a more permanent hold for effective power transfer.

An option like the NAACO Bike Cleats suits all two-hole bike shoes, making it a versatile choice for all two-hole bike shoes.

As a result, it’s suitable for an array of outdoor cycling exploits such as mountain biking and racing. But still, the set works on indoor spin bikes with a two-bolt anchoring design.

So, overall, you cannot be blamed for calling the set universal even though it doesn’t fit all cycling shoes.

What Is SPD Cleat On Cycling Shoes

b) SPD Cleats Are Pedal Specific

Note that the term SPD doesn’t just apply to cleats and cycling shoes. It also applies to the pedals.

SPD cleats call for SPD pedals. That means both have to feature a two-bolt system.

So, fitting an SPD cleat on a three-bolt pedal (what we call SPD-SL) may not work, and that’s why my argument is that SPD cleats are not universal.

The Rare Factor – The 3-Bolt Anchoring Design

As I mentioned, most SPD cleats are only compatible with regular road bike boots and MTB shoes primarily due to their 2-bolt anchoring.

Unfortunately, the anchoring system leaves out high-end road bikes, which have a three-bolt system, what we call an SPD-SL system.

In such cases, SPD-SL cleats are universal to professional road bikes, while SPD cleats predominantly favor casual bikes.

Overall, no cleats illustrate that better than the SPD Bike Cleats for Cycling, which universally accepts all SPD-SL pedals and SM-SH11 Pedals.

A Universal Clip-less to Platform Adapter Can Make a Difference

Nowadays, it’s much possible to change from a clip-less system to a platform one without necessarily doing away with your pedal system.

That’s thanks to the emergence of universal adapters like the CORKI Universal Clip-less Pedals Platform Adapter.

This adapter is universal on all Shimano pedals. So, that includes SPDs, SPD-SLs, Infinity, Candy, RXS, and Time Atac.

In that case, it allows you to casually ride your MTB or road bike just like you do to a hybrid.

Nothing is better than a platform pedal for a beginner cyclist, and you can have that with the conversion.

With a platform design, you become more confident, and it allows you to attempt high-risk maneuvers. You also gain better control of the bike, and that prevents a crash.

Even better, they allow you to cycle in your ordinary shoes. So, you won’t have to get cycling shoes.

Why SPD Cleats? Are They Worth It?

SPD cleats promise a much comfortable cycling experience and easy walk-in with all compatible shoes.

The cleats also enjoy a low profile, which I mentioned in my opening remarks, making them stable, durable, and easy to use.

Overall, the cleats allow you to easily clip in and enjoy a secure hold, promoting effective foot power delivery.

The other worthy note is that SPD cleats encourage mud-shedding and even allows you to step out of the pedals and walk with your cycling shoes.

Do All SPD Cleats Fit All SPD Pedals

Are There Different Types Of SPD Cleats?

Most people assume that the SPD-SL is a subtype of SPD pedals, but that is not the case. The two systems are very different.

An SPD is Shimano’s two-bolt pedal attachment style predominant to off-road bikes (more so mountain bikes). In contrast, the SPD-SL is the three-bolt alternative that’s predominant to high-end road bikes.

Note, however, that SPD cleats may be classified according to their degree of float (foot rotation) as follows:

  • Red SPD-SL

These cleats have a zero-degree float. Simply put, they have no foot rotation, which means they put your foot in a fixed position.

For that reason, they suit users who are not prone to knee pain. Overall, they encourage efficient power delivery, and that favors professional cyclists more.

  • Blue SPD-SL

These cleats have a 2 degrees float, one degree in each direction. The small float allows small knee movements while still promoting pedaling efficiency.

But like their siblings above, they only suit users who are less susceptible to knee pain.  They are, however, relatively new on the market.

  • Yellow SPD-SL

These cleats have a 6-degree float, three in each direction. The float encourages free joint movement, and that means they won’t stress the knee. So, they are best for casual cycling.


1. What Is SPD Cleat On Cycling Shoes?

SPD cleats refer to small features, often carbon steel or thermoplastic, that attach your cycling shoes to the pedals.

Generally, the cleats, the cycling shoes, and pedals all have to be compatible.

2. Do All SPD Cleats Fit All SPD Pedals?

SPD cleats only fit SPD pedals that they are compatible with. That means the two sets have to feature the same bolt anchoring system, which is usually a two-bolt mechanism for regular MTBs and road bikes.

3. Are SPD Cleats Interchangeable?

Shimano SPD cleats are standard on regular road bikes and MTBs but not interchangeable. To fit SPD cleats on a bicycle, they must be compatible with the pedals and cycling shoes.

4. What Is SPD Compatible Cleats?

SPD compatible cleats are cycling cleats that fit SPD shoes and SPD pedals. These cleats enjoy a 2-bolt anchoring system, which also goes for their pedals and cycling shoes.

5. Do SPD Cleats Work With Peloton?

With Peloton Bikes, you don’t have to worry about getting newer pedals as they come with the bikes.

The pedals are compatible with the three-bolt cleat system, making SPD-SL (and not SPD) a good choice.

6. Do SPD-SL Cleats Work On SPD Pedals?

SPD-SL cleats don’t work on SPD pedals because the two have different bolt anchoring setups.

SPD-SLs have a three-bolt setup, while SPDs have a two-bolt anchoring setup.

7. What Is The Difference Between SPD And SPD-SL?

SPD and SPD-SL differ primarily in two ways. One, SPD-SL is lighter than SPD. It has the SL part, which signifies super lightweight.

The other difference is that SPD pedals have a two-bolt anchoring system while SPD-SL enjoys a three-bolt system.

As a result, SPD-SL is predominantly a high-end bike choice while SPDs predominates standard MTBs and road bikes.

8. Are SPD Pedals Dangerous?

SPD pedals are generally safe when you find a comfortable choice and master how to use them. The learning curve can be long, but they are amongst the safest ones once you get used to the pedals.

Are SPD Cleats Universal? Closing Thought

Generally, SPD cleats are compatible with regular MTB and road bike pedals and cycling shoes. That means they are only universal to the two lines. But when it comes to the high-end line, you may have to consider other options such as SPD-SL.