When Should You Replace Cycling Cleats? (All Cleat Types Included)

Old vs. new cycling cleats with road cycling shoe

Do you struggle with recognizing the right time to replace your cycling cleats? Then, you are in the right place.

You learn when to replace cycling cleats of the most popular manufacturers, such as Shimano, Look, Wahoo Speedplay, and Time.

This article covers mainly road and MTB cleats, and it includes official recommendations of manufacturers.

Let’s dive in.

When Should You Replace Cycling Cleats?

The general rule is to replace cycling cleats when clipping in and off becomes too difficult or too easy compared to new cleats. Worn-out cleats won’t provide you with a secure connection with the clipless pedals. This may lead to an unexpected clip-out and eventual loss of control over your bike. So, don’t underestimate the replacement.

Below, you learn when to replace cleats depending on the most popular cleats manufacturers.

Shimano

Shimano produces two types of cleats. Plastic ones for Shimano SPD-SL road bike pedals and metal ones for SPD mountain bike pedals.

Naturally, their longevity differs. So…

When to Replace Shimano SPD-SL Cleats?

Shimano recommends replacing SPD-SL cleats (e.g., SM-SH10, SM-SH11, SM-SH12) once the colored (rubber) portion becomes worn.

Shimano's recommendation on when to replace cleats
Shimano’s official recommendation on when to replace cleats | Source: shimano.com

Based on my experience, the colored part becomes worn during one season (around 4,000 miles [∼6,500 km]). But, of course, it also depends on how much you ride and how often you walk while wearing road bike shoes.

Two old vs. two new Shimano cycling cleats in a row
Old vs. new Shimano cycling cleats

Now, check out the difference between old and new cleats on shoes. Much better, huh?

Road cycling shoes with old Shimano cleats
Road cycling shoes with old Shimano cleats
Road cycling shoes with new Shimano cleats
Road cycling shoes with new Shimano cleats

When to Replace Shimano SPD Cleats?

Cleats for Shimano SPD pedals (e.g., SM-SH51 or SM-SH56) are made of metal and are recessed in the shoe sole. This leads to their longer longevity than road cycling cleats.

I asked a few of my friends who do mountain biking. Their Shimano SPD cleats last 2-3 years on average.

The official Shimano recommendation on replacing SPD cleats is the following:

Remember to check the cleats periodically for wear. When the cleats are worn, replace them.
Always check the spring tension after replacing the pedal cleats and before riding. If you do not maintain both your shoes and cleats in good condition, release and engagement to the pedals could become unpredictable or difficult, which could result in severe injury. (Source)

Look

Like Shimano, Look also has two cleats types: road bike clipless pedals (KEO and DELTA) and mountain bike clipless pedals (X-Track).

When to Replace Look KEO & DELTA Cleats?

Look KEO & DELTA cleats are known for their shorter longevity than Shimano cleats. Luckily, Look made it easy to know when to replace them.

They have wear indicators (see the picture below), similar to car tires. Look adds the following explanation.

It is imperative to change your cleats as soon as one of them appears. You will see the indicator appearing when the white layer becomes flush with the red, gray, or black layer. (Source)

Wear indicators on Look KEO cleat
Look KEO cleat – wear indication

When to Replace Look X-Track Cleats?

Unlike Look KEO, Look don’t have any official recommendation on when to replace the X-Track cleats.

However, they are made of metal and are recessed as Shimano SPD cleats. You can expect they will last you for years, so replace them when clipping in and off becomes difficult or too easy.

Wahoo Speedplay

Speedplay (acquired by Wahoo in 2021) cleats are unique and the largest of all cycling cleats on the market.

Wahoo Speedplay cleats (grey)
Wahoo Speedplay cleats | Source: wahoofitness.com

When to Replace Wahoo Speedplay Cleats?

I contacted Wahoo for an official recommendation on when to replace their cleats, and they answered the following:

Replace cleats at least every 3,000-5,000 miles [∼4,800-8,000 km] or sooner if the cleat parts show advanced wear. 
Never ride on parts that are damaged or show excessive wear. 
Never install cleats using any combination of new cleat parts and old cleat parts.
Lubricating the cleat springs with a dry-type (PTFE) lubricant and keeping the cleats free of dirt and debris by cleaning them regularly will greatly extend the life of your cleats. (Source: Wahoo customer support)

As you can see, their recommendation is similar to recommendations of manufacturers like Shimano or Look.

Time

Time (acquired by SRAM in 2021) also has two types of cleats in its offer: ATAC for MTB and XPRO & XPRESSO for road bike pedals.

When to Replace Time XPRO & XPRESSO (ICLIC) Cleats?

Cleats wear and must be replaced regularly to prevent malfunction of the pedal-shoe assembly. Change cleats if release becomes harder or if walking pads (A) show signs of wear.
To extend the life of cleats and pedals, regularly clean the cleat with a nylon brush to remove any debris.
When changing cleats, refer to any lines printed on the soles for accurate alignment. Regularly check the cleat bolts to make sure the hex fittings are free of debris and not damaged. (Source)

Walk pads on Time ICLIC cleats
Time ICLIC cleats walk pads | Source: sram.com

When to Replace Time ATAC Cleats?

Cleats wear and must be replaced regularly to prevent malfunction of the pedal-shoe assembly. Change cleats if release becomes harder.
To extend the life of cleats and pedals, regularly clean the cleat with a nylon brush to remove any debris.
When changing cleats, note the location of the marks on the sole left by the replaced cleats. Regularly check the cleat bolts to make sure the hex fittings are free of debris and not damaged. (Source)


Cycling Cleats FAQ


Conclusion

The general rule is that MTB cleats last longer than road bike cleats because they are recessed in the sole and made of metal.

Replace your cleats when you start noticing that clipping in and off becomes unpredictable, too easy, or too difficult.

Don’t underestimate worn-out cleats. Their unexpected release from pedals can cause loss of control, eventual crash, and severe injury.

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