Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Integrative Physiology

First Advisor

Prof. Rodger Kram


Cyclists and industry professionals argue that cycling shoes improve performance. However, scientific evidence has demonstrated that cycling shoes have no significant effect on metabolic cost during submaximal, steady-state cycling (50-150 W). I measured the mechanical power outputs and velocities of twelve healthy male subjects (age 26.6 +/- 4.7 years, mass 71.2 +/- 4.8 kg) during high-power sprint cycling with the null hypotheses of no differences. I tested subjects outdoors on a paved asphalt road with a steady, uphill gradient of 4.9%. After a 15-minute warm-up, each participant completed sets of three uphill, 100-meter cycling sprints in three conditions: (1) Nike Free 3.0 running shoes with flat pedals, (2) Nike Free 3.0 running shoes on classic aluminum quill pedals with toe clips and straps, and (3) Specialized S-Works 6 RD rigid-soled, cleated cycling shoes and Look Keo click-in pedals. Subjects rode towards the starting line at 20 km/hr before completing a full-effort sprint. There were five minutes of rest between trials and ten minutes of rest between conditions. I analyzed each subject’s maximum and average power outputs (W) as well as maximum and average velocities achieved (km/hr). All four performance variables increased with the addition of a shoe-pedal attachment by up to 9.7% (p < 0.02) and further increased with a stiff shoe by up to 16.6% (p < 0.03). Hence, I reject both null hypotheses. Despite cycling shoes not improving metabolic cost, shoe-pedal attachment and stiff shoe soles independently and positively improve cycling performance during high-power, uphill sprints.

Available for download on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

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