You might wonder if you can go running with your cycling gear. One reason is that it is expensive to buy gear specific to each sport; this is even more true if you practice triathlon. It could also be because your running clothes are dirty but you still want to go for a run. What should you do then? Use your cycling kit to run with?
Cycling gear is not very well suited to running. Cycling shorts have a thick pad which is uncomfortable when running. Cycling jerseys and jackets are longer at the back which can be annoying when running. And cycling shoes are designed to be rigid, the opposite of running shoes.
Let’s dig a bit more in detail into each part of the cycling gear and see how it can or cannot be applied to running.
First, let’s remember that cycling clothes are designed to be used in the riding position. They are meant to best perform when seated on a saddle with a pedaling motion.
Can you run with cycling shorts?
Let’s start with the specificities of cycling shorts (also called bib shorts or chamois). They are designed with the intent to reduce resistance against the wind, draw sweat away and ensure comfort in the seated area. The first two points are identical for running gear. But the third point is very specific to cycling: it is obtained by adding extra padding in the area of the short in contact with the saddle.
In the picture below, you will see an overview of a bib short with a description of its different components, as well as a photo of padding.
The cycling padding is usually quite thick (up to 13mm in thickness) to give the best cushioning possible for long ride.
So can you run in cycling short?
Yes, you can but it is best not to. Just imagine yourself running with a big pad sticking off your butt! It doesn’t sound very comfortable! You need to understand that compared to cycling the pad will move a bit with the running motion and therefore it might generate friction against your skin.
If you really wish to run in cycling shorts, I would recommend going for a cheap pair of shorts with thin padding. Alternatively, you should consider triathlon-specific clothing (like tri suits or tri shorts) which include a pad thin enough not to bother you when running. These outfits have been designed to be used for both cycling and running.
Can you run with a cycling jersey?
Cycling jerseys are designed specifically for the riding position:
- They are short at the front to prevent the jersey from rolling up on your belly which would be very uncomfortable when cycling.
- They are long on the backside to ensure it sits just above your butt when you bend forward.
So, in running position, the jersey would end up covering your bottom and since jerseys are usually very fitted it is annoying to feel it against your bum when running.
But cycling jerseys have a fair advantage compared to running t-shirts: they have pockets at the back! Usually, 3 pockets, and sometimes some are even zipped.
I have run a few times with a cycling jersey on. It doesn’t bother me but be careful with what you put inside the pockets. Cycling jersey pockets are usually a bit loose. So with the up and down motion from running, items inside will move up and down a bit. It can be very annoying if you put a heavy item in there that is going to move all the time.
In summary, cycling jerseys are not designed for running. They can feel annoying as they are longer at the back but have the advantage to include a number of pockets. If you have a jersey not too tight of a fitting that’s probably ok to run with. You can roll up a bit the back if it annoys you and use the pockets at your convenience.
Can you run with a cycling jacket?
Cycling jackets are designed like cycling jerseys. They are cut to take into account the riding position. Therefore they are longer at the back.
Actually, in comparison with jerseys, jackets tend to be even longer on the backside. They are meant to cover your bum to protect you against the elements (like light rain for wind jackets. And heavy rain for waterproof jackets). Indeed, when cycling, you end up in a position where your bum is exposed to the rain since you are bent forward.
If this extra bit of material doesn’t annoy you, then feel free to use cycling jackets to run with them.
Can you run with cycling socks?
Cycling socks are generally high socks that are designed to a specific length according to the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) rules. In practice, it is not very different in length from high raise running socks.
The main difference between cycling and running-specific socks is that running socks include some cushioning at the front and at the back of the foot to help absorb the shocks from the foot hitting the ground.
If you are used to running with generic sports socks, not very technical running socks, then you won’t notice a difference in using cycling socks. You might even appreciate the fabric they are made of, which is great to evacuate the sweat and avoid blisters. It is quite similar to running socks materials.
So that’s up to you to decide!
Can you run with cycling shoes?
This looks like an odd question. But actually, there are several reasons why this is a valid question:
- Imagine you have a big mechanical issue during a triathlon. You can choose to walk your bike to the next transition zone instead of giving up. In that case you might wonder if you can run not to waste too much time. But you are holding a bike, and wearing cycling shoes. Can you run with them?
- You would like to know if you can run through triathlon transitions with your road cycling shoes on.
- You have seen some cycling specific shoes that look like trainers and are perfect for commuting because it allows you to walk when needed. Does that mean you can run with them too?
But first, what do I call cycling shoes?
I am talking about shoes that are specifically designed for cycling and used in combination with clipless pedals. These shoes are mounted with cleats to allow the rider to attach securely its feet to the pedals.
Cycling shoes have a stiff insole to provide the best possible power transfer. For mountain biking, the soles have grippy rubber treads to allow the rider to walk. Some brands have even transformed some trainers into cycling shoes with the cleats cut out inside the rubber area. Such as Adidas Velosamba trainers.
Can you run in them?
Cycling shoes are not meant for running and I would recommend avoiding running with them.
They are too stiff and slippery (with and without cleats on). And even mountain bike cycling shoes with rubber below (including the ones looking like trainers) won’t be good for your feet. They don’t have any flexibility. So you can run with them for short distances when you don’t have a choice (cross country racing, gravel rides, commuting, etc). But don’t use them for your regular running training.
And in the case of a triathlon?
During a triathlon, if you are not able yet to perform a flying mount during the bike transition, don’t worry. Just put your triathlon shoes on (or road cycling shoes on) and run with them during the transition phase.
The distance you will have to run is not very long and you are not at risk of injuring your feet. But please be careful while running not to fall or slip as the cleats will make your run a bit unbalanced.
The same thinking applies if you have a mechanical issue with your bike and need to walk or run to the next transition in your cycling gear (click here for more details on this topic). The choice is up to you to run in this case. For a short distance, you can definitely consider running to move a bit faster. But if you have several miles left to do then just walk. Don’t risk getting injured, it’s not worth the time gained.
If you are concerned about your cleats: yes you will probably damage them but they don’t cost much and are easily replaced.