In a nutshell, there are two types.
These are the standard pedals you see on most bikes. Nothing fancy. They do the job in most circumstances. I believe the type of shoe you wear is more important than the pedal. A good stiff sole will help transfer your power to the crank. Soft shoes with flexible soles are alright but you run the risk of injuring your foot.
Platform pedals are great. If you have them and love them, keep them. Don't move to clipped pedals if you dont think you need to.
Back in the day, you could get little cages for your pedal. You slipped your foot in and it was secured to the pedal. Those were called toe clips. Along came these new pedals that required you to wear special shoes to clip your foot to the pedal. Because you no longer needed those toe clips, these pedals became known as "clipless" pedals even though they were themselves clips. but instead of clipping your toe, these pedals clipped your shoe to the pedal.
At any rate, chose the pedal that works for you and your ride. Have one bike with platforms and one with. You will need special shoes for the clips, which translates into $$$, but the benefits are as follows:
- You foot is securely attached to your pedal and your power train. the power transfer from you to the bike is optimal.
- Once you clip in, your foot is in the optimal place for it to be. Every time you clip in, your foot is where it should be.
- Cycling shoes are very fashionable
The downside to clips:
- Getting out of the clips when you are about to crash or when you just want to dismount can be hard to do at first. It takes a small bit of training to figure out how to clip out, but it's not too hard. You are allowed two embarrassing falls in front of your palls as you try to come to a stop at a rest break. After that, you should never have any problems getting out of the clips, ever again.
- you have to wear special shoes every time you want to ride the bike. You get pedals that have a platform on one side and clips on the other.
- Cycling shoes are not so fashionable.