Despite your feet never touching the ground, cycling takes a toll on your feet. Cycling shoes are the number one connection to you and your bike and are often the cause of of numerous foot pain issues that creep up for many cyclists. They can be a persistent and debilitating issue impacting your ability to perform your best.
In this article, we’ll outline a few common issues and provide some resolutions to help you finally make foot pain a thing of the past.
What is it?
A painful burning on the ball of the foot where nerves and joints are repeatedly squeezed and aggravated by the long metatarsal bones.
This was the most persistent problem I faced during Gran Fondo races. I’ve experienced this several times around the 80 mile mark. Often the pain was so severe, I had to stop and dismount my bike several times.
I thought of all the possible causes:
Ill fitting shoes
Straps too tight
Socks causing friction with my feet
I finally figured it out in an unlikely place – a ski shop. It happened to be next to a bike shop where I was getting a bike fit. The guy working there made a lot of custom insoles for ski boots and was certain this would fix the problem. After fitting me with custom insoles, I never had the problem again. It’s been a lifesaver, especially on longer rides.
If you find yourself experiencing hot feet, you may have tried various off the shelf insoles. I’d recommend taking it a step further and get someone to make you custom fit insoles. You want a cycling specific orthotic with a thin profile that provides good support.
Working with someone who can help get you the right insole makes a huge difference. You will feel more connected to the bike with custom insoles.
For me, he needed to play with the length of the arch support and trim the insole. He also adjusted the front of the insole to ensure my metatarsal bone arches laid properly within my shoe. That seemed to really make a difference to get my feet in the perfect position.
As an alternative to custom insoles, here are a couple of other options that might work best for you:
What is it?
Numbness often happens in the toes and a common cause is ill fitting shoes. The priority for all shoe manufacturers is to build shoes that are stiff and lightweight. Often that comes at the expense of comfort.
Shoes that are too tight cause numbness and tingling in the feet. Feet expand when we ride so when shopping for shoes, pay special attention to the toe box volume and depth. This will have the the most impact on overall comfort.
Try a range of sizes and be aware that European and Asian made shoes tend to fit differently. Also, be sure to try on shoes with the socks you’ll be wearing during your rides.
The cleat plate also contributes to inflammation and numbness. Be sure to reach inside the shoes when trying on new shoes. If you notice any bumps that will likely irritate your feet on longer rides.
What is it?
There is a band of tissue or “fascia” that extends from your heel to your toes. It is a form of tendonitis and its causes are a combination of muscle and connective tissue tightness and inflammation. When overly stretched, tiny tears occur causing pain and inflammation.
Again, cycling shoes are a contributing factor. The sole of cycling shoes are extremely rigid and given that the pain is mostly concentrated in the heel, this is where proper fit should help ease pain.
I haven’t personally experienced this but I thought this video was an interesting take on the issue. In it, he suggests that plantar fasciitis is not a foot problem.
It’s often overlooked, but socks matter. I’ve tried many socks and it’s amazing the difference between the various options. Find ones that work with your shoes.
For an all purpose topical foot cream to ease pain and inflammation, I’d recommend this one.