When we think of cycling, we might not think about our feet. While the impact on our feet is less on a bike than walking or running, cycling involves repetitive motions that require large amounts of force being transferred through the legs to the feet, creating opportunities for sore feet! Common conditions our Pedorthist see in cyclists include: low back pain, anterior or lateral knee pain, arch pain, forefoot pain and/or numbness in the feet.
The Type of Shoe Matters
There is much debate about the benefits of carbon fiber soled cycling shoes vs plastic soled cycling shoes. The stiff midsole allows for maximum riding efficiency by optimizing the transfer of power from your body to the bike, while also protecting your feet from the pedals. When cycling it has been shown that your legs and feet still support ½ your body weight when seated and up to 3x your body weight when standing or sprinting. So you can understand that these loads will start to take a toll on your feet.
The increased stiffness and absence of cushioning means that the shoe cannot conform to the bends of your foot and spread the load over a larger area. This results in increased pressure on the plantar aspect of your foot as your soft tissues and metatarsals splay and compress on the stiff material. Therefore, cycling shoes with plastic, more malleable soles showed decreased plantar pressure in the forefoot region when compared to the stiffer carbon fiber soled cycling shoes.
If you are an avid cyclist who uses stiff soled cycling shoes, you may have noticed symptoms such as burning or prickling in your feet (paresthesia), swelling (ischemia) or inflammation in the ball of your foot (metatarsalgia) after a long ride. While you may push through such discomfort in the interest of efficiency, over time this pain can cross over into your daily life. It is important to consider the footwear you choose away from the sport. Choosing shoes that provide the best support and cushioning when you’re not cycling will help to alleviate the pressure on your feet, and therefore minimize longer term pain.
If you have persisting foot problems, come in and see us! Our team of pedorthists and shoe experts are here to help. Whether it be booking a full pedorthic assessment to assess your gait, foot mobility, and posture to recommend solutions such as insoles, custom foot orthotics and appropriate footwear. Or come on in to talk to our shoe experts who can ensure you get the perfect fit to help you move well, be well!
Written by Capri Vershoor
Jarboe, N. E., & Quesada, P. M. (2003). The Effects of Cycling Shoe Stiffness on Forefoot Pressure. Foot & Ankle International, 24(10), 784–788. https://doi.org/10.1177/107110070302401009