Cycling and Your Feet
In the first of our guest posts, the team thanks Peter Varricchio of PV Podiatry for his contribution. All content in this post is based off his years of experience and training in his field. It is only general in nature, so if you feel that it applies to you, then it might be worth while dropping in and seeing Peter, and see if he can help you get to the bottom of them!
A Podiatrists Perspective
By Peter Varricchio
Besides selecting a bicycle that meets your specific needs, from a podiatrists perspective, proper fitted shoes are the most important piece of cycling equipment. Cycling shoes must have a stable shank to efficiently transfer power from your feet to the pedals. Poor shank support allows the foot to collapse through the arch while pedaling resulting in possible symptoms such as arch pain, tendonitis and burning sensation under the foot. Besides this, an accurate shoe and cleat/clip set-up system is also important to achieve the maximum efficiency in transferring power generated by the body to the foot and pedal.
Investing in a cycling specific shoe is paramount especially if you have pre-existing problems with your feet, ankles, knees and hips or wear orthotic shoe inserts. Orthotics control the biomechanics or function of your feet. In cycling, orthotics control the arch and heel and require critical forefoot balancing.
As a podiatrist I treat cyclists with a range of overuse injuries. The most common cycling injuries are:
Arch/Heel Pain: usually diagnosed as plantar fasciitis involves an inflamed plantar fascia ligament that runs from the ball of the foot along the arch and inserts into the inner aspect of your heel. This is typically caused by excessive pronation or “rolling in” of both arches of the feet. Stretching and accommodative orthotics to control this pronation help and alleviate these symptoms.
Knee Pain: caused by a biomechanical imbalance, improper saddle height or faulty foot positioning on the pedals. Riding in a higher or harder gear or standing on the pedals may exacerbate the problem and cause knee pain if the knees, feet and pedals are not aligned correctly.
Shin Splints: associated with tendon or muscle inflammation on either side of the lower leg bone is also commonly related to excessive pronation of both feet. Stretching, massage and accommodative orthotics to control this pronation all help in resolving this problem.
Achilles Tendonitis involving the tendon that attaches to the back of the heel bone can be caused by a number factors such as overtraining, seat height and your pedalling technique.
Sesamoiditis is inflammation of the sesamoids found beneath the first metatarsal bone or large toe joint. This condition caused by overloading to the area can be relieved with adequate cycling shoe selection and orthoses.
Numbness and other symptoms such as tingling, burning or sharp shooting pains into the toes or midfoot usually occur as a result of nerve impingement between the second and third toes or between the third and fourth toes. Wider shoes, changing lacing techniques and orthotics can all assist in alleviating the problem.
Take home message and recommended cycling tips are:
- Carefully select the shoes you will wear for cycling.
- Make sure your bike fits you properly and invest the time and money in obtaining a thorough bike fit.
- Warm-up adequately and condition yourself safely in the off season.
- Stretch the major muscle groups used in cycling such as the gluteals, quadriceps, calves and hamstrings before and after your training or bike ride.
- Massage or applying a foam roller over these muscle groups including your iliotibial band is also beneficial in aiding sore spots after a hard ride.
- Ensure the seat is at the proper height when knees are slightly flexed and cleats on your shoes are durable and have not worn out or changed position.