Cycling is a fantastic exercise that does wonders for your body and mind. But if you are an avid cyclist who goes on long rides, you’re surely also aware of its downsides: pain, injury, and soreness. Cycling foot pain is a common and frustrating aftereffect of biking for prolonged periods.
You may find your feet sore, painful, or numb the morning after an endurance ride or even while riding. You may also feel hot, burning sensations in the undersides of your feet or hot foot, foot discomfort, foot numbness, arch pain, or tingling in your toes.
Changing the shoe size or shape usually solves the problem of numb toes and persistent pain. But if that doesn’t work, there are plenty of simple solutions to tackle foot issues.
In this post, we will share the common causes of foot pain and ways to combat it. Let’s dive in.
Causes of Cycling Foot Pain
Many issues, including flat feet, incorrect saddle height, and plantar fasciitis, can cause foot pain when cycling. Here, we will delve into the three primary causes of this condition to help you understand it better:
1. Poor Shoe Fit
Ill-fitting cycling shoes are usually the main culprit for foot pain from cycling. Many cyclists who complain of cycling foot pain wear improperly fitted cycling footwear that is too small and tight for them.
Cycling shoes usually have a toe box that is too narrow and squeezes the feet of most riders. But nowadays, you can easily find footwear with a broader shape that fits a greater range of foot types.
- Sometimes, even footwear that fits well can feel too tight when cyclists wear very stuffy and thick socks. Such socks take up a lot of space in the shoes and limit blood flow and nerve conduction, like overly tight shoes do. This can cause issues like Morton’s neuroma.
- Many riders turn to insoles and orthotics as quick fixes for foot problems. But remember that although providing support to the feet is helpful, most inserts are designed for walking and running and not cycling. They also usually have high volume and take up more space in cycling shoes.
This then leads to tight shoes that make your feet feel cramped and destroy the purpose of wearing those inserts in the first place.
2. Incorrect Cleat Position
Another common cause of foot pain from cycling is poor cleat position. Positioning the cleats too far forward creates a lever that is too long between the middle of the axle (pedal) and the ankle joint’s pivot point. Consequently, the intrinsic foot muscles overexert themselves to provide stability to the feet and put additional pressure on the forefeet.
Putting the cleat position too forward also results in a more “toe down” foot posture. Shifting forward and sticking to the front of your footwear strains your forefoot. This also causes a poor balance between the quads, glutes, and hip extensors and poor weight distribution between the hips and feet, all of which can contribute to cycling foot pain.
When the cleats are positioned further back, the intrinsic foot muscles can stop working hard, as the center of pressure is now nearer the ankle joint’s pivot point. These muscles no longer need to stabilize the feet and ankles through the power phase of the pedal strokes.
A backward cleat position also prevents a “toe down” foot posture and helps maintain proper body balance and weight distribution.
3. Pain On The Outside Of The Feet
This cause of foot pain from cycling is not as common as the previous two, but it is prevalent enough to warrant discussion here. Some cyclists feel pain on the outer edge of their feet at the fifth metatarsal. This bone is located on the outer end of the foot that connects to the little toe.
This cycling foot pain can sometimes arise from the natural posture of the forefeet. When we stand in a weight-bearing position, our forefeet will naturally rest flat, and all five metatarsal heads touch the floor.
But when we lift our feet off the ground and are in a non-weight bearing position or a limited weight-bearing position, our forefeet may sometimes go into forefoot varus posturing. In this posture, the big toe sits slightly higher than the other toes. It is pretty typical among people. However, it causes pain outside the feet, especially while biking.
It is important to prevent injury while cycling to help you reap the most benefits of the sport. The following tips will help you combat foot pain and enjoy pain-free bike rides:
1. Wear Well-Fitted Footwear
To relieve cycling foot pain, you need to give the nerves in your feet extra space or reduce the strain on the balls of your feet. Wearing wider, well-fitted footwear is a simple way to alleviate foot pain, especially if you have wide feet.
Make sure the shoes you buy have a more spacious front end and loosen the straps whenever possible. You may also consider buying shoes after you finish a ride when your feet are most likely swollen. This will help you get the right fit and avoid big toe pain and foot pain while cycling.
You can also wear shoes with stiff soles, as long as the insert or footbed is structured and contoured properly to ease pressure on your feet.
Getting custom-made footwear for yourself is another idea worth considering. Shoes that are vacuum-molded to your foot shape prevent cramped, swollen, and painful feet. They also help keep cycling injuries at bay.
2. Choose The Right Socks
Wear socks that are best suited for your feet. If you have slender, bony feet, you should get thicker socks to ensure enough cushioning for the balls of your feet. Those with larger feet should wear thinner socks, providing more space inside their footwear.
3. Wear Shoe Insoles
Special shoe insoles are another fantastic solution for foot pain relief. They also support your metatarsal arch and plantar fascia. You can get specifically shaped insoles that have a “metatarsal button.” This is a small, raised portion placed right behind the ball of the foot. It works to spread apart the metatarsal heads so that the nerves in your feet get more breathing space as they go through the gaps.
However, if you have snug-fitting shoes with stiff soles and pair them with flat padded insoles, it may increase your foot pain instead of alleviating it. So factor in the fit of your footwear before you buy insoles for perfect plantar fascia and arch support.
4. Correct Your Cleat Position
If all the above methods don’t address your foot pain, try gradually moving back the cleats as far as they can on both sides. Maintain a drop of two millimeters in the seat height. You can also drill holes to move the cleats by 2 cm.
Also, ensure that your heels get enough rotational freedom during the pedal motion to relieve excessive pressure on that area.
Try a gentle massage with oil to improve circulation and relieve your foot pain. It can even help cases of Achilles tendonitis. A massage ball can also help if you need more pressure.
You should consult a doctor and seek medical treatment if you have chronic and persistent foot pain. They may perform a biomechanical assessment of your feet and suggest a treatment plan accordingly.
Based on the test results, your doctor may advise cyclists to follow a muscle stretching or strengthening workout routine or use cycling shoe orthoses. You may also undergo treatment to relieve chronic cycling foot pain and inflammation.
Foot pain from cycling can be taxing while you’re on a ride, especially a long one amid the hills. Our simple tips and tricks will help cyclists manage the symptoms of this condition better. However, if the discomfort lasts for prolonged periods, seek medical aid to help your healing process.
We hope you found our handy guide on cycling foot pain interesting and informative. If you wish to read more biking articles, check out our website and learn more.
Last Updated on October 10, 2022 by Matthew Carpenter