Written by Michelle Champlin BSc Pod., M.Ch.S., S.R., Ch., (UK)
Your feet are designed to do two main jobs – provide stability and mobility. They keep us stable and upright and act also as a lever to help propel us forward. They absorb shock and carry us forward at different paces (or ‘gaits’) from walking to sprinting.
In cycling, your foot (in conjunction with a high quality, rigid, well-fitting shoe) needs to act more as a rigid lever.
Custom orthotics and cycling
Orthotics or insoles for cycling are very different than those for walking, running or other sports. A cycling orthotic will be very rigid, as the aim is to lock the foot into place, with the ankle and knee in straight alignment. When there is too much movement in the foot, the intrinsic muscles of the foot have to ‘waste’ energy working to keep the foot in position. Therefore, when your leg is in the correct alignment, with your foot locked in place, you minimize leakage of energy and power. Thus, your energy is efficiently focused on transferring into power through your pedal.
How Dubai Podiatry Centre works with Cyclists
We not only want to maximize your performance with minimizing wasted movement and ensuring good leg alignment and rigid foot posture, we also want to minimize the risk of injury.
Cycling injuries to the foot that we most commonly see are either ‘hot spot’ injuries such as blisters from ill fitting shoes creating friction or compression type injuries damaging the nerves of the feet, commonly across the widest part of your foot, the forefoot or ‘ball’. This tends to be a combination of factors such as too tight cycling shoes, ill fitting cleats, and pressure from the narrow pedal through a thin sole.
To address and avoid these issues, cyclists will be looking to customize their bike to ensure optimum bike fit for their body, high quality well fitting cycling shoes and perhaps a custom orthotic to replace the existing insole that is provided with the shoe. Here, we’l look at how podiatrists in particular can help with the area of foot/leg alignment improvement and footwear related issues.
When walking, we have three main stages of gait – heel strike, into a mid-foot stance and finally toe-off. When cycling, our foot most closely resembles the ‘mid-foot’ type stance. When mid-foot, this is when the foot is most unstable and ligaments loosest, to help with shock absorption. In cycling, the foot needs only to act as a lever rather than absorb shock. Because your foot and legs aren’t fully weight bearing when cycling either this actually exaggerates the instability of this mid-foot type cycling stance. In cycling, we do not want instability as we’re not having to absorb shock.
This is where your Podiatrist can come into play with improving your lower limb biomechanical alignment for cycling and foot posture. Orthotics from your Podiatrist for cycling will only be designed for cycling and used within your cycling shoes, due to the very unique and specific job they are designed for, as well as being designed for only your foot structure and biomechanical anomaly.
One main issue that we commonly address amongst our cyclist patients is reducing internal tibial rotation. This rotation causes excess load through the knee, rotation of the femur and causes your glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors and quads to work hard against this, again wasting valuable power.
Foot & Shoe Tips for Cyclists
Our tip would be to avoid internet shopping for shoes if possible – nothing beats trying on cycling shoes – fit will vary across brands, so try out as wide a range as possible – shoes will be constructed differently for type of cycling, type of feet and so on and there is no pair of feet on the planet that are absolutely identical.
Your shoes must lock your foot in position and be well fitting without being too tight. Otherwise, this is where we tend to see most of our cycling inefficiency and eventually injury occurring.
Some cycling shoes come with built in forefoot wedges and sometimes even rearfoot posting. Generally, we would advise looking for a ‘neutral’ cycling shoe and if you do need any kind of ‘structural engineering’ your Podiatrist will build this into your prescription custom orthotic. Here at Dubai Podiatry Centre, after a very thorough biomechanical assessment, we will correct your alignment to the precise degree required and also monitor you thereafter.
Contact Us Today
If you’re experiencing any pain or injury, whether sudden or chronic, or even if you’d like a thorough biomechanics assessment to ensure you’re cycling at optimum efficiency, make an appointment with Dubai Podiatry Centre. We’ve been helping the UAE’s cyclists for 15 years and understand the unique stresses and demands of cycling, especially in the heat of the desert! We can be reached on +971 4 3435390.