Using a pedal system with bike shoes and cleats can make a huge difference in your riding efficiency. Once most people get past the fear of humiliation from falling over, they wonder how they ever rode without clips. Bike shoes aren't always pure bliss, though. While they may be slightly more comfortable than your favorite stilettos, common complaints include numbness, tingling and "hot feet." The good news is there are several things you can do if foot pain starts to take the fun out of your rides.
Shoe Fit and Size
If your cycling shoes hurt your feet, the first thing you should consider is the shoe fit and size. Most of the pain associated with bike shoes is because of pressure, and a shoe that's too small will cause unnecessary pressure. Make sure there's plenty of room in the fronts of your shoes and loosen the straps if necessary. Your feet naturally swell throughout the day and during rides, so it's a good idea to go shoe shopping and try on shoes in the evening or after riding. It's better to have shoes that are slightly bigger than a pair that's too snug.
Cleats and Placement
You can redistribute the pressure on the bottom of your feet by choosing cleats with a larger platform. If you're currently using small cleats, try switching to a pedal system that uses larger cleats. Adjusting the placement of the cleat can also help. If you're experiencing forefoot pain, try sliding your cleats back. Go to a bike fit specialist to help find the best cleat placement for your pedaling physiology.
Pedal Systems and Shoe Soles
In addition to moving into larger cleats, switching to a pedal system with larger pedals will also help with pressure distribution. This is particularly important if you have big feet. It's important to understand that pressure redistribution from changing to a larger cleat and pedal will only provide significant relief if you're using a stiff-soled shoe. Generally, road shoes have much stiffer soles than mountain shoes. If you're a mountain biker, be sure to specifically seek out stiff-soled shoes. They may be less comfortable to walk in, but your saddle time will feel much more comfy.
If your shoe size, cleat placement and pedal system all seem to be in check, consider having a custom orthotic made. Switching to thin, synthetic socks can also help if the pain is due to heat and foot swelling. Metatarsal buttons, which are little foam domes placed on shoe insoles to spread your metatarsal bones, may also help prevent pressure and swelling.
If nothing seems to alleviate the pain, see your doctor pronto. In rare instances, benign swelling around one of your plantar nerves can cause a condition called Morton's neuroma.
Jessica Bell has been working in the health and fitness industry since 2002. She has served as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Bell holds an M.A. in communications and a B.A. in English.