Fitness questions and answers for May 29, 2007

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at...

Form & Fitness Q & A

Got a question about fitness, training, recovery from injury or a related subject? Drop us a line at fitness@cyclingnews.com. Please include as much information about yourself as possible, including your age, sex, and type of racing or riding. Due to the volume of questions we receive, we regret that we are unable to answer them all.

Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com) is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

Dave Palese (www.davepalese.com) is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16 years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl, daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.

Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000. Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows, he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins, CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural, urgent care, inpatient and the like.

Fiona Lockhart (www.trainright.com) is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting (Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10 years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.

Eddie Monnier (www.velo-fit.com) is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.

Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track, road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from any geography.

David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com) is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes. He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.

Since 1986 Steve Hogg (www.cyclefitcentre.com) has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the other end.

Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.

Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated changes in menstrual function on bone health.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion. Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.

Dario Fredrick (www.wholeathlete.com) is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.

Scott Saifer (www.wenzelcoaching.com) has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.

Kendra Wenzel (www.wenzelcoaching.com) is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.

Steve Owens (www.coloradopremiertraining.com) is a USA Cycling certified coach, exercise physiologist and owner of Colorado Premier Training. Steve has worked with both the United States Olympic Committee and Guatemalan Olympic Committee as an Exercise Physiologist. He holds a B.S. in Exercise & Sports Science and currently works with multiple national champions, professionals and World Cup level cyclists.

Through his highly customized online training format, Steve and his handpicked team of coaches at Colorado Premier Training work with cyclists and multisport athletes around the world.

Brett Aitken (www.cycle2max.com) is a Sydney Olympic gold medalist. Born in Adelaide, Australia in 1971, Brett got into cycling through the cult sport of cycle speedway before crossing over into road and track racing. Since winning Olympic gold in the Madison with Scott McGrory, Brett has been working on his coaching business and his www.cycle2max.com website.

Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com) is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive cyclist for 20 years

Andy Bloomer (www.cyclecoach.com) is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training. He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past 4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.

Michael Smartt (www.cyclecoach.com) is an Associate Coach with Richard Stern Training. He holds a Masters degree in exercise physiology and is USA Cycling Expert Coach. Michael has been a competitive cyclist for over 10 years and has experience coaching road and off-road cyclists, triathletes and Paralympians.

Kim Morrow (www.elitefitcoach.com) has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion, and a Fitness Professional.

Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns MyEnduranceCoach.com, a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find a coach.

Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews, you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

PowerCranks
Lateral knee pain
Beating that final hill
Arch cleats - a rebuttal
Arch cleats and pedal release
Foot positioning and Q-factor
Burning feet sensation
Sesamoiditis

PowerCranks

I am a 33 year-old male, Cat. II cyclist that has been racing for over 10 years. I felt my power output (I use a Powertap) had been pretty stagnant over the past few years with no real increase in output so I bought PowerCranks as a way to help with performance.

I started to use them on an occasional basis from October '06 until January '07. In January I began to use them exclusively, riding approximately 5-10 hours a week (it was hard to ride for extended periods of time). At first I noticed an increase in power output. However, when it came time to race, I just felt flat. At first, I attributed this to my cadence being too slow, and began to do speed drills. Right now, my cadence is where it normally should be while riding and racing (90 rpm) however, performance is just not there in races.

As a result, I have discontinued use of the PowerCranks for the time being.

Most of the things I hear about PowerCranks (at least the people who stick with them) is that they are wonderful. Is there any possible explanation for the PowerCranks to cause a decrease in performance?

William Jay
Selover City, PA, USA

Scott Saifer replies:

To be fair, many riders have bad seasons even without using PowerCranks, but absolutely yes. PowerCranks could cause a loss of power, if you had excellent pedal stroke mechanics before you started using them.

You are up against the issue of "specificity" in training. This is a general principle of sports physiology that says, more or less, "You get good at what you practice". If a rider lacks the ability to pull up on the back pedal, then a certain fraction of power that should be available is missing for that rider. PowerCranks can help fix that and in the process make more power available for racing.

Training effects are not all local to one muscle at a time however. When you pedal thousands of times, your brain becomes programmed to activate the muscles in the order in which you practice activating them. When you pedal normal cranks, you develop the ability to fire the muscles needed to make normal cranks go around. When you pedal PowerCranks, or ride one legged drills or practice punching the pedals or whatever, your brain becomes programmed for the different movement pattern or muscle activation pattern. If your program for normal pedaling was highly refined, alternative forms of pedaling done for many hours can wreck it.

Assuming that your problem really did stem from the PowerCranks use, you can look forward to getting your old power back, and maybe even some extra, but you'll need to do enough normal-crank pedaling to regain your pedaling program.

I have had one Cat 1 client use PowerCranks. His experience was that he felt like he had tremendous power for the first few miles of his first race, after which his hip-flexors were tired and he went back to normal pedaling.

Lateral knee pain

I'm a 25yr old recreational cyclist. The boys say they'd throw me in B grade if I turned up to races but every weekend I'm hitting the hills around my home town training for an upcoming watch/ride tour of Le Grand Boucle where I'm supposed to make it up the Col d'Aubisque and Col du Tourmalet to name a few!

Training's going well and I'm doing 300km plus a week. Last weekend I tackled the biggest climb in my area (6km at 10% with sections at 25%). It was a struggle but the thing that got me worried was I pulled up with pain on the lateral aspect of my right knee (presumably ITB, my left had previously given me trouble on hill running).

I've read things about problems with leg-length discrepancies, seat too far back and incorrect cleat position. I had my bike set up properly when I bought it a year ago and I was wondering are there any "self-check" things I can do as I live in a country area and bike-fit specialists and cycling physios are thin on the ground.

Jason

Steve Hogg replies:

Unaccustomed hills of up to 25% grade. I can't believe you are adequately geared for 25% grades. Did your cadence drop below 70 - 75 rpm for any length of time?
If so the most likely culprit is lack of low gear ratios. Even 10% is a serious climb, particularly if not conditioned for that type of effort.

At low rpm, high torque pedalling below around 60 rpm, I will guarantee that many riders will end up with a problem somewhere, as I have seen it many times. So I suggest appropriate gearing for the terrain you wish to ride up and then reassess before worrying about anything else.

The other thing I would suggest is find a good structural health professional and book in for a global assessment. The tendency for problems on one side only (left when hill running and now right when forcing a gear) suggests that there may be symmetry issues.

Beating that final hill

I am a 36 year-old male rider and have a question regarding the final hill in our local 75km race and being dropped. I have no problems staying with the bunch on the first and second 25km leg but the third time round I just don't have the legs to stay with the group.

My question is in regard to training to stay in the race past this hill. The hill is about 1km and quite steep, the pace doesn't increase too much through the climb and the grade is constant. I don't know how to train specifically to get past this hurdle.

Do you think it is a muscular endurance issue, a lack of endurance ( I do at least 2-3 rides longer than 70km each week including hills), a lack of food intake (I think I'm consuming enough food and fluid)? I find that a third of the way into the hill I just have nothing left - how do I correct this? What should I work on? Will just racing the course improve me?

Andrew

Carrie Cheadle replies:

I was just working on this topic with a couple of my athletes. You're on the right track - first you have to go through and figure out is it my endurance, nutrition, hydration, etc. In addition to that, there is always a psychological piece when it comes to the final lap, final hill, and when some serious pain starts to kick in. For some folks, as soon as they see the light at the end of the tunnel, they're toast. You have to figure out how to mentally push the finish line past the actual finish line so you blow past it instead of easing up to it.

First I would start to become aware of what you're thinking once you get 1/3 of the way up the hill. If your thoughts turn to "My legs are done, my race is over" you immediately (sometimes subtly) let up on your effort. Then, once guys start passing you, you can become frustrated, confused, and angry - and focusing on all of these things start taking up whatever energy you had left for that final push on the climb.

Then it can become even more complicated if you start taking that with you into the next race. "Well, I didn't finish with the pack last time, I wonder what's going to happen this time around."

1. Control your thoughts: Make your thoughts work for you instead of against you. Pick a cue word and repeat it over and over to yourself so your brain doesn't get hijacked with thoughts of "My legs are going to explode!!" Instead try "Pedal, pedal, pedal." Or give yourself a job - my job is to stick to this wheel no matter what.

2. Break up the hill: Break the final hill up into sections. You know you can make it through the 1st 3rd of the hill, what do you need to do to make it through the next 3rd?

3. Learn from each race: Focus on YOUR progress. Don't compare yourself to any one else. If you make it 2/3 of the way up the hill, then you are a 1/3 closer to where you want to be - and that is progress. Then reflect on each race - what helped you push further this time and what do you need to do next time?

Arch cleats - a rebuttal

I have read your articles about arch cleats with interest and have visited the blog of Joe Friel, who is a strong proponent of their use. I am an exercise physiologist and accept that my knowledge of biomechanics is rather limited, but I am concerned that scientific research in this area has been largely ignored in the discussions on Cyclingnews . I urge you to publish this letter so as to bring some balance to the debate.

Van Sickle and Hull (2007) published a study in Journal of Biomechanics which is referred to on Joe Friel's blog. To paraphrase the research, the hypothesis that cycling economy improves when the cleat is moved posteriorly on the foot was tested. Three positions (traditional - cleat under head of first metatarsal; rear - cleat is positioned halfway between the head of the first metatarsal and the posterior end of the calcaneous; and mid - half way between the forward and rear positions) were tested. The cyclists pedalled at 90% of ventilatory threshold at constant power and 90rpm. Robust statistical analysis revealed that cycling economy with arch cleats was no different to a traditional cleat set-up.

There is evidence that, by moving the cleat to a more posterior position, the force demand on the ankle plantar flexors is reduced by about 30% and 65% for the mid and reward foot positions, respectively. This is central to the current hypothesis as to why a reward cleat position is favourable and should improve economy, however, the data does not support this effect. Van Sickle and Hull (2007) point out that, although the ankle plantar flexors primarily act to transfer power from the hip and knee extensors to the crank it is also known they are involved in generating pedalling power.

Consequently, if their involvement in the pedalling action is inhibited by a rearward cleat placement, the force decrement has to be made up by other muscles for there to be no change in cycling economy at constant power. Van Sickle and Hull (2007) attempted to identify the muscles involved but due to the limitations of surface electromyography, were unable to determine from where the additional power was being supplied.

I think a word of caution needs to be brought to this debate. I accept that individuals may have noticed differences in their own performances, but these are hardly objective tests. How does one know that these improvements are not due to random effects, day-to-day heart rate variability, or changes in training status if one does not conduct an objective experiment with statistical analysis?

There may be justification in using an arch cleat for prevention of injury, but there is no published evidence that I can find to support their use in competitive cycling. If Goetz Heine's data provides compelling support for arch cleats then I urge him to make it available for publication and peer review. For the time being, I would recommend that cyclists refrain from making expensive changes to equipment until more is known about the subject.

Mark Walker

Steve Hogg replies:

First a correction; what you may have read by me are not 'articles'. They are answers to queries from readers of the forum. Anything I have said on this subject has been in response to queries from others. I haven't volunteered one word about midfoot cleat positioning. This is a small point but an important one to me.

Next, I couldn't find a link on the Friel blog to the study you cite and so can't comment. I Googled "Van Sickle and Hull Journal of Biomechanics 2007" without a pertinent result. If you can provide a direct link, I would be happy to have a look. The one I did find on the Friel blog was this one which was a study of the differences between forefoot pedaling and heel pedaling. To paraphrase their conclusion - heel pedaling produced no more power but was smoother.

But getting back to the various points you make. We can debate for some time about this study or that study and to be frank, I just don't have the interest. What I am happy to do is talk about any readers' first hand experiences, good or bad. All I can report is what I have found to date. Looking at the Friel blog again I saw various people saying that their power output has increased and their heart rate for a given power output has gone down. Both of these things may be true in individual cases but I suspect are not the norm from my experience to date.

I have had a few customers claim the same things but on examination what happens is that heart rate rises more slowly during a steady effort with midfoot cleat positioning than it does with forefoot cleat positioning. A rider who usually pedals up a given hill at say 250 watts and 150 beats per minute may well find that by the top of the hill, his heart rate is 10 beats lower than normal BUT what I'm finding is that if the hill is longer and the wattage maintained, then heart rate rises to what is 'usual' for that rider at that wattage on a climb of that inclination. This is best demonstrated on an indoor trainer where the conditions are controlled.

Re your observation about what muscles are working etc. It is obvious to anyone who has tried putting their cleat under the midfoot that their calves are working far less. The quads and hamstrings work harder though they seem to cope well. I have veins I have never seen before popping out of my upper legs now, so something is happening and again, I'll leave it to the researchers to work out exactly what.

Mark, if you are interested and have the resources, why don't you do a study?

I am happy to provide you or anyone else that is interested with whatever info is needed to duplicate what I am finding. I have no interest in doing a study as my main concern is keeping paying customers happy, not finding other unpaid demands on my time. I have too many of those as it is.

Re. Gotz Heine, I can't speak for him but if you contact him (www.biomac.biz), then he may be willing to talk to you.

Regarding your last sentence, there is no compulsion here. Anyone reading this can do as they like. I am making my clients aware of the midfoot cleat thing as they are paying for advice and information. Some elect to try and to date, none are unhappy. Most don't, because all they see is more complication in their cycling lives.

When I couldn't find a link to the study you cite, or find it via Google, I contacted a friend who is a cyclist and has been an exercise physiologist for the elite program in his country. He keeps abreast of all things cycling related and I thought he could help me track down the Van Sickle and Hull paper. As I had hoped, he was aware of the study. I have cut and pasted what he has to say below, as his view is quite different from the inferences that you took from the same paper.
-------------
Hi Steve, I've got the paper and have attached a copy for you. Interesting read actually, but wouldn't say that the findings support the conclusion because they mention PERFORMANCE, but what they actually measured was a MECHANISM VARIABLE. Simple semantics problem. All it refers to is the effects of cleat position on a single physiological mechanism (generally being associated with endurance), that being work VO2 (oxygen cost of work). To summarise further:

The authors were obviously not trying to examine the performance effects of the cleat change, but rather the effect of a cleat position change on a physiological mechanism. Performance and physiological mechanisms often don't go hand in hand (i.e. a change in one does not necessarily affect the other). If the authors had wanted to look at the performance they could have simply said to the athletes, 'Okay do a 20 km TT with your foot in this position or the other'.

Theoretically and sensibly, the better position should give a better time. Alternatively. if they wanted to look at fatigue, you simply pick a constant power and get the rider to ride at that for as long as they can (this is actually a much better test of performance in my opinion). Anyway, I think Mr Walker has missed the point of the paper and his argument is neither compelling or valid.

The paper found no statistical difference between cleat positions. This in itself is interesting, because you would expect trained cyclists to get an adverse effect when you move their cleat position backwards on the shoe, as they've spent the best part of their cycling career with cleat forward on the shoe. If they can ride as well with cleat backwards with little habituation to that new position (they were only given a few minutes), what would happen after they have adjusted to the new cleat position?

You've already alluded to this previously with your clients anyway; they do need some time to adjust.

The paper clearly states (by reference to other work) that forces in the calf reduce considerably at the same fixed power and goes on to explain that to maintain constant power on the erg, the force drop in the calves could be taken up by other muscles (though no evidence of this via EMG). If this is the case then you WOULDN'T expect a change in VO2 unless the muscles that took over the work were substantially stronger.

The paper is pretty good but hasn't answered the performance question; all it does is discount one potential mechanism (improved VO2 max) that MAY lead to performance enhancement. One study doesn't prove or disprove a theory. This paper puts us (rightly so) onto the path of asking the right question next time. That being: is there a performance advantage to rear cleat position?
-------------

Arch cleats and pedal release

I didn't want to be the first one to try this.

Have you found that with an arch cleat placement your foot will come out of the pedal as easily in a crash?

Seems to me it wouldn't because you have a shorter lever, ankle to mid foot versus ankle to toe, being used to twist your foot out. My guess is you would want to turn the pedal release tension all the way down if you could.

Mike

Steve Hogg replies:

Your assumptions are correct. It is slightly harder to exit a pedal with midfoot cleat position for the reasons you state. I had a couple of low speed falls (increased toe overlap) in the first week that I went to a midfoot cleat position and my feet came out of the pedals easily.

If you elect to try this (the cleat position, not the falling) and have concerns, adjust your release tension to the minimum if your pedal system allows it.

Foot positioning and Q-factor

Hello Steve,

From watching your 'Sitting Pretty' video I get impression you have a lot of experience positioning feet. Also, with all the discussion on the site about arch-cleats, you are willing to experiment.

I have two questions, one about pedal choice influencing power transfer, and one about Q-factor.

Regarding pedal choice: Is there any credence about large pedal platforms improving power transfer? I noticed that you use Speedplays in the video and you mention them often on the Cyclingnews site, so you must believe it is a good pedal. I have used Look pedals for many years, but I am thinking of making the switch. However, the Speedplays have a smaller platform and I have a wide foot (EE to EEEE depending on the shoe). All the other pedal companies (Time, Shimano and Campagnolo) have increased the width of their pedals. Does Speedplay know something the rest of the manufactures don't know about power transfer?

Regarding Q-factor: It appears that almost everyone is trying to achieve a low Q-factor, but can this introduce an unintended problem of a canted foot? Could the use of wedges be alleviated if rider used a wider Q-factor that fit his body rather than making his body fit a narrow Q-factor by canting the foot? Since I have wide feet, I find my cleat position to be slightly more on the inside to avoid rubbing my foot on the crank arm. I have contemplated using 20mm pedal axle extenders to achieve a better cleat position. Are my thoughts on this issue flawed?

Bill Schott

Steve Hogg replies:

Always good to hear from someone who thinks about their position. Yeah, I like Speedplays. I am one of the low Q-factor people. In my case, getting my feet as close as possible to each other prevents a dicky knee from protesting. I went to Speedplays last year after many years of using Campagnolo pedals. Not because I was dissatisfied with the Campags but because a pro I know changed teams and pedal sponsors and gave me a couple of pairs as payment for a job I did for him. I tried them, liked them and the lower seat height required as the lower the center of gravity, the better for bike handling, and have stuck with them since.

Regarding foot separation distance on a bike. Closer is generally better for reasonably flexible riders of average or less hip width. Closer is not better for wide hipped riders and/or riders who are tight in the glutes and lower back which can often manifest as pedaling with the knees out.

Re pedal platform size. It makes sense that a wider pedal platform would be better for pressure distribution but I haven't had any Speedplay riders complain of hot spots or other problems resulting from a small pedal platform. The effective pedal platform of a Speedplay isn't as small as it looks. The pedal body only contacts the cleat via the engagement springs which in turn are supported like meat in a sandwich by the two part cleat. The cleat isn't that small and it may be that is why pressure hot spots are uncommon.

Regarding wedges etc. If a rider needs to cant his foot just to get his feet close together, that isn't a good idea. Two manufacturers that I know of offer different length pedal axles: Speedplay and Keywin. From memory (and I may be corrected) Speedplay make steel axles in minus 2.5mm (the axle that the pro's use) and plus 6mm and plus 12mm. Keywin make minus 3mm, minus 6mm, plus 3mm and plus 6mm, as well as their standard length axle. Additionally, Look CX 6 and CX 7 have a pedal body that can be moved inward or outward on the axle and the current Time pedals have a small amount of lateral adjustment achieved by swapping cleats from left to right and so on.

Ultimately you need to ride at a foot separation width that is comfortable and doesn't cause you any problems. I have a customer with world class sized bunions and the only pedals that he can ride and gain foot to crank arm clearance are Keywins with the plus 6mm axle. I suspect that he wouldn't have a problem with the Speedplays with one of the extra length axles either, but his Keywin usage predates my finding out that Speedplay make extra length axles.

Burning feet sensation

I'm 37 years old, 59kg, 172cm, my main riding aim is long distance touring but I use my bicycle as my main mode of transport daily. The type of shoes I use are Specialized BG Trail 120 SL, their fit is roomy so I can wear thicker socks in colder weather as well. I have the same problem in other shoes, like my Shimano cycling shoes and my hiking boots.

The problem that I'm having is that I get a very painful burning sensation in my right forefoot, mainly towards the smaller toes, which get very painful after a while. This usually starts after about 50km of cycling. I was told by a physiotherapist that I have a collapsed forefoot, which might be related to this problem.

Stijn de Klerk

Steve Hogg replies:

Do you have a noticeable callous underneath your 5th MTP joint; i.e. the base knuckle of your small toe?

If so, you almost certainly are compensating for a varus forefoot on the right side and one way this can be compensated for is to pedal with the load on the outer part of the foot. This saves the knee from lateral or rotational stresses that it might otherwise experience but a problem such as yours can be the result. If so, get hold of some Lemond Wedges and experiment.

Even if you don't have that callous, this is the most likely problem. If you don't get a positive result once you have tried the Lemond Wedges, get back to me for Plan B.

Sesamoiditis

I am fairly new to road cycling and have only occasionally ridden off road on my mountain bike. I am 37 years old, male, 6ft and 90kg and reasonably fit, I have been training hard for two months to get ready for a 240 mile cycle ride.

I have just purchased a new road bike and had it custom built for me along with shoes and pedals, I chose a Sidi hi-tech MTB shoe to cover both bikes which seemed a good option as it has got a very hard sole.

I had been getting on well with everything, done lots of 20-mile rides as well as gym training and one 70-mile ride two weeks ago. Since then I have had a lot of pain in the ball of my right foot which was diagnosed as sesamoiditis by my GP, inflamed tendons under the two small bones in the ball of your foot.

Everyone I know seems to think I have been over training which has caused this problem, but I think it maybe the fact that these shoes have not got a padded insole.

I have rested for 10 days and have been taking strong anti-inflamatories and the foot is getting better, but I don't want it to happen again.

After reading some of your advice online I moved the cleat back 10mm on the right shoe, I have size 11 feet, this does take away the impact at the ball of the foot but, I feel that I am loosing power by doing this.

I have also purchased some running insoles and put them in my cycle shoes and this also appears to help the pressure on the ball of the foot. I have just done a 20 mile ride and my feet don't feel too bad.

My questions are:

1:When the foot is better should I continue to use insoles and if so are there any specifically for cycling?

2: Should I put the cleat back to the ball of the foot or have them both 10mm back?

3:Should I invest in road shoes and pedals to spread the load over the foot? The Sidi MTB shoes are very solid and cost me £155.

Lee

Steve Hogg replies:

Re 1: Given that you are only experiencing problems on one foot, it is worth visiting a podiatrist to find out why. You may have common issues with foot morphology and are paying a price for that.

Re 2: I would leave them the 10mm back. Did you drop your seat slightly when you moved the cleats back?

If not, that would be a good idea as the more rearward cleat position causes greater extension of the leg in most cases. Also, don't confuse lack of familiarity and less strain with lack of power. Persevere for three weeks before making a decision one way or the other.

Re 3: Maybe. High end Sidi MTB shoes have quite a rigid sole. I would wait and see what happens after following what I have suggested first.

Back to top