Cycling Shoes and Orthotics
The activity of bike riding has been present for centuries, a skill once taught and never forgotten. With all activities, there is the prospect of being able to complete said task; and then there is being able to do it well. As mentioned in the previous blog, the foot is a very unstable structure of 26 bones and 33 joints, in the sport of cycling – whether for elite sportspeople or the average weekend punter, the body, and in particular the lower limb is asked to move more like a machine than the multi-directional and dynamic creature it is.
In true road cycling, where the foot is latched to the pedal via cleats or a strap and both a push and pulling motion is created in conflict to the opposing limb, the legs are asked to act as levers or pistons to generate optimal force upon the small area of contact. With the foot being a highly manoeuvrable item, the ability to act as a stiff lever is difficult while cycling. Certain cycling shoes do have a carbon fibre sole which is in place to stiffen the shoe itself, however, this does not account for the movement inside the shoe which can then affect the angles of the knees, hips and body as a whole.
The foot is a very unstable structure. Despite the carbon fibre sole of the shoe attempting to stiffen it to act as a lever, the millimetres of room available in the shoe still allow for the natural movements of the foot which are trying to be prevented for best transfer of energy. There are a number of items available out there for cyclists but the better quality devices are those which are rigid, supportive and able to advance the locking mechanism of the subtalar joint by pronating the rearfoot and supinating the Midfoot to created a stiff ever and reduce movement of the foot. Creating a stiff lever in theory will help increase power output during cycling.
Complaints such as “hot foot”, knee pain, ankle pain and metatarsal head discomfort can all be addressed with the use of an insole off-loading device or adjustment to bicycle set-up.
When trying to design a custom orthotic for a cyclist which is not affiliated with a particular specialist brand, it should be recognized that the foot adjustments will have the greatest effect where the foot makes contact with a surface. In the case of road cyclists this is limited to a 20-50mm point of contact, unlike traditional orthotics which operates in a way which facilitates natural motion and reduces pathological movements at the foot through the full range of gait.