Seattle is one of the best places to cycle in the country. Along with the famed Burke Gilman Trail, the area boasts multiple urban and regional trails as well as a great biking network for commuting. Whether you bike to work on a daily basis or use cycling for recreation and a great workout, there are many things to keep in mind to ensure your feet remain pain-free.
Cycling is a repetitive sport. During one hour of cycling a rider can average up to 5,000 pedal revolutions. Add that to tight or narrow shoes and that can be a prescription for foot pain.
Metatarsalgia and Morton's Neuroma in Cyclists
One of the most common foot conditions found in cyclists is metatarsalgia or "hot foot". Symptoms can include hot, painful, burning sensations and swelling and numbness. These symptoms can be particularly problematic in the summer when your feet are more likely to swell. If you're in the middle of a ride you'll need to stop, get off your bike, and let the swelling and heat subside.
Sesamoiditis can occur when the sesamoids or small bones found underneath the first metatarsals get inflamed or rupture from too much pressure from sports such as cycling.
Morton's neuroma is caused by an enlarged bundle of nerves to the 3rd and 4th toes. Although cycling is likely not the cause of this condition it can put extra pressure on that area of the foot, worsening an existing neuroma.
Achilles tendonitis the Achilles tendon can become inflamed and irritated due to improper pedaling and seat height, but can also occur due to ramping up your training too quickly if you're a competitive rider. Flat feet and a tight calf muscle can also be the culprits behind this common condition.
Preventing Foot Pain in Cyclists
Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to prevent these painful foot conditions including:
- Purchase new shoes - your shoes are often one of the first things to consider changing when developing foot pain. If your feet have gotten larger (common in adults), your shoes are too tight and narrow, or if your shoes are worn out head to REI or another shoe store you trust.
- Types of shoes
- casual riders can purchase a cross-training shoe while more serious riders will benefit most from bicycle touring shoes (can still walk in these) or shoes with cleats.
- a stiffer shoe can help redistribute pressure over the metatarsal heads.
- a roomier toe box can help accommodate your feet when they swell to prevent ball of foot problems.
- Purchase inserts or over-the-counter orthotics with a metatarsal pad or button - these devices can lift the metatarsals to maintain their natural arch and prevent nerve pain and numbness.
- Custom orthotics may be necessary to alleviate and prevent sesamoiditis and Achilles tendonitis. Orthotics for cycling will need to be thinner to accommodate cycling shoes.
- Move your cleats back. Cleats that are too far forward can cause ball of foot pain.
- Wear thinner socks to make more room for your feet.
- Wear socks made of man-made materials to help wick away moisture from your feet. This will help prevent blisters.