Cycling has been around since the early 1900s and has since become a favorite form of recreation and sport in the United States. With over 100 million Americans enjoying cycling, it is no wonder that it offers many benefits, such as being a great workout for the entire body. However, for cyclists, the feet play a significant role in the efficiency and safety of cycling.
The feet are responsible for transferring energy from the body to the pedals, which makes the bicycle move. Therefore, keeping the alignment between the hips, knees, and feet is crucial to operate a bicycle efficiently. Improper body alignment and overactivity are responsible for most foot problems related to cycling.
The most common foot problems are Achilles tendonitis, sesamoiditis, shin splints, and foot numbness or pain. These problems are a result of repetitive motion and inadequate rest, which causes inflammation and pain. To prevent these injuries, cyclists should take time to stretch before and after cycling, gradually increase their mileage and wear proper shoes.
For casual or recreational cyclists, a typical athletic shoe used for running, walking, or cross-training is perfectly fine for cycling. It is essential to ensure that the sole is firm and not worn down so that it grips the pedal to avoid slipping. However, for serious cyclists, proper shoes are the most important piece of cycling equipment, next to bicycles themselves.
Cycling shoes should have a stiff sole and fit snugly around the bridge of the foot and heel. The more stable and less movement inside the shoe, the more power can be transferred through the entire foot to the pedal. Additionally, look for shoes with ventilated uppers to keep feet more comfortable.
Closure systems vary, including lacing, buckles, straps, and Velcro. Cyclists can choose whichever type feels most comfortable. However, be careful that any loose ends (from straps or laces) and buckles don’t pose a safety hazard if toe clips are used.
The type of cycling you do can impact your choice of shoes as well. For road cycling and racing, shoes that have stiff soles, a narrow heel, and a snug fit are best. For mountain biking, shoes should have a decent tread for better grip and a more rugged sole.
Many serious cyclists use some form of a toe clip system. These allow the rider to transfer power from the body to the pedal in both the up and down motions of the leg. Simple toe clips have metal or plastic clips that attach to any type of shoe with strapping. Clipless systems use metal or plastic cleats in the sole of a shoe that attach to bindings on the pedal. These are a good choice for road or race cycling, but they do take some adjusting to initially. Additionally, cleats make the shoes unwearable for walking. Clips are generally not advised for mountain biking since the foot comes off the pedal regularly.
It is important to take the socks you plan to wear with you when trying on cycling shoes to ensure the right fit. Wearing shoes that have the right fit will not only improve efficiency, but it can also prevent foot problems while cycling.
In summary, cycling can offer many benefits, but it is crucial to wear proper shoes that fit correctly to prevent pain, discomfort, and injury while cycling. If you are experiencing foot pain or discomfort while cycling, it is recommended to see Dr. Gilbert Huang DPM, a podiatrist that specializes in treating foot conditions caused by physical activity. With the right shoes, proper alignment, and proper rest, cyclists can safely and efficiently enjoy this favorite form of recreation and sport for years to come.