There is rightfully a lot of emphasis placed on saddle and handlebar comfort as both are vital for comfortable cycling. When we started offering cycling shoes here at Le Knicks a year or so back, we started to educated ourselves better on the third key touch point, the shoe and pedal-foot interface. As well as often being an area of complaint for discomfort, this is also the primary site for energy transfer from you to your bike, so it is pretty important!
A thorough study, 'Foot Pain and Cycling: a survey of frequency, type, location, associations and amelioration of foot pain' (Hayley Uden, Sara Jones, Karen Grimmer) in The Journal of Science and Cycling 2012; 1(2): 28-34 is just one example of a wide body of research into this crucial area. As the article discusses, ‘cleated in’ shoes increased the risk of pain, which is no surprise; these types of shoe tend to localise plantar (base of the foot) pressures, which in turn can be detrimental to nerve and blood supply integrity in the feet, which is where the burning and numbness sensations some experience stems from. And if you consider that you might do 6,000 rpm in an hours ride, there is obviously a lot of dynamic movement and pressure going on in our feet.
The obvious conclusion is that cycling shoe design and choice is just as important as the saddle and handlebar choices we make if we want a comfortable, pain free and efficient ride. The good news is that shoe design is getting steadily more sophisticated and there is a growing and fascinating body of literature out there informing modern shoe design. Of course all feet are different, some people pronate, some are high arched etc.. So one shoe will not necessarily be right for all. It is certainly worth taking the time to try different types on.
And just to add to the mix, a western, shoe wearing culture has a huge impact on our feet also - having done a lot of yoga targeted at cycling specific needs, I actually changed my feet to get a much more pronounced arch and reduce pronation, which then decreased some foot pain issues. So how our feet feel on the bike and their capacity to be efficient is a dynamic equation. More on yoga for cycling in another post!
We think there are a lot of good shoes out there and it needs to be an individual choice. If you are interested, we currently have Fizik and Shimano as our lead brands, with Giro about to arrive also. We find they suit most but not all, and are always assessing further options - and are happy to take suggestions. And we are always keen to learn more and share thoughts so drop in or drop us a line.
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