A newer member of my cycling club jumped on our Yahoo group with a question.

“I am having some pain in the outside of my right foot that has been slowly building over the past few weeks,” he wrote. “I used custom orthotics (pronator) when I used to run to alleviate plantars. Unfortunately those orthotics are too thick to fit in my cycling shoes. I found some footbed systems from Gyro and Specialized on line that provide some additional arch suport.

Has anyone had similar issues and what did you do to solve it?”
I’m always interested when I hear people complain about foot pain. I went through that mess several years ago, when I started cycling. In my case, the problem was a poor quality bike shoe. Once I got a pair of Specialized Body Geometry shoes, my foot problems ceased. But his pronation problems are different than the complaints I had with my feet. I waited to see what other club members had to say.
“I use the Specialized inserts and they are excellent,” opined one fellow. No details.
“I too use Specialized inserts,” said another. “They form fit and last a good while. However, if you are a pronator you may need a custom orthotic.
“Also there are several options for increasing your Q factor (distance between pedals) to offset the ankles. I use 25mm Knee savers (they come in stainless at 30mm too and 20mm Titanium). But you can also just purchase longer spindles for Speedplay pedals and possibly others too. “
Knee savers. Hadn’t heard about them for awhile, and I didn’t know this rider was using them. I wrote a post about them several years ago. I’m not sure they’re the kind of relief the original poster was looking for, though.
“Try the Sole thin footbeds on Amazon,” wrote one of our better female riders. “You heat them in the oven and then custom mold them to your feet. They work really well imho, I use them in my cycling shoes and love them.” She supplied a link to the item.
I don’t use orthotics, but I do have insoles in a pair of my walking shoes. I love the extra comfort they give. When riding a bike, though, the relatively flat insoles that come with the shoes are adequate for me. I’ve experimented with insoles in my biking shoes, and find I don’t need them.
But what about you? What kind of advice would you give the original poster? Do you have custom orthotics for your bike shoes, or do you use the moldable insoles, or just off-the-rack from Dr. Sholl’s things?

Watch Out For Pedal Wear!

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel says if you’re having trouble with your cleats — the trouble might not be with your cleats.

I’ve been having a little trouble clicking in and out of my pedals as of late. I thought the likely culprit was my cleats. Upon inspection, they were certainly quite worn, but what surprised me most was the condition of my pedals, a pair of Shimano road-style 540s. On both, the body cover plate — a replaceable piece of plastic (metal on higher-end models) that spans the width of the pedal — was completely worn away at the tips. Compounding matters was that where the tips were gone, my cleats had actually worn rather significantly into the aluminum, leaving a pronounced dip, especially on the outside of each pedal. The end result is that my foot was likely sitting quite canted in the pedals…and my pedals were permanently damaged.

The Shimano 540. (Click to embiggen.)

In hindsight, I spotted a clue in a recent photo. I had done one of the MS150 rides, and the event photographer had captured me at various times throughout the course. In several of the photos, I noticed a strange, inward angle to my foot. Now I know why.

I’ve seen plenty of coverage on when to replace your cleats, but very little on when to replace a pedal. If you ride Shimanos, look closely on the instructions. You’ll note that the cover in question is actually considered a “consumable” part, and that the cover should be replaced before “any part of the body cover becomes flush with the pedal.” Yikes — I was way past that stage. If I had kept a closer eye on things, I probably could have simply replaced a cheap (about $6) piece of plastic. Replacing them as they showed wear would have saved the more expensive pedal body from permanent damage.

A little more food for thought: In many ways, you do get what you pay for. When I first made the switch from a mountain bike and hybrid to a road bike, I reasoned that the cheaper products were good enough for me. Hence the 540s, which are Shimano’s entry-level road pedal. With time, however, I’ve come to appreciate the extra quality that can be found in some of the pricier equipment. The Shimano 105 pedals I’ve stepped up to certainly aren’t top of the line by any means. I found them new on eBay for only $55. The 105s, however, are far closer to the higher-end Ultegra pedals. The shape itself flares at the axle, giving the rider a wider, more solid platform underfoot. The 105s also feature a metal cover plate, secured with two small screws. It’s still considered consumable, but certainly it won’t wear at the rate of the 540’s plastic.

Shimano 105. (Click to make larger.)

 I doubt very many people have actually replaced the part in question. On this morning’s ride, I asked a friend if I could see his pedals, which are the same as my previous model. Unclipping one foot, he seemed surprised as he looked down to see the plastic cover almost completely gone…and a pronounced chunk worn out of the pedal’s aluminum body.

Mountain Bike Shoes for Road Biking?

Here’s an idea I’ve been rolling around in my head for awhile…

I’ve been riding my current shoe/pedal setup for over two years now. But I’m wondering if there’s a more comfortable arrangement. Now, I’m not having any major foot problems. In the heat of summer, I get the occasional hot spot on my foot, usually if I’m putting in more miles than usual on a hot day. But those don’t occur during most of the year.

It’s just something I’ve seen, really. Bikers who wear a less aggressive cycling shoe — a touring style or mountain bike shoe, and who use pedals that fit those shoes but offer a flat platform as well

Lots of long distance cyclists and touring cyclists seem to use these, like the ones in the picture. I see those shoes, and I think “comfort.”

Only problem is, they’re SPD-style cleats, which have a fairly small area, and I’ve seen anecdotal accounts of people getting hot spots more often with SPDs than a delta-shaped cleat. I figure if the SPD cleats were coupled with a flat platform, it might make a good combination for comfort over distances.

The pedal I have in mind is both SPD-compatible, but offers a wider flat surface for the foot. It’s the Shimano A520, and is described as a “road touring” pedal with a “practical” platform. It looks like it has the width I would want on a longer ride. It comes at a reasonable price.

What’s the big advantage an SPD-compatible shoe offers? It’s supposed to be that you can walk more easily in these shoes, since the cleats are recessed into the sole. But you know, I don’t really care about walking all that much. I can get from my bike to a convenience store counter just fine with the shoes and cleats I have.

So, why am I even thinking about changing shoes and pedals? No reason in particular. I have mentioned before that I expect my riding to evolve into something more laid back than it has been. And it strikes me that a more laid back shoe would help foster that kind of riding.

I don’t suppose I’ll act on this idea anytime soon — it’s just, as I said, something I’m rolling around in my head. I’d like to get your input, though. What do you think? Do you use a touring shoe, or a mountain biking shoe, on road bike rides? What pedals do you couple with them? Or is it not a big enough deal to bother with?