Hot Spot Cure

You might recall that several weeks ago I complained about the hot spot I get on the bottom of my left foot after riding for about 30 miles. It really makes longer rides unpleasant, and since I like to do longer rides, it’s a real bummer.

I dug up an old article that said the hot spot is actually caused by a neuroma — a swelling of the nerve between toes. There was even a way to deal with it — things called matatarsal buttons.

Maybe I’m a lousy shopper, but I never found any. (Not that I tried all that hard.) It occurred to me, however, that I could come up with a treatment of my own. So I did.

Ta da! A cotton ball torn in half. I stick half between my two outside toes. It seemed like a stopgap treatment at the time. But it works!

Now, any time I plan to be on the bike for more than an hour, I make sure to rip apart a cotton ball, and stick half between my toes.

I admit, I haven’t really put it to the test on a long ride yet. I have done 36 miles however, and I never had a complaint from the foot. Anecdotally, it works for me.

As usual, it turns out to be a simple solution. I’m irked that when I was last bothered by foot problems — a numb little toe — I spun my wheels trying all sorts of remedies. I even slashed my old biking shoes. Nothing worked.

It’s counterintuitive to think that spreading out your foot will ease a problem that seems to be caused by too-tight shoes. But that’s what it did.

Let me know if you have had foot or toe problems, and have come up with your own solution.

Numb toe update — the new shoes worked

Long-time readers will remember about a year ago I used to regularly carp about a problem with my feet. Specifically, my left foot. More specifically, the little toe on my left foot. It would go numb after riding much more than an hour, and bother me for the rest of my ride.

I tried a number of ways to deal with it, including fastening my shoe straps as loose as possible, adding arches of various sizes and shapes, and even cutting a gash along the side of the shoe. Nothing worked.

I finally concluded the problem was not with my foot, but with the shoe. They were cheap Chinese-made shoes that I bought when I first took up biking. Fine for rides of an hour or less, I just couldn’t keep wearing them on the distances I wanted to ride.

My wife came to rescue, when she bought me some new shoes for Christmas. They’re by Specialized, and are one of their premium models with a rock-hard carbon sole. I exchanged them for a larger size, figuring that since feet swell with exercise, a larger shoe would minimize the toe numbness.

Well, after nine months of experience in the new shoes, I can report that they work. I haven’t had a numb toe since I first put them on.

Wouldn’t a larger pair of the old brand have done the same thing? I can’t say for sure, but I know those shoes don’t come with carbon soles — just nylon. So there’s going to be some flex in the sole, and that could lead to the same problem. More likely, it would lead to a hot spot on the foot. Either way, the old adage rings true once again: You get what you pay for. When it comes to my feet, I’ll pay the price to keep them comfortable.

Those new shoes are working out

It’s been a month now since getting my new cycling shoes, and they seem to be providing the relief my chronic numb toe needs. I can think of two reasons for the improvement: the shoes are a size larger than the ones I’d previously used, so there’s less squeezing of the foot when they swell with exercise, and they have a more adjustable strap system.

They use a rachet tightening strap at the top. I’ve been finding through trial and error that while it’s tempting to snug down that strap, it’s probably not the best idea. On a recent ride, the foot was bothering me when I stopped for a rest, and I found that the strap was just a little too tight. It seemed fine when I started out. Loosening it a couple of clicks did the trick.

I’ve concluded that the problem is with my left foot itself.  There must be something in its physiology that makes it a little different from the right foot.  It may be something that I have to live with.  However, it’s not giving me anywhere near the bother it used to with the old shoes, and for 90 percent of my riding, my foot is now fine.  So the shoes are working, and it looks like I won’t have to resort to any cockamamie solutions like slashing the mesh upper to ease the pressure on the foot.

My numb toe posts have gotten a lot of traffic over the past few months, continue to do so.  I don’t have any revelations that will help with the problem. For me, it turned out to be the shoes. So, I guess the only real advice I can give is: Don’t skimp. Buy one of the top name brands. Do your research. Road Bike Review is a good place to visit, and Performance Bike customers can leave reviews for each piece of equipment that outfit sells. Yes, they’re only anecdotal reviews, but taken as a whole, you can get a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Latest numb toe remedy — new shoes!

After my experiences with numb toes on rides this year, I finally came to the conclusion that the only way to deal with the problem was to get new shoes. I must have dropped some well-placed hints, because under the Christmas tree this year, there they were!

shoesThey’re the Road Comp model by Specialized. Mrs. Noob has worn Specialized shoes for two years, and loves them. I’ve also heard good things about the brand from other bikers. Yes, I know everyone lusts after Sidis, but they’re a little too pricey. And these weren’t cheap.

Santa must have thought you wear the same size for biking as for your everyday street shoes, because he brought size 42.5 (9 1/2 US). They were a tight fit. My feet tend to swell during exercise, and I always buy sport shoes a size larger than my street shoes. My LBS happily made the exchange for size 44, and while I was in there, they even mounted the new cleats.

One of the main features I was looking for in a new shoe was a carbon sole. I figured the stiffness of carbon would help control the numb toe problem. These soles are as hard as rock.

I’ve worn them on two rides since Christmas. The leather tongue is a little long, and hits my instep right where it curves up into the shin. I think that will work itself out with a little more riding. They’re snug without being tight, because of that ratcheting fastener for the top strap. I like Specialized’s Body Geometry line of equipment anyway — they seem to pay attention to our anatomical needs.

While we’re talking about bike things for Christmas, I also got that seat post-mounted dual water bottle cage I posted about last week, a pair of yellow biking socks (“Because you don’t have any socks that match your yellow jersey.”), and a new long sleeve jersey. So it was a good biking Christmas for me.

The title of this post might be a bit misleading. Whether these shoes will fix the numb toe thing is still undetermined. Both my rides in the new shoes were fairly short — 15 and 17 miles — and I really didn’t get a sense of how the toe is behaving. I’ll have to report back on that in a future post.

Possible toe solution

OK, several posts ago I hinted that my doctor may have come up with a solution to my numb toe problem.  At my recent physical examination, I described what was happening — numbness after a certain time on the bike.  Turns out, the problem is not in my toe after all, but in my foot.

The doc says a nerve running along the side of the foot is being compressed by the shoe.  That’s what leads to the numbness in the toe.  The way to fix it, he said, is to apply a corn patch to the side of the foot, back from the toe.  Putting pressure there will ease the pressure on the toe, and should alleviate the numbness.

Interesting idea.  I haven’t tried it yet.

Why?  Because lately, the toe hasn’t been bothering me as much.  After my ham-handed homemade remedy of a few weeks ago, the numbness has flared up only a couple times.  I’ll still get it, but it’s not the bother it was, and it doesn’t happen on every ride.

In fact, on my ride this evening, the numbness started, but I discovered it was because the tongue of the shoe had wrinkled a bit, and was putting pressure on the toe.  Once I stopped riding and took off the shoe to fix the problem, the numbness disappeared.

So, I guess I have a new remedy in my back pocket, should I ever need it.  Besides, the doc isn’t making any promises.

“If it works, I get the credit,” he said.  “If it doesn’t, it was just another one of your hairbrained schemes.”

Sometimes home remedies work — sometimes not

It looks like the cut on the shoe helped the toe numbness — but just a bit. I got the tingling sensation at about mile 24 of today’s ride. I’ve got some additional treatments for the shoe lined up, but whatever I do, it’s going to ruin the shoe in the long run. So I expect that new shoes are in my future at some point. And they’ll have to be wides. By the way, do most bike shoes come in widths? Or do only a few companies make different widths? I really haven’t paid much attention to the different makes and models out there.

Autumn is trying to sneak up on central Texas. The official overnight low was 72°F (22°C), but it felt like the 60s when we started the ride. That made for great riding conditions, and the ride itself was very encouraging. It was the Fitzhugh Road route again — one I enjoy, but one I have had trouble with in the past because of its rolling hills. I had hoped several B riders would join up, so we could ride the rollers without trying to match the pace of the A riders.

But I was the only B to show up today. I told the ride leader I would turn around at Ranch Road 12, where the group takes a break. They continue on for another 10 miles or so.

Son of a gun, when we got out to Fitzhugh Road, I was still in the middle of the pack. The hill routes I have been riding recently must be working. I was mentally patting myself on the back for the next couple miles, when suddenly I looked up — and I was alone.

I don’t know when they kicked it up a notch, but evidently I didn’t get the message. Lucky for me, the ride leader considers it his job to be the “sweep,” and he was off the back of the pack, too. We rode the several miles to Ranch Road 12 together.

The group takes a break at Ranch Road 12. This was where I turned around.

The ride back was routine — heavier traffic on Fitzhugh this morning than usual — and when I got to the corner of U.S. 290 and Fitzhugh I noticed the numb toe thing. A short walk around the convenience store parking lot, a brief break to drain my water bottle, and off for home.

Totals: 33.5 miles, 15.1 mph avg speed. Next week is the metric century warmup for the century ride in October.

Numb toe home remedy

That numb toe problem of mine is back again — in fact, it has been for awhile. Very bothersome on last weekend’s long ride, but I feel the numbness even on rides of 12 miles or so.

It bugged me again this evening after about 15 miles, so when I got home, I decided to do something drastic: I took an old filet knife and slashed the side of the shoe where the little toe presses against it. Not a big slash — maybe a half inch.

I made the cut along the yellow line.

It seems the little toe on my left foot is shaped differently than the little toe on my right foot, and it sticks out sideways just a bit more. So I think the shoe has been putting pressure on the toe, which causes the numbness (Yes, I make sure the bottom strap on the shoe is fastened loosely. The only one I keep snug is the top one, so I can pull up on the pedals).

To those who had offered ideas about handling the problem, many thanks. Most didn’t work in my case. Some offered a temporary solution. Moving the cleat back helped some, but didn’t solve it.

So, I’ve got another longish ride coming up Sunday. Will Bike Noob’s toe go numb again? Or did the slasher get the job done? I’ll be sure to let you know.