Training Tips for Cyclists: Foot Pain

UW Health Sports Medicine

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Services for Athletes

Cyclists Clinic


UW Health's Sports Medicine Cyclists Clinic helps riders manage foot pain

Cycling is a great, low impact exercise that can help you stay fit. However, it is a repetitive sport and an improper fit or inefficient mechanics can lead to injury and reduce performance. One common location cyclists experience pain is in their feet.


Causes of Foot Pain or Numbness


Foot pain or numbness can be cause by a variety of factors, including:

  • Poor foot alignment or support
  • Improper cleat placement
  • Improper fitting shoes

Foot Alignment and Support


If needed, custom cycling foot inserts (orthotics) may be recommended to eliminate foot pain by optimizing your cycling mechanics, including your foot-shoe-pedal interface. When making custom cycling orthotics, a cast will be made of your foot in a cycling specific position. This allows the orthotic to improve the placement of your foot in a position of force when you push down on the pedal. Orthotics used for running/walking are not the same as custom cycling orthotics since cyclists only push through the front part of the foot (forefoot). Cycling orthotics are made and designed specific to the mechanics of cycling, and are to be used for cycling only. The bottom line is the orthotics for running and orthotics for cycling are not interchangeable.  


Cleat Placement


Several factors influence proper cleat placement, including the type of cycling event; foot size; and the amount of rotation you have in your lower leg. To find the right cleat position, you should consult with a certified bike fitter.


Cycling Shoes


When selecting a cycling shoe, pay special attention to your forefoot (the widest part of your foot). If you choose a shoe that is too narrow, you may end up with foot pain or numbness. Also keep in mind that over the duration of a long bike ride your foot will flatten and widen out so be sure to have adequate room in the front of the shoe.


The UW Cyclists Clinic


The UW Cyclists Clinic can assist with determining the cause(s) of any foot discomfort or numbness. As part of a comprehensive evaluation that includes a detailed history, thorough physical assessment, and collaborative goal setting, our team of physical therapists, who also are certified bike fitters, will work with you to determine ways to improve your cycling mechanics and eliminate any foot pain and/or numbness you may experience when cycling.


It is our goal that no cyclist bikes with pain or "hot spots."  If you have discomfort on the bike come see us!