Preventing hot foot - why good shoes on the bike are vital
Day 5 of the 2014 London-Edinburgh-London Audax (“LEL”) and I’ve peddled 1,374 km with just 45 km to go to the finish. It’s been another brutal day cycling 280km into a headwind with an injured buddy sucking my wheel all day long. Although I know I’m going to finish and am having an ice-cream to celebrate, all I can think about is how much my feet hurt. I have “hot foot” in extremis. It turns out that road cycling shoes are important. Really important.
I haven’t always felt this way. Traditionally, I’ve often donned a pair of Shimano tri shoes. I knew they weren’t perfect but little about my cycling set-up is. But in the weeks after LEL the pins and needles hadn’t left my feet and I still couldn’t feel the big toe in either foot. So I set about researching cycling shoes and it turns out I wasn’t the first person to have this issue. American cycling legend Greg Lemond was dogged by hot foot issues throughout his career. So don’t beat yourself up if you’ve had foot pain too.
The pain is caused when the nerves between the metatarsals, the small bones under the balls of your feet and other soft tissues like muscles and blood vessels, become compressed and lead to pins and needles, “hotness” and numbness. Frequent causes include shoes that are too tight, road vibration and too much hill climbing that places continuous pressure on the bottom of the foot. Sometimes your foot may be inverted inward from worn cleats or pedals or a too-narrow stance on the pedals, which can also cause pain. If your foot has the opposite problem, turning too far outward, it can also be painful, and is often caused by cleats that are too far inward on your shoe, making you assume a stance that is too wide on the pedals.
When out on the road quick fixes include moving your cleats, walking around bare foot for a few minutes or gentle massage.
However, the long term fix focuses on getting the right shoes and i nextreme cases bespoke may be the best option. The shoes need to be correctly fitted and have a good stiff sole, preferably carbon. Talk to fitting experts but as a general rule aim to have the first metatarsal bone just forward of the pedal spindle.
There are a wealth of options on the market and Made of More will be reviewing several in the coming months. For now check out this review of the Fizik R3.