FOOT CORRECTION part 1: ARCH SUPPORT

by on February 19, 2011
Last updated: August 26, 2014

Foot Correction seriesPart 2 – Wedging and Part 3 – Shimming

G8'S

As I mentioned in the post Basic Premise I have developed a method of quantifying and restoring proprioceptive feedback from the feet.  Without going into the nuts and bolts of the method itself, the basic picture is this:

Hundreds of millions of sensory nerves in every muscle, tendon, ligament, joint, etc named proprioceptors produce something like 1.5 million times more information about the load being experienced, position in space and relationship to gravity of each part of the body than the Central Nervous System (CNS – brain and spine) can ever process in a given second.  All of this neural feedback gets through to the CNS but most of it doesn’t ‘register’ and isn’t paid much attention unless it stands out from the background ‘noise’.  The situation is analogous to that of a late arrival at a large party.  The latecomer (CNS) can hear a lot of noise (proprioceptive feedback) but cannot clearly make out any individual conversation (signals from a particular body part) unless a particular speaker (part of the body) raises their voice (changes the quality of stimuli) above the ‘noise’ or the latecomer moves closer to (focuses consciously on) a particular speaker and is able to listen more closely despite the distraction of the ‘background noise’.

Another analogy is this:  You put on your cycling jersey and you can feel it for how long?  Five seconds?  10 seconds?  Then you cease to feel it because the CNS does not have the processing capacity to constantly monitor the unchanging stimuli of the jersey ‘feel’ (while attending to other matters) and bring it to conscious attention unless the quality of stimuli changes(like someone tugging at your jersey) whereupon awareness is briefly drawn to that changed stimuli (jersey tug) before it drifts off to other matters.

This is the situation we find ourselves in when riding a bike.  The CNS knows the feet are there somewhere but doesn’t necessarily know the fine detail of what they are doing because the signals from the feet are drowned out by the (metaphorical) chatter.  We are transferring whatever power we produce to the bike via the feet but the CNS does not have a precise awareness of what the feet are doing on the pedals for the great majority of the time, unless the rider consciously focuses on them.  This will work until attention drifts, which it always does.  I can demonstrate that the CNS is acutely aware of what the hips, knees and ankles are doing at all times on a bike, but the feet are akin to a proprioceptive black hole.  Does this prevent anyone from riding a bike?

Absolutely not.  But it does cause the rider to compensate for this lack of clarity of neural feedback.  Unfortunately, compensating doesn’t solve the problem, it just increases our tendency to asymmetry because all of our patterns of compensation work by increasing our inherent tendency to favour one side over the other.  This in turn heightens the chance of incurring overuse injuries.  On a bike we need to be as functionally symmetrical as possible because we are locked into a largely fixed relationship with the positionally symmetrical bike.  There is less likelihood of injury and a pay off in performance if we are possessed of full proprioceptive clarity from the feet while pedaling, because neuromuscular coordination is closer to optimum and functional symmetry on the bike improves consequentially.

So what to do?

The answer is to change the quality of the stimuli from the feet so it can be ‘heard’.  In other words to metaphorically raise the voice of a speaker at the party or to metaphorically tug the jersey as per the examples above.

Our aim is to have the feet ‘heard’ loudly and clearly ALL of the time without our necessarily being consciously aware of the process.  In general terms, there are two ways to achieve this:  Correct the alignment and support of the feet, OR to correct the alignment and support of the lumbar spine.  Off the bike, either will work, but on the bike there is only one choice:  to correctly align and support the feet (making a positive change to the quality of the stimuli from the feet) because it is near impossible to maintain ideal lumbar spine alignment and support while riding a UCI legal bike.  Doing this optimally will make sure that the CNS is constantly aware of the fine detail of what the feet are doing during every pedal stroke.

The foot is three interrelated complexes, forefoot, midfoot and rear foot.  All or any of these may need correction.  And correction of one part has an influence on the others.  I track this kind of stuff and find that a need for forefoot correction is not rare but not common either, whereas midfoot and rear foot correction is needed by something over 95% of the cycling population.  So what method(s) do I suggest?

A combination of arch support and canting of the foot is the answer.  How to determine the relative degree of each?

The method that I’ve developed allows for certainty, but I’m not going to disclose proprietary info here.  I will give general advice that will allow thoughtful fitters and cyclists to improve their current situation.

Firstly, start with arch support.  In terms of proprioceptive clarity, arch support is fundamental. So if cleat wedges do the job from a proprioceptive point of view, why bother with arch support at all?

Because lengthy experience working out a method to quantify proprioceptive feedback from the feet tells me that if cleat or heel wedges alone are used, the vast majority will lose the initial positive proprioceptive response over a time frame of days, weeks or months unless the arch is also supported and stimulated by that support. 

Here’s why: . Firstly some background; the body generates 1.5 million times more proprioceptive feedback (about the load each body part is undergoing, where each body part is in space and how each body part relates to gravity) than the cerebellum (the part of the brain heavily involved in matters of unconscious motor control) can ever process. Evolutionary forces have dictated a hierarchy of priorities that determine whether signal traffic will be prioritised for processing by the cerebellum or whether it will be ignored and treated as background noise.  The two key categories of stimulus that the cerebellum prioritises are –

1. The generation of force

2. Any change in the quality of stimulus arriving from a particular area of the body.

We have evolved to walk and run which are natural activities. The basic muscle firing sequence of the legs ( extensors switch on – flexors switch off / flexors switch on – extensors switch off) is overseen by the cerebellum but not directly controlled by it. The basic on / off switching is performed by a bundle of neurons in the lumbar spine named the Central Pattern Generator (CPG). The CPG relies on force feedback from the feet for it’s informational input and altering muscle firing patterns depending on the information from the feet it receives. A primarly component of that force feeback is plantar fascia tension (in simple terms arch tension) When we walk or run, foot shape and hence arch tension, is changing constantly and it is those changes which attract the attention of the CPG and cerebellum. In contrast cycling is an unnatural activity and the rider exerting force on a rigid soled cycling shoe has arch tension that changes little it at all meaning the CPG and cerebellum are dealing with lesser quality and volume of information from the feet and tend to ‘switch off’ to that stimulus.

Using arch support of the correct level in a cycling shoe restores the proprioceptive feedback from the arches to the CPG by creating arch tension.

How much arch support does a rider need?

Use this 3-point scale:  1 = not intrusive, 2 = mildly intrusive and 3 = very intrusive.  Cycling requires arch support of Level 2; mildly intrusive.  That is mildly intrusive when standing, not when cycling.  For the arch to be supported with foot in cycling shoes, there needs to be contact between the arch support and the arch of the foot.  For some people who are not used to this, it can initially feel like there is too much support, particularly at the rear of the arch just in front of the heel.  The test for this is that most people should cease to be consciously aware of the arch support somewhere between 10 minutes and several rides after the introduction of arch support.  For instance, if you’ve ridden a couple of hundred kms over several rides and your arch support feels uncomfortable when riding, then the arch supports you have fitted are likely to be too high.

So mildly intrusive when standing in cycling shoes is the degree of arch support needed, providing that amount of arch support feels supportive on the bike after a week or two of regular riding.

It is unlikely that the insoles that came with your shoes will do the job, because the majority of cycling shoes have a woeful lack of arch support.  Specialized deserve a positive mention for at least offering different heights of arch support insole.  Nice try but their range of heights is too low (from a proprioceptive point of view) for anyone with moderately high or high arches.

Many cycling shoe manufacturers are slowly getting the idea that quality arch support is necessary, but their efforts are tentative to date, with no major shoe manufacturer offering a wide enough range of arch support heights to work ideally with the majority of riders.

Which brands of arch support insoles do I recommend?  Currently, three only.  Superfeet, eSoles Supportive and G8 Performance.  I don’t like the conformable, heat moldable, mass produced insoles because most riders do not get the molding process right and end up with too little or less commonly, too much arch support.  Superfeet are generic, a bit too generic, but work really well for those with low to low moderate arches (though not flat feet).  Again, if they feel ‘mildly intrusive’ when standing in them, they’re fine.  If they feel ‘not intrusive’ there is not enough arch support from a proprioceptive point of view.  I don’t recommend the Yellow Superfeet model which is SF’s cycling shoe appropriate offering. It’s okay but a pain to cut to shape.  I think the Green Superfeet is far superior in terms of heel control though it can take up too much vertical space inside the shoe for those with high insteps.  If you have low to low moderate arch and a Green Superfeet is too bulky, try the Black Superfeet option which is similar but has less volume.

If you have low to low moderate arch height but find that the two Superfeet options recommended above take up too much space in the shoe, or if you have moderate to high arches, far better options are eSoles Supportive and G8.  They’re available in a wider range of sizes than Superfeet (36.5 to 49.5) and are sold in a kit with four (Superfeet) or five (G8) modular arch support options of differing heights, Of the two, both are good but the G8’s have the advantage of a wider range or arch insert heights and a rigid heel cup base. Esoles have the advantage of 2 heights of metatarsal pad. Most cyclists don’t need this option but if you do need it, it is a godsend.

As you can see from the pic at the top of this post there are actually five different heights of arch support available for eSoles Supportives.  Only four come in the pack.  From lowest to highest they are Orange, Red, Blue and Black.  eSoles previously deleted the higher Black option and replaced it with the Off White option for reasons that make no sense to me.  No sense, because while in percentage terms I don’t use that many Blacks (10 -15%), it is still far more than the miniscule number of Off Whites that I do use. I made representations to eSoles, (and many others probably did too) and the Black arches are now restored as a standard kit item. (Stop Press – From August 2013 Esoles have not been able to supply Black arches and as I update this in July 2014, there is no sign of Black arches reappearing any time soon. 35 – 40% of my clients need Black arches so G8’s are the better option because their 34 mm arch is the equivalent)

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you will necessarily need the same height option of arch support for each foot.  It should feel the same on each side and for most, but by no means all people, this will mean the same height.

So why support the arches at all?

95+% of people have arches that drop to varying degrees when applying load to the pedals.  For most the degree of arch drop is not a lot and is equivalent to 1 degree of deviation from optimal plane for the knee during the pedal down stroke.  For a minority it can be 2 degrees and for a small minority, 3 degrees. A lot of ‘problem children’ find their way here and I have seen up to 7 degrees.  Knees are more or less a hinge joint and don’t like lateral or rotational loads.  If the arch drops during the power part of the pedal stroke then the knee potentially moves towards the centre line of the bike, the ‘effective’ length of the leg is shortened by the vertical distance that the arch drops and far, far too often, asymmetric patterns of compensation arise to work around this challenge to the riders position.  A small lateral or rotational load on the knee caused by a slightly dropping arch may not cause an injury problem for a cyclist only riding for two hours a week (approximately 10.200 extension / flexion cycles of the knee, assuming average cadence of 85 rpm) but can loom as a large problem if the rider is riding , say 20 hours (approximately 102,000 extension / flexion cycles of the knee ) per week.

Another and much more important reason to use arch support (and other methods of correction) in cycling shoes is this.  Pedaling a bike requires a precise and complex sequence of muscles firing in an appropriate order.  Despite what you might think, this process is not performed by the cerebellum but by the CPG (Central Pattern Generator) a bundle of neurons in the lumbar spine.  The cerebellum oversees the task but it is the CPG that performs the basic extensor on / flexor off – flexor on / extensor off firing sequence of the muscles of the legs.  The CPG responds to force feedback, from the feet, of which arch (plantar fascia) tension is a major component, making it likely that the greater the clarity of proprioceptive feedback from the feet, the better the chance that the CPG can dictate an optimal muscle firing sequence. When we walk and run, the feet flex and change shape constantly; heel strike, toe off etc, which means plantar fascia tension changes constantly. It is this constant change in the quality of stimuli coming from the feet that attracts the attention of the CPG while walking and running. In contrast, when applying cyclical force to a rigid cycling shoe sole, plantar fascia tension changes little and as there is little or no change, the proprioceptive feedback from the plantar fascia is largely ignored. This immediately puts the rider in compensation mode, and as I said above, all compensatory responses work by increasing the difference in left and right side function.

Once arch support is introduced and used for a period, further adaptation to its use can occur in some riders.  What this means is that if an arch support option feels like the desirable Level 2 when standing, but over time begins to feel that it has diminished to Level 1 on one or both feet, then it is advisable to experiment with a higher option.

If you have Esoles, I suggest using the lower of the two metatarsal pad options initially, but once the habituation phase of using arch support is completed, experiment with the higher option.  If it feels good, keep it in there. If you have obvious callousing or thickening of the skin on the sole of one or both feet immediately below 2nd, 3rd or 4th MTP joints (base knuckles of the toes), this suggests that there is localised loading which can possibly cause discomfort from nerve compression while pedaling. If so,  use the higher metatarsal pad from the start as it will elevate and separate the MTP joints.

What if you are using the highest level of arch support, ( the black arch module, in your eSoles or the 34 mm insert in G8’s) and it isn’t enough to achieve the desirable Level 2 / Mildly Intrusive arch support?

Add a layer, or layers of gel cork bar tape as necessary under the base of the arch support module as shown in the pic below.

eSole fitted with heel wedges and a layer of gel cork bar tape that increases the effective height of the black arch support module.

So, that’s the simple approach to achieving the correct degree of arch support in cycling shoes.  The next two parts of this post will deal with Wedging and Shimming.

Have fun!

Postscript:  One of the Comments below relates to flat feet.  If you have true flat feet or near flat feet, again use Level 2 arch support.  Don’t be concerned if you need one of the higher arch support options to achieve Level 2.  Arch support is all about how the rider perceived the level of support and is NOT about “low arch equals low arch support height”.  It may do, it may not.

Foot Correction seriesPart 2 – Wedging and Part 3 – Shimming

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109 Responses to FOOT CORRECTION part 1: ARCH SUPPORT

  • Anonymous says:

    Good info Steve. Keep pumping it out.Bikers need to know about this stuff.

    Wil

  • Jason Warner says:

    Super, super post… Thanks!

  • Anonymous says:

    Good Afternoon Mr.Hogg,
    As a long time fan I am very happy you have focused on an issue that has plagued my enjoyment of cycling for decades. You see, I have a foot that thru accident has several fused joints. Located on the outside part of my right foot this condition has thru years of accommodation turned my body into a proverbial pretzel and made high performance riding progressively more difficult. Stretching, massage,chiropractic, changing seat angle etc etc have all provided some degree of usually temporary relief but the major issue( and root cause),foot asymmetry has not been adequately addressed until recently. When I saw the first part of this article I literally jumped for joy because as much as anything having someone as talented as yourself focusing on this may finally give me reason to hope there may be a definitive answer to my dilemma. What is funny is that the second part of this examination anticipated the response I was going to write to the first part of this article. Long story short, most foot issues are addressed from the heel and you are going to have to deal with forefoot issues which is what cycling, is more than most other sports, about. In Canada where I reside this emphasis on heel solutions to foot problems is also a major issue as well because we are a land of hockey and skating is a forefoot biased activity. Locally we are blessed with a very good skate fitter and we have cobbled together some solutions that have helped me and which oddly are echoed in the second part of this series. Now we have not completely fleshed out the possibilities of our approach but it seems we (including you here) are of like mind and on the same track. It would be great if there were the possibility to have a discussion about this that is longer than this format allows and yes I do understand what proprietary means ( I deal with high value intellectual property as part of my livelihood ) and I value the sanctity and importance of same.

    These articles are absolutely bang-on and am looking forward to seeing more along these lines.

    Cheers

    Taras

  • Steve Hogg says:

    G'day Taras,
    thank you for your positive thoughts and sorry to hear of your tribulations. I don't know the specific nature of your issues or the compensatory fallout from them but the one thing that I have to disagree with you on is that the great majority of foot alignment issues on a bike DO include a rear foot component to them. The need for forefoot correction isn't common at all in my experience. I can prove this and am happy to do so in person. Your case may be different with the fused joints you mention though.

    Where people go astray is in linking proven solutions for walking and running to cycling. In my view, there is no link. As soon as the heel is directly loaded; i.e, heel strike during a walking stride; foot mechanics change markedly from what happens when cycling. What this means in effect, is that the common 'solution' to cycling related foot issues is to have orthoses made to 'correct' the problem.

    The issue that then arises is that the process of diagnosis usually involves someone walking or running on a tread mill. There is zero correlation between that activity and what happens on a bike which is why I frequently have to substantially modify pre existing orthoses being used in cycling shoes for clients.

    I can also prove (and forgive my reticence about how) that other than rare exceptions, all wedging of the feet, whether in shoe forefoot wedges a la BFS and Specialized, or cleat wedges, or rear foot in shoe wedges correct the rear foot, directly or indirectly. I don't want to say much more because it will pre empt the next part of the Foot Correction post.

    Best of luck.

  • Anonymous says:

    Good Afternoon Steve,

    Thank you so much for the response. Am are waiting with bated breath for the next parts of this series.

    Would love at some point to go thru a fitting procedure with you which is probably the best way to deal with my particular issues. Is there, in your schedule, plans for North American opportunities for same?

    Cheers

    Taras

  • Steve Hogg says:

    G'day Taras,
    I will be in the U.S. later in the year for a short trip. Business only; no fitting. If I reach an agreement with the people I am going to meet, then it is likely that I will be spending several periods each year in the U.S. training people and performing fits from 2012. I can't say with certainty whether this will eventuate, but there is good will on both sides so it seems likely.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Steve,
    Great articles. As I was reading the above article about the shoe inserts it occured to me that I may actually have a pair of green Superfeet inserts that I got some time ago for my running shoes. I must not have liked them since I haven't used them for ages and were in the top of the cupboard with a pile of other inserts. I intend on giving them a try on my next ride.

    I hope your venture in the US materializes. I am from Barbados and i would definitely take a trip to the US for a fit. Australia is just a tad too far, sorry.

    Kind regards,
    Greg

  • Steve Hogg says:

    G'day Greg,
    Thanks for the positive thoughts. The Green SF's will only work well for you if the feel like the 'Level 2' degree of support described. If they feel like they are less supportive than that, get hold of some eSoles Supportives in the appropriate size. If the U.S. thing works out, I'll post accordingly.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Steve,

    I tried the SF today and I could feel them for the entire ride. Almost like feeling pedals under soft soled mtn bike shoes. I can't say that I felt any benefit from them but obviously it may be a tad too early to make that assumption. Also, I have other issues plaguing me at the moment. Maybe you can shed some light on them.

    Switched from Shimano Ultegra pedals with the yellow pontoon cleats to the Speedplay Zeros. I had the Shimano cleats all the way back and pretty much all the way to the inside edge of the shoe. I have positioned the Speedplay cleats exactly the same on a new pair of Specialized shoes. Legs don't seem to have liked that. Lots of pain on the medial part of the right knee and sore hamstring tendons on both legs.

    It took me a while to get the correct position with the Shimano cleats but obviously I'm new to Speedplays. I will put the cleats in a more neutral position and work from there. I do notice that my right foot does seem to heel out quite a
    bit. What's the best way to determine what the issue is there?

    It really is a pain (literally) not having access to someone with the appropriate knowledge to provide a good bike fitting.

    Cheers

  • Steve Hogg says:

    The hamstring tendon pain suggest to me that your seat is too high. Drop it 5mm and reassess. The medial knee pain on the right side has any number of causes. If it has only come on since the switch of pedals, make sure that the adjustment screws on the Speedplay cleat are set to wide open until such time that you are confident that your feet have 'found' there position on the pedal.Then reduce the rotational movement. You said you had your Shimano cleats adjusted all the way in (which means shoes all the way out). Speedplay cleats have more lateral adjustment potential than Shimano. If you have pushed the Speedplay cleats all the way in, your feet may be further from the centre line than they were previously, and that may be the cause of your knee problem.
    So 1. Drop the seat
    2. Reassess both hamstring tendon and R knee pain and if not resolved, try to adjust the Speedplay cleats laterally so that hte centre of the knee descends over the centre of the midfoot.
    Lastly, arch support as a measure to improve proprioceptive response will, in most cases, need to be used in tandem with wedging on one or both feet.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am interested in your statements around "Material Challenge to the
    nervous system." Is there some literature to read on this or something
    you have gained through trial and error with the wedges and other
    products? Is there a way to look at something or feel and tell? I am
    sitting here with a specialized wedge in shoe in my hand and a BFS in
    shoe wedge and can see little difference.Also the specialized blue
    footbed if I can feel the arch as mildly intrusive is that ok or is
    there a material challenge ? Thanks keep on writing the blog is
    thought provoking. I look forward to more. Bill

  • Steve Hogg says:

    G'day Bill,
    There is no real difference in mechanical corrective effect between a Specialized in shoe wedge and a BFS in shoe wedge. The difference is in the materials they are made from. The Specialized wedges are composed of a mix that it antithetical to optimal CNS function. So while they mechanically correct to the same degree, they create a proprioceptive 'black hole'. I don't want to disclose how I found this out because it is part of my testing procedure that I'm in the process of protecting, but in general terms, I 'ask' the clients CNS what degree, orientation and balance of forefoot, midfoot and rear foot correction it needs and act on the response.

    When Specialized in shoe wedges hit the market I started to have occasional clients arriving with Specialized wedges already fitted. I found that I could not elicit a favourable CNS response no matter how many or how few wedges I used if there was even a single Specialized wedge as part of the mix. That got me thinking and a spectroscopic chemical analysis showed me what the problem was.
    Specialized footbeds are fine and don't present any problem to the CNS. If it feels mildly intrusive when standing, it will be fine in a cycling shoe.

    Specialized products in general are fine. The only problems I've had are with their wedges and shims. A number of people I correspond with in the U.S. who deal with Specialized tell me that they get the impression that Specialized think I say this because I manufacture shims too and have a business relationship with BFS. Specialized can think what they like, but what I'm saying is for real and always happy to demonstrate in person.

    Perhaps the more important question is "Will I injure myself using Specialized in shoe wedges or shims?" to which the answer is yes / no / maybe. The best way to put this is that my view is that the reason for wedging the foot is to make subtle changes to alignment throughout the kinetic chain involved in pedaling and by doing so correctly, optimise propprioceptive feedback which in turn improves neuromuscular coordination. The material makeup of these products reduces the CNS awareness of what the body is doing. The risk of injury is heightened because of this but by how much is hugely individual variable.

  • FOM says:

    Steve

    I had never heard of eSoles until I read this. Changed my life … literally. My left leg issues have plagued me for a while and I had a fit done to address them. The solution was a bunch of wedges and while it helped some, it never really solved my issues. Within 4 rides on the new eSoles, I am 90% better. My left uses the highest arch, my right the lowest … no more massive shift due to collapsing arches and 3 wedges removed from the left – I track better, feel better and for the first time in 20 years no longer feel like I am fighting the left pedal.

    Thanks for the info.

    Craig

  • Steve Hogg says:

    G'day Craig,
    I'm glad that you got a result. I think the problem is that many people, both cyclists and bike fitters don't fully realise the implications of arch support or only use a similar degree to what would be needed for walking or running. Cycling requires more and as you have found, can have a profound effect if a large degree is needed and not present. If enough wedges are used, the same proprioceptive and tracking response can be elicited but does not make up for lack of arch support as you have found. If arch support was worth 3 wedges for you on the left foot, then you are at the high end of the scale. No wonder you feel better!

    Also, that you need such differing degrees of support for each foot suggests that you have a large lateral pelvic tilt and quite possibly, a measurable LLD.

  • FOM says:

    Thanks for the feedback Steve. In my BG Fit they supposedly checked for both of those and while for years I suspected the latter, my "fit" came back as neutral and level. I will get that checked again though.

    As noted in another one of my posts, my left foot is a good 10mm shorter than my right and adjusting the cleat properly, plus the insoles (I now have 2 wedges on each side) has my knees tracking really well. I have a bit of tightness on the outside lower hamstring tendon – not sure if this is residual from prior to the changes or not though. My left foot is duckfooted and sticks out a bit and I have a 1mm spacer on the left pedal (which, after these changes, I am not sure I still need).

    Anyway, I will keep fiddling. Thanks again.

    Craig

  • Steve Hogg says:

    Craig,
    pain in the outer hamstring tendon (you don't say which side) usually means that either the hip is externally rotated too far (heel in /toes out too much)or that the seat height is a touch too high, leading to the common pattern of favouring the right leg by dropping the right hip and causing the left leg to overextend.

  • FOM says:

    Ah…. it is my left leg, outer tendon. Given the combination of the shorter foot that might be it. I will drop my seat a bit. I am running Time ATAC's and there is float on both sides of my perceived neutral on both feet – they are kind of doing there own thing – so I suspect the seat height thing!

    You are a font of wisdom – thanks again.

    Craig

  • Steve Hogg says:

    Font of wisdom?
    I can imagine my wife falling about laughing if she heard that!
    I'm always suspicious if it is the left leg because a large proportion of left leg issues have right side root causes. Drop your seat to the height needed to solve the tendon niggle. If you feel good at that height after a week or so great. If you feel cramped in the right side pedal stroke, remember that your left leg is functionally shorter because of the size and a half difference in foot length and put a shim inside the forefoot of the shoe (hard to shim an ATAC cleat) equivalent to the seat drop that solved the problem. If not possible to shim inside the shoe, have the sole taken off and a full length build up inserted between sole and upper before regluing it back together.

  • FOM says:

    Your wife and mine have something in common … mine would do the same. I will give it a shot and see what happens.

    Enjoy the day!

    Craig

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Steve, really helpful stuff, have been a follower of your advice for years (also have your DVD which helped a great deal). Do the arch supports in the esoles help take pressure off the forefoot? When I ride hard I appear to squash all the blood out of my forefeet (the balls of my feet are white after a hard ride even in warm weather). I think I have very high arches and have been using the Specialized green insoles so far and tried using external wedges (to no affect). Really hope you can help as I have had injections into the metatarsal areas and spinal blocks done by somewhat over zealous surgeons (nothing worked!)Many thanks.

    James H in the UK

  • FOM says:

    Steve

    So I gave up on getting my position tweaked by myself and had another shop do a fit today with mixed results. Clearly you were on to something as my pelvis was rotated and I was sitting essentially on my right ichasial. With a washer on the right, seat adjustment and a bit of cleat adjustment my right side is dead on perfect. My left is still a problem – moved the cleat back a lot (it sits about 7 mm further back than the right). I am much more square on the bike and my knees track really well. I was on a Retul and the "numbers" looked good.

    The problem is in my left calf near the top. Pressure and a bit of crampy type pain. I am going to try some wedging to see if I can help it but wanted to see if there is something else obvious.

    Thanks, Craig

  • Steve Hogg says:

    G'day James H,
    a cautious maybe is the answer as it depends on your feet. Put it this way, adding arch support is unlikely to create a problem and may well help. If it is only the 1st mtp joint (ball of the foot) that is the problem, you may have a dropped first ray. A dropped first ray is where the 1st mtp joint and the chain of bones behind it is fixed in a lower position than the other 4 rays. This is not rare, commonly overlooked and often is implicated in lateral knee issues. It might be worth your while trying a lateral (thick side to the outside) forefoot wedge as a diagnostic device in an experiment. Worst case, contact Scherrit Knoesen of thebikewhisper.co.uk for advice and mention that he may want to talk to me first.

  • Steve Hogg says:

    G'day Craig,
    You say that there is a 7mm difference between left and right sides as to where the cleats are mounted on the soles of your shoes, with the left cleat being further back. What that doesn't tell me is what the left / right difference in position of the cleats is, relative to foot in shoe. Assuming that both feet are close to the same size and that the angle of each foot on the pedal is much the same (and let me know if these are not safe assumptions) then I've got to say that I am not a fan of differential cleat position unless it is the least worst of only bad options. It causes differing degrees of ankle movement and different muscle enlistment patterns on each side, which to my mind, is antithetical to the desirable goal of as great a degree of functional symmetry as possible.

    The location of the discomfort strongly suggests that you are overextending the left leg. Moving the left cleat further back than the right cleat (relative to foot in shoe)increases leg extension so I'm not surprised. When you say 'washer on the right' do you mean that there is a shim under the cleat of the right shoe?

    Or that a pedal spacer has been added to move your right foot further from the centre line?

    In the short term, drop the seat 5mm. That should sort out the left upper calf. Then you can reassess how the right leg feels. If it feels too low and the left leg feels okay, move your left cleat forward to a similar foot in shoe position to the right cleat (see the post "Why Bikefitters Shouldn't Chew Their Nails" for more about how to determine this) and raise the seat back up the 5mm you dropped it. Let me know what happens.

  • FOM says:

    Thanks Steve. My right foot is about 1-1.5 sizes larger than the left so this change moves the cleat to about the same position relative to the first metarsal on each foot. My left points out a bit more than the right (which is fairly straight). I should have said spacer on the right – needed a bit of alignment adjustment.

    I will drop the saddle and let you know.

    Craig

  • Steve Hogg says:

    Craig,
    don't drop your seat. This is a simple one. If your right foot is that much longer, then functionally, the right leg is longer. The sight of your discomfort means are overextending on the left. You need a shim underneath the left cleat, probably 3 – 5mm. What country do you live in?
    Have you ever had an x ray or scan to determine leg length?