Steve Hogg Bike Fitting Team

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Post Series: Foot Correction

Arch Support is the primary and most important part of Foot Correction. This post will explain why.

Sof Sole FIT

Sof Sole FIT in Low, Neutral and High arch heights

As I mentioned in Basic Premise the Team and I use a method of quantifying and restoring the prioritising of the proprioceptive feedback from the feet . Without going into the details of the method itself, the basic picture is this:

Proprioception is name given to the sense comprising our unconscious awareness of our position in space. Specifically, it is the cerebellum’s awareness of the body in space.  The cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls unconscious movement. “So what” you might say.

Cerebellum (highlighted)

97% of daily movement is unconscious. Yes, it’s a conscious decision to get out of bed but you don’t consciously determine which muscles fire or the sequence in which you fire them to accomplish the task. Cycling is largely an unconscious activity. You decide to accelerate, brake, corner or move up in the bunch. They’re all conscious decisions but once made, again, the muscle firing sequence used to accomplish those varied tasks is unconscious and is controlled or overseen by the cerebellum.

There are several things worth noting about the cerebellum.

  1. It can be consciously overridden but cannot be consciously controlled. An example may be that you are riding a hill, consciously dropping your heels more than you usually do because someone has told you that there is some benefit to this. If you become distracted however, you will revert to your normal unconscious pedalling technique because conscious overriding has ceased and unconscious control has resumed normal (and usually more efficient) service.
  2. The cerebellum has more than 200 million neural connections to the body; more than the rest of the brain put together.
  3. And most importantly, the cerebellum is absolutely inundated with neural information and ignores the vast majority of that information.

Every second 3 billion or so proprioceptive signals emanating from muscles, joints, bones, fascia etc arrive at the cerebellum alerting it to the load being experienced, position in space and relationship to gravity of all of the constituent parts of the body. The cerebellum uses this information to determine what muscles to fire and exactly when to fire them to efficiently perform any particular task at hand. This sounds like a great system, and it is, but there is a flaw in the system. ‘Flaw’ is probably not the best choice of words, but of those 3 billion signals mentioned above; the cerebellum only has the capacity to process around 2 thousand; 1 in every 1.5 million!

So how is it we can coordinate our actions as well as we do despite this paucity of processing capacity?

Evolutionary pressures have dictated the development of a hierarchy of priorities (filter) as to what proprioceptive information the cerebellum prioritises for processing versus the vast majority that it is ignored. Only 2 categories of stimuli are prioritised.

  1. Generation of force. Any time we exert ourselves, that exertion is taken on as a priority task, not just by the cerebellum, but by the entire central nervous system (CNS / brain and spine) because it has survival value. If you are running for your life or fighting for your life, you are literally betting your life that you are going to perform those actions as well as you possibly can for the most important reason of all. Survival. Every other consideration is secondary when compared to survival.

 Within this category of ‘force generation’ stimuli arriving from the lower body are given higher processing priority than stimuli from the upper body. Again there is an evolutionary imperative at work. We have evolved to be upright, bipedal creatures whose primary mode of locomotion is walking. Given that’s the case and the need to do it, and also given the vast disparity between signal output capacity and the ability to process it, it makes zero evolutionary sense if whenever we’re walking around and decide to use our upper bodies in some way, that we collapse at the hips, knees and ankles. This is the risk if upper and lower body are given the same priority.

So, because the pelvis and below is the postural foundation that allows us to maintain our upright, bipedal position it gains higher processing priority than the upper body.

  1. Any change in the quality of stimuli arriving from a given area of the body will always attract processing priority. A good analogy is this: You and a friend are at a sporting feature with 1.5 million people in the crowd. (It is no accident that there are 1.5 million attending. 1.5 million times more proprioceptive info arrives at the cerebellum than can ever be processed). All these people are talking which creates a lot of noise. Meanwhile you are engaged in a conversation with your friend and that is the focus of your attention. Even so, you’re aware of the background noise but are ignoring it.

Until a rude fan in the row of seats behind you leans forward and shouts loudly in your ear and consequently attracts your (unwilling) attention because their loud voice is a significant change that stands out from the background noise. That’s the analogy.

For a real life example, use one finger to flick the other hand. You become more aware of the part of the hand that was flicked for 5 – 10 seconds that the change in stimuli lasts before dying down. It doesn’t last because the cerebellum has an incoming torrent of information arriving every second that it needs to deal with and cannot stay focused on any particular area unless there is a strong need to.

All of this is necessary background preparatory to making a simple but very important point. Proprioceptively speaking, while riding a bike next to NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THEIR FEET ARE DOING!


We don’t know that we don’t know because we all compensate amazingly well by receiving quality proprioceptive feedback from the hips, knees and ankles. But all compensations exact a cost; in this case a dual cost.

The first cost is that any attempt to compensate for any challenge to our position in space (of which there are bazillion potential challenges) will always evoke an immediate, unconscious compensatory response from the CNS. Our CNS is incredibly adept at compensating for suboptimal function or in the case of cycling, a suboptimal relationship to the bike.  The key observation here is that ALL COMPENSATORY RESPONSES INVOLVE AN INCREASE IN ASYMMETRY. This may be small, it may be large, but it is always present. Cycling is a symmetrical activity so for best efficiency and lowest chance of injury, any factor that allows the rider to function closer to ideal bilateral symmetry is a positive. Any factor that increases asymmetry is a negative.

The second and possibly larger price we pay is that a lot of neural capacity is constantly engaged in an ongoing and fruitless search for the feet while cycling. I would rather that wasted capacity be made available to allow the rider to more efficiently globally coordinate the cycling action.

Why doesn’t the CNS clearly recognise the feet while cycling?

When we walk, run, cycle or take part in any primarily lower body activity, the cerebellum oversees rather than directly controls the muscle firing sequence of the legs. The pattern of flexor on / extensor off……. extensor on / flexor off,  is controlled by the Central Pattern Generator (CPG), a bundle of neurons in the lumbar spine area. The CPG is like a dumb computer that just fires in an ‘‘on / off……….on / off” pattern. It needs to know when to fire and for that to happen, it needs an informational input. The CPG’s informational input is force feedback from the feet and I believe (and can demonstrate empirically) that the primary component of this is changes in plantar fascia tension.

Plantar Fascia

The plantar fascia sits in the arch of the foot and connects the calcaneus (heel bone) to the MTP joints (base knuckles of toes). When we walk and run, natural activities we have evolved to perform, plantar fascia tension changes constantly and it is the change in tension that attracts processing priority.  When we push down on a rigid soled cycling shoe, an unnatural activity that we have not evolved to perform, there is little or no change in plantar fascia tension because there is little or no contact between the typical, low quality cycling shoe insole and the arch of the foot. This means that we lack fine awareness of the part of the body that transmits every watt of power we produce to the bike!

This lack of neural clarity is a challenge to our position in space which is met with an asymmetrical compensatory response which can vary from insignificant to substantial depending on an infinite number of other individual factors.

The solution is to create some contact between a cycling shoe insole and the arch of the foot.. This is where arch support comes in. It is needed, not so much for physical support of the arch but more to trigger a greater clarity of neural information exchange.  Any factor that gives the CNS more complete or better quality information about load, position in space or relationship to gravity of our body enhances our ability to globally coordinate our actions.

In turn this removes an avoidable challenge to our position in space, eliminating any need for an asymmetric compensatory response arising from that particular challenge. Consequentially, this reduces the chance of developing overuse injuries, and on a bike, crashes aside, ALL cycling injuries are overuse injuries.

The level of arch support used is crucial in an individual sense. It needs to be enough to create obvious upward pressure on the plantar fascia so that on the pedal down stroke, plantar fascia tension increases as the foot is loaded while on the pedal upstroke plantar fascia tension decreases as foot is unloaded. This cyclical change in plantar fascia tension attracts the attention of the CPG and allows it to fire optimally rather than sub optimally.

Levels of arch support can be categorised as Level 1 – Not Intrusive, Level 2 – Mildly Intrusive or Level 3 – Very Intrusive.  The individually optimal level needs to be such that it creates obvious upward pressure on the arches of the feet while standing in cycling shoes off the bike.  While cycling, the correct level of arch support means that it can be felt but is by no means uncomfortable. If it is uncomfortable while cycling, then the arch support height needs to be reduced. This is as good a description as any of the desirable Level 2, Mildly Intrusive. No matter what level you perceive a given height to be, if it is uncomfortable while riding for more than an initial 10 minutes, it is too high.

Does everyone need arch supports while cycling?

No; but more than 99% do need it.  Very occasionally I will have a client who processes proprioceptive feedback from the feet while cycling without any need for arch supports. Some of these people find any level of arch contact painful. Most don’t and adding arch supports doesn’t do them any harm, nor is it of any particular benefit. Why?

Speculating, I suspect that they’re just born or develop better than the rest of us. I hypothesise, but have never been able to test the idea, that if we all grew up barefoot and functioned from infancy without shoes or socks, which hinder full development of proprioceptive awareness of the feet by the CNS, then arch support while cycling would be unnecessary. It’s an idea that I can’t prove or disprove; yet.

Recently I fitted a gent who did not need arch support or any other form of foot correction. He was happy and sent his father to me. He didn’t need any form of foot correction either. People like this are out there but are uncommon.

Can anyone who needs arch support ride without it?

Of course. Most cyclists are already doing just that. At some level, great or small, they are paying a compensatory price. In many cases they’re not aware of this. In other cases the niggles, aches or injuries they may experience can in part or in whole be attributed to the lack of proprioceptive clarity between feet and CNS.

Which brands of arch support insoles do I recommend?

Currently, two only: Sof Soles FIT and G8 Performance.


G8 Insole Kit

I don’t like using 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. The ubiquitous Superfeet are generic, far too generic, but work really well for those with very low but otherwise normal 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.

There is a German brand named Solestar that I would specifically suggest you avoid. Solestar insoles are well made but misguidedly, are designed to elevate the outside edge of the forefoot. For 99+% of those who would benefit from appropriate arch supports in their cycling shoes , this elevation of the outer edge of the forefoot is the opposite of everything I’ve learned over nearly 30 years. I don’t see many clients with Solestars but in each case have been able to demonstrate to the client’s satisfaction that they were a problem.

For the majority, the best options I’ve found (there may be others I’m not aware of, Icebugs seem interesting)  are Sof Soles Fit and G8 2620’s. They’re available in a wide range of sizes which between the two brands cover from size 37 – 48. G8’s are sold as a kit with five modular arch support options of differing heights. Sof Soles are fixed heights that equate with the 3 highest G8 arch insert options. Of the two, both are good but the G8’s have the advantage of a wider range of arch insert heights that are less rigid than SofSoles. Both have a rigid heel cup base. G8’s have the further advantage of being much thinner in the forefoot area. This allows them to take up no more vertical space in a cycling shoe toebox than a standard cycling shoe insole. SofSoles are thicker and occasionally are too thick in situations where there is not much vertical space in a shoe toebox.

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 this will mean the same height. Some will require a different arch height on each side.

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, mildly intrusive Level 2 when standing, but over time begins to feel that it has diminished to a not intrusive Level 1 on one or both feet, then it is advisable to experiment with a higher option.

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 Wedging  or Shimming. In these cases the likely solution is a metatarsal pad that lifts and separates the MTP joints on the nerve plexus that is located between each pair of MTP joints.

Some cycling shoe manufacturers have realised the need for arch support; Shimano, Giro, Specialized and others are to be commended but they are only taking baby steps. I don’t think they really understand what they’re doing yet. In each case their highest level of arch support is too low for 75+% of riders in the sense of instigating an improvement in proprioceptive clarity of information transfer between feet and CNS.

Arch support is where Foot Correction starts. To really nail it we need to talk about Wedging (Foot Correction part 2) and Shimming (Foot Correction part 3)

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 perceives 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

Note: Often, more specific answers to your questions can be found in the Comments below or in the eBooks section and FAQ page.

To learn more about bike fit products offered by Steve, click here.

Do you have a bike fit success story? Please go here to share.

Thank you for reading, return to the Blog page here or please comment below.

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This Post Has 109 Comments

  1. 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.



  2. 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.

  3. 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?



  4. 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.

  5. 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,

  6. 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.

  7. 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.


  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.


  12. 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.

  13. 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.


  14. 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.

  15. 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.


  16. 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.

  17. 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!


  18. 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

  19. 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

  20. 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 for advice and mention that he may want to talk to me first.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.


  23. 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?

  24. Steve

    I live in the USA (Oklahoma). Unfortunately I am riding ATAC's so shimming is a bit of a challenge. I am considering switching to either Keo's or Speedplay Zeros – give up the walkability but hopefully solve these problems. In my other posted questions you have always come back to this as a solution so I will give it a shot. I have some of your shims (Paul at BFS supplied them) so I will see what I can do.
    Never had an xray to determine leg length – using the off the shelf guesses it usually comes back no but with my rotated pelvis and foot difference I am sure I am totally screwed up on the bike!



  25. G'day Craig,
    If there is a functional or measurable LLD, then a shim is necessary. Whether it is a short term or long term measure will be determined by other factors. Better to have an x ray or scan than to guess when you bike position has been a long term problem. Even if there is no bone length difference, the size difference you mention between feet means that the short footed leg is functionally shorter than the other one.

  26. Thanks Steve. As for shimming – without major work on the shoe I figure I have two options. First is to shim the cleat but with ATACs that is not really viable. The second is to put a shim under the eSole at the front. Have you ever done this? Do I need a full length shim or can I put one of your 3mm shims in the shoe?


  27. G'day Craig,
    Yes, shimming mtb cleats is a pain. I would suggest that you use rubber sheet available from a rubber store in 3 or 6mm thicknesses. Cut out a piece using your insole as a template but then cut the front off leaving enough length to support from heel to the MTP joints (base knuckles of the toes) so as to leave your self some toe wiggling room. Try both thicknesses and see which one allows you to pedal more smoothly. It will feel ordinary in the shoe unless you have a low arch and instep. If not, once you have settled on a thickness, take your shoes to a bootmaker and assuming they are a quality shoe with a discrete sole (not molded up around the upper) the bootmaker can remove the sole, fit a full length build up of dense EVA foam and reglue the sole in such a way that at a glance, it looks like a factory job.

  28. Hi Steve,

    Do you find that the eSoles supportives sizing different from Sidi road shoe sizing? I've been looking to replace my insoles and was going to go with the Specialized BG Red soles but after reading your post, I'd like to give eSoles a try. In my resesarch, I found that the Specialized BG should be 41/42 to fit a Sidi 43, my size.

  29. Hi Steve,

    I am a runner and a cyclist from the UK and have a I would be interested in your opinion if you have time,

    I injured by ankle running and after MRI scans and different physios was told I had a hypermobile right foot and would need to wear an orthotic to support the right foot arch from constantly "collapsing" during running. I was told to stand in a foam mould and a custom built set of orthotics have been made to support my arches. Would these be in any way suitable to act as arch supports for cycling?


  30. G'day Marvin,
    It will be the same for the Sidis. Sidi are small for their nominal size. An eSole 42 or 42.5 (same size but I've seen them labelled as both) should work fine for sizing.

  31. Hi Steve,

    I am a runner and a cyclist from the UK and have a I would be interested in your opinion if you have time,

    I injured by ankle running and after MRI scans and different physios was told I had a hypermobile right foot and would need to wear an orthotic to support the right foot arch from constantly "collapsing" during running. I was told to stand in a foam mould and a custom built set of orthotics have been made to support my arches. Would these be in any way suitable to act as arch supports for cycling?


  32. G'day Anonymous,
    Very unlikely. Our arch needs to work when walking or running. In a cycling shoe what is needed is for a largely immobile foot (aside from toe wiggling room) and this means that the optimal degree of arch support necessary for cycling is almost always greater than that for running. If you need help with this, contact Scherrit Knoesen at The Bike Whisperer in Ealing, London.

    1. G’day Lawrence,
      I’ve only seen a couple of pairs. I applaud the fact that a shoe manufacturer is trying to customise the fit of their shoes but think they have quite a bit of work to do yet. I also think video link you supplied, which I hadn’t seen before, is misleading in some ways. I have found no clear correlation between standing arch height and the arch height module needed when using eSoles Supportive. The difference being heel contact. Yes, generally lower arch equals lower support and vice versa but there are plenty of exceptions.

      I also feel that they have the wedge inserts at the wrong end of the insole. They should be under the heel for most people. Lastly, the standing test with knee bending is misleading. Again because there is heel contact with the floor. Once there is heel contact, foot mechanics change, sometimes far more than most people realise. There is no heel contact when cycling. To give an example to illustrate my point. Some podiatrists and physios with an interest in foot mechanics use a mat with about 10,000 pressure sensors. The subject walks over the mat and a computer spits out a pressure map of the that foot plant with load and duration of load for every part of the sole of the foot. This is then compared to a hypothetically perfect foot plant. This gent is so close to perfect when walking that his podiatrist tells him orthoses would be a waste of time and money. However on a bike, he needs 8 wedges on his left side and 4 on his right side which is about 3 times the average numbers of wedges. This is an extreme example but one I am always reminded of when I see people comparing standing / walking foot mechanics to cycling foot mechanics as Pearl Izumi have done in that video.

  33. I bought and installed eSole as per Steve advice and exactly what he said happened – after 1-2 rides the arch got “too comfortable” so I went from orange to red and now to blue arch over 6-7 3-hour rides. All are comfortable and after about 1 hour I dont notice them inside the shoe. I also tried low and high metatarsal pads and same deal, both work fine. So after today’s 105km ride I am on blue arch and high metatarsal pad. I would like to know statistically – what percentage of riders (I ride size 46 shoe btw) use what level of arch? Is blue arch a rarely used one and should I drop a level to red? Red felt fine too. They all feel “mildly intrusive” and all feel good and all feel hugely better than standard Shimano insoles or Specialized footbeds I had. Thanks for your advice, it’s always 100% right on the money.
    Thanks. Yuri B. Melbourne.

    1. G’day Yuri,
      Before getting to what percentage use what colour arch insert; it doesn’t really matter what the percentages are in terms of relating the totality of that info to you. If you are using the blue arch support and it is comfortable and remains so, then there isn’t a problem. If it becomes uncomfortable over time, go back to the red. As I mentioned in the post above, sometimes there is a period of ongoing adaptation with some people and it sounds like you are one of them. Your experience in progressively moving up the arch support scale through 3 sizes isn’t that common (unless you started with too low a height) but isn’t unknown.


      Over the last 18 months and from highest to lowest rounded up or down to nearest percent;
      Black: (which no longer comes in the standard pack but is available separately) 14%
      Blue: 38%
      Red: 40%
      Orange: 8%
      Off White: 0%

      Generally with very low arches I use Superfeet rather than potentially use the Off White or Orange eSoles as they are less expensive so that corrupts the percentages to a degree. I use something like 9 and a bit times more eSoles than Superfeet which you can factor in. The other thing is that there is a loose correlation only between apparent arch height and the height of arch module needed. I have one gent with as flat a feet as I have ever seen who is thrilled to bits with the black (very high) arch supports and tells me so every time I see him. I’m not suggesting this would work for another person with similar feet though. As ever, there is HUGE individual variation in what works best for the individual.

  34. Steve,

    I’m interested in the fact that you used 8 wedges on one foot for your client!! That seems extremely high! Recently, I started using the esoles (orange) and wedged (3) under the heel, and I already have two under the cleat. That brings the total up to 5, which is scaring me to some degree. I currently tilt my right pelvis and all pain is on the left leg, hip, glute, lower back (it externally rotates)–Right internally rotates. I have two wedges on the right and two of your shims on that leg as well. The addition of the 3 wedges makes my left foot feel similar to the right. For some reason It makes my left hip internally rotate so I can get my Knee up and over the pedal. Is this what wedging is all about or I’m a causing myself further pain and complications down the line?? Five, just seem excessive to me!


    1. G’day Anonymous,
      To put the 8 wedges in perspective; providing the arch is supported properly, my average wedge use per rider is around 4. That is a total of 4 for both feet.Of that 4, there is a bias towards the left. A lower percentage of people need wedges under the left foot compared to the right foot; 85% versus 95% but the total wedge useage for left feet is higher than for right feet. 8 under one foot is a once a year occurrence for me. In other words a fraction of 1% of fit customers. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve developed a method that eliminates any guesswork and is definitive so that customer has had no problems since.

      In your case, 5 is only excessive if it is more than you need. You also say that the 5 wedges on the left makes your left foot feel similar to your right foot and your left hip function similarly to your right hip. So other than paranoia, where is the problem, at least for the moment?

      Is 5 under the left foot ideal long term?

      I’ve no idea. Here is what I would do in your shoes.
      1. Find out what is causing you to drop your right hip and work to resolve it. Have a leg length x ray or scan to eliminate an LLD as a variable.
      2. Eliminate all cow dairy and wheat products from your diet for 8 weeks. They are the most common allergens I come across and a surprising number of riders function more symmetrically on a bike with one or both of those food types removed from their diet. This may not be your problem but if it is, it will take 6 – 8 weeks of abstinence before you notice any positive difference if it is there to be noticed at all.
      3. Find a manual health professional with a DIBAK verification and find out what is going on with your right hip / pelvis etc. In my experience these people are the best at finding root causes rather than giving symptomatic treatment. There are others out there in the physiotherapy, osteopathic and chiropractic worlds that are good but I’ve yet to come across a DIBAK certified person who wasn’t really switched on and able to get results.
      4. Experiment with shimming the right shoe to see whether that makes a difference. You imply that you are shimming the left shoe because you hang to the right. Have you tried shimming the right shoe to see whether that prompts you to sit more squarely? If not, try it. It may not work but you need to eliminate the possibility.
      5. Also experiment with increasing wedge numbers on the right for the same reason. It is unlikely that you need more on the right but not impossible. As you say, your left side pain is the result of your inability to square up the right side of your pelvis.
      6. Stand facing a mirror stripped to the waist. Have someone who knows what they are doing stand behind you and position the fingers of each hand on the highest point of the iliac crest of each side. Which side is high? Repeat again but with left eye covered. Was there any change in pelvic alignment?
      If yes, what happened?
      If no, repeat with right eye covered and tell me what happened?
      Now stand as tall as you possibly can with heels still firmly on the floor while extending the spine, lifting the chest and extending the neck (that is chin level or fractionally down, NOT tilted back). What happened to the relative height of your iliac crests?

      Lastly, 5 wedges makes your left hip function through the same angle as your right hip which is potentially good. However you don’t function properly on your right side. As you improve your ability to sit more squarely, don’t be surprised if the wedge numbers and shim stack height that feel good now need to change.

  35. Steve,

    This is what I got out of your response:

    Don’t be paranoid about going ‘against the grain’ if it is working and; I’m correcting the left leg to function as the right, and the right could be functioning incorrectly!

    This caused me to explore my sensations in a little more detail on my next ride. I would have to say 5 did not feel good, especially post ride!

    I actually have two shims on the right side not the left. It does make me feel more squared on the saddle, but my right foot still struggles to ‘feel’ the pedal (power throughout the foot). I read a lot about foot mechanics over the week-end and I think I might have forefoot valgus. I used a quick wedge in my normal walking shoes under my heel (valgus) and I could finally feel the right foot make lateral contact. Suprisingly, it also stopped my ankle/tibia from rotating/dipping inwards.

    Do varus wedges bring your knee inwards while valgus bring it outwards? If i am internally rotating that right hip towards the top tube would I not want to use a valgus wedge to have my knee pointing outwards similar to my left? My left leg/left foot are very very stable. The right foot (when on the forefoot) feels like I am on a wobble board. There doesn’t seem to be a high percantage of people using wedges in a valgus manner!

    As to your questions:

    I have had an xray done in the past and there is no difference between legs. My illiac crest is relatively even and remained even when closing my eyes, and standing up as tall as possible. I don’t know if I could ever give up dairy and wheat!! I’ve tried in the past due to stomach problems. I just can’t do it! 🙁

    Thanks for all your help. This blog is amazing

    1. G’day Elitestrong,
      Before answering your questions, just be aware that walking foot mechanics where there is heel contact with the ground and cycling foot mechanics where there is no heel contact are not the same. The prescription for foot correction can vary from similar to wildly different.
      So the lateral wedge (thick side to outside) that you tried while walking, may or may not have any relevance to your cycling issues.

      Please don’t get hung up on “forefoot valgus” (or “forefoot varus”) for that matter as the terms are generally used inaccurately in cycling circles.

      To your questions. I assume what you mean by “valgus wedging” is thick side of wedge to outside of foot and the converse for “varus wedging”. Proceeding on that assumption – No, ‘varus’ ( I prefer medial) wedging does not necessarily bring your knees inwards nor do ‘valgus’ (I prefer lateral) wedging does not necessarily bring your knee outwards. The effect on knee tracking can vary from person to person and in large part depends on what effect if any, wedging has on pelvic symmetry on seat.

      No, you don’t want to use wedges to ” have my knee pointing outwards similar to my left….” etc. Wedges are used to re establish proprioceptive clarity from the feet. To do that the degree of wedging has to be perfect and once the CNS receives clear info from the feet it can better coordinate your actions. The major reason that a left knee sits further from the centre line than a right knee is because the rider is sitting with right hip forward or down compared to the left side. That is not the only reason but is certainly the most common.

      The right foot feels “like I am on a wobble board” because something is awry. Possibly several things. You mention pelvic symmetry off the bike but haven’t told me what you are doing on the bike. You also mention “stomach problems” and trying to give up milk and wheat but not having the will power. I don’t know whether you do need to give up milk, wheat or both, but if you have recurrent digestive issues you should at least try. It is near impossible to sit squarely on the seat if you are having digestive issues. This is not the only reason for on bike pelvic asymmetries but is one that I see a lot because no one considers it. Give an elimination diet a try to see what happens. It won’t kill you and may help. You won’t notice any real difference for 6 weeks if you are susceptible, so give yourself 8 weeks.

  36. Steve,

    Thank you. That provides me with much more clarity regarding wedging. I was mistakenly under the assumption that you could create pelvic symmetry through the use of these wedges.

    I’m a cat I cyclist. I have been racing for 20 years and I have been living with this problem for a good 10 years now. Video analysis (pre shimming) shows that I sit with my right hip forward (left hip back). However, I drop my left hip/body/ and heel. This is where the pain is located, including 1stp mtp, calf, glute, lower back (all left side). Observing myself from the back also shows that my left leg (overall) is closer to the bike and my right is further away. As I mentioned previousily, my right knee comes inward and my left knee seems to point outwards. Upper body: left reach in greater than right!

    I’m not sure if this is relevant, but my right ankle seems to collapse on the lateral side causing some tibia inversion when stading on my forefoot.

    I can put out a lot of power but sustaining it at low rpm can become very problematic. I just don’t feel very comfortable and my left side fatigues really quickly.

    Thanks again!

    1. G’day Elitestrong,
      You’re welcome. No, you cannot create pelvic symmetry with wedging unless the lack of wedging is the cause of the pelvic asymmetry. Sometimes this is the case but or part of the situation but rarely is it the whole story.

      Everything you say suggests that the left side problems are the fallout of the right side tendency to sit forward. I find time and again that the majority of riders, probably 90% will autonomically do what ever is necessary to protect the right side from injury and pay a price for that elsewhere; usually on the left side. In light of that it is interesting about what you’ve found with the right ankle when standing on right forefoot alone. I hesitate to draw a direct correlation between standing on right forefoot alone and what is happening on the bike but the thought occurs that it would be worthwhile experimenting with a lateral wedge or two (thick edge to the outside) on the right side. To make the experiment quick and easy, I’d suggest BikeFit ITS wedges because you can vary the number quickly during a ride and if there is a problem, you can remove them instantly. If you find that this helps, then replace with the same number of cleat or heel wedges.

      Additionally, you need to rule out any pelvic issues. Have you seen a *quality* structural health professional; chiro, physio etc for an assessment?

  37. Hello Steve,

    I have a question in regards to use of Superfeet insoles. Having been Cycle fitted by you and using green Superfeet Insoles inside my Shimano shoes, I am thinking of using a pair of Superfeet insoles for my running shoes and soccer boots.

    I couldn’t be any happier with the Superfeet insole, having had the wedges re-positioned by you from between the cleat and the shims underneath the shoes to underneath the heel, inside the inner sole.

    What is your view or recommendation? Would getting another pair of green Superfeet insole will do or do I need to try other ‘colours’ for non cycling purposes?

    Thanks Steve.


    1. G’day Jeong Ki,
      From memory (it’s been a while) you had a low arch foot and modified Green Superfeet worked well in your cycling shoes. The difference between running / walking on one hand and cycling on the other is that with the former, there is heel contact and the arch of the foot has to ‘work’. When cycling, there is no heel contact and the foot is more or less immobile inside the shoe. For your running shoes and soccer boots, I would suggest the Black Superfeet as while they have similar arch support height to the Green, they have much more give as well. Also the amount of rear foot correction you will need in your running shoes / soccer boots is almost certainly different to what I used in your cycling shoes.

  38. Hi Steve,

    I have a small question,
    I notice when I ride that my right foot turns inward meaning my heel is closer to the crank and just barely clears the chainstay while my left foot stays quite straight.
    I was wondering if this is my natural position my feet want to be or some other factors are at play.

    1. Hi Juan – Steve may get to a more in depth answer to your question, but I can almost guarantee he’ll ask you to check out ALL three of his posts on foot correction. Plus, make sure your seat height and set back are correct, and don’t forget cleat position. You’re probably not sitting square on the saddle like many people, so his other two foot correction posts on shimming and wedging may help you along with finding a stretching routine.

    2. G’day Juan,
      It could be either. There is no simple way to determine which by email. The more asymmetrically you stand when facing a mirror (differing height iliac crests, differing height of shoulders) and the greater the difference between your feet in terms of arch height, length and width, the more likely it is that the angle that each foot will sit on the pedal will
      be different.

      However, if you address the functional asymmetries by stretching, core work, remedial massage or any other method; over time your feet should sit on the pedals at the same or close to the same angle.

      Simply, the more asymmetrically you function off the bike, the more asymmetrically you will tend to function on the bike.

  39. Steve

    Great site! I have been a follower of the blog from early on and have followed through on your recommendations. I feel better and am faster on the bike. My position changes included being 17mm lower, cleats back another 5 mm, esoles with blue arches,2 wedges rt , 1 left, saddle set back 10.8 cm (10 mm further forward, I am 6 foot 5inches with long femurs and had always just used a drop string before) Feel great but have an odd problem. I know you have no crystal ball “yet” to be able to see me ride but I have gotten shin splints on the bike. On a long ride that anterior tibial muscle will even start to cramp. I am sure it must be something with my foot position wedges or arch but I can not seem to figure it out. I have never had this on the bike before. I do not pull up on the pedal and have looked on your site, and internet and cycling usually is not a cause of this problem. Have you ever seen? Any suggestions? I am of doing typical physical therapy recommendations. I have both increased and decreased my wedges. Could my arch support be to much even though it feels good.



    1. G’day Bill,
      shin splints from is a rare animal and one I’ve only seen, maybe 4 or 5 times in 20+ years. Typically, very tight calves play a part in this and stretching them (and hamstrings) is usually enough to relieve the problem. So a few questions:

      How tight are you calves?
      If you don’t know, the answer is probably very tight.

      I assume your physio has suggested both straight knee and bent knee calf stretches?

      Do you use a lot of ankle movement when you pedal?

      The other thing is that as the tibialis anterior (major muscle bulk on front of lower leg) inverts the foot, it is conceivable that too much wedging or too great a height of arch support is forcing you to invert too much. I’d be a bit surprised by this if it is the case because the height of arch support necessary to cause a problem would typically feel very uncomfortable.

      Let me know the answers to above and I’ll attempt to advise.

      1. Thanks

        How tight are you calves?
        I am generally tight and have been working hard on this including the bent and straight leg stretch for solueus and gastronemius as well as prayer stretch for anterior tibialis. I have been using the stretching for cyclists you have recommended and a feldenkrais book.

        Do you use a lot of ankle movement when you pedal?
        I would say average, and am average as far as heel drop.

        Here is my observations on wedging

        red arch bilateral with 4 rt and 3 rt I had no tibial pain but got lateral petella pain and some early tendonitis soreness in the lateral hamstring. my dx was I was overwedged

        Changed to blue arch and 1 rt and zero left. This relieved my lateral hamstring, but was first time had ant tibial pain. Also felt overloaded slightly on medial quad but essential no knee pain and felt pretty good. figured I needed more wedges

        Continued with blue arch but 2 wedges rt and left. Medial quad overload better still had ant tibial pain. This is typically worse post ride. Started to get some lateral hamstring pain again. No ant knee pain. ( since I rode so may years unwedged but with problems maybe this hamstring laterally is underdeveloped)

        Today went to red arch and 1 wedge rt and 1 left. To soon to tell as I had some pain before the easy ride in ant tibia. My pedal stroke still feels ok but knees a little closer to top tube.

        I do know that with no wedging and no arch support I get medial knee pain and have had anserine bursitis in the past. I have not had any of that yet but I suspect I still have not found a happy medium.

        I plan to continue to try the red and do some wedge rides. Your rules on passing arch support I can pass with red or blue. The orange I can not feel.

        Hope that is not to much data. I think tightness is always an underlying issue with me but I had not had this issue before. My theory is I used slightly to much arch. Not sure why it was not uncomfortable? I have a medium/high arched foot pretty rigid foot.

        Thanks for any comments.

        My bike fit has been an interesting journey.


      2. G’day Bill,
        I’m sorry the process has been so hit and miss. Here is what I suggest. Start with arch support and no wedges. Do enough riding to determine which arch support module feels more supportive on its own. In standing posture in your cycling shoes, the arch support should feel like it is on option too high. There should be a hint of discomfort. On the bike the same hint of discomfort is typically present but disappears from the rider’s awareness when they spend 10 mins at intensity; say TT pace or close to it.

        Once you have nailed down which arch module height to use, (and it may not be the same height on each side, but should feel the same on each side), then experiment with wedges, starting with 1 per side. Before moving to more wedges, ride several times to be certain that a wedge is an improvement.

        Where are you wedging?
        Cleat, rear foot or forefoot?

      3. If it is the calf besides keeping working with PT should I move back to old cleat 12mm size 47 or do you think dropping my seat further will fix. I did get some benefit out of the saddle in particular with the more rearward place ment. I am trying to think through the mechanism of the pain. I can clearly feel the anterior tibialis activated and under stress but it makes no sense to me since I am pushing down not pulling up.


      4. G’day Bill,
        Not sure what you mean by “move back to old cleat 12mm size 47………”etc. Can you clarify please?

        Re tibialis anterior working when pushing; this can happen if you are dropping the heel a lot under load. Excessive heel drop can happen if the cleat is not far enough back on the shoe OR if the seat is too low and the rider is unconsciously seeking more leg extension.

        The easiest way to determine which is the best option is to firstly, raise your seat height by 5mm and see if that gives relief without other negative consequences. If it does, that is the solution. If it doesn’t, get your cleats back further; try 5mm further for starters. Depending on the shoes and pedals you have, gaining an extra 5mm may mean that you need to change to Speedplay with part no. 13330 extender baseplates to achieve it.

      5. Steve

        Sorry for the delay and not being clear. Re ant tibialis pain

        After more rides and observation I am convinced that my ant tibial pain is from over use of inflexible calfs which you immediately favored over my over arch theory.

        47 was my shoe size in shimano shoe. 12 mm was were I thought I had my original measurement behind 1st Metatarsal joint. I had moved cleat back another 5 mm and had made a wedge change which I think was not material to the issue. Also dropped seat 2 to 3 mm. This was when pain began.

        I recalculated my measurements trying to follow your guidelines(had done before not sure how I screwed up) and was really at 20 mm behind first metatarsal joint and had moved it to 25. My theory is that with already relatively poor flexibility in Achilles this further rearward placement limited my movement further and overloaded the lower leg. Sound correct?

        I have now moved to 15 behind first metatarsal joint and feel less stress on the entire lower leg area although pain is not gone.

        Side question dose fore and aft cleat movement often effect amount of wedging needed? Dose using a forefoot wedge verse rearfoot sometimes effect arch support needed.

        As always you are the best! I feel like I am headed back on track.One thing I keep having to relearn is that when you change one parameter you need to go back and check all.



      6. G’day Bill,
        Yes, your theory sounds correct and I’ve seen it before.

        Re fore and aft cleat placement; it has no effect on degree of wedging or arch support. What moving a cleat more rearward can occasionally highlight is that the degree of wedging or arch support is not correct.

        Re forefoot vs rearfoot wedging and implications for degree of arch support. It should make no difference. But I say that from the viewpoint of using a definitive method to determine both arch support and placement and degree of wedging. Cleat wedging is a shotgun approach. It works and it is easy but there can be a problem with cleat slippage if multiples are used and cleat screws aren’t tightened regularly. Heel wedging is my preferred option for most people most of the time. However some people need either forefoot wedging or a mix of forefoot and heel wedging. In that case, my experience is that it is better to use a cleat wedge under the cleat than it is to use an in the shoe wedge under the insole. Too often an inshoe forefoot wedge will feel find until the rider ramps up the kms or intensity. Basically, they take up too much vertical space in the shoe.

  40. Hi Steve. I am seeking some opinions here. You said that the correct arch support accounts for reduction of 1 wedge and in some cases 2 and rarely 3. I bought eSole Supportive in April 2011 and riding on blue arches and it seems to work OK, average speed up by 1-1.5kmh and more comfortable too. I tried red and orange too and I *think* blue feels best using your guidance. When you cycle-fitted me in May 2008 you installed just 1 varus cleat BFS wedge on my right shoe and no wedges on left. So once I started using eSole blue-arch I removed the only 1 varus wedge from right shoe. I briefly tried he heel-based 1 varus wedge too for couple of rides but removed it based on your blog entry. Now when I am riding and I feel that my right knee is wobbling side-to-side just a little bit. Could it be that I should put the 1 varus BFS wedge back, taped on the heel of insert as per photo? How frequently does the arch insert not affect the wedging at all?

    1. G’day Yuri,
      Arch support is commonly worth 1 wedge, less commonly 2, occasionally 3 and I have seen rare instances of more than 3. In your case, my best guess is that what you are noting maybe the effects of habituation or it may be that you needed the wedge on that side with or without arch support. I would replace the wedge and reassess.

      eSoles didn’t exist in Oz in ’08 when you were here which complicates things a bit. Next time you are in Sydney, let me know as it will take 10 mins to sort out.

      1. thanks Steve. I have put the heel-based wedge, as opposed to the cleat-based BFS wedge you installed in 2008. I hope that is sufficient?
        When you say “10 minutes to sort out”. Do you need just my shoes and bibs only or BYO the whole bike, bibs and shoes all together?

      2. G’day Yuri,
        If you are going to come up, you may as well bring your bike.
        It has been 3 years and I know you have working on improving function so I’m
        sure that some aspect of your position will need a tweak.

  41. Steve,

    Thanks so much for this article. I’ve been having hot spot problems in my feet for years now. I had tried different shoes, pedals, socks, cleat positions and nothing much was helping.

    I finally purchased some e-soles on your recommendation and the hot spot problem is almost entirely gone.

    I have noticed that my right foot does indeed require more arch support and that was the foot giving me the most trouble (I’m right handed).

    I am surprised how much arch support I’m using given my flat footedness. I do pronate like a mad man when walking (all my shows heals are well worn on the outside). Does pronation increase the need for arch suppports?

    1. G’day Richard,
      It is common for flat feet to need much more arch support when cycling than the low or non existent height of the arch would suggest. So your experience is normal. It is also common for one arch to need more support than the other. Your similar need is because of a lateral pelvic tilt. In turn there may or may not be a leg length difference associated with that.
      Re your walking shoes; it is normal for the heels to show wear on the outside edge. In normal human gait, we strike with the outside of the heel and roll in and load the medial edge of the forefoot more than the outer edge on toe off. That is why the big toe is the big toe!

  42. Would bringing the foot closer to the crank (moving the cleat outwards) help in a collapsing arch? If arch support is already used (the highest degree of esoles) and the arch still seems to collapse causing the foot to turn heel in towards the crank.

    1. Marc,
      Ideally, the middle of the patella should descend over the middle of the midfoot. If your knee is further out than that, then the answer is no, bringing the foot closer is not the solution. If the middle of the patella is descending inboard of the centre of the midfoot, then yes, bringing the foot in closer to the crank will help.

      So if you find that it is not ideal to bring your foot closer, but still feel as though the arch is collapsing, which colour arch support are you using?

      The highest option is black but often eSoles do not supply the kit with the black option. If you only have blue, contact eSoles and get a pair of the black arches for your size eSoles.

      If that proves impossible, or if you already have the black arch, get a piece of gel cork bar tape (preferably not Cinelli as it is poor quality and compresses too easily), cut it so that you have a piece that is the length of the arch support on your right side, and gaffer tape it underneath inner edge (nearest the crank arm) of the arch support. That will make the arch support less compressible and offer more support.

      1. Thank you so much, I appreciate it…I will try the piece of gel cork bar tape because I have the black esoles. It is my left foot, not right…sorry for not specifying.

        Thanks again.

  43. Hi Steve

    I have quite wide feet. I’ve used Specialized shoes in the past and have needed to go up to a size 46 to get sufficient width. Recently I bought some Sidi road shoes in the “Mega” fitting and the extra width/volume has allowed me to go down to a 45.5 in the Sidis. I’m still using Specialized MTB shoes in a 46 (albeit on a more casual basis).

    I want to get some eSoles for both the Sidi road shoes and the Specialized MTB shoes and am unsure what sizes to get. I would have thought that I’d want to get the same size for both shoes or the placing of the arch support might be different? Does it matter if the eSole is a bit shorter than the shoe if I err on the smaller side? Based on one of the posts above you suggest going down a size for Sidis; would that also apply for the Mega fitting?

    FYI, I’ve been using the Specialized footbeds in the past; I don’t know if it’s just my feet but the arch support on those seems to be quite far forward and seems to press on the metatarsals towards the ball of the foot rather than in front of the heel where I would have thought it should. I’m currently using the blue (medium arch) ones which give some support; I don’t think it’s really enough based on your “moderately intrusive” test, but I’ve found that the green (high arch) ones seem to be intrusive in the wrong place (too far forward) and are uncomfortable. Do you have any comment on the relative fore-aft position of the arch support on eSoles vs Specialized and does it sound like I need to get a smaller footbed to get arch support far enough back?

    By the way, I intend to buy eSoles from your shop when I know what I need!

    As ever, many thanks for bringing thought and common sense to the world of bike-fitting …


    1. G’day Michael,
      Sidi tend to be small for their nominal size relative to
      many other brands. So typically, I would use a 44 eSole (many of them are marked 44.5 but they are exactly the same as the ones marked 44). However, your 46 Specialized mtb shoes are a genuine 46.

      As a compromise, I’d suggest buying the 45 eSoles for the Sidi’s as they are slightly wider than the 44’s. Use the existing Sidi eSole as a template and trim the front of the eSole to match.

      Re the placement of the arch support fore and aft; I’ve never done a direct comparison between eSole and Specialized. When there is discomfort with an arch support insole as you have described, there are two general reasons for it. Firstly, that the discomfort is because the arch support is doing it’s job and supporting the part of the arch that drops. If this is the case, then generally speaking, the discomfort disappears with a couple of weeks of riding in them. However some people have feet that really need a custom approach to arch support because the proportion or function of the foot is unusual. Not many, but I have no way of knowing in advance whether that is you.

      If you have only bought the 46 Specialized mtb shoes to get extra width, and I assume that’s the case because a 45.5 Sidi road shoe is the approximate size equivalent of a 44 – 45 Specialized mtb shoe, then I would use the same
      size eSole in the mtb shoe as in the road shoe in an attempt to not shift
      the arch support too far forward. Providing you make sure the heel of the
      eSoles are hard up against the heel cup of the Specialized shoe, they won’t
      move even though smaller because the arch engaging with your arch will hold
      them in place. Once you know that they will work for sure, then a dab of
      glue underneath them will hold them in place.

      eSoles have flexible arch support and so I assume will cause you less issues
      than the firmer Specialized fixed arch supports, but again, I don’t know

      I would suggest getting one pair of eSoles only and trial them in both
      shoes. Assuming that all is well, and if you feel the need for a second pair
      to have one for each shoe, then do it.

  44. Hi Steve,
    Probably not the right area for this question but at least it is shoe/foot related.
    You set me up with Sidi mega 43 shoes about 16 months ago. The fit is perfect (before I saw you I was wearing Shimano 45 to accomodate my wide feet). The problem is that (believe it or not for those not living in Oz) in winter it gets pretty cold here in Adelaide, especially in the hills early morning or late evening. I have been having trouble with cold feet and seem to have a mild case of chillblains (self diagnosis). Having read a number of articles from people in v cold climates the general consensus seems to be: wear larger shoes with large toe-box so your toes can move & wear 2-3 pairs of thick socks. With my current shoes I struggle to get more than one pair of socks inside the shoes & if I do my toes are locked rigid. If I buy a larger pair of shoes for those v cold rides do you have any advice regarding size, larger toe-box shoes & cleat position relative to my existing shoes? Do I just get the approp size e-soles for the new shoes?

    Fancy a kiwi getting cold in oz!

    Cheers, Chris

    1. G’day Chris,
      I’m glad to hear that you’re “enjoying” Adelaide winters!
      I’ve got no special knowledge about cold feet issues. What works for me is making sure that I put warm feet in the shoes before I go out. I use neoprene booties over the shoes but a cold foot going into the shoe will never warm up whereas holding your bare feet in front of a heater before leaving to ride makes the onset to frozen feet longer. Sydney winters aren’t as cold as Adelaide Hills winters though. I have survived minus 5C temps while riding in Goulburn with nothing but booties and pre warmed feet. Got a bit chilly though.

      Yes, you do have world class wide feet. I’m writing this at home and so don’t have access to my files, so I’m not sure what pedals you use or what we had to do to achieve a good cleat position for you. If you are using Speedplay, it is possible that you could go up a size in Sidi Mega, wear extra socks and use the Speedplay extender baseplate part no. 13330 to gain the desired cleat position. Going up one full size will move the cleat mounting holes 3 – 4mm further forward from the heel so you will need to have the cleats 3 -4 mm further back as measured from the toe of the shoe. That assumes that you are using Sidi Mega 44’s as your winter shoe.

      I hope this helps.

    2. Hi Chris, I’m from Adelaide too and suffered from cold feet as well and also have very wide feet. I got a pair of neoprene overshoes and it solved the problem! Keeps my feet warm and dry and also keeps to road muck off my shoes. I wear thin merino socks with them so my fit is not affected. Highly recommend you try some.


  45. Hi Steve,
    In your article above you state “In terms of proprioceptive clarity, arch support is typically worth 1 cleat wedge; less typically 2 cleat wedges and occasionally 3 cleat wedges, depending on how much arch drop occurs under load.” Does this mean that one cleat wedge “feels” like that of arch support?
    Also, when deciding which location of wedges to use, would a cleat wedge be the best bet for a midfoot cleat position, as a ITS wedge would be further in front of the actual placement of the cleat itself.


    1. G’day Jackie,
      No, it won’t feel like arch support, but in the short term
      will elicit the same CNS response proprioceptively. In the absence of arch support, this response will be temporary only, even if the number of ITS wedges used is correct. I would suggest starting with Level 2 arch support and then experimenting with wedges.

      I’ve never meant to imply that anyone use ITS wedges as a permanent fixture (except in the rarest of cases and then only a single one). I use them only as a diagnostic tool to quickly determine the gross amount of correction. It is a lot easier to add or subtract ITS wedges than to constantly remove a cleat to add or subtract cleat wedges while testing.

      Re your last question; a tough one to answer without getting into proprietary IP. The answer is yes, no, maybe. An ITS forefoot wedge will directly correct the forefoot if that is the issue, or indirectly correct the rear foot if that is the issue no matter what the cleat placement. A heel wedge will directly correct the rear foot only and will not indirectly correct the forefoot no matter what the cleat placement. A cleat wedge will correct both rear foot and forefoot except in rare circumstances. The problem with wedge placement is that while the correct degree of arch support and wedging will elicit the prioritisation of proprioceptive feedback from the feet by the CNS, it will only do so long term if the placement of wedging or the combination of placement is perfect for that

      What I’m saying is that with arch support in place, and the correct number
      of wedges used but not in the right place, the attention of the CNS will
      drift off the feet over time. The time taken to drift off can be as little
      as a day or so and as long as several weeks.

      1. Ok,
        I will begin with reassessing arch support as mentioned with a level 2 while standing and then go on from there.

        As far as wedges go, I have been measured with a mild varus forefoot tilt…I know that this is only a static reading and not under load, but would these most likely suggest that I need some kind of varus wedging (heel, CW, or ITS wedge?) I find that a static FF measuring is very inaccurate because people tend to compensate for these in many different ways. For example, even though I have measured forefoot varus, I feel better with a valgus forefoot wedge on my left (is this uncommon) I am not sure, if it is the exact degree/angle of wedging I need, but I do know that I get more of a proprioceptive feedback than with a varus wedge With a varus wedge I feel like it is forcing my foot into an unnatural plane, rather than keeping it in its natural position and filling in the gap that doesn’t meet the pedal under load. In your experience it is usually 1 of the wedging options (heel, CW, or ITS) that is used and not a combination of the 3? Lastly, do cleat wedges effect the q-factor, or does it just appear that way when looking down at the cranks because of the way the foot is canted?

        Thanks Jackie

      2. G’day Jackie,
        Firstly, if you haven’t done so already, start with arch
        support at Level 2 as mentioned in the post. Next, don’t get hung up on the FFMD reading. It is a static measure only, and the functional picture usually changes under load. Sometimes substantially. Read the Foot Correction post on wedging about forefoot varus.
        Next, the vast majority of people who feel better with a valgus wedge under the left foot as you do, only do so because they are not sitting squarely on the seat. This lack of symmetry causes each leg to function through different planes and cyclists typically do whatever is necessary (i.e by shifting their pelvis) to protect the right side. Often this comes at the cost of compromised pedalling mechanics on the left side. I have to mention this because I see it often. What I suggest you do is have a look at this video clip and have someone film you in similar fashion.

        You need to establish whether the need for a valgus wedge is the product of a pelvic asymmetry or a genuine need.If it is because of pelvic asymmetry, then a valgus wedge is only a band aid and it is better to sort out the root cause. I know this complicates matters but I see 500 – 700 fit clients a
        year and in a typical year would only see 1 or 2 who need valgus wedging.
        You may be that person but the odds aren’t high.

        Re your last question; 85 – 90% of people need wedging in a single location,
        10 – 15% need 2 location wedging and a fraction of 1% need 3 location

  46. Hi Steve,

    First of all, your blog is awesome! There are not many out there in this world that are willing to give without demanding something in return. I can clearly see that you are in this business because you love what you do and it is beautiful to see. I wish I was able to come to your fit studio as it would be an honor, but I am afraid I am in Florida and will not be able to visit until one these lottery tickets is enough to book a flight to Australia. But maybe in the future!

    Anyways, to the question about arch support. I see you have written a lot about material challenges, which includes specialized BG line of products a lot. I know that BG wedges and shim stacks are something that challenge the body’s proprioceptive feedback, but I was wondering about the specialized BG footbeds? Do they challenge the proprioceptive feedback from the feet as well, or are they a decent choice as long as the arch support is a level 2? I find the +++green footbed a level 2 for the left and the ++blue footbed a level 2 on the right foot. Would these be good to use or should I invest in eSoles? Thanks


    1. G’day Debra,
      thank you for your positive comments. Re the Specialized footbeds, they’re fine and without problems. It is only their inshoe wedges and cleat wedges that are a problem. I haven’t come across anything else they make that is a problem. If you can achieve Level 2 arch support with Specialized insoles, you will be fine with them.

  47. I just wanted to say thank you Steve for the Foot Fit information. I ride with a Wobble Naught fit from Eddie O’Day in Atlanta, GA, USA. Eddie refused to address my foot fit other than fore/aft and cant (no arch support, wedging, etc.). Eddie referred me to a podiatrist. The frustrating thing for me was I thoughtfully visited Perry H. Julien, DPM (a podiatrist) also of Atlanta immediately before my bike fit with Eddie. Dr. Julien, a cyclist himself, recommended I wear Superfeet and address my foot fit with Eddie. Sigh… another customer caught in between finger pointing. Thanks to your article, I purchased eSoles Supportive for my flat feet. I used a laser line and shot video with different insole combinations (Superfeet & eSoles Supportive with different arches) and different wedge number combinations (1-3 each foot). I determined eSoles Supportive with off-white arch supports (+ high metatarsal pads) plus three wedges for each foot produced the straightest knee tracking for each knee. Yes, I looked at each knee individually not concerning myself with a possible differing result for each foot. Thank you again very much. From afar you helped me when the professionals here were unable to help.

    1. G’day Anon,
      I’m sorry to hear of your issues but hear similar stories
      regularly. Good on your for having a go yourself. I’m a big believer in self help and with a bit of method, often the results are quality. I’m happy for you that you got a result.

    2. This is a correction by the author of this original post by Guest. In error I used the word “cant.” This word should have been “cleat rotation.”

  48. Steve,
    Thank you so much for putting out such great info for detail obsessed, asymmetrical people like myself. I’ve truly found heaven on a SMP evolution (very narrow sit bones) from advice found on your blog. I am new to cycling and had to seek out professional fitting due to disabling right hip flexor pain from my right knee coming to far toward the top tube on the downstroke. The fitter used two yellow cleat wedges on my right specialized shoes but did not address orthotics although I believe my right arch to be higher than my left (allowing it to further collapse on downstroke). You seem to think highly of the esoles efit supportive insoles, so I figured I’d give them a shot to further stabilize the leg. Have you found them to work well with specialized shoes? Have you found the sizing of esoles and specialized shoes to be the same, or do you typically have to use smaller/larger insoles for this brand of shoe? Thanks for all the help, Dustin.

    1. G’day Dustin,
      I’m happy for you that you’re getting somewhere. Yes, the
      Esoles Supportives work well with Specialized shoes.

      Specialized sizing on their shoes is on the big side. That is, say a 45 Specialized S Works is as big as 45 or sometimes 46 in other brands. What I suggest you do is buy one size larger Esoles than your Specialized shoes. Best case, they will fit well. Worst case you will need to cut the Esoles down a touch using your standard Specialized insoles as a template.

  49. Dear Steve,
    I am trying esoles, I have experinced big toe numbness after 2-3 hrs on the bike, gone as soon as my cycling shoes are removed. I have the lowest metatarsal pad. Have you heard of such a result.

    1. G’day Chris,
      Yes I have. Here’s a trial and error list of things to do.
      1. Don’t use the metatarsal pad at all and see if that helps.
      2. Go down one height of arch support module.
      3. Did you reduce wedge numbers when you fitted the Esoles?
      (for readers benefit, I have fitted Chris in the past)
      If not, and if 1 and 2 didn’t make any positive difference, fit the arch support module that gives you level 2 support and reduce wedge numbers one at a time. For the vast majority, Level 2 arch support means a reduction in wedge numbers of between 1 and 3, though I have seen up to 5.

      1. Hay Steve Further to your advice,
        I have developed medial knee pain more on my right, some on the left. I have taken my wedges out completely. I started maybe a bit high had the 3rd level in (blue) I will drop down to the red 2nd level. The pain I am feeling is much the same as when I first had the wedges on when I saw you.

      2. G’day Chris,
        the level of arch support in your cycling shoe should feel
        like a bit too much when standing in your cycling shoes. Not painful, but mildly irritating. However on the bike and pedalling, that same amount of arch support should feel solid and stable. When adding arch support, you are right to remove the wedges. You may need to replace one or more wedges over time but in terms of correction, proper arch support is typically worth 1 – 3 wedges.

  50. Hay Steve,
    Went down in height in arch support
    Removed wedges, turns out esole is = two wedges for me.
    Result: Feet happy, knees happy, comfort great, love riding.
    I have been working really hard on my function through exercise physiologist and have experinced big gains. Two years ago I could bearly ride due to lower lumbar pain and hamstring pain ready to give up riding. Through your fit process I retunred to riding, took your advice and worked on fucntion. I have not looked back. Looking foward to seeing you again for the next chapter. Again thanks for your desire to help and your real care about helping people just like me. Chris.

    1. G’day Chris,
      Thank you being one of the ones that acted. Though there is an individual flavour to everyone’s situation, I give the same basic message to all. “You will only function as well on the bike as you do off the bike”. Everyone listens, probably 30% get off their backsides and act on it. Good on you for being one of the ones that did.

      Happy to help but no need for thanks. Half of Coffs Harbour seems to have been here on your recommendation.

  51. Hi Steve,
    I am looking to order some ESoles…I am currently using a 46 Specialized S-Works road shoe..would a 46.5 ESole do the trick? Thanks

    1. G’day Zucchinij,
      That depends on how old your S Works shoes are. If they
      are the latest version, they are big relative to nominal size and you are better off ordering the 47.5’s. If they are slightly long, just use the standard insole as a template and cut the Esoles to size.

      If you have an older S Works shoe, the 46.5’s will be fine.

  52. Hi Steve,
    How do you know if you are dropping your arch under load? I feel a tendency in my heel to rotate outwards from the frame when i pedal hard. could that be an indicator on dropping my arch?

    1. G’day Kasper,
      Most people don’t know that they are dropping their arch
      because it is so ‘normal’ for them that they are not aware of it. 99.99% of riders will drop their arch at some level. The following test can be used to illustrate this but the observer has to have a good eye if the degree of arch drop is small.

      Have the subject sit on a moderately high stool with their bare feet flat on the floor. Raise one heel 20mm so that only the forefoot is left in contact with the floor. The subject needs to hold their foot loosely and not tense. On command they should exert force through the forefoot against the floor without allowing the heel to drop. It should be obvious to a skilled observer whether the arch drops or not.

      Then repeat on the other side.

      What tends to happen with most people is that if they have enough arch support in their cycling shoes; and that is a degree of arch support that feels moderately irritating when standing, they will notice the absence of arch drop with arch support in place, even though they didn’t ever notice that they were dropping their arches without arch support.

      As you your heel out movement; possibly. It almost certainly means that you are internally rotating that hip under load. Lack of arch support may play
      a part in this as may other factors.

      1. Thanks for your reply Steve.

        I see you offer two different models of arch support in your eStore. One for people with low arch and another one for the rest.

        I would probably rate myself as having a low arch, but having nothing to compare to, so don’t really know. Any pointers to aid me in chosing the most suitable for me?

      2. G’day Kasper,
        If there is any doubt in your mind, get the Esoles as the
        various arch modules offer enough variety to work well with any arch height. I occasionally use Superfeet for low arch feet if they feel like Level 2 arch support to the client. I would guess that would be one client in 15 or 20. A lot of people who think they have low arches don’t. What they have is moderate to high arches that collapse a lot.

        Superfeet are useless for flat feet or moderate to high arches. They are equivalent to the orange coloured lowest arch support in the ESoles in terms of support. If that is what the rider needs, then they are a less expensive option.

  53. Hello Steve,

    Reading this fantastic blog and the positive reactions I thought I might as well try to point out a problem I have not been able to find the right solution for. I live in The Netherlands and found your site trough Maybe esoles is something for me? I’ve tried to keep it short, but I realize I’ve failed to do so.

    To start with, my right foot is significantly broader that the left. It is also flat and my arch ‘collapses’ to the inside. The first months I started riding (about two years ago) there seemed to be no problem, or I just didn’t noticed it. But when I got progressively stronger, the outside of my forefoot was beginning to cramp when riding. The shoe felt small. I switched shoes three times. It never really helped, although now that I ride Northwaves it feels significantly better.

    However the problem was not solved. Meanwile I started to notice that my calf muscles were taking a beating because of my hampering foot/ankle. I have the physical proportions of a climber, but by now by right calf has the proportions of a well trained sprinter. The calf tires almost instantly after an afford. It somehow seems to compensate the lack of power I can transfer from my foot/ankle to the pedal. My upper leg/thigh also suffers relatively more.

    I progressively got stronger but my left leg got relatively weaker. I never feel good on the bike and it feels as if the right foot/leg is not even my own because the sensation defers so much from the left leg. I can’t seem to find a position where my right foot(/ankle/calf/knee) are ‘aligned’ so my foot is stable and I can transfer power to the pedal. My knee however does not seem to be suffering from any of this. I also noticed that on the end of a pedaltroke (when I push down and almost reach the bottom of the stroke) my ankle makes a ‘woble’. Kind of a quick out and back in movement.

    My first reaction to the problem when I am on the bike is to pull my foot(arch) up and foot back into the shoe so the whole foot/sole gets positioned more to the back, to the left and up right. That makes it feel better, but the ankle still feels weaker then the left ankle. After three of four paddlestrokes the arch will ‘collapse’ again and the forefoot will move back to the front right (outside) of the toobox (as if it automatically wants to move outwards?). I keep pulling my foot back and arch up when riding. That sometimes makes it feel as if the bad leg is longer but I already got assurance that there is no difference in length between my legs. Is that because my foot is broader and maybe longer? The pressure points and distribution is that much different because of that? (I noticed that it is often very hard to determine what it is I feel or what the core of the problems is)

    I tried stretching my calf/ankle with an exercise. I balance one foot with a bended knee and my heel lifted up from the ground. Then I force my heel down, keeping my knee bended. On the left leg this works fine. On the right I can’t stretch as deep as on the left and I automatically lean on and towards the inside of the ball of my foot (knee point inwards a bit). So I can’t drop my right heel like I can on the left side.

    By know I’ve only tried different shoes and I have a specialized shim of 1,5 mm high that is mend to correct forefoot varus. The shim does not help. Last week I’ve tried to support my arch and heel by putting a sponge in the shoe (just to experiment). This makes it feel a bit better but I think it’s not supportive enough. I also seem to feel that my groin lightly suffers from the adjustment.

    My main questions are as follows;

    – Do I have to make the toobox on my right shoe broader?
    – Is there a chance that I can shim, sole, wedge ore arch support my way out of trouble considering my complaints?

    I hope my explanation is clear enough to give some comments on! Thanks a lot on forehand!

    Kind regards,


    1. G’day Berto,
      The only way that you will solve your problem is through
      perseverance and by being methodical. Before starting on any thing I suggest below, read the post How To Avoid Bike Fit Hell and follow that procedure.

      Then start at the start. You feel like lack of arch support on the right is the problem so support the arch. The best way to do that is with Esoles Supportive. See if you can buy some locally; if not, I can send you some from here. Once you get the Esoles and if you find that the highest (black) arch support is not high enough, then add a layer (or even more than one layer if necessary) of gel cork bar tape underneath the arch module. One layer of gel cork tape is equivalent to increasing the arch height by one size.

      Then when you have good arch support, use the other posts on bike position to reassess your entire position.

      One word of caution. You have said that both legs have been determined as being the same length. When there are large differences in foot morphology between sides as you have, there is always a pronounced lateral pelvic tilt involved. A pelvic tilt can cause a lot of bike fit related problems so find out if you have one when you stand by seeing a physiotherapist or chiropractor or someone similar.

  54. G’day Steve:
    I live in The Netherlands and found your site trough Reading this fantastic blog and the positive reactions I thought I might as well try to point out a problem of mine. Maybe esoles is something for me?

    To start with, my right foot is significantly broader that the left. It is also flat and my arch ‘collapses’ to the inside. The first months I started riding (about two years ago) there didn’t seem to be a problem, or maybe I just didn’t noticed it. But when I got progressively stronger, the outside of my forefoot was beginning to cramp when riding. The shoe felt small. I switched shoes three times. It never really helped, although now that I ride Northwaves it feels significantly better. However, the problem was not solved.

    I progressively got stronger but my left leg got relatively weaker. I could not transfer enough power from my foot to the pedal anymore. Meanwhile I started to notice that my calf muscles were taking a beating because of my hampering foot/ankle. I have the physical proportions of a climber, but by now by right calf has the proportions of a sprinter. The calf tires almost instantly when I put in an afford. It somehow seems to compensate the lack of power I can transfer from my foot/ankle to the pedal? My upper leg/thigh also suffers relatively more on the right side. I sometimes experience light cramping pain on the outside of my forefoot post riding.

    I never feel good on the bike and it feels as if the right foot/leg is not even my own because the sensation defers so much from the left leg. I can’t seem to find a position where my right foot(ankle/calf/knee) are ‘aligned’ so my foot is stable and I can transfer power to the pedal. My knee however does not seem to be suffering from any of this. I also noticed that on the end of the padel stroke (when I push down and almost reach the bottom of the stroke) my ankle makes a ‘wobble’. Kind of a quick outward and back in movement or vice versa.

    My first reaction to the problems on the bike is to pull my foot(arch) up and foot back into the shoe so the whole foot/sole gets positioned more to the back, to the left and up right. That makes it feel better. After three of four padel strokes the arch will ‘collapse’ again and the forefoot will move back to the front right (outside) of the toobox . I keep pulling my foot back and arch up when riding. That sometimes makes me feel like the bad leg is longer but I already got assurance that there is no difference in length between my legs. Is that because my foot is broader and maybe longer? The pressure points and distribution is that much different because of that?

    I tried stretching the calf/ankle with an exercise. I balance on one foot with a bended knee and my heel lifted up from the ground. Then I force my heel down, keeping my knee bended. On the left leg this works fine. On the right I can’t stretch as deep as on the left and I automatically lean on and towards the inside of the ball of my foot (knee point inward a bit). So I can’t drop my right heel like I can on the left side.

    I’ve only tried different shoes and I have a specialized shim of 1,5 mm high that is placed to correct forefoot varus. The shim does not help. Last week I’ve tried to support my arch and heel by putting a sponge in the shoe (just to experiment). This makes it feel a bit better but I think it’s not supportive enough. I also seem to feel that my groin lightly suffers from the adjustment.

    My main questions are as follows;

    – Do I have to make the toobox on my right shoe broader?
    – Is there a chance that I can shim, sole, wedge ore arch support my way out of trouble considering my complaints?

    I hope my explanation is clear enough to give some comments on! Thanks a lot on forehand!

    Kind regards,


    1. G’day Berto,
      Firstly, the significant differences in foot shape and function almost guarantee that you have a marked lateral pelvic tilt; even if there is no bone length difference between legs. The first thing I would do is confirm that and see what you can do to resolve that problem off the bike because it will affect you on the bike. If you cannot stand with a square pelvis it is unlikely that you are sitting on the bike symmetrically either.

      Re the shoe toebox fit; I don’t know. You haven’t mentioned it as being too narrow but if it is, yes you need to stretch it. A good boot maker can do it or if you have access to a ball and ring stretching tool, you can do it yourself.

      Re can you shim etc out of trouble; almost certainly providing the lack of foot correction is the problem.

      I would also suggest working your way through all the posts on position keeping the advice from “How To Avoid Bike Fit Hell’ in mind at all times. Best of luck with journey of self discovery. Let me know what happens.

  55. Hi Steve.
    I have a question re metatarsal button on eSole Supportive. I tried both the low and the high buttons and I dont think I can feel any difference apart from both buttons tends to bulk-up the foot in shoe and I dont think there is any difference in foot comfort. I sometimes get some foot numbness in left foot – typically when its hot/warm outside and when I am pushing very hard for long periods of time. So I am wondering if it’s worth trying to remove the metatarsal button completely and cover the hole up with sticky tape.
    In your experience do any of your ‘patients’ end up riding without that button and how often does this occur? Any tell tale signs?
    Thanks a lot! Yuri B.

    1. G’day Yuri,
      If changing metatarsal pad height has no effect on comfort,
      you may not need one at all. The lower of the two is so low that it is rare that it irritates anyone but it has happened a couple of times. In those cases there is zero problem removing it from one or both feet and taping over the hold. What you can also do is grind down the existing pad so that it is flat and fills the hole.

      At the other end of the spectrum I’ve had 2 or 3 clients with extraordinarily high arches combined with dropped 2nd, 3rd and 4th MTP joints that caused foot numbness. In each case taping both heights of metatarsal pads one on top of the other worked a treat.

  56. Steve,

    I have a question that goes a bit farther back in the foot fit process you might say — shoe selection. My feet are narrow (AA). I cannot find shoes narrow enough. I currently wear women’s Sidi Genius 5s. I have adjusted the straps and have eSoles, but my feet still slide in the shoes. So much so my toes hurt from hitting the ends of the shoes (I ride toes down). Have you found any solutions to this problem that you highly recommend? Thank you in advance for the advice.


    1. G’day Anon,
      From time to time I see people with feet like yours and to
      date, the only ideal solution I’ve found is custom shoes. In Australia with its relatively warm climate, people spend a lot of time barefoot or wearing sandals and similar. That means that Aussies have wider feet than most of the rest of the world because the feet are less constrained by all enveloping footwear. I have a wife and a son with very narrow feet and custom shoes are the best option.

  57. Hi Steve
    Great advice going out.

    I have been making some changes with saddle height and cleat alignment, due to the right side bias article you have. I’ve ridden 25 years with a saddle height of 70.5cm from day 1, including racing as a pro. I’ve always suffered with lower back pain, and now I’m getting old and knackered I’m looking for solutions you never do when you’re younger.
    I’ve now dropped to 69.7 after your articles. Huge improvement straight away. I feel like I have someone elses left leg, I can feel power there that I’ve never had in all that time.
    Time will tell with the back, as it’s only been a short while since the change.

    I’ve also been trying insoles (superfeet) and wedges in my right shoe, as my right foot is never happy during my pedal stroke. Basically when I pedal, my right foot is always pulling my heel in on the upstroke.
    I’m also very flat footed, so have used insoles as stated, as well as up to 2 shims in the right foot to correct varus.
    Even off the bike the outside of my foot is usually quite sore after standing at work a lot.

    I’m still getting the same movement with my heel, and with the insoles and wedges my foot feels like it’s fighting against them and trying to flatten out.

    I use lake cx401 moldable shoes which I had to flatten the arches a lot due to pain in my arches with them if that helps out. I’ve also tried bont shoes which I had to hammer flat due to the same pain in my arches under load.



      1. I have been checked in the past by a physio and a chiropractor, both said leg length was fine.
        Although whenever I visit them, they both say my pelvis is tilted to the right.

      2. G’day Andrew,
        when next you see one or the other, ask them to map out
        a program to permanently eliminate the pelvic tilt. They’ll either be able to do this or not. If not, ask them for a referral to someone who can give you the right advice.

      3. Hi Steve

        I’ve been to both a physio and chiropractor who say leg length is fine, although both have noted I have a tilted pelvis to the right.


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