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Post Series: Foot Correction

When talking about cleat position, several things need to be kept in mind.

No. 1 is that most of the advice you will see in print recommends that the cleat be positioned so that the ball of the foot is over the pedal axle.  More specifically, this means that the cleat should be placed so that the centre of the 1st MTP  joint (base knuckle of the big toe)  is positioned over the centre of the pedal axle with crank arm forward and horizontal and shoe in pedal level, as this is the convention for measuring cleat position.  This is arguable advice at best and I will explain why below.

No. 2 is that while the foot is a lever, it is not an inherently efficient lever because the fulcrum or pivot of the lever is back at the ankle.  That means the longer the effective lever length, or in other words the further forward the cleat position relative to foot in shoe, the greater the effort required of  the lower leg muscles (mainly gastrocs and soleus; ie,  calves) to stabilise foot (and ankle) while pedaling. Bear in mind that much of this effort is not contributing directly to propelling the bike but merely to stabilising foot and ankle. Conversely, the further rearward the cleat position, or in effect the shorter the foot as a lever,  the less work the muscles of the lower leg are required to do to maintain stability of foot on pedal.

No. 3 is that under significant loads per pedal stroke (forcing a gear a bit) , all but a tiny fraction of riders drop their heels more  relative to their individual pedaling technique (heel dropping; run of the mill; toe down etc) than they do at lesser loads.

And lastly, No. 4. When deciding on a cleat position you need to know what type of riding is intended and for what duration and at what intensity. Below are three views about how to determine cleat position. Each are effective and which one you should choose depends on on what your priorities are on the bike. A t the end of this post will be advice to help you determine which method is best for you.

Firstly, an explanatory note: Method 1 and Method 2 I would group as “Modified Forefoot” cleat positioning. Method 3 came to my attention after many email conversations with and a subsequent visit by Gotz Heine.


So what is wrong with ball of the foot over the pedal axle (hereafter referred to as BOFOPA)?

Here’s a simple thought experiment. Firstly, I assume that no one reading this would advocate placing the cleat so that it is further forward than BOFOPA?

Proceeding on that assumption, lets position the cleat at BOFOPA and ask the rider  to perform some efforts with significant loads per pedal stroke. Like riding up a hill forcing the gear a bit or accelerating a big gear while staying seated. All riders do these things from time to time. Under these and similar conditions, the rider will drop their heel more than they do at lighter loads.

Where now is the ball of the foot?

It is not centred over the pedal axle. It has rotated back somewhat because of the increased  drop of  the heel. This means that BOFOPA is not attainable under significant load when the rider most needs it. To maintain BOFOPA with the heel drop that occurs under any real load, the ball of the foot needs to be in front of the pedal axle as usually measured  to be over it when pushing really hard.  I would go further and say for best sustainable performance, the centre of the ball of the foot (1st MTP joint) should be in front of the pedal axle even with a significant heel drop. (Note: a more detailed explanation of why can be found under the heading Cleat Position in this post How far in front depends on the size of the shoe and the degree of heel drop. Some general recommendations follow below. These are based on trial and error testing on thousands of subjects over many years. They are general recommendations for those that want simple answers to a complex question, but are not to be considered specific to any individual. Long experience has shown me that they will work for some level of benefit for the vast majority of performance oriented riders.


Shoe size 36 – 38:  Centre of ball of foot 7 – 9 mm in front of the centre of the pedal axle

Shoe sizes 39 – 41:  8 – 10 mm in front

Shoe sizes 42 – 43:  9 – 11 mm in front

Shoe sizes 44 – 45:  10 – 12 mm in front

Shoe sizes 46 – 47:  11 – 14 mm front

Shoe sizes 48 – 50:  12 – 16 mm in front

All measured with the shoe leveled from where the sole joins the upper under mid heel to where the sole joins the upper at the area of cleat attachment.  One caveat –

  • The above table is for road and mtb riders of average technique. Exceptional heel droppers will need their cleats further back again. Exceptional toe droppers will not need their cleats quite as far back. Crit riders and those who need to optimise their sprinting abilities should use the lower end of the scale. Eg. size 42/43 shoe recommendation of BOF 9 – 11 mm in front of pedal axle, use 9mm. And riders who want to optimise their ability to sustain an effort (riders who do the occasional TT but don’t want to give up their sprinting ability) should opt for the higher end of the scale of recommendation. Eg, for the same example of shoe size 42/43, use 11mm.

If you choose to apply the recommendations above, you need to be able to find out exactly where the centre of the ball of the foot is and then mark that point on the shoe.  This link will give you most of the information that you will need to do that.


Here’s another thought experiment. Most (I hope all) would agree that it is a good idea to spread the pedaling pressure on the foot  over the largest area to lessen the likelihood of hotspots or pain developing. If you agree with that, why is the focus of the literature on BOFOPA?

Why pick the 1st MTP joint (ball of foot)?

Why not pick the 3rd or the 5th or whichever other one you choose?

I think that somewhere along the way, the mechanics of walking and running were mistakenly applied to cycling. When we walk, we strike the ground with the outside of the rear foot (which is why the outside rear  of the heels of your work shoes show more wear than the the rest of the shoe heel) and progressively roll in until we toe off on the inside edge of the forefoot. Do this as a species for several million years and evolution dictates that the ball of the foot becomes the largest of the MTP joints because it is the most heavily loaded on the toe off part of the stride. The problem here is that we have evolved  to walk and run, not to cycle and cycling foot mechanics differ from walking foot mechanics substantially. As measured from the heel, the MTP joints are all at different distances from the heel with huge individual variation as to the relative placement of the 5 joints.  So to spread the load would it not be better to try and find a mid point amongst the MTP joints?

I find this a persuasive argument and think it reasonable to answer yes. If you agree, then the best way to determine where to place the foot over the pedal is as follows.

  • Mark the joint space of the Ist and 5th MTP joinst as described here
  • Find a hard surface and stand with your heels hard back against the base of a wall.
  • Place a 300 ml steel rule against the wall between your feet so that the long axis of the rule faces away from the wall.
  • Have a helper record the distance from wall to the centre of the Ist MTP joint on each foot using the rule as a reference .
  • Have a helper record the distance from the wall for the 5th MTP joint. for each foot.
  • Deduct the distance from the wall of the 5th MTP joint from the distance from the wall of the 1st MTP joint. An example might be 182mm minus 154mm = 28mm.
  • Halve that number (in the example above; 14mm)
  • Set the cleat position so that the centre of the 1st MTP joint is 14mm (or whatever number you calculate as being appropriate to you) in front of the pedal axle as measured in the usual manner described near the start of this post.
  • Don’t be surprised if you get a slightly different number for each foot.

In most cases, this will result in a more rearward cleat position than Method 1. In a minority it will be a more forward cleat position. What result you get will be determined by your foot proportions rather than a more generic approach as used in Method 1. What is also clear using this method is that 2 riders with similar sized feet can come up with quite different numbers because of individual differences as to where the 1st and 5th MTP joints are placed relative to the heel. More advice on the pros and cons of each approach later.

If using Method 2 , don’t necessarily expect the numbers to be the same for each foot. Most people have feet with some variance in length and often in proportions as well. If you have any doubt about the result of this exercise, check and recheck your joint centre markings and calculations until you have certainty. The (philosophical) benefit of  Method 2 is that it is a more individual approach  than Method 1 because it takes into account individual differences in foot proportions. The potential trap with Method 2 is that if you end up with a difference in cleat position relative to foot in shoe of more than say, 3 mm, check and recheck your measurements. If after checking and rechecking you still end up with a difference of 3 mm or more, you are better off using Method 1 as if your measurements are correct it suggests that you have other possible issues like difference in leg length or long term postural distortions.


Here we enter a whole new world, that of Midfoot cleat position.  Midfoot cleat position is when the cleat is positioned so that the Tarsometatarsal (TMT)  joints are over the centre of the pedal axle. The TMT joints are the joints between the two rows of bones drawn on the foot below.

Don’t think of this as being like Method 1 or 2 but more so, because it is not. As an example a rider with average foot proportions in say size 44 would have to move the cleat back 40 – 50mm further on the shoe  than would be the case with Method 1.

I first heard about Midfoot cleat position from the gent who is most responsible for developing it and popularising it in the Western world, Gotz Heine (pronouned Gertz Hy neh). Gotz is an ex pro, chiropractor, naturopath, ex team director and currently a shoe maker. The idea behind midfoot cleat position is to take the idea of an inherently stable foot on pedal to the nth degree. When the cleat is positioned this way, ankle movement is reduced substantially but not eliminated, and the load on the calves is reduced enormously. This means that the lower leg becomes more of  a connecting rod than a stabilising mechanism which in turn frees up blood flow and oxygen to be used elsewhere.

What is also clear using torque analysis is that for a given power output at a given rpm, the torque peak for each pedal stroke is lower but torque is applied for more degrees of crank arc than is possible with forefoot cleat position. So in essence, for a given power output and cadence  the rider is able to apply force for longer per pedal stroke  but does not have to contract muscles as hard.  Typically the difference in torque peak is 10%. So if looking at a torque line graph, the peak is lower but the trough is higher for the same total torque applied per stroke as would be the case with forefoot cleat position.

Explanatory note:

Torque = pressure applied to the pedal x crank arm length

Power = torque x rpm

So what happens with riders who try Midfoot cleat position?

My experience is that the large majority of experimenters stick with it.

The effect on performance varies from rider to rider. I know one rider (multiple elite State and National TT Championship winner) who improved his PB on the State Championship TT course (43kms) by 3 minutes with no other change but moving to Midfoot cleat position and making the positional changes necessary to do that. Unfortunately that is exceptional and atypical. What is more common is  that Midfoot riders find that they recover more quickly from hard rides and from hard efforts within rides. Another typical comment is that when a rider feels they are riding right at their limit, they take noticeably longer to crack.  Many also find that they can both push a harder gear or maintain a higher cadence when necessary with ease.

There is a down side though. I’ve tried to summarise the pros and cons below.

Midfoot Pros:

1. Better ability to sustain an effort. The longer and harder the effort, the more apparent this becomes for most.

2. Quicker recovery

3. Much better ability for triathletes to run off the bike.

4. Heart rate will end up at what would be expected for a given power output but takes longer to rise at the start of a ride.

5. The calves, the smallest muscle in the pedaling kinetic chain and the furthest from the torso and thus, the most affected by vascular compression, are largely taken out of the picture. The glutes, hamstrings and quads are more heavily loaded but are the largest and most powerful muscle groups we have and cope easily.

Midfoot Cons:

1. Biomac (Gotz Heine) is the only one making production Midfoot compatible shoes. Biomac also offer a custom option. I believe some other  custom shoe makers also offer it as an option. No large manufacturer makes a midfoot compatible shoe. Until that happens, shoes need to be modifed and new eyelets fitted which is not possible on most road production shoes unless you use a 2 bolt mtb pedal. It is possible with ease on Shimano’s current road shoes with a Speedplay cleat.

2. Seat needs to drop by 25 – 40mm depending on the effect on the riders ankle movement. Bars will need to drop as well.

3. Huge toe overlap, though not an issue unless track standing or performing walking pace U turns.

4. Off the seat climbing initially feels strange (it is this which will make the rider realise how much they are used to using ankle movement with forefoot cleat position) and ability to jump in a sprint will suffer (though not top speed). Both of these issues can be eliminated or near eliminated by using Rotor Q rings on Position 4 or 5.

5. While 50kms on midfoot is enough to convince most to continue with it, it does take a week or 3 to fine tune matters like seat and bar height because of ongoing adaptations occurring in the riders pedalling technique.

Lastly, if Midfoot works well, why not move the cleat back even further?

Because for able bodied riders, ankle movement is reduced to the point where the pedaling action becomes more like a step machine than cycling, and fluency of technique is hard to achieve.


Firstly, my experience is that the great majority of riders have no accurate idea of what their cleat position is. If you are serious about your cycling, it is a good idea to find out. This post explains how to determine where the centre of the 1st mtp joint is and mark it on the shoe to use as a reference point. The explanatory note at the end of this post will give you the rest of the info that you need.

As to the answer to the heading  question above, that lies in the relative priority that an individual places on sprinting off the seat vs riding on the seat.

When sprinting off the seat, a rider moves forward over the bottom bracket and can apply more force than in seated riding because body weight is being added to the muscular force generated by the legs. Being closer to the axis of rotation of the cranks, there is potentially a much larger low leverage ‘ dead zone’ either side of top dead centre (TDC)  and bottom dead centre (BDC) in the pedal stroke than there is on a UCI legal bike when seated. The solution to this ‘dead zone’ problem that all sprinters autonomically adopt  is to yank the bottom heel upward forcefully at or just after BDC which in turns helps the top foot over TDC.  The further forward the cleat position relative to foot in shoe (up to a point), the easier this process is and the better the individual can sprint off the seat – all other things being equal.

However,  if you try sustaining an effort with BOFOPA or further forward, particularly on a climb or in a big gear with the extra heel drop that generally occurs when with those activities , the cleat position that maximises your sprint will likely disappoint for reasons outlined at the start of this post.

Method 1 is tried and true  and I have applied it to thousands of riders as the best compromise for all round performance riding. That is good ability to get the rider to the end of a race over varied terrain and still effectively sprint at the end.  This is for  the person who rides local crits, some road racing or mtb racing, maybe a few TT’s or triathlons and so on. In other words someone who has a varied riding ‘profile’ and wants to be effective at most things that can be done on a bike. It is also a much better introduction to an effective cleat position than BOFOPA for those who don’t want the bother with the ‘complication’ of Method 2 or Method 3.

Method 2 is a refinement of Method 1 but is not without ‘traps’. One of the traps is that depending on foot proportions, more often than not (there are exceptions) Method 2 will yield a more rearward cleat position again than Method1. If it does in your case, it is an ideal method for what I term ‘serious social riders’; TT riders, Audax riders, touring riders, or endurance riders. If following Method 2 gives a result of less foot over the pedal than Method 1, give it a try, but depending on what you are doing on a bike, your calves might be a limiting factor and Method 1 a better solution for this minority.

Method 3, midfoot is where a bit of commitment is needed in either buying custom shoes or in modifying existing ones, in toe overlap and other matters. It is also the cleat position that is far and away the best if the rider’s requirement is long,  sustained performance at high or low intensity. It is no accident that a disproportionate number of successful RAAM riders use a midfoot cleat position. It is also the position I would advise as being the best for triathlon (a study confirming this will be made public soon)  because the much lower loading on the calves leads to increased performance when running off the bike.  Specialist TT riders should investigate it too. This is not the best cleat position if you are a specialist crit rider who needs to sprint frequently to close gaps etc.

A lot of people roll their eyes or shake their heads when the subject of Midfoot cleat position comes up. All I will say is that if you have tried it,  your opinion is valid whether you enjoyed or disliked the experience. If you haven’t tried it, you don’t have an informed opinion. You are speculating.

Why the focus on reducing load on the calves?

When we push on the pedals the common simple view is that the gluteals extend the hip and the quadriceps extend the knee. That is not quite accurate. The hamstrings play a role in assisting the glutes and in controlling the rate of contraction of the quads. All you have to do is place a hand in the belly of your hamstrings while pedaling to feel that the hamstrings are contracting on the down stroke even though the muscle group is extending as a whole. The hamstring tendons cross the knee joint attaching to both the tibia and fibula . Below the knee the gastrocnemius (major bulk of the calves) tendons cross the knee and attach to the femur. Because both the hamstrings and gastrocs work across the knee, the net effect of contraction in both is help the quads extend the knee. But the further forward the cleats relative to foot in shoe, the harder the calves (gastrocs and soleus) have to also work to help stablilise ankle and foot. My working theory, (I call it this because it seems to hold up empirically) is that when the calves are loaded heavily enough for long enough, they are the first muscle group involved in the pedaling action to ‘give up’ which affects pedaling action in a variety of ways. One of them being the  ‘dead’ quads feeling familiar to many who have their cleats too far forward.

All the cleat positioning methods above have a positive effect on reducing the load on the calves and giving a much more solid feel to foot on pedal than BOFOPA.. Which one you choose will depend on your interest in the subject and what kind of riding you prioritise. Which one I choose for a client depends on what their needs are, what type of riding profile they have and how interested they are in experimenting. Some general guidance:

Method 1 is ideal for road, criterium and mtb racing.

Method 2 is ideal for TT, Triathlon, Audax, serious social riding, recreational riding or any event where there tends not be sudden changes of pace.

Method 3 is ideal for any event requiring sustained effort, whether of high or low intensity. TT, Triathlon, Audax, long road races and serious social riding.

There are exceptions but which one you choose is up to you.

Lastly, these 3 methods are an attempt to give readers a much better point of entry into the world of positioning their cleats than BOFOPA. However, if you are a non racing rider who doesn’t need to prioritise the ability to sprint off the seat or ride with frequent and severe accelerations there is no problem using a cleat position further back than Methods 1 and 2 describe but further forward than Method 3. In between those zones is not “No Man’s Land” where you should not trespass by placing your cleats there. It is fine to place them in the ‘in between zone’. Doing so will give better ability to sustain effort and feel very secure under foot, but as you move your cleats further behind  Methods 1 and 2, this will always come at the cost of decreased ability to accelerate very hard. So it is fine for recreational riders or distance riders but not recommended for performance riders. As always, there is the occasional exception to this general ‘rule’.

Thank you for reading.

Explanatory note: If you have read “Why Bikefitters Shouldn’t Chew Their Nails” and determined a reference mark for the centre of the ball of the foot on your shoes using the method outlined in that post; the rest of the procedure for placing your cleats (once you’ve determined where you want them) is as follows.

1.  Place your bike on an indoor trainer and pedal for 10 minutes, warming up until you are riding with reasonable load. The load needs to be heavy enough for you to be working hard but without sacrificing technique. Observe the angle of your feet on the pedals. It may be toe in, toe out or straight ahead. It may vary between feet. Make a mental note of that angle.

2.  Remove your shoes and place one of them in the pedal. Make sure that crank arm is forward and horizontal. Viewing from the opposite side of the bike (so that you can see the pen mark on the shoe and its’ relationship to the pedal axle), make sure that the shoe is leveled between where the sole joins the upper at mid heel, and where the sole joins the upper underneath the ball of the foot. With many shoes this will give the appearance of being heel down but what we are trying to achieve is leveling the foot inside the shoe. Most shoes have a ‘heel lift’ in the shoe last shape and a sole that is thickens underneath the cleat mounting area, so the heel will appear to be down when the foot is level.

3.  Again viewing from the opposite side of the bike, use a T square or rule held vertically, to determine where the pen mark indicating the centre of the ball of the foot is in relation to the centre of the pedal axle. Make sure that the shoe is being held in the pedal at the approximate rotational angle that you observed from above when pedaling under load. Measure the axle centre to pen mark distance and adjust forwards or backwards as necessary until you achieve the desired placement.

4.  Repeats steps 2 and 3with the other shoe.

5.  Now go for a ride and find a clear stretch of road without traffic or obstacles, accelerate to at least 30 – 35 km/h and stop pedaling with the right foot forward. Take care to keep your foot from swiveling as you stop pedaling. With the foot forward, attempt to turn the heel inwards. Is there available free play?

If not, stop and adjust the angle of the cleat. Remember: if you want your heel to move in, the nose of the cleat needs to point in towards the centre line of the bike.

If there was inward movement, continue again, accelerate to 30 – 35 km/h, stop pedaling again and attempt to move your heel outwards. Is there available freeplay?

If not, stop and adjust the angle of the cleat. Remember: if you want to move your heel outward, the nose of the cleat needs to point more outwards from the centre line of the bike.

Keep repeating this until under load, you foot position angle on the cleat allows you free movement either side of where your foot naturally wants to sit under load.

6.  Repeat step 5 on the left side.

Further Explanatory note:  Some pedal systems, notably Shimano SPD – SL with yellow tipped cleat and Look Keo with grey cleat have so little rotational adjustment range that the above process can be frustrating and time consuming. With Look Keo’s, if this is a problem, it is cheap insurance to use the red cleats instead of the grey cleats as the red version has double the rotational movement. With the SPD –SL’s, there is no extra free play option. The bottom line is that you need to be patient to get the best result possible.

7.  Ideally, the centre of the midfoot should be below the centre of the knee as the knee extends. If your hips are noticeably naturally externally or internally rotated (that is toes pointing out or toes pointing in) to a large degree while pedaling, this can be hard to achieve with most three bolt pedal systems, particularly the 2 mentioned above as angling the cleat also uses up the potential to move the cleat across the shoe. If you develop problems because of this, I would suggest Speedplay pedals because they are the only road pedal that separates the rotational and lateral cleat adjustment functions. Additonally, Speedplay make 5 different axle lengths, which between them, will accommodate most riders needs.


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This Post Has 204 Comments

  1. joe friel, an american triathlon coach has been recommending the midfoot cleat position for a couple years now as well. he says that his personal power to HR ratio improved I believe 10% after making the switch. and he has over a decade of power data to compare it to. he athletes also seem to do very well with it. he only recommends it for time trialists and and triathletes.

    i tried the midfoot cleat position by drilling a pair of old MTB pedals last year. felt MUCH more powerful but i’ve got some big asymmetries that were more pronounced with the midfoot cleats.

    i also hit my left shoe with my front wheel while turning at high speed and crashed pretty spectacularly on my 1st ride, so they can be dangerous if you are not careful.

    it feels like you are switching from gas car to a diesel truck. more power, just not as snappy, as steve said.

    i asked a world renowned physical therapist about this topic last winter and he said the research on this cleat position did not show any advantages…steve, do you know of any literature supporting midfoot cleats?

    he explained that the calf muscles contribute to maximal power so when you take them away with a midfoot cleat you lose that power.

    i only recently thought about it in another way though. say you are doing a bench press exercise and your maximum effort is 100KG. adding a car jack in between you and the weight stack will not improve the amount of weight you can lift, even if you enlist the aid of the car jack. your shoulders are the limiters in this movement, just as your glutes/quads/hamstrings are the limiters in cycling motion…even if your calves are quite strong.

    great post. my interest in this pedal position is renewed!

    1. G’day Eric,
      Joe bumped into Gotz a few years ago and Gotz triggered his interest as he did mine. I’m also aware of studies that show there is no advantage but the ones that I’ve seen allowed no habituation time. That is that athletes who are used to pedalling with a forefoot cleat position were changed to midfoot and told “go for it” without more than 30 mins or so to get used to the different muscle firing sequence dictated by a massive change in cleat position.

      I’ll explain, force feedback from the feet as well as the position in space of the rider over the bike determines any individuals motor pattern (muscle firing sequence) while pedalling. This is a learnt behaviour. If someone instantly changes your position or that of anyone else , the motor pattern doesn’t instantly change with it. The rider still fires muscles in the same sequence that they are used to for a period that varies individually from hours to weeks, meaning they are out of sync with the demands of the position. The best way to learn a new motor pattern in a new position is to ride that new position at low to moderate intensity only, for 3 weeks. At those intensities we adapt because the cardiovascular and muscular systems are not under pressure. At high intensities the rider instantly falls back into a motor pattern they are used to but which is out of sync with the demands of the new position.

      I have yet to see a study on midfoot cleat position that allows for a reasonable habituation period. Even so, the studies I have seen showed that the subjects performed no worse and those that need to run off the bike, were able to run to substantially quicker. That the subjects performed no worse, despite the lack of habituation leaves open the question as to how they would perform with reasonable habituation time. I’ve also learned to ignore comments from anyone who does not have first hand experience with midfoot. The idea excites an emotive response rather than a rational one in some people.

      It is not necessarily the best solution for every rider or for every type of riding as I will explain when I finish this as yet unfinished post, but it is a valid option that is well worth trying.

      Your physio is partly right by the way; the calves through force couple with the hamstrings help the quads extend the knee at high load and I plan to talk about that later in this unfinished post. One last word, the most common mistake that most people make when trying midfoot is to have their seat height too high. Midfoot requires a greater end in the knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke than forefoot cleat position.

    2. I have a different thought experiment. In weight lifting, when doing squats, does rising up on the balls of the feet allow you to lift more weight? No. Second thought experiment: When riding a mountain bike without cleats, where do you stand on the pedal? I always stand with the pedal under my arch.

      1. Friel got the idea from Gotz Heine as did I and Gotz has kept him up to date on research since. And Eric, your right; asymmetries can worsen with midfoot because ankle movement reduces and many people use more ankle movement on one side than the other when pedalling as an automatic compensatory mechanism for LLD’s, inability to sit square on the seat and so on.

        I’ve got more injuries than most and had to take a methodical step by step process at tackling issues I was vaguely aware of that a midfoot cleat position highlighted to me. I’ve enjoyed the process and am a mid foot convert for life.

        For others, I’m happy for them to make their own decisions and accept their choice either way.

  2. Just a comment…. it beats me why Speedplay Zero, arguably the best road pedal system on the market today, persists in supplying those black plastic standard baseplates with very limited fore/aft cleat movement potential when they could just as easily extend their standard plastic baseplates to equal their aluminium extender (part #13300?) baseplates. It wont cost them a cent and greatly improve the product. I sent them “customer feedback” a while ago.

    Re measuring centre of pedal axle and ball-of-foot in method 1. I think for most people the method is just too hard to be *accurate*, even to last 2mm. What I do (when I buy new shoes) is simply slide my (size 46 shoe) Speedplay Zero Extender aluminium baseplate cleats as far back as it can go, I figured it is safer than trying to figure out where 14mm really is…. I think it’s better to be a few mm too far back to the heel than the other way around. My calf and achilles have been thanking me for that since my Steve Hogg cyclefit in mid 2008!

    Great post Steve! Keep on rolling!
    Yuri B. Melbourne.

    1. G’day Yuri,
      I think there are a few problems in having a longer plastic baseplate. Once more rearward than the ‘normal’ cleat mounting area, the shape and curve of shoes soles varies a lot from brand to brand. With the part no. 13330, the plug in adaptors that allow the baseplate to conform to the sole are still in the same position as those of the plastic shorter baseplate but with extra aluminium extension of 13330 cantilevered back from that unsupported. The alu baseplate is strong enough to withstand pedaling loads with the rear mounted cleat position of the two choices but I don’t see how a plastic baseplate would be strong enough.

      Re your other point; I agree, if in doubt, a more rearward cleat position is a lesser evil than a too far forward one.

      I’m glad that you’re still going well.

  3. Great stuff and very interesting. Having trouble via “link” for ball of foot location. Could you recommend another way to get info.

    Thanks, Rick

  4. hey steve,

    in your opinion/experience, does the lowering of the seat generally take care of any necessary fore/aft changes due to the change to a midfoot cleat position?

    1. G’day Eric,
      Not necessarily. I advise revisiting seat setback once a midfoot conversion has taken place. Basically at high load and assuming reasonable function and on bike pelvic stability, the rider should be using their arms as relaxed props, not ‘structural supports’ with the great majority of their weight borne on the seat. Many people who convert to midfoot find that they can move their seats forward because the greater stability of feet on pedal improves on seat stability. This is not a universal ‘rule’, just an observation because there are plenty of exceptions.

      Seat setback will be the subject of an upcoming post.

  5. Hi Steve
    What effect do different shoe types have on the cleat location? I notice that Shimano shoes for example seem to have quite an exaggerated toe pitch compared to Bont for example which have a relatively flat sole. I imagine then that the relative foot in shoe positions are not the same.
    Many thanks again for your generous and detailed information.

    1. G’day Michelle,
      I don’t think toe lift in shoe lasts makes a lot of difference to cleat position. Heel lift does though. Most manufacturers have reduced heel lift in cycling shoes substantially over the last 15 or so years which is a good thing. Too much heel lift creates problems when cycling and cleat position needs to move even further back in an effort to reduce the ill effects of heel lift.
      Why Shimano have the degree of toe lift they do I’m not sure. I run a pair of high toe lift Shimano shoes and another pair with little toe lift and can’t tell the difference. Possibly others are more sensitive than I am.
      Anyone reading know why Shimano do this?

    2. Just a brief followup if I may Steve. You use the 1st MTP joint where many others use the head of the first metatarsal. Why do you chose this as your reference point?
      Also, when levelling the shoe at the crank, how do you compensate for shoes (like shimano) whose sole continues into the heel cup and therefore doesn’t effectively meet the upper until virtually the midheel?
      Many thanks again.

      1. G’day Michelle,
        I’m not sure what others do. I use the joint line because it is easy to find with a bit of practice and is a more clearly defined location than the “head of the 1st MT”. If using the head of the 1st MT, what part?
        Top, bottom, middle?
        Which ever choice as viewed from the side or as viewed from the top etc?

        It is a large protrusion and I find it more repeatable to use the joint line because it is a more clearly defined point. I use the vertical midpoint of the joint line as viewed from the side. Once I find the joint line and to test accuracy, I place a pen tip where I think the vertical midpoint is and then gently dorsiflex the subject’s toe. If the pen tip doesn’t move, that is the midpoint or axis of the joint. If the pen tip moves, then that isn’t the axis.

        As to the second part of your question, can you be a bit more explicit?

        I’m not sure what you mean by compensate. What I’m always trying to do is to level the foot but because shoes have a sole thickness that varies from toe to heel as well as differing degrees of toe lift and heel lift in the last (as viewed from the side) there is always an element of ‘guesstimation’ in this. I’m big on trying to reduce variables but this is one area where that is not completely possible.

      2. Thank you again Steve for your thoughtful reply. By now I’m sure you have guessed I wear Shimano shoes!
        I guess by compensate, I mean have a foolproof method of levelling the shoe when it is not entirely clear where the sole would meet the upper due to the carbon heel cup continuing much higher to wrap around the calcaneus. Obviously, small errors in this angle can translate to large errors in the fore/aft when we are talking mm measurements.

      3. G’day Michelle,
        Yes, I did guess as much . What Shimano shoes do you have?
        The only shoes I’ve seen where the sole wraps up around the heel are Bonts, the top of the line Lake and shoes of similar ‘bathtub’ construction. I’ve never seen a Shimano shoe with that type of construction.

        With bathtub construction shoes there is no foolproof method so the best guesstimation you can make has to suffice. Even marking the centre of the 1st MTP is not foolproof on bathtub construction shoes because the carbon ‘sole’ wraps up around the edges of the feet preventing me using my usual method for transferring the centre of the 1st MTP joint space to the outside of the shoe. The only solution I have found is to find the joint space at the top of the joint, place my ‘lump’ on it and then fit the shoe, mark the ‘lump’ on top of the shoe and then transcribe that mark further down the side of the shoe.

        This is far from ideal but the best compromise I have found to date other than drilling holes in the bathtub carbon shell.

        Sorry I digress. I’m still not sure what you mean because nothing I’ve said above applies to any Shimano shoe that I have seen.

  6. Hi Steve, just a quick question, what is the relationship between saddle fore/aft and cleat for/aft? For example, if I moved my cleats back 10mm, would be saddle need to be lowered a little and moved forward? Or just lowered as the seat tube angle would move it forward a little anyway.

    I have also read your article positioning saddle fore/aft using balance point; when in the drops pushing a big gear on a trainer. I don’t have a trainer, so I can’t experiment with that method yet.

    And lastly, thanks for sharing your fitting knowledge with us!


    1. G’day Lawrence,
      I don’t know that there is necessarily a predictable relationship between the two as individual response to a change in either varies significantly.
      If you move your cleats back 10mm, then *generally* seat height would drop somewhat because you are reducing ankle movement somewhat as well as extending the leg more. I underlined ‘generally’ because I’ve seen exceptions where a more rearward cleat position caused a change to the rider’s pedalling technique to the extent that seat height could be left unchanged or on rare occasions raised.

      As to the rest; get yourself an indoor trainer. A cheap Tacx wind trainer will do. I’m a fan of wind trainers.

    1. G’day Eric,
      On a personal level yes. I ride a midfoot cleat position and Rotors have solved or near solved my lack of sprinting ability compared to when I rode a forefoot cleat position. That is in position 4. Feedback from other midfoot riders suggests that position 4 is probably the way to go for midfoot cleat position users.
      For forefoot cleat position users, I get mixed reports for Rotors with the majority being positive; some saying no difference in performance, a small minority saying a lessening of performance.

  7. I am waiting for your writing about pedaling technique (heel dropping; run of the mill; toe down etc). Why some choose one and not the other? I look at the pro-riders and all have differnt pedaling technique. I understand that under high load a rider tends to drop their heels, but what about “normal” pedaling on a flat road?

    Now, that Philippe Gilbert is the man of the moment in cycling, winning last three races (Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège), i watched him carefully. He is so extreme in toe down – heel up! Why?


    1. G’day Mircea,
      I’ll put that on the list of posts to write. The next large
      post will be in answer to your letter about pelvic shapes and how to sit on
      a bike well.

  8. Hi Steve,

    When you get time I have a Q re midfoot cleat positioning (mcp) & sprinting. As you know I have been using mcp since March last year & very happy with it. I also am using the Rotor Q rings on position 2. When you initially ordered them in for me a couple of years ago I put them on pos 3 as in the instructions & they felt ok. After reading the ins. re optimal position for them I changed them to pos 4 but they didn’t feel right. I took them off and then when I saw you in March last year you said b/c I push myself back in the saddle when I ride under load the Q rings would work better for me in pos 2. As soon as you put them on in that pos they felt “normal” & I haven’t changed them and again are very happy with them.

    I have started to do some sprinting training as some of our more impt races are coming up. I know you have said with mcp your jump in a sprint will be a little bit less but your top end shouldn’t be. I have been experimenting with sprinting seated & standing. Watching the pro’s as all of us keen cyclist do they all sprint standing. On reading this post again I understand why re the cleat pos they use. For me using the mcp getting to the line in front of my mates seems to be best if I initially stand to help get my cadence up then finish off my sprint seated. I probably need to experiment & certainly practice more but I seem to achieve a better top speed seated.
    From your knowledge & personal experience with mcp is this what you would expect? Also note your comment in this post about you locating your q rings on pos 4 to improve your sprinting. In your opinion would it be worthwhile me trying pos 4 again?

    May the best team win tonight as long as they are Maroon!



    1. G’day Darren,
      In position 2, a Q ring has more teeth engaged earlier in the pedal stroke than it does in position 3,4 or 5. That suits you better seated but when off the seat you are further forward over the bottom bracket and will feel better with more chain ring teeth engaged later in the pedal stroke; i.e. position 5.

      I would suggest moving to position 4 for all of your riding on both chain rings and spending a good month riding exclusively like that. That is long enough for habituation. At the end of that time you will either be happy with 4 for both seated and off the seat riding or you won’t. I think it is very likely but not completely certain that you will be happy with some time spend to accustom muscles to firing in the appropriate sequence. If you aren’t happy after a month, then you will never be. If that is what ends up happening, we’ll talk about Plan B.

      Re the footy, and without any disrespect to the mighty Maroons (who will be playing without ring ins tonight for a change ) naturally I’m hoping for an upset win by the Blues. With all the bs that has gone on the game should be a cracker!

  9. Thanks Steve for your prompt reply. I have one of my biggest events of the year coming up in two weekends time (Tour de Tablelands….3 road races & 1 tt over 3 days). I’m thinking about waiting till after this to change my chain rings position to no. 4 or do you think I should do it straightaway? Also do you think I should change my tt bike’s q ring orientation as well or leave them at no. 2 as nearly all of tting is performed seated?

    Thanks again & have a good weekend.


    1. G’day Darren,
      First rule of racing; never race anything you haven’t
      ridden for several weeks. As you use a midfoot cleat position, I think it
      likely that position 4 would be worthwhile but the only way to know is to do
      it. If the race is important to you and you are performing well, I would
      leave the change in orientation until after the race. Say hi to Des, Kerry
      and of course Kirsty.

  10. I’m memorized reading some of the post in this blog. Very thoughtful stuff! I have a question about the various methods, namely 2 and 3 (midfoot). What happens if you use a cleat position that is somewhere between methods 2 and 3? Would you gain some of the advantages of the midfoot and alleviate some of the disadvantages? Or, is it one or the other, where if you pick a position between the two (ignoring the specific anatomical markers you lay out) will you induce injury?

    1. G’day Nate,
      Nothing untoward will happen if you use a cleat position
      halfway between Method 2 and Method 3. The 3 Methods are not graven in
      stone. They are an attempt on my part to give a more functionally realistic
      frame of reference for cleat position than the ubiquitous”ball of the foot
      over the pedal axle” recommendation that I’m sick to death of reading about.

      By all means experiment. If you are sensible you will be fine.

  11. Hi Steve,

    I now know that through cycling I have damaged my lateral meniscus on my left knee with no actual injury trauma. The pain is when my knee adducts, when it moves in towards the centre line of my body. Is it posssible I am loading my knee when my knee is to far in towards the bike frame and if so what would be causing that?
    I do have custom fitted orthotics already.

    Thanks Will

    1. G’day Will,
      How many possibilities do you want?
      There are plenty. Which one or combination applies to you I don’t know. If you have damaged the lateral meniscus of the left knee some factor of combination of factors is challenging the plane of movement of your left knee. The task for you is to find out what causes this loading. The two most common reasons are an inability to sit squarely on the seat or a less than ideal footplant cant on the pedal that hasn’t been compensated for.

      Several questions:
      1. Does one leg feel stronger or more fluent than the other?’
      If so, which?
      2. Mount your bike on a trainer and warm up thoroughly. Take your jersey off. Have an observer standing above (on a stool or chair) and behind you. Which hip do you drop or which hip is further forward than the other?

      Let me know and I’ll attempt to help. Knee issues are usually easy to solve. At least in person. Email is harder as I’m sure you understand.

      1. Good Afternoon Steve,

        I will aim to answer those questions shortly, and thank you very much for your help. As a possible aside can having a cleat mounted midfoot eliminate some of the loading issues with knees or am I getting mixed up?

        I appreciate you are limited by email and the fact that you even reply to people is very generous already in my books.

        Thanks again Will

      2. G’day Will,
        With the right advice you should be able to sort your knee out with any decent cleat position option. Midfoot alone is not a solution to knee pain. My feeling is that the plane of movement of your left knee is being constantly challenged and that is what caused the meniscal damage and what continues to cause you pain. I’m happy to try and help but I need you to answer the questions I asked earlier in this exchange.

  12. Hey Steve,
    Are you marking the joint on the first metatarsal, the obvious joint the one where ther is an arrow pointing at in your photo here or is it further back seems like there might be a small indent? I’m a little confused now. Thanks for answering.

    1. G’day Duane,
      Read “Why Bikefitters Shouldn’t Chew Their Nails”. The
      answer to your question is in the first 4 or 5 paragraphs.

  13. Good Morning Steve,
    What kind of problems will you run into if you move cleats as far back as they can go on the Speedplay extender plates, in onther words, if a cleat is to far back what kind of problems will you see?

    1. G’day Duane,
      There is no ‘problem’ per se with more rearward cleat movement. As the cleat moves backward, progressively ankle movement is reduced (and this combined with the altered cleat position means seat height needs to change and almost always drop) and ‘snap’ in off the seat accelerations and sprint efforts is reduced BUT often at the improvement of the rider to sustain effort. So it is a trade off. Method 1 is for all round performance riding for those who want to sustain effort but not sacrifice their jump in a sprint or an attack; or those who want a simple approach.
      Method 2 is variable because it is based on foot proportions. Method 3 or anywhere between Method 2 and 3 tends to even out torque production but this can come at the cost of sprinting ability to varying degrees.

      Further back can also highlight and exacerbate existing problems. Many people pedal with a slightly different ankle movement and foot angle (toe down / heel down etc) on each leg. This is their autonomic way of compensating for a measurable or functional LLD, OR a Challenge to their position from whatever source. Reducing ankle movement by moving cleats a long way will not create a problem if done properly. However, reducing ankle movement can highlight or increase an existing problem that the rider wasn’t previously aware of.

  14. Hi Steve,
    I have a question pertaining to cleat setup. I run speedplay pedals zero and have my cleats positioned as per method No. 2 above. I am trying to determine if the lateral position of the cleats is correct or not. Right now I have the Speedplay cleats positioned in the middle laterally.

    My problem is that the inside of my shoes scrape the cranks significantly. There is no heel overlap, but on the shoe close to the ankle bone (would include a picture if I could…) I have Specialized shoes and it is from the part of the shoe where the ratchet buckle attaches close to the ankle. There is enough scraping that I have actually worn large grooves 1-2 mm deep in my carbon cranks. At first I thought that it could be fixed by simply limiting the float on the pedals to make this shoe/crank overlap mechanically impossible, but this only caused knee pain and loss of power.. Moving the cleat laterally so that my shoe is further from the crank arm (increase Q-factor) does not seem to help either. This problem does not happen on my mountain bike.

    Other info: I am a racer, ride 15-20 hours a week. I have no other shims/wedges and run only the insoles that came with my shoes (Specialized Red footbed). I know that I am ‘right side dominant’ and under load my Left foot tends to wiggle around more compared to my right. I also feel that my knees track somewhat inside where my knees almost scrape (or want to scrape) top tube, my left more so than my right. Also my Left hamstring/hip flexor is tighter than my right, so there is probably some functional asymmetry here. No leg-length difference that I know of.

    I have read through all your articles and find the information incredibly useful. Thank you for sharing your insight!


    1. G’day Alex,
      Here is what is likely to be going on. You don’t have a
      problem on you MTB because of the more upright torso position is kinder to
      you than a dropped handle bar position on a road bike. The left side issues
      are all down to you dropping or rotating your right hip forward on your road
      bike. When this happens, the left leg overextends (hamstring / hip flexor
      discomfort) and the plane of movement of the left leg is challenged ( left
      foot wiggling around). So a suggested plan of action would be:
      1. Read the posts on seat height and make sure that too high a seat isn’t a
      contributing factor.
      2. Make sure that your reach down and out to the bars is slightly
      conservative. That will help minimise any existing tendency to pelvic
      3. Read the foot correction posts. Start with arch support as suggested.

  15. Hi Steve.

    I have size 43 shoe and have setup my cleats so that the ball (1st Met-head) is roughly 15+mm ahead of the spindle. I have lowered my saddle considerably from my previous position and moved it forward somewhat. The setup finally feels comfortable but my question to you is what am I sacrificing by doing this?

    As a side note, I have Speedplays with extension plates. Since the change, my calf cramping has disappeared and feel like I can pedal the same power with less heart rate. Everything seems rosy but again what am I sacrificing?

    1. G’day Velotoday,
      I’m not sure that I understand your question.
      Sacrificing by comparison with what?
      Maybe you’re sacrificing calf cramping and lower heart rate / power output
      efficiency as you said.

      I have no knowledge of what you do or of how you function on a bike so I am
      at a loss to answer. Can you provide more info please?

  16. steve mentioned in a previous post that you sacrifice some of your “jump” in a quick acceleration, and i would say that’s true from the little i have experimented with it.

    goetz heine believes that, once adapted, you can have just as strong of an acceleration though. i’m not totally sure i agree.

    steve, what are your thoughts on that?

    1. G’day Eric,
      I can only speak from my own experience and those of riders I
      know who have chosen to convert to midfoot. This is: Accelerating hard off
      the seat in too high a gear is as good or possibly even better than with
      modified forefoot cleat position. Doing the same in the individually ideal
      gear or too low a gear is worse. However, if using Rotor Q rings in position
      4, or as Gotz does, using a Biopace ring rotated clockwise 1 hole from its
      intended mounting position, improves things markedly. To the point or almost
      to the point, where there is little difference.

  17. Hi Steve

    I changed my Rotor Q Rings from pos 2 to 4 as you suggested and they felt fine straight away. I am just starting to build up again for another one of our major races in 8 weeks so not doing too much intensity for the next few weeks but I don’t think I’ll have any trouble adapting to the change & hopefully the it will help my sprinting. I am thinking that because I now use the mid foot cleat position this has helped this feel good straight away as previously I tried pos 4 without mid foot and I didn’t like it at all and it caused me to take off the q rings & revert back to round chain rings.
    Good game of footy coming up in a couple of weeks. Good to see Souths have a win last weekend. I’ll let you know how my sprinting is going in a month or so. Des & Kerry say hello. Say hi to Margaret & kids for us.Regards Darren & Kirsty.

    1. G’day Darren,
      I’m glad that position 4 seems to work better. You’re
      about the 20th person using midfoot cleat position who’s felt position 4 is
      the pick. I don’t know whether position 4 / midfoot is a universal thing but
      starting to look like it might be.

      About time the Bunnies had a win. They’re playing better with a more or less
      no name forward pack with converted wingers and 5/8 than they were before
      the big names got injured.

      Blues vs Maroons. Dunno. Down here the media seem to think the Blues are a
      shoo in based on the 2nd Origin game. I didn’t see it that way. I thought
      either side was one missed tackle away from a runaway try for large parts of
      the match. Maroons at home……….going to be tough. Your neighbour Matt
      had a red hot go but they swarmed all over him each time he got the ball.

      Say hi to all and hope you haven’t finished all that Belgian beer yet!

  18. Hello Steve,

    Can you please provide information regarding which road shoe manufacturers (3 hole cleat pattern) allow the furthest rearward cleat position (excluding arch/ midfoot cleats) for a given shoe size (“all other variables being equal”, your favorite phrase!)? Perhaps a listing in descending order, most rearward to least rearward?

    Many, many thanks,

    1. G’day Doug,
      This is actually a tough question to answer. I have found it
      pointless in measuring the cleat mounting hole position from any landmark on
      the sole of a shoe and making a judgement, because shoe sole design and how
      the upper relates to the sole and how a particular upper locates the foot
      varies quite a bit from brand to brand. So the list below is based on the
      brands that that I have the least amount of trouble with achieving a
      desirable cleat position for a client to the ones where I have the most
      amount of trouble as far as gaining whatever cleat position I am seeking for
      them. The list only refers to 3 hole mounts, not direct mount 4 hole
      Speedplay shoes.

      *Best Group for a rearward cleat position*
      Shimano, Gaerne, Diadora, Lake, Specialized in no particular order

      *Next Best Group for a rearward cleat position*
      Sidi, Louis Garneau (recent models) in no particular order

      *Worst Group for a rearward cleat position*
      Mavic, Pearl Izumi, Adidas, Vittoria, Bontrager, Carnac in no particular

      Pedal choice also plays a part in this. I’ve listed the popular road pedals

      *Pedal with most rearward cleat adjustment*
      Speedplay X series, Zero or Light Action when combined with part no. 13330
      extender baseplate.

      *Second best*
      Time I Click, Time RXS, Keywin

      *Third best*
      Shimano Spd SL

      *Fourth best*
      Speedplay X series, Zero or Light Action with standard baseplate, Look Keo

      There are two other variables; how well the shoe fits (never be tempted to
      go up a size to gain width; buy a wider shoe) and the proportions of the
      riders foot. Long toes on a shorter foot versus short toes on a longer foot
      for same foot length etc.

      I hope this helps.

  19. Hi Steve,
    Your web is great.
    I am an audax type rider and i use sidi mountain bike shoes and shimano touring a600 pedals. I drilled some holes in the shoes and now my cleats are about 4.5cm behind the ball of foot. I like this set up a lot, and would like to experiment the mid foot cleat position, i have three questions for you:
    1. Where should i drill the holes to get the cleats in the correct mid foot position?
    2. What kind of hardware do you use to make sure that the screws and bolts do not bother the underside of the feet?
    3. Paris brest paris starts on the 21st of august: is there enough time to adapt or should i leave this experiment for september?
    Thanks a lot for your help

    1. G’day Ranieri,
      Answer to Q1: Drill the holes so that the cleat is
      mounted under the highest point of the arch of the foot.

      Answer to Q2: Nothing out of the ordinary. Try to make sure that the fixing
      bolts don’t protrude through the soles into the shoe but even if they do,
      they will be under the highest point of your arch which means that unless
      you have flat feet, there will be no screw to foot contact.

      Answer to Q3: You should be able to adapt in time without problem (assuming
      there are no hiccups) but I would wait until after PBP. I don’t know what
      sized your foot is but I’m a 44 and midfoot leaves the centre of the ball of
      my foot 60mm in front of the pedal axle. If your feet are smaller than mine,
      you are getting towards midfoot. If larger, you still have a lot of foot
      over the pedal. Even so, I would wait. Why?
      Because PBP only comes along every fourth year. You have trained for 4 years
      as you are so why add a variable this late in the day. Midfoot cleat
      position is easy to adapt to but what might take a bit of time is getting
      seat height right and any changes in foot correction and so on. Why put
      pressure on yourself when you have 4 years to experiment post PBP until
      next time?

      1. Hi Steve,
        thanks for your message, i will take your advice and wait. I wear size 47 shoes and putting the cleats further back to mid foot position will also force me to place the cleats further outwards because of the shape of the sole reducing q factor, does this depend on shoe model or ii is like this for everyone?
        Also i would like to ask you if no hands riding can detect a sympton that i am not sitting properly on my bike. When riding with hands on the bar i feel fine, but when i rise and ride with no hands after 10-15 pedal strokes in order to go straight i need to lean the bike on the right because my weight sort of shifts to the left, its not a big deal because i can still eat and stretch with ease but i would not like it to be a symptom of a major problem.
        Thanks a lot in advance

      2. G’day Ranieri,
        It depends on your shoes. The easiest way to go midfoot is to get a pair of Biomacs. Failing that, Shimano are by far the easiest shoes to convert. The centre of the cleat should be 45mm inboard of the widest part of the shoe. Get over PBP and if still interested, we’ll talk more.

        Re your taking your hands off the bars; it seems like you are not sitting squarely on the seat.

  20. Steve, I am new to the endurance scene and have stumbled on this subject because of the foot pains I have been getting regularly at the 4.5 – 5 hour time point. When the pain sets in, it actually feels like the cleat is too far forward and is alleviated if I unclip and pedal with my mid foot. The problem I am having right now is not whether or not to try a more mid-foot position, but rather when to do it. I have an event coming up and I am afraid that due to these foot pains, I will not be able to finish. If I choose a Method 1 position, could it adversely affect some other muscle group (ie hamstrings) because I will not have time to acclimate to the new position?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. G’day mtnhack,
      You’ve asked a hard question to answer because you
      don’t tell me where your cleats are positioned now. I suggest you use the
      method outlined in the post to determine what your effective cleat position
      is before going further. That way you have a basis for comparison. You may
      find for instance, that you already have a Method 1 or more rearward cleat
      position and that the problem is related to seat height of lack of foot
      correction or your foot morphology. So, start with establishing a baseline
      measurement of where your cleats are now, relative to foot in shoe.

      1. Thanks for the quick reply. My current setup is dead center BOFOPA under zero-load and shoe at horizontal level. I was fit in a lab in Boulder, CO based on video analysis, but have since swapped shoes. I went to the old standard of BOFOPA, but now see that heel drop under load may be throwing that measurement severely off.

        I thought about foot correction being a solution to my issue, but I thought I would attempt cleat position first as it is something I can do on my own. Is this a bad idea? Is there a flow chart of possible solutions that should be attempted?

        Thanks again. Your articles and assistance are invaluable.

      2. G’day mtnhack,
        If you are using BOFOPA, that is the likely major reason for your foot pain / numbness. As you drop the heel there is tension in all the ligaments and the plantar fascia under the foot. The combined effect is to put pressure on the metatarsal heads and there are sensitive
        nerves between each pair and that is probably what is causing your issue.

        Moving the cleats back to Method 1 or further will likely resolve the problem and worst case, reduce it markedly. Give it a try and let me know what happens.

      3. Steve, when thumbing through some action shots of my pedaling, I noticed that I have quite a bit more heel drop than I thought. I decided on a cleat movement of 16mm. I also moved the seat forward slightly and down a mm or so.

        I just completed a 6+ hour race with the new position and Viola! no foot pain at all. As I mentioned before, lately any ride over 4-4.5 hours resulted in extreme plantar fascia pain. Problem solved! Thank you very much.

        I did however cramp pretty severely in both hamstrings/quads, but I think it probably had more to do with the hot conditions and my extreme effort than the new position. Thoughts?

      4. G’day Mtnhack,
        I’m glad that you got a result. Re the hammie / quad cramping; it depends. If it was hot, you perspired freely and rode harder for longer than you are used to, then cramps are not really surprising. It might be positional though. If you moved your cleats back 16mm, you will almost certainly have needed to drop your seat height. Possibly up to 10mm.

        Did you do this?

        Also to, you were riding a race with a relatively new (for you) cleat position which means a change in muscle enlistment patterns that you may not be used to yet. Keep me posted.

      5. I did drop the seat, but not nearly that much (3-5mm max). I did push very hard and perspired profusely and I am sure these two things are mostly to blame, but maybe new/different muscle recruitment contributed. So I feel that I need to leave things be for the moment to see how things work out with this setup. I will let you know how things progress later in the season, but for now, thanks again for the cleat adjustment advice; it was nice to be able to finish the race AND be able to stand on my feet afterward.

      6. Hi Steve, very interested in your answer here (numb feet rider myself). You mention seat height as a potential contributor/cause. Why is that?

        Cheers James.

      7. G’day Jimbo,
        When the seat is too high, the rider will compensate. Two of the many and varied methods of compensation are as follows.

        1. Rider explosively extends the leg early in the pedal stroke with a lot of heel drop and then more or less coasts through the bottom of the pedal stroke. This will work to varying degrees on the flat but the rider doing this will struggle on climbs because he/she cannot get through BDC very well under constant load (as there is on a climb because momentum plays less of a part in getting the rider through BDC and TDC in the pedal stroke) That forceful heel drop early to midway through the down stroke puts a lot of strain on the plantar fascia and ligaments under the sole of the foot. In turn that can place stress on the metatarsal joint heads and irritate the nerve plexus between each of them.

        2. Rider forcefully plantarflexes the ankle (points the toes) at the bottom of the stroke merely to reach through BDC. These are often the riders who use excessive ankle movement. That forceful plantarflexion puts a solid load on the area of the foot above where the cleat is. If the rider uses BOFOPA or close to it, then numb or sore forefeet can be the result.

        I stress that both of these compensations CAN cause foot numbness and often do but there is large individual variance. Torque analysis of the riders that do have foot numbness caused by too high a seat will always shows a significant higher peak and lower trough in the curve than the same rider with a more sensible seat height.

  21. Hi Steve,
    I came across your site when researching new pedals/shoes for my also new road bike and I’m blown away by the amount and quality of information you provide! In your opinion, can the type of cleat, its position and setup have an impact on the development or aggravation of bunions? I know this might be an odd question, but over the last year when I taught 6+ Spinning classes every week in mtb shoes (that seemed to fit at the time) on spd pedals (of course with no mind paid to the setup of the whole thing), my feet have started to bother me. When I put the same pedals on my road bike (“I know, major faux pas for some but it’s only until I figure out what the best option is”) using the same shoes on my road bike, it really gets uncomfy (numb toes etc). Now I get it that I probably need bigger, wider, stiffer shoes (waiting for a pair of Specialized come in to try on) but I want to make sure that I also get pedals along with it that make sense. Any thoughts would be highly appreciated!

    Thanks, Caroline

    1. G’day Caroline,
      Thank you for your positive thoughts. The answer to your
      question is yes. If a shoe rubs, is too tight or is poorly set up, the
      development of bunions or the aggravation of existing ones can be the
      result. There is no problem with riding mtb shoes and pedals on a road bike
      other than they offer less options if there is the need for shimming, non
      standard foot separation distance or wedging. The other potential problem
      is that many mtb pedals and shoes rely on the tread blocks on the shoe sole
      contacting the pedal body to provide stability. Unless that happens, the
      contact area of cleat and pedal is so small that for many, their feet rock
      and roll on the pedal in a semi controlled fashion.

      One advantage of mtb shoes and pedals is that it is uncommon to find a rider
      who cannot gain Method 1 cleat position with a standard pair of shoes and
      pedals. With road shoes and pedals, I’d say that approximately 40% of my fit
      clients can’t do this unless they change to Speedplay with the optional
      extender baseplate. If it helps, there will be an article about Shoes and
      Pedals in the Publications section going up in the next few weeks. It is
      something that was published here a few years back but the basics still
      hold true. Jason (our web guy) and I have to find time to edit and load it.
      We’re trying.

      Basically, shoes need to fit well. That means they will feel 1/2 to one size
      smaller than running shoes but there should be no sense of lateral
      compression of the MTP joints or rubbing anywhere; just the feeling that the
      shoe is an extension of the foot. The rest of the info you need is contained
      in the various posts on the site. Oh, one thing more. I’ve seen my first few
      pairs of Giro shoes and they seem to have more rearward cleat mounting
      holes, relative to foot in shoe, than most other shoes out there.

  22. Hello Steve,

    First of all, sorry for my bad english and thanks for this great blog.

    Last week I changed my pedals from Keo´s to Speedplay Zero´s, so I decided to follow your methods to install the new cleats.

    I measured my feet, and right is 9mm longer than left.
    To find the best position for the cleats I used method 1 and 2.
    With method 1 there is 10mm of difference between the cleats position.
    With method 2 there is 12mm of difference between the cleats position.
    Is it important this difference of position over pedals between right and left?

    My feet are 276mm y 285mm long but the fingers are big, the 2 feet are 100mm wide.
    I´m using Sidi Ergo 2 Carbon Lite shoes on 44 EUR size, and the left foot go well but the right go tight after a pair of hours. If I use footbeds for arch support 2 feet go tight.
    Now, I changed to 45 EUR size, the feet go well with footbeds (Green Specialized BG) but at the front the feet go loosely.
    What do you recomended, to change to another shoe maker or to find a 44.5 EUR size (wich is not easy to find)?
    Are my feet “wide” or “normal”?

    Thanks for your help.

    1. G’day M Villaneuva,
      Or should I say Senor Newhouse?
      I think that is the English translation of your name but my Spanish is far
      worse than your English. Your English is fine and I understand your
      questions. 9mm difference in foot length is 1.5 shoe sizes which is a lot.
      Are you able to achieve Method 1 and Method 2 cleat positions on BOTH feet,
      or only on the larger right foot?

      If you are able to get the correct cleat position, you will probably need a
      shim under the left shoe because a 9mm shorter left foot, functionally
      shortens the left leg. On that subject, a 9mm difference in foot length
      almost certainly means that one of your legs is longer than the other or
      that you have had a large lateral pelvic tilt from an early age. Unless of
      course the difference in size is the result of a bad accident. It would be
      worth your while to read the Foot Correction post on Shimming too.

      To your problem; with such a disparity in foot size you may have to buy 2
      pairs of shoes; one for the right foot and one for the left foot. It is
      important that both shoes fit well and the size difference between them
      makes this unlikely with a single pair of shoes.

      Re foot width; for your foot length, your feet are moderately wide but not
      excessively so. I really suggest that you get a shoe that fits each foot
      which means 2 pairs in different sizes. That is the best solution to the
      shoe fitting problem. Once you have that, then position the cleats again and
      if you run into any trouble, let me know.

      1. Hello Steve,
        I come from Spain and your translation of my first name is good, 😉
        Thanks for your fast reply and helpful.

        These are all the measurements of each foot:
        Left total lenght 276mm
        Left first metatharsal joint 200mm
        Left fifth metatharsal joint 173mm
        Left cleat position Method 1 189mm
        Left cleat position Method 2 186.5mm
        Right total lenght 285mm
        Right first metatharsal joint 210mm
        Right fifth metatharsal joint 187mm
        Right cleat position Method 1 199mm
        Right cleat position Method 2 198.5mm
        Diference between cleat position using Method 1 10mm
        Diference between cleat position using Method 2 12mm

        My phisioteraphist said me something about a rotation on my left hip. I had not any accident. Can I measure the diference among my legs?
        Can I see by myself the pelvic tilt that you said?

        About the shoes, could the carbon thermoformed shoes (Bont, Shimano, Lake..) help me with the different lenght of my feet (have the same size for 2 feet and shorten one)?

        About Speedplay and shoes, is it better to go with specific 4 holes shoes or the standard 3 holes shoes?
        I see that they have an aluminium plate extender for 3 holes but, what happen when you have to extend the cleat position on a 4 holes shoe?

      2. G’day M Villaneuva,
        I would ask your physiotherapist for more
        information about the hip rotation. My experience is that when a foot size difference is as large as yours is, then there is always a functionally or measurably shorter leg. If the leg length difference is functional, then it should be able to be corrected over time with the right advice and

        Can you self measure any difference?
        This is very hard. It is better to have an X ray or scan.

        Can you see the difference?
        Yes. Face a mirror with your shirt off. Now place your thumbs underneath your rib cage and move them down until they contact the top of your pelvis.
        Almost certainly, you will see that you are higher on one side than the other.

        Re shoes; Bont will sell you a pair of shoes with different sizes for left and right. Other than that, the heat moldable shoes are not going to allow you to adjust the shoe length, only how well they fit around the foot.

        Re Speedplay compatible shoes; buy ones with the 3 hole mount NOT the 4 hole mount. You have a significant difference between left and right sides and will almost certainly need a shim under one foot. This will be a LOT easier to do if you are using a 3 hole mount shoe.

      3. Hi Steve,

        I tried to see which leg is bigger, and the left leg (small foot) is longer than the right.
        I’ll talk to my phisiotherapist and try to do a x-ray to know the exact difference between legs.

        Thanks very much for your help.

      4. G’day M,
        Yes, please do. Often the significantly longer foot is on the shorter leg or the leg that is pulled higher at the hip by a pelvic tilt. A childhood spent with one foot falling further and hitting the ground harder tends to be the reason.

  23. Hi Steve,

    Question in regards of Q-factor. Q-factor is something that seems to be of little research as far as impact on power, efficiency, comfort, etc. I was wondering if you had any advice on the topic. I was curious of the effects of going with a wider stance…going with a measurement down from the ASIS bone…similar to squat stance width? Or would it be more efficient to be in closer. Please let me know as i have noticed trends of going wider, as with Mark Cavendish and his 20mm Dura Ace pedal spindles. His stance width definitely seems wider than normal. Thanks

    1. G’day Marc,
      Ideal Q factor comes down to pelvis width and hip / lower back function. Or should I say hip lower back / dysfunction. I’ve got to get around to writing the final Foot Correction post which will deal with this topic. In the meantime, the centre of the knee should descend over the centre of the midfoot area. If the knee is further out than that, the feet need to be moved outboard under the knee. If the knee is further in, then the feet need to be moved inboard (in most circumstances).

      If one knee only sits out, then look at the pelvis and in most cases you will find the rider is not sitting squarely on the seat. In cases like this, it is often valuable to move the foot of the side that tracks well outboard too and see what results. As I keep saying, any Challenges evokes an asymmetric pattern of compensation. So often, too narrow a Q will result in the rider keeping one knee tracking well and cocking the other one out substantially.

      Re Cavendish; my mail is that he is world class inflexible which would explain the wider pedal separation.

      Re trends; I keep detailed records. Over the last 3 years, the percentage of my clients that have needed wider than standard foot separation (wider pedal axles or the addition of pedal extenders) has remained constant at 16 – 17% and the percentage that need narrower than standard foot separation (shorter than standard pedal axles) is 5%.

      I think what you are seeing isn’t so much a trend as greater availability of the means to alter foot separation distance.

  24. Steve, whats the widest pedal axle out in the market? I’m currently using 2011 crankbrothers both my bike mtb & road and as you know I can’t install those 20mm steel spaces on crankbrothers axle. I push my cleats as far in as possible to widen my stance. Is shimano pedals wider stance then Crankbrothers etc..? Or is there a manufacturer that makes longer pedal axle for these brands like shimano etc?

    1. G’day Joey,
      Most pedals measure 53 – 55 mm from crank face to centre of platform. From memory mtb Eggbeaters are wider but I can’t remember by how much. If you need wider, how much more?

      Mtb’s have a pedal separation width of 25 – 40mm wider than road pedals to start with. If you need wider again, you will need to find some mtb pedals with a wrench flat on the pedal axle and use 20, 25 or 30mm pedal spacers.

      With road pedals, Speedplay make a variety of axle lengths up to plus 12.7mm. In addition, pedal spacers are the only option I’m aware of.

  25. Hi Steve,

    I’m a long term follower of yours and commend you on your dedication to not only publishing your fitting tips but responding to questions, particularly given you run you own business.

    I have a question regarding ranges of cleat adjustment. I had a pair of Pearl Izumi mountain bike shoes with Shimano SPDs. I was exceptionally happy with the cleat position of these and completed the 2006 etape du tour with them on my trusty mountain bike. In 2007 I switched to Gaerne road shoes and Look Keos set as far back as they would go. I have always felt like I’m on my tip toes with these and the local bike shop was less than helpful and suggested I come in for a fitting. Given the single factor change and your recommendations on how to select a good fitter, their offer was not one I felt inclined to take up.

    Some 3 years later and the feeling is still not going away so I decided to get the measuring square out tonight and see just what the difference from the back of the heel is between the two setups, being a horder, I didn’t throw away the old pair. The difference is 8mm and it’s a somewhat of a relief that I’m not imagining it. This is slightly tempered by kicking myself for putting up with it for so long, probably because I have a tolerant body that never complains.

    So my question is, will Shimano SPD SL or Time pedals give me the 8mm rearward adjustment I desire or will I need to bite the bullet and fork out for Speedplays with the extender plate?


    1. G’day Toby,
      First, measuring the cleat position from the heel of two
      completely different brands and types of shoes is an unreliable means of quantifying relative cleat position. Better to measure where the foot is in the shoe as outlined in “Why Bikefitters Don’t Chew Their Nails” and “Power to the Pedal”

      However, everything you have said suggests that the basic picture you are describing is correct; that your road cleats are further forward relative to foot in shoe than your mtb cleats. What to do?
      Keos have poor rearward adjustment ability, noticeably less, than the old Look Deltas. Spd SL’s are better and Time better again in this regard but you won’t get 8mm out of either of them (bearing in mind that your measuring method is flawed and the true difference may be more or less than 8mm).
      I would suggest that you accurately measure the cleat position relative to foot in shoe for each pair of shoes. If the difference is 5mm or less; then Time’s will solve the problem. If more than that, sorry, Speedplay with extender plates is the way to go.

      1. Duane,
        Half way down is a long article on a bike shop. You’re a better
        man than me. I can’t find it. If it’s important, do a cut and paste.

  26. Hi Steve,

    Is it possible to have difference between 2 1st MTP joints by 6-7mm ?
    I found out that on my right feet my 1st MTP joint is 6-7mm closer to the heel than the left foot, so cleat is also 6-7mm more back then the left.I tripple check it but always get the same difference between 6-7mm 🙁


    1. G’day Marko,
      Yes it is. I wouldn’t say that it is common but it’s certainly not rare. I’ve seen up to 12mm difference on feet that only had a few mm difference in length. I’ve also seen instances of up to 7mm difference in foot length, with no difference in MTP joint placement. That is, same size feet but much longer toes on one foot.

      Without making you paranoid, when their are substantial proportional differences like yours, there is often a leg length difference or a long term pelvic tilt associated with it. So worth checking that out too.

      Place the cleats as per the guidelines given in the Power To The Pedal – Cleat Position post for each foot separately. Be aware though, that doing so will cause slightly more extension of the leg with the cleat further back on the shoe, so you may need a shim of 2 – 3mm even with no difference in leg length. You may even need to change to Speedplay with the extender baseplate just to get both cleats in the same place relative to foot in shoe.

      I’ve heard the argument before that “No, place the cleats on the same place on the shoe when there is a large difference in foot proportions; not the same place relative to foot in shoe”. Bunkum. The Velotron tells me and others that placing the cleat in the same place *relative to foot in shoe *in cases like yours (which means a different place on the sole of the shoe for each foot) improves symmetry in pedaling force application.

      Another example of this came my way last week. I was talking to Jerry Gerlich and he’d had a client with a 10mm difference in 1st MTP joint placement, and because the rider had the same cleat position on the sole of each shoe, this meant a 10mm difference relative to foot in shoe. His Velotron SpinScan wasn’t great and when Jerry gave him the same cleat
      placement relative to foot in shoe (meaning different placement on the sole of the shoe), the SpinScan numbers improved dramatically.

      1. Hi Steve,

        Just wanted to say how informative your blog is and and a doft of ones cap at your willingness to help mere cycling mortals over the tinternet!

        My question is, looking at your recommendations form cleat placement (method 2), I cannot seem to get the centre line of the spd sl cleats 13mm behind the joint space of the 1st met.

        I wear a 47 Lake shoe, and the closest I can get is 1st met approx 18mm ahead.

        Am I losing the plot, have I got abnormally large toes or do Lake shoes drill their cleat holes in odd places?

        Thanks for your time!

      2. Sorry Alex,
        your meaning isn’t clear. Does that mean that the cleats need to move 31mm further rearwards on the sole of the shoe?
        OR do the cleats need to move 5mm further forward on the sole of the shoe to obtain Method 2 position?

      3. Thanks for the clarification. If it can’t happen there are three options and which one you choose will depend on what your priorities are with your cycling.
        1. If you ride a lot of crits or have a good sprint, I would change your shoes to ones that don’t have cleat mounting holes as rearward as your Lakes.
        2. Will give the same result as 1. Change to Speedplay and use the extender baseplates part no. 13330. They are best known for offering up to 14mm more rearward offset than the standard baseplate. What is less well known is that they allow 5mm of extra forward adjustment too. That should just get you out of trouble.
        3. Leave the cleat position as is. There will be no disadvantages for riding at high or low intensity; in fact, probably a tiny improvement, but at the cost of a small lessening of your ability to jump really hard in the acceleration phase of a sprint.

        As to the cleat hole mounting position of Lakes; yes, further back than on many brands but not as far back as Giro shoes.

      4. Thanks for your reply and all your help Steve. Can you clarify for me that whatever measurement for method 1 is say 14mm in front of the pedal spindle centre line, and method 2 is say 14mm in front of the pedal spindle. If I have read your blog correctly, why is one method taken from the spindle centre line and the other is in front of the pedal axle?

      5. Steve after applying all of your advice and reading your blog I have done the following.

        1. Got rid of the Lake shoes and purchases some Spesh S-Works
        2. Removed all in shoe varus wedges
        3. Experimented with Red and Blue Spesh insoles (I’m fairly flat footed more so on my dominant right side
        4. Positioned cleats so as close to method 2 as possible

        The outcome is the knee pain I’ve been suffering from all year is slowly subsiding. I can now ‘feel’ my feet.

        One thing I have noticed is that on the down stroke, my right heel kicks out a few mm away from the crank. Is this fairly normal as I’ve never noticed this before, or could this be a side effect of incorrectly angled cleats?

      6. G’day Alex,
        It’s good to hear that you’re getting somewhere positive. Re
        the heel out movement on the right side down stroke. It may be cleat position and if so, easy to check. Go to points 5 and 6 in italics at the bottom of this post and
        work your way through that method. I caution; do it on both sides, not just the problematic right. I’ve seen many cases where a problem on one side was actually caused by compensating for a poor cleat angle on the other side.
        After doing that, if you find that the angle of the cleats is fine, then the most likely cause is that you are not sitting completely squarely on the seat or that the seat is too high.

      7. Dear Steve,

        Thank you for your help.After your reply I adjusted the cleats but something didin’t feel right, so even I was certain that I measured it right I took my ruller again and found out that I wasn’t 🙂
        The groove on the right foot was confusing because there were one in front and somehow I marked it as spot…
        After re-measurement it was another story.Difference between 1st MTP on both legs is 2mm.
        Measurements from the heel to the 1st MTP od the left foot is 189mm and 5th MTP 173mm ; and for the right foot is 191mm for the 1st MTP and 170mm for the 5th MTP.
        What I found out by appying the 2nd method for cleat possition is that for the left foot cleat shoud be 8mm in front and for the right 10mm, and amazingly that turns out to be in the same position on the both shoes.
        Is that right or I’m doing something wrong ? 🙂



  27. Hello Steve,

    You were kind enough to list several 3-hole shoe manufacturers in order of ease of finding ideal cleat position which was very helpful. Your answer intentionally excluded 4-hole shoes (as I specifically requested info regarding 3-hole shoes).

    I’m seeing more manufacturers with 4-hole options specific for Speedplay cleats. The Speedplay extender plates (part no. 13330) only have 3-hole patterns so they couldn’t be attached to 4-hole shoes.

    In your experience is the plate extender necessary with the 4-hole soles? For a given manufacturer / model, assuming the model is available in both 3- and 4-hole patterns, can one achieve the same rearward cleat position using the 4-hole pattern without the extender plate as could be achieved using the 3-holed pattern with the extender plate?

    If the same cleat position can be achieved, and one was completely dedicated to Speedplay pedals, it would seem that the 4-hole pattern would be a better option since there would be less “stack height” between the foot and the pedal. Does this makes sense? Is it a logical conclusion?

    As always, thank you for all of the valuable advice you share with the cycling world!

    Best Regards,

    1. G’day Doug,
      I don’t see a lot of people using shoes with a direct
      Speedplay 4 bolt connection. The shoes that I have reasonable familiarity with that offer a direct connection without baseplate are the Lake models that offer a Speedplay specific sole. I’ve yet to have a problem with achieving a Method 1 or Method 2 cleat position with Lake 4 bolt shoes as there is a lot of cleat adjustment potential. I’ve been a bit of a Lake fan for a few years and am becoming more of one.

      You’re right about a 4 bolt shoe being the better option for Speedplay with a couple of provisos.

      1. That the rider can indeed achieve their desired for and aft position because the Speedplay part no. 13330 extender baseplate cannot be used with a direct 4 hole mount.

      2. That the rider doesn’t need a substantial shim (say more than 8mm) under one foot. If this is required, then long mounting screws are going through a lot of empty space to be engaged by a few mm of thread. If a large shim is required, a 3 hole shoe with the Leg Length Compensators that we have available is a better option for greater thread engagement and security. For those that need them, a 3 hole shoe is necessary.

      1. Hello Steve,

        To close the loop on this one, I ended up purchasing a pair of Lake CX236 4 hole Speedplay configuration shoes. I was able to successfully replicate the cleat position I attained on my previous 3 hole shoes with the 13330 extender plate. While I’ve only put ~200 miles on the new Lakes, do date they feel great and I’m quite pleased. Thanks as always for advice!

  28. “Under these and similar conditions, the rider will drop their heel more than they do at lighter loads. Where now is the ball of the foot? It is not centred over the pedal axle.”

    I don’t understand this statement. Because you are using clipless pedals and cleats, the position of the foot in relation to the axle has not changed. The angle changes, but the foot does not move back or forward. But the angle changes continually during the cycle anyway.

    1. G’day Andrew,
      I don’t understand your statement. When the angle of the
      foot changes, (we agree on that) the relationship between the foot and pedal axle changes (which we apparently don’t agree on).

      I thought my meaning was clear but will attempt to explain in a way that makes sense to you. By convention, cleat position relative foot in shoe is measured with crank arm forward and horizontal and foot level. As we can’t see the foot in shoe, the closest approximation to a level foot is to level the shoe between where sole joins upper at mid heel and where sole joins upper underneath the middle of the thickened section of the sole where the cleat attaches. BOFOPA means that at the conventional point in the stroke where cleat position is measured, the centre of the ball of the foot (centre of 1st MTP joint) is VERTICALLY above the pedal axle centre. Agreed?

      As the angle of the foot changes throughout the pedal stroke and under varying loads, the vertical relationship of the 1st MTP joint to the pedal axle also changes. It is further back from the VERTICAL relationship of BOFOPA when the heel is dropped and further forward than the same VERTICAL relationship when the toe is pointed.

      Let me know if this explanation doesn’t satisfy.

      1. I hope this comes out right! To try to visualise my query, below is a representation of the axle o , pedal/shoe platform _____ , and tarsal joint T, (it doesn’t matter which one).


        When the angle of the foot changes, the vertical distance between the joint and axle changes only very slightly, so it must also only very slightly change fore and aft, but it seems to me that this difference is minuscule. Especially considering the difficulty finding the centre of the axle and the size of the joint itself. I would think movement of the foot inside the shoes would be greater than the change in distance caused by change in foot angle.

        While I’m not denying that there is a change, I’m wondering whether that change is discernible or even measurable.

      2. G’day Andrew,
        I can visualise what you are saying without problem. It is just that I don’t agree. To best illustrate what I am talking about, read the post “Why Bikefitters Don’t Chew Their Nails” and use that method to find the joint space of the 1st MTP joint. Carefully mark the VERTICAL CENTRE of your first MTP joint. Use the method suggested in the post to transfer that mark to the outside of the shoe as a dot.Now take your shoe off and place the shoe in the pedal with the cleat positioned so that the mark you have made on your shoe is vertically above the centre of the pedal axle with shoe levelled from where sole joins upper at mid heel and where sole joins upper over the pedal axle.. Depending on shoe sole thickness, pedal type and cleat placement fore and aft on the shoe, that mark will be anywhere from 30 – 45 mm above the centre of the pedal axle. Raise or lower the the heel of the shoe appreciably and that mark will move quite a way forward or aft of a vertical line taken from the centre of the pedal axle.
        If you complete that and we still disagree, we are going to have to agree to disagree. I do the same thing multiple times daily with clients and can assure you that there can be a substantial difference in relationship between mark on shoe, determined as described above ,and centre of pedal axle depending on how much the heel is dropped or raised.

      3. Hello Steve and thanks for your time so far.

        Please ignore my previous post, I have clarified my views and questions and came to this: If the first metatarsal can move backwards or forwards relative to the axle, why is this not true of any other point on the foot? Surely, the same relative motion will apply to any part of the foot above the axle?

      4. Andrew to be clear, what I am saying is that a mark on the shoe indicating the vertical centre of the 1st MTP joint, with that mark typically being 30 – 45 mm above the centre of the pedal axle will vary its vertical relationship with the pedal axle markedly depending on angle of the long axis of the foot relative to horizontal.
        When you say “Why is this not true of any other part of the foot?
        I would say that it is and have never suggested otherwise.

      5. Steve, thanks for your patience.

        The point I am failing to understand is the one regading BOFPA and the position of the 1st MTP joint moving backward over the cleat

        “Under these and similar conditions, the rider will drop their heel more than they do at lighter loads.

        Where now is the ball of the foot?

        It is not centred over the pedal axle. It has rotated back somewhat because of the increased drop of the heel.”

        You also say in your comments to me:

        “When you say ‘Why is this not true of any other part of the foot?’ I would say that it is and have never suggested otherwise.”

        You seem to be saying that: under load and with heel drop, the position of the joint will change, regardless of which joint is used for positioning. But are then suggesting moving the axle under other joints.

        If this movement happens regardless of what joint is chosen, why not use the 1st MTP?

      6. Steve,
        it’s just that you have made a lot of the fact the 1st MTP moves about relative to the axle, when this is true of all the MTP joints. You seem to be basing your recommendations on this fact. i.e. don’t use the 1st MTP as it moves relative to the axle.

        It seems to me that the main reason for using a position rearward of the 1st MTP is to stabilise the foot. MTP Joint movement over the axle is not relevant to the argument.

      7. G’day Andrew,
        You’re argument is at the hair splitting stage and I am left wondering whether you actually read the post.

        Initially you contended that the MTP joints don’t move relative to pedal axle when the heel is dropped, when I said that they do. Now you seem to be implying agreement on that point but are splitting hairs about what you THINK I wrote versus what I ACTUALLY wrote.

        To be as clear as I can be; the only reason I highlighted the 1st MTP joint is that is the common point of reference for relative cleat position and has been for the 40 years I’ve been interested in bikes and probably for a long time prior to then.

        And OF COURSE the main reason for moving the cleats rearward is to increase stability of the foot on pedal. Just as the third paragraph of the post makes ABUNDANTLY CLEAR.

  29. Steve,

    Was wondering what your opinion was on Bont cycling shoes? Do they have a more rearward drilling of the cleat screw holes or more forward compared to other manufactures? Also as a bike fitter are you a fan of the heat moldable shoe or do you think its a gimmick. Regards. James

    1. G’day James,
      If you can get a pair that fit, and if they hold up,
      they’re fine. Super solid feel under foot but build quality needs work. Cleat positioning is a bit further forward than I’d like but better than some and worse than others. Currently, the best in terms of rearward cleat adjustment potential are Giro and Lake and the worst are Fizik and Mavic. Yes, a fan of the idea of heat moldable shoes but carbon that can be heat molded means high resin content which in turn equals poor quality carbon fibre. So a bit of a tradeoff between customisability (if there is such a word) and quality.

  30. Hi Steve,

    Further to my previous posts I would appreciate your further advice on the following

    1. Arch height difference;
    As my left arch is considerably lower (6mm) than the right would the normal tendency be for the left arch to collapse more under load than the right? I do notice that the left foot seems to feel a bit soft & unstable under load compared to the right. I will order the esoles kit and see if it helps.

    2. Cleat set back;
    Today I used your methods as described and shown in video to locate 1st and 5th MTP joints, mark on shoes (size 46) and establish relationship to pedal spindle. The 1st MTP joint on both feet are approximately over pedal spindle. Using Method 1 for size 46 shoe, this implies cleats need to be moved back 14mm. Using Method 2; 5th MTP joint is 20mm behind 1st MTP joint on both feet indicating cleats need to be moved back 10mm. As my cleats are already all the way back was wondering if you have a shimano compatible cleat extender plate?

    3. Saddle Position;
    I have moved the saddle back 10mm before my last ride and it has relieved the knee pain somewhat. Cadence still a bit uneven though. I am thinking I should resolve the esoles and cleat set back then re-evaluate saddle position.


    1. G’day Greg,
      Re 1; Often.
      Your comments about your left foot having a lower arch and feeling unstable appear to confirm that on the surface. But, a tendency to drop the right hip is so widespread that the instability on the pedal may at least in part, have something to do with that possibility as well. A dropping right hip causes over extension of the left leg. If the degree of overextension is only mild, often that is felt as the left foot moving around on the pedal.
      I would suggest adding arch support of Level 2 and reassessing over a week or so of riding.

  31. Hi Steve,

    I find your information great!!!
    If this has been asked previously I do apologise.
    The cleats on my shoes also can be moved left and right as well as forward and backwards. Is there a process to set left and right?

    Best Regards


    1. G’day John,
      thanks for the positive comments. Re lateral adjustment of
      the cleats; ideally, the centre of the knee should descend vertically over the centre of the midfoot. There are exceptions but that alignment will keep most happy and pain free.

  32. Steve,

    You and your blog are amazing..state of the art. You truly
    are one of a kind and I can tell that you love what you do…bravo.

    I have a question about cleat rotation. I set my cleats up according to method 2 and I fixed cleats…It is odd but I actually get knee pain when I used cleats with rotational float. However, I recently started to get a little soreness and cramp a little in the inner groin/hamstring. I was wondering if this could be caused from the type of rotation I have. I am currently pretty neutral in my cleat rotation..would inner groin pain be caused from the leg wanting to be more toe in or toe out?


    1. I won’t pass on your observations to my wife Billy. She’d die laughing. Yes, I like my job, though sometimes I would like a little less of it.

      Re your observation about fixed cleats. The reason you get knee pain with cleats with rotational movement is poor hip / lower back function OR, much more likely, lack of foot correction. I would encourage you to investigate both. When the foot is locked into position in an attempt to solve alignment or lack of foot correction issues, there is always a risk involved.

      To answer your question though, you may need to move your cleats in either direction depending on how you are attempting to compensate. What I suggest is that you fit some freeplay cleats, use the method outlined in the post above to determine cleat angle and when done, draw an outline around the cleats on the sole of your shoe. Then replace the freeplay cleats with your fixed ones being careful to place them within that outline.

      Longer term, work through the foot corrections posts using freeplay cleats.

      1. Please don’t tell you wife Steve! Wouldn’t want to get ya in trouble. I will try out your advice with freeplay cleats and find a position with fixed to finish the season and then for longer term I will work through the foot corrections and try to use free floating cleat for the start of next season when I can ride low intensity to adapt.

        Another question about cleat rotation though. Would more of a heel in position help in “opening” up the hips? When I have slight heel in I feel more able to rotate the hips better. Could this be because I naturally have externally rotated hips?


        Best of luck with finding an even keel between your love for your job and your love for your wife!

      2. G’day Billy,
        Yes, more riders have mild external hip rotation when
        pedalling than otherwise. And yes, finding a balance between work and the rest of my life is a work in progress.

  33. Steve, I have both my cleats positioned so center of first MTP is 12 mm ahead of pedal axle w/ size 45 shoes with the shoes pointing straight ahead. I have a mild internal tibial torsion on both legs causing a slight toeing in of about 10 degrees when clipped in. With the shoes clipped in this 12mm obviously decreases to about 9mm or so when the shoes are rotated in 10 degrees.

    With this rotation the distance from “middle of foot” being third metatarsal head is the same but distance from first metatarsal is decreased as noted above. Would I want to leave this alone or move the cleats back so I get the 12mm from first met head with the inward rotation? Thanks much.

    1. G’day Jkarrasch,
      Glad to see someone’s thinking. I’ve been waiting for this or similar question for sometime and had almost given up hope. Position your cleats so that you achieve the distance you want the 1st MTP joint in front of the pedal axle at the angle your foot normally sits on the pedal under load.

      1. Excellent, checked like you said and everything looks correct. Thanks. I have seen you post road shoes that allow the cleats furthest back numerous times…but what about SPD compatible MTB shoes? Also, have you come across any MTB shoes that have a wide toebox and narrow to normal heel? My feet are like flippers!

      2. G’day Jkarrasch,
        While I see a few mtb riders, I see far more road, tri and track riders and so don’t have an wide knowledge of what is out there in mtb shoes for narrow heeled, wide forefooted riders. Assuming good fitting shoes, the only mtb shoes that I’ve ever had problem getting a cleat back far enough are some Cannondale shoes.

  34. Steve,

    I’ve ridden Looks/Sidis for quite some time and switched to Speedplays around June of this year. Never felt quite the same and I have always used method 1. I got new shoes recently and went to set them up and used the normal method 1, but felt that during hard efforts my toes were pointed more downwards and that my ankle angle was more obtuse at the top of the pedal stroke (the only thing that was changed was the shoes). I meticulously went back and used the crimp method locating and taping it to the space between the 1st metatarsal joint and the toe bone. I used a very fine tipped dental pick to locate it and marked on the outside. My cleat was a few mm off it seemed so I moved it forward. Everything feels fine, but my cleats seem to be set fairly far forward on the shoe. Should I just run with this, or re-examine my setup for possible error? I’m wondering how many people you get that don’t need the rearward adapter plate, which I actually used on my old Sidis.

    1. G’day Karsten,
      I get the impression you over think bike position
      related issues. If you have checked, rechecked, are happy with your calculations and happy with the feel while pedaling, stop second guessing yourself.

      Where the cleats will be on the sole of the shoe depends on how well your shoes fit and the shape and proportions of your feet. As an example, I have large feet with squarish forefoot and short toes. I never have a problem gaining Method 1 cleat position on just about any shoe. Sometimes in the past I have struggled to get my cleats far forward enough to achieve Method 1. At the other end of the scale, about 40% of my fit clients can’t achieve the cleat position we decide on (which may be Method 1 or 2) with the shoes and pedals they arrive with. If I was using Method 1 only, then the percentage who couldn’t achieve it would be much lower.

  35. Hi Steve,

    I’ve purchased new shoes (sidi ergo 2) and new cleats (shimano red) to replace old and worn out versions of the same. NOW I want to be able to set my NEW cleats on my NEW shoes in the SAME position as my old ones. HELP!

    How do I do this? I’m a bit thick when it comes to this sort of thing. I live in Adelaide so can’t pop in to see you guys unfortunately.

    In all seriousness, any advice re how to do this would be greatly appreciated.


    1. G’day Stuart,
      Firstly, you need to know what the relative cleat position
      was on your old shoes so you know what you are trying to duplicate. I assume you still have your old shoes?

      Read the post Why Bikefitters Don’t Chew Their Nails and this post; Power to the Pedal. Once you have quantified the relative cleat position on your old shoes, those posts contain the info you need to duplicate that posiiton

      1. Many thanks Steve. Yes, I still have the old shoes with cleats still attached. I’ll read through both posts as suggested. Cheers.

  36. Steve

    Not sure where I should be posting this question but this section seemed most relevant. Regarding cleat position, I fully grasp the fore/aft position and using your method has given me a very repeatable setup – thanks. One thing I have noticed recently (what gave me an initial heads up was my session with Jerry) on both my shoes and on a couple of other people I ahve tried to help is that stance width seems to have a very high impact on some people but not others.

    An example is myself – I seem to be very sensitive to stance width on the bike. Moving my cleats in our out even a millimeter or two has a huge impact on how my feet feel on the pedals and on how much they rotate in or out. This became an issue for me in trying to set up a bike for TT’s and realizing that I needed to purchase a second set of shoes to avoid moving my cleats when switching between bikes (the q-factor is narrower on the TT cranks). After a lot of trial and error I discovered that small adjustments laterally on the cleats made a seemingly huge difference in feel, comfort and smoothness for me.

    So, after than somewhat rambling introduction, the question is a simple two part one:
    1. Is this normal? If so, other than try to have the knee descend over the middle of the foot, are there any other guidelines you can give regarding setting stance width?
    2. If not 1, I suspect there is more going on here – is this related to not having either wedging or arch support set up properly?

    Thanks for the input.


    1. G’day Craig,
      there is huge individual variation in how sensitive people
      are to foot separation distance (sorry, I refuse to call it ‘stance width’ because it has nothing to do with standing and I find the term confusing). Like you, I am one of the sensitive ones but that may be because I have stack of knee and lower limb injuries that I am keeping under control. Most people are not hypersensitive providing the centre of the knee descends over the centre of the midfoot.

      With many lightly built riders with internally rotated hips, their knees always descend inboard of their feet without problem and their is no possibility of moving their feet further in to get them under their knees.
      That you are so sensitive could be related to poor flexibility or past injuries leaving you in the situation that you function well only within a narrow envelope. That is certainly the situation in my case. I’m trying to keep a left knee happy that has no PCL or MCL and a right ankle happy that has no lateral or collerateral ligaments. Additionally my right foot doesn’t function the way it was designed to because of a dozen plus fractures all of which mean that I am very sensitive to small changes in position with foot separation distance being one of those things. I can function quite well on an mtb with my feet much further apart but the price of that is having a torso position that is relatively speaking, much higher than you would expect versus my low position on my road bike.

      Wedging numbers and arch support can influence what you feel but I don’t
      want to second guess Jerry because he has seen you in the flesh and I
      haven’t. In past correspondence you’ve suggested that you have a few issues
      and it may be, that like me, you currently function within narrow confines
      of which foot separation distance is one of them.

      Sooner or later I want to write a foot separation post and will get around
      to it.

  37. Thanks Steve – yeah, I have many issues (though nothing like you) from foot to knee to back to neck. Jerry was the one who “discovered” this on me – while we made changes to saddle height and fore-aft, the biggest two changes made were a bit more wedge and a fairly significant change in foot separation that completely changed the way my feet sat on the pedals (from really duck footed to fairly straight).

    I look forward to that post.

    1. One thing I forgot to mention Craig is that foot separation distance can affect wedging numbers. Most of the time the same degree of arch support and wedging is necessary for a given rider with the road and mtb shoes. However, on occasions I have seen significant changes in wedging necessary when moving the feet further apart as per moving from road to mtb. Not common but it happens.

      1. Steve,
        When you say that foot separation can have an effect on the the need for wedges, does it work in the other way around as well? That wedges can have an effect on foot separation, or does it does appear that the foot is further away from the crank because the foot is being canted? Thanks

      2. G’day Bill,
        Adding foot correction in form of wedges or arch support can
        affect the heel in / heel out angle of foot on pedal. This sometimes gives the illusion of increasing or decreasing foot separation distance, but foot separation distance won’t change unless the cleats are moved laterally in either direction, or unless the cranks or pedals are changed to ones that narrow or increase that distance.

      3. Steve,
        Awesome. Thanks you. One more question…1 Cleat Wedge = 1 ITS = 1 Cut Down Heel Wedge, correct? Thanks again.


      4. G’day Bill,
        Correct…………… least initially. If wedge numbers
        are ideal but wedge placement not ideal, the CNS initially recognises the change, and then over time ignores it. More on this coming. Also have now got purpose built heel wedges and will get them into the estore soon.

  38. Steve, why does the cleat being too far forward cause the dead quad deal? I have experienced this and it has gotten much better by moving the right cleat rearward. My guess is that it effectively increases femur length relative to the other leg causing more quad than ham to work…Another positive I have noticed with this is my legs feel more even during standing pedaling, meaning the left leg no longer feels it has to reach to far. Just a thought!

  39. Hey Steve!

    Im a competitive triathlete who started to use the mid-foot cleats in January and loved it from my first ride. I raced every distance this year with from sprint to Ironman. One thing I have found, is that I when I feel good, then the ridding is great I can turn a heavy gear at a steady and smooth cadence. Whereas when I start to fatigue, I find myslef to struggle to get over top of my pedal stroke…A friend suggested I should have shorten my cranks when changed to the mid-foot…What do you think on that?

    I am 182cm tall and have been ridding 172.5mm cranks for several years now! Thanx in advance and for tones of helpfull info on your site =)

    1. G’day Matt,
      I’m the same height as you and also use 172.5mm cranks with
      midfoot cleat position. My inseam is 864 which is average for height and I have a long lower leg and short femur which means that my knee rises high a the top of the stroke. So if anyone should run into the problem you do, it is me, and I don’t.

      My guess is that one or more of the following is the problem.

      1. Seat is too low

      2. Seat is too far forward. Are you running a steep seat angled TT / Tri frame?

      3. Bars are too low causing the upper thigh to foul the rib cage at the top of the stroke

      4. Tight hip flexors are tightening further by working too hard in a cramped position (seat forward / bars too low) and this is switching off your glutes and localising the pedalling load mainly to your quads. This will feel as though you are using a step machine, not a bicycle.

      Do any of those strike a chord?

      One other suggestion that may help is to get yourself a pair of Rotor Q
      rings and use them mounted in position 4. That really puts the icing on the
      cake for midfoot cleat position in terms of smoothing out the pedal stroke
      when the rider is tired.

      1. Hey Steve M@ here! Thanx for your time =)
        Well I rode with a saddle to low for the first few months.
        And really felt the difference when I raised it some!

        I will definetly check #2 and #3.
        Recently switched from size 56 to 54.
        On a Cervelo P2.

        So I will play around with my set up and make it less agressive!
        And let you know how it goes in my next races!

        Thanks again!

  40. Steve,
    I have I guess what you would call a “modified” mid foot cleat position…I used the speedplay extender plate to drill holes in my shoes and then have my keo cleats all the way back. I was wondering, when you said for one of the cons of midfoot cleats that the saddle needs to drop from 25 to 40mm, is there another factor other than the reach down to the pedal is lengthened? Or is there something else that contributes for the need for a lower saddle position?

    1. I assume this is still Matt that I’m talking to?
      If so, can you be more explicit about what “modified midfoot” means to you please?

      Are your cleats positioned so that the centre of the pedal axle is under the highest point of your arch or is it further forward than that?

      Are there other factors?
      Yes, the ones that I mentioned. Did any of those strike a chord with you?


      1. Steve,
        This is not Matt, this is a completely different query…sorry. But my cleats are positioned with the pedals axle further forward than my arch. That’s what I meant by “modified midfoot” in that it is between method 2 and midfoot.

      2. Okay Jwoodward,
        My apologies. Your query followed closely on another
        and I thought it was the same person using a different email address.

        The seat needs to drop as far as it does with genuine midfoot cleat position because a) the cleat has moved back substantially which increases leg extension, hence a drop in seat height is necessary AND b) midfoot cleat position reduces ankle movement which again increases leg extension for most people. There is some individual variation in how people using midfoot are affected which is why I said 25 – 40mm.

        Additionally, midfoot needs more bend in the knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke than forefoot cleat position.

      3. Okay Steve,
        Sorry for that, I didn’t even see the question above before asking this. I appreciate the quick feedback, and have enjoyed all of your recommendations greatly.

        Would that be classified as “midfoot” if I have holes drilled in my shoes (using the extender plates) new holes are 14mm back of original holes and then cleats are all the way back on keos (which allow for 12 mm longitudinal movement).. My arch is by no means over the pedal spindle, but it is definitely further back than method 2. Thanks again. J

      4. G’day Jwoodward,
        No, not midfoot, just a lot of foot over the pedal.
        You would probably need to move the cleat back another 25 – 35mm to be true midfoot assuming average foot proportions and a size 44 shoe.


        STEVE HOGG
        for more, see

        *I apologise if my reply is tardy. We experience periodic email overload and the only thing I can promise is to wade through, mail by mail.*

      5. Ok,
        So I don’t need to go as low as midfoot because I will still have ankling. I will do the hill test because I think I went a little too low, thinking that I had true midfoot.


      6. Would you consider cleats that were drilled (with the speedplay extender plate) so that keo cleats could be used and then positioned all the rearward (so 26mm back on a 46 shoe) to far back for a rider that does 85 percent crits?

      7. G’day Alehrlichinc,
        It depends on whether you have a good sprint and
        want to use it. If you do, then ball of the foot 26mm ahead of the pedal axle is far from ideal for riding crits. Also, a lot of changes in pace might catch you out if the accelerations are severe. If you don’t have much of a sprint and your chance of winning is to break away and stay away, then you shouldn’t have a problem with that cleat position.

      8. Hi Steve,
        I don’t have a terrible sprint, but I have never had the “snap” in sprinting. I would be more like Petacchi that goes from far out, but the majority of my success has been out of breaks or solo attacks. And I am usually first in the lead out, so if I am not in the break or up the road somewhere I am not mixing it up in the sprints much. I would be more like a Cancellara type rider. Would this cleat position be okay then?


      9. G’day Alehlichinc,
        It depends on what you want to prioritise. If you
        want to improve your sprint, particularly your ability to jump really hard, then on a size 46 shoe I would suggest moving your cleat forward so that the ball of your foot is more like 12mm in front of the pedal axle.

        However, if you are happy with your all round performance don’t feel that you lack anything in your jump, leave as is.

      10. OK. Is it possible to still be able to sprint well with a further back cleat? If so, and it merely comes down to having a better longer sustained effort vs a sprint, than I choose the former. But if I can achieve the same sustained effort AND have a better sprint, wouldn’t it be a simple answer to choose a cleat position further forward? What are your thoughts?

      11. G’day Alehrlichinc,
        I don’t know you or how your ride a bike or what
        you are good at and not so good at. So I can only generalise.

        Here’s my thinking. Your race mainly crits. Crits have a lot of changes in pace where there is an off the seat effort necessary to stay on the wheel or close back up. The chances are that you will do better at that type of riding with a cleat position that allows the centre of the ball of your foot to be 12mm in front of the pedal axle (measured as explained in the post) than you will with 26mm in front.
        26mm in front would likely be better for you if your style was an early, long breakaway but in the relatively short duration of a crit, the difference in ability to sustain power shouldn’t be huge while the difference in ability to jump really hard out of the seat is likely to be.
        Of course, as a generalisation, in your case it is possible that I am wrong. The only way you will know whether what I’m saying applies to you is to give it a try for several weeks with appropriate changes to seat height and possibly, setback. (Repeat the balance test and hill test once you’ve moved your cleats)

        What ever you choose to do after you have been through that exercise will be right for you and what you do on a bike.

      12. Steve,
        First ride felt completely awkward after switching from 26mm BOFOPA to 12mm BOFOPA (and I did make all other proper changes to position). I suppose it will take some getting used to the pedaling gait of a more forefoot cleat position, but I was just wondering how long something like this usually takes? Please let me know. Thanks.

      13. 3 weeks of riding at low to moderate intensity, 4+ times weekly only is about right. From the 4th week on, ride as hard as you like. If it still feels odd, then the change is a negative one, at least in your case.

      14. Sorry one last question Steve, can the saddle height hill test still be used verbatim with midfoot cleat position?

  41. This might be an odd question, but would there be any changes in stability and bike handling as the cleat is moved back? I has moved my cleats further back than recommended in method 1 for a time and found that my descending and handling in tight situations was worse. I felt as if I almost had to think about handling the bike more.

    After going back to the method 1 placement, I immediately felt as if by bike handling went back to normal. Would this be due to poor core strength or some other muscular issue? I did lower my seat and bars accordingly.

    1. G’day Mchae,
      Great question. There is individual variation. I’ve heard
      people say what you have just said as well as others saying the opposite. I suspect but don’t know that the variable is how much time is spent off the seat with calves loaded in tight situations as you mention.

      That is the only thing that comes to mind. If you need your calves loaded to feel more in control then it will be a benefit to have a more forward cleat position. If you needed your calves less loaded, the converse will be the case.

      Midfoot is different again because the substantial seat height drop it requires lowers the centre of gravity of bike and rider and means that descending is more secure for most.

      1. Thank you. I had not thought about the calves in this case. I was thinking that it might have more to do with ankle movement and making small shifts in weight with my feet.

        I have to say that I am fascinated by this and many of the topics you have written about. Certainly more than meets the eye.

      2. G’day Mchae,
        There is no guarantee that I am right. It is merely an
        observation that I’ve heard what you’ve said before as well as the opposite. It is speculation on my part as to why. If I ever find out definitely, I’ll pass it on.

  42. I was wondering if you think a specific cleat position might be causing an odd knot in just one of my calves? I switched from Sidis to Specialized and setup my cleats according to method one, but I’ve developed a pain on the lower part of my right calve. It doesn’t hurt enough to influence power output, but it is annoying and excessively sore post ride. My seat height did not change and I was wondering if you think that this might be a result of cleat placement or saddle height? I notice that if I flex my toes downward (when I’m not on the bike) that it tends to hurt more.

    1. G’day Karsten,
      This sounds like the right calf is working harder or
      straining more. I would be rechecking the cleat position. If that checks out okay, I would drop your seat a few mm and reassess. Some of the latest Specialized shoes have very thin soles and you may not have allowed the effect of that on seat height when you changed shoes.

      1. I re-checked and my cleats were positioned so that the ball was actually slightly behind the axle and they were moved 13mm back to get the ball 1 cm behind. It turns out that the shoe was not properly leveled when they were installed. The next step would be to lower the seat and/or move it forward correct? Any guidelines on amounts?

      2. G’day Karsten,
        There are no rules of thumb that work. Go out on your
        bike and repeat the seat height up hill test. That will sort your seat height out and the in the overwhelming majority of cases, the seat height will have to be lowered. Once you’ve got a seat height that you are happy with, repeat the balance test to determine seat setback.

        By repeating both of those procedures you will end up with a seat height and seat setback that works for you which is better than any rule of thumb recommendation that I can offer.

  43. Revisiting the end of this post, having jumped across from your Knee Pain post, and being a SPD-SL user I’d like to query this statement:

    “Some pedal systems, notably Shimano SPD – SL with yellow tipped cleat and Look Keo with grey cleat have so little rotational adjustment range that the above process can be frustrating and time consuming. With Look Keo’s, if this is a problem, it is cheap insurance to use the red cleats instead of the grey cleats as the red version have double the rotational movement. With the SPD –SL’s, there is no extra free play option.”

    I’m pretty sure you have inadvertently mistaken the yellow Shimano SPD-SL cleats (SH11) with the red SH10 model. The yellow version offers floats, whilst the red version is fixed.

    I have gone from admittedly quite worn red Look Deltas to yellow SPD-SL, and I haven’t noticed any less freedom.

    1. No Michael,
      the sentence is as I meant it. Yellow tipped Spd SL cleats
      have 4 or 4.5 degrees of float, I can’t remember. Grey Keo cleats have a similar amount. The thrust of what I’m saying is that there are people out there who need a heel in / heel out angle of the pedal that cannot be achieved with yellow tipped Spd SL or grey Keo cleats even with the cleat angled to the maximum. That is why I’ve contrasted them with the Keo red cleat which has twice the rotational movement.

      When I said there was “no extra freeplay option” my meaning was as compared to the red Keo cleat.

      That you moved from red tipped zero freeplay Spd SL cleats to the yellow tipped versions without problems means that you didn’t have a problem to start with.

  44. Quick follow up – just read more of the Knee Pain post, and it appears that you meant what you wrote. You might still consider writing something to the effect that neither the red nor yellow SPD-SL cleats offer sufficient rotation for many users, because I suspect that many readers will make the same assumptions that I did.

    1. G’day Michael,
      I just had a look at what I wrote. It seems fairly clear
      cut. The first two paragraphs of *Cleat Rotational Angle *deal with this issue with the lower rotational movement range of freeplay cleats and paragraph 3 deals with the zero freeplay cleats.


  45. so I changed my cleat position from as far forward as it would go to as far back as it will go. I really wanted to do this after reading this blog last week before a MTB race, but resisted because I thought it would be too radical a change before a race without practice/time to adjust first. But as soon as I could get back on my roadie this week I did the deed! Amazingly it didn’t seem to be too radical after all (although I think manualling through a rock garden/creek bed with radically altered cleat position is a different prospect to a bit of hills stomping).

    The first ride I took 10mins off my usual 1.5 hr ride. But I can’t be sure this is because of the moved cleats – maybe I was just having one of those rare triple ‘0’ biorhythm days? Well I went out again today for my usual 3.5 + 2hr ride – 5 major climbs with small ups inbetween (with a big swag of hot chips and coffee in the middle – mmm). Interestingly the thing I noticed most was that I didn’t feel like I was breathing as hard as normal (guys around me in a race think I’m having a fit…). The next thing I notice – well didn’t notice – was that I was consistently in a bigger gear than usual?! I don’t think I was going any faster, just plodding along in a bigger gear? Hmm? Anyways, on the return 2hr trip I thought “I’m going to feel a bit shattered as I feel like I was pushing it a bit hard in the morning – especially I could feel it in my quads and hams”. But, to my surprise I was cruising – the usual stiffness for the first 10-15mins getting warmed up and then just plodding along. I noticed how I would just plow over slight rises that would normally see me changing down a gear. I did this without noticing – you know, just thinking stuff to yourself while riding along which would normally be rudely interrupted by the gradual increased effort such that you would need to change down – but, nup, rolled over the other side and then thought “woe what happened there?”

    So here’s my theory (2 days in): I notice my calves are not as pumped as usual when I finally get home and have to climb the stairs to the shower, but my quads and hams are definitely feeling it; hence, if I don’t have to pump all that blood down to my claves just to keep the pedals anchored then the extra blood goes to the upper legs so less oxygen debt – as the return cycle to the lungs is shorter/more efficient. This doesn’t translate into a faster ride or a more powerful pedal stroke per se, rather it is just more efficient and so you can last longer. But this is pretty much what is predicted above.

    Ok so the last thing is what to do with seat height? I moved my cleats back 22mm and the trig tells me I only need to put my seat down about 3mm. Well, as soon as I got on the bike I could tell (by my hips rocking) that I needed to put the seat down at least 5mm. tried this and then put it down a further 5mm (10mm total). But after a while I put it back up 5mm (felt right there). But today as I was bombing along a dirt track that I use as a shortcut I felt my legs way out in front of me and thought perhaps I should put my seat forward – so I put it forward 10mm. then I had to put the seat back up 5mm. So, in the end my seat is back where it was before I changed the cleats except that it is 1cm forward from where it was before (as far back on the rails as I could get it – I like to get as far behind the pedals as I can – better for climbing). I’ll leave it there for a while and see how it goes.

    Can’t wait to get out on the MTB and see how it feels on that thing – the extra oomph will be very welcome – although I can see myself fumbling for the first few rides on the rocks – as that is often like a track balancing act to manual over the ledges etc and it will be weird not being on my toes…

    Oh yer, and I’m going to have a go at making myself some elliptical change rings before I commit to the Rotors… I think these, in combination with the changed cleats, might just translate into some better times on the trail…

    1. G’day Tedtoo,
      Thanks for taking the time to give the detail of your
      experience. I’ve been experimenting with cleat position further back than BOFOPA for nearly 30 years. I have been told similar stories to yours probably hundreds of times. Sometimes accompanied by power / time graphs. I still don’t get the mindless attachment to BOFOPA, but I think things are slowly changing in mainstream bikeland a bit.

      Very happy for you that you got a result. Where are your cleats now in relation to ball of foot?

      Re your query on seat height. I don’t know what your starting cleat position was but if it was BOFOPA or close to it, I often find riders with that cleat position push their seats too far back in an effort to get that feeling of strong leverage that they struggle with because of poor cleat position. So, once they gain a decent cleat position, those people need to move their seat forward. This isn’t a universal ‘rule’ but is common.

      1. Thanks Steve,
        still a little ways to go but I am pretty convinced of the move so far.

        Some history: I used to race in my youth – 20 years ago. Did pretty well too on the national level (road and track). I liked to race track so my natural cleat position was as far forward as it would go. It never occurred to me that it should be different for the road! My weakness was in the hills – so naturally I spent as much of my training in the hills as poss and used to put my seat back as far as it would go on the rails for seated climbing – I got pretty good at climbing. But then I developed a right knee problem which was so severe that I could hardly walk (this came after the Mt Buller classic which I finished in the top 20). I was advised I would need a course of cortisone injections etc to overcome the knee problem. Well I got into cycling for health and fitness not to destroy my bod with drugs. So I quit (of course there’s more to it than that but the result is the same). Anyways, 20 yrs later I’m getting back on the bike wondering why ever left it and the knee problem returns almost immediately. My chiropractor noticed i had one leg longer than the other (5mm). So I stuck an odor eater (5mm) in the short leg shoe and voila! Problem fixed. Can’t believe that’s all I needed – and a little stretching – never even a twinge now. I don’t regret taking the time off as I have a wonderful family and kids etc – all growed up now – and I do have the time to enjoy riding again.

        But, of course, old habits die hard. And, as soon as I started getting serious about riding/racing I put the cleats where i always had – as far forward as they would go (after only a year of racing MTB I am finishing in the top 5 in my age group – so I haven’t forgotten how to ride a bike…). Gives ya nice fat calves but I noticed the other guys my age seemed to have more power getting up the short steep bits whereas I would almost collapse and have to get off and walk. I could see my foot/heel drop in the pedal and lose all power – stall! I wondered if there was another cleat position I could try and came across your website – makes so much sense I just had to give it a go. The cleat is now about 20mm behind the ball of my foot (with the cleat as far forward as it goes it was actually right on the ball). BTW I use CB Eggbeaters on 170mm cranks to give my knees as much freedom as poss.

        I have another couple of weeks of road core training before I hit the dirt for 2 weeks and then the state titles. I’ll post again when I do some dirt work…

        Thanks for the inspiration (who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? i reckon 20 yrs ago I would have said all this was BS – arrgh the arrogance of youth…)

      2. G’day Tedtoo,
        We’re probably similar vintage or I may be older again.
        An interesting history. It sounds to me like you should play around with some foot correction. I would start with quality arch support. You may have taken a few years to attain a good cleat position but you got there. Many never do.

  46. Hi Steve,

    Have you had any experience fitting riders with Morton’s Neuroma with either Method 1 or 2? I’m on the verge of drilling my old cycling shoes to accommodate Method 3 as outlined on Friel’s blog, but a part of me thinks investing in some Lakes and Speedplays (with extender plates) is the better way to proceed.

    (I’m currently wearing a size too long Shimano shoes to accommodate my wide feet with SPD-SL pedals, and even with everything as far back as is possible the burning in the balls of my feet becomes a huge limiter after an hour.)

    Most of my races are crits, and not losing any of my already subpar sprint would be preferable… although whatever eliminates the pain is best!


    1. G’day Jurgen,
      What works well for Morton’s Neuroma is to use ESoles
      Supportive insoles as suggested in the Foot Correction Post on Arch Support but instead of using one of the standard sizes of metatarsal lifts, use both. Use gaffer tape to tape the thinner one over the top of the thicker one.

      To date, that has worked fine with some severe Morton’s Neuroma cases. The only way to find out is to try.

  47. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the prompt response!

    I’ll reread that post.

    At this point I’m a little skeptical footbeds alone are the solution, hence the reason I’m considering drilling my current shoes and/or buying new shoes and new pedals.

    I had been using Specialized BG footbed with metatarsal pads taped to the bottoms for a couple of months, and they only helped push back the pain from about 45mins into the ride to an hour.

    More recently I was fitted for custom orthotics with built-in metatarsal buttons, and using them with mixed results. (Mixed=lame.) I’m going back to see my pediatrist to see if/how they can be improved… $400 is a lot to spend for so little results!

    Any other thoughts?

    1. G’day Jurgen,
      My experience to date with Morton’s Neuromas is that
      almost always they need more arch support than is normally given in a bike shoe by a podiatrist and almost always they need a higher metatarsal raise than is commonly realised in a bike shoe.

      The Specialized insoles don’t offer enough arch support for anyone with other than a low arch and while I applaud their inclusion of metatarsal raises, it isn’t enough for Morton’s Neuroma. That even the Specialized insole pushed back the onset of pain is a positive. My feeling is that you need more of the same. More arch support, more metatarsophalangeal joint raising and separating.

      And yes, revisit the podiatrist to find out what you got for your money.

      1. Hi Steve (again!),

        Thank you for arming me with some good info to take to the podiatrist.

        No particular thoughts about pedal-cleat position with my condition?

        Thanks (again!)

      2. G’day Jurgen,
        It isn’t possible to say without finding out yourself.
        Many people can ride with a Morton’s Neuroma with Method 1 or Method 2 cleat position but I come across a small minority who can’t. For that small number, midfoot cleat position is best.

  48. As you know from my numerous emails and comments I have struggled with my fit for a number of months. I would feel powerful, but unbalanced and over the front of my bike, then move myself rearwards and feel weak yet balanced. At first I thought it was setback, but it didn’t make sense that I could be so severely robbed of power by moving my weight a bit more rearwards. I had been Retul scanned, used your balance test and seat height test; and even some of those outdated formulas to address setback and perhaps seat height. I was a rare case of too low of a seat, but that alone did not solve my main problem of suddenly being zapped of power as the roads tilted up.

    After having quite a bit of Achilles Tendon pain recently I decided to look over my cleat position. I had always used your guidelines, or so I thought. I had mis-interpreted your diagram and used the actual joint in front of the first metatarsal, which is about 8mm in front of my actual metatarsal joint as depicted in the video on your blog. I went back and used this point instead and realized that the ball of my foot was 8mm behind my pedal spindle. This worked on flat roads, but drastically reduced leverage once the roads moved up because I had to cantilever my foot as well as pedal downwards in order to overcome the top of the pedal stroke. I moved from having my cleats almost all the way forward (Specialized shoes and Speedplay cleats) to all the way back (with the standard baseplate). The cleats are now 9-10mm behind the spindle and I might move them to be a tad further back than this. After riding with this position for only a week I noted that my speed at a given power is now higher on average on both the flats and hills, and that my power is roughly 12%-15% lower on hills for a given speed than it was before (for circa threshold efforts). In addition my knees are no longer coming close to banging my bars when out of the saddle (my reach looked fine in the saddle) and thus my rear wheel slippage problems are also gone. My seat height slightly decreased, but I also found that I had enlisted more of my posterior chain and less of my calve muscles for the same types of efforts.

    So the culprit was not seat height, setback, or anything cockpit related, but rather my actual cleat position. I may experiment with moving it a tad further back since steady state power tends to be my weakness, but for now the differences are profound. I feel more ‘on top’ of the pedal stroke on hills and not as if I am reaching over it like I was before. This has also allowed me to rotate my hips anteriorally under load, which has allowed me to use more of my posterior chain and climb stronger.

    The worst part about this is that direct observation and the Retul scan didn’t catch this right off the bat.

    1. G’day Karsten,
      I kick myself for not suggesting that you revisit your cleat position. I took your word that you had done it correctly. That doesn’t excuse the people you have seen though. There is a strain of thinking that amongst some bike fitters that goes like this “Published studies show that cleat position has no effect on power output which I have extrapolated to mean that cleat position doesn’t matter”. I vehemently disagree with that for the reasons you have found out the hard way through personal experience

      1. Well, I thought I had done it correctly, but just interpreted the diagram wrong. I am surprised that after 1 fit and 3 re-fits that such a simple problem was never solved. Its frustrating to pay a premium for something and have something so basic completely botched.

    2. G’day Karsten,
      Yours is an interesting story. I Know you said that you
      had your cleat position set well but I kick myself for not asking you to check it again. Re your comments at the end. I see a lot of fit customers who have been fitted previously elsewhere and mention that the fitter didn’t look at cleat position. This is something I don’t understand. If cleat position and foot correction are ideal, the rest is easy.

      1. Steve,
        When you say “if the cleat position and foot correction are ideal”….in terms of cleat position are you more speaking of fore/aft? Or the combination of fore/aft and rotational factors? Because if you have 15 degrees of float come down to merely fore/aft (which shouldn’t be too hard, based on your recommendation)..that is with ideal foot correction….

      2. G’day Mvergona,
        I’m talking about all aspects of cleat position, not
        just fore and aft. If a rider has their cleat at an angle that doesn’t allow their foot to be at the angle it wants to be, they will compensate, often in ways that compromise stability. If a rider has 15 degrees of rotational movement in their cleats, then I would attempt to gain a cleat angle that placed their foot in the middle of that range with equal potential movement to either side. This is being pedantic as providing there is noticeable potential for movement to either side there will be no problem. But as someone who charges to fit people I feel I need to be pedantic.

      3. One last question. I saw you tell someone above that they may need a LLD shim if their first metatarsals are not in the same place on each foot. I measured my feet putting my heel against a flat surface and then had someone measure to the same space that I use to mark my cleat position on my shoe. My right metatarsal joint is 8mm further back than my left so I moved my cleats to compensate. Which foot should I put a shim on if I were to do so?

      4. G’day Karsten,
        Okay, so you have one foot that is smaller with longer
        toes and the other that is longer with shorter toes for similar total length. The foot with the more rearward MTP joint heads, that is the foot with the longer toes will have the cleats positioned further back on the shoe to be in the same place relative to MTP joints in shoe. That is the foot to shim. Moving the cleat 8mm further back on the shoe as you have done will cause greater extension of the leg on that side without a shim. I would suggest a 3 or 4mm shim as being ideal based on the info you have given me.

        Simply, when each leg feels the same, the shim height is correct.

  49. Steve,

    Would I be right in sayin if you move cleatto a more of a back position on the shoe u may need to lower the seat height?


  50. Do you ever see a rider alter their average cadence with cleat position changes? I’m not referencing changes in acceleration, but changes in average cadence across various ranges.

    1. Yes Karsten, I do. There are people who have such a poor position that there only option is to slog away at low cadence in a big gear and others who can only pedal ridiculously fast in a small gear. When either of these groups has their position sorted out, then tend to gravitate towards normal cadences / gear choices relative to speed.

  51. What is the correlation that you have found with cleat fore/aft placement and saddle fore/aft? I just moved my cleats from 16mm behind ball of foot to 12mm behind ball of foot…would this most likely equate to a little lower saddle height or further back? Thanks

    1. G’day Chris,
      There is no clear or exact relationship because so much depends on how the change in cleat position affects the technique of the rider. If you have any doubt in your mind, redo the balance test and seat height test.
      As an aside, moving the cleats forward 4mm as you have done will generally (not universally) mean that seat height has to rise a touch.
      In your case, I don’t know. Redo the tests and find out.

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