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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.


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.

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 have 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.

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