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Cycling and Your Feet

Las Vegas is one of the best places in the country to get on a bicycle and go for a ride! Whether you like road routes or mountain biking, hilly terrain or flat straightaways, urban exploration or stunning natural vistas, you’re never far from the perfect ride. It’s no wonder we’ve seen the streets fill up with cyclists this spring and early summer!

Cycling can take a toll on your feet if you are not preparedBiking is an activity we often recommend for our patients, especially those who run or play other sports, because it does have a lower overall impact on the feet and joints. However, cycling can still lead to pain and problems in the feet:

  • The balls of your feet or arches may ache or tingle after a long ride, since they often take the brunt of the force when you push the pedals. This can include general pain and swelling (metatarsalgia), the development of a neuroma or sesamoiditis, or even stress fractures.
  • If you have pain in your shins from cycling, you may have a biomechanical or muscle imbalance, or structural problem with your arches.
  • Achilles tendinitis can be an issue, especially for experienced riders who push themselves a little too far.
  • Knee pain is common for riders and can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including biomechanics, seat height, foot positioning, or more.

When you experience pain in your lower limbs from cycling, it may take a little investigating to figure out the primary cause. Here are some of the most important things to consider:

  • Your shoes and socks. If you’re going to be riding frequently or over long distances, your shoes are arguably your most important piece of equipment. Sport-specific cycling (or combination cycling-hiking) shoes are highly recommended. (Make sure the shoes aren’t too tight and your toes get plenty of wiggle room!) Additionally, a good pair of breathable, moisture-wicking socks can help prevent swelling and friction, both of which can lead to pain, injury, and blisters. Finally, you may need insoles or orthotics to help accommodate a structural problem.
  • Your pedals and foot positioning. The way you position your feet on the pedals can make a big different in terms of what bones, tissues, and structures will have to bear the force of the stroke—and how well that force gets distributed. You may need pedals with a larger load-bearing area, and you may find that you need to move your feet forward, backward, or sideways on the pedals to get the most efficient stroke. If your bike shoes have cleats, they may need to be adjusted.
  • Your seat height. The right height is critical for maintaining good biomechanics. A good, ball-park way to get your seat height near the right position is to use the “heel to pedal” method. When sitting on the bike, put your heel on the pedal and spin it backward to the bottom of the cycle (i.e., the six o’clock position). Your knee should be straight, with the heel still making solid contact with the pedal. This will work for most cyclists, though further adjustments may need to be made depending on the bike frame and your pedaling style (for example, “toe down” pedaling will mean a slightly higher seat height). A local bike shop can help you here.
  • Taking advantage of descents. A lot of climbing or low cadences in high gears increases the pressure you apply to the pedals when you ride, and that can lead to irritation in the feet. Take advantage of your downhill riding to give your feet a breather and spread out and wiggle your toes.

The Absolute Foot Care Specialists in Las Vegas are dedicated to helping cyclists—from recreational enthusiasts to serious riders—end their foot pain and enjoy their passion without restriction! If foot pain is getting in the way of doing what you love, give us a call at (702) 839-2010 to schedule your appointment.

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