The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Foot Injuries Caused by Cycling and Choosing the Best Cycling Shoes for Foot Pain

Posted by on Monday, April 11th, 2016

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Cycling is often pitched as one of the easiest forms of exercise on the body. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sustain a foot injury. New York City is ranked one of the top “bike-friendly” cities and, at last count, we had over 20,000 cyclist commuters in the city – so, not surprisingly, we treat a lot of cyclist foot and ankle injuries here at The Center For Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine offices in Manhattan and Westchester.

Here are some common issues that arise, and what you can do to treat them.

While cycling is a low impact sport compared to running, we still see a good deal of foot and ankle injuries related to cycling at our NYC podiatry practice. (Image Source: Flickr user ewan traveler)
While cycling is a low-impact sport compared to running, we still see a good deal of foot and ankle injuries related to cycling at our NYC podiatry practice. (Image Source: Flickr user ewan traveler)

Cyclist Injuries

Every day, we treat cyclists for overuse injuries like:

  • Shin Splints: We most commonly find shin splints (pain on either side of the lower leg bone) in people with collapsed foot arches and excessive pronation. It’s believed these natural genetic anomalies cause a muscle imbalance. Luckily, we can help you correct this issue with proper stretching technique and corrective orthoses.
  • Sesamoiditis: The sesamoids, two small bones beneath the first metatarsals, can become inflamed or even rupture with the stress of competitive cycling. While lowering your activity levels and taking anti-inflammatory medication can help, we’ve also recommended custom orthoses, shoe pads, foot sleeves, and shoe counseling as effective methods to treat this condition. Cortisone injections can also help relieve acute foot pain. (Learn more about sesamoiditis.)
  • Nerve Damage: Numbness, tingling, burning, shooting pain, or swelling at the ball of the foot or between the toes signifies a nerve issue. Nerves can thicken or become entrapped by inflamed soft tissue. If tingling is accompanied by leg pain, we may need to treat you for a serious condition known as acute compartment syndrome.
  • Achilles Tendinitis: The root cause of irritation and inflammation at the back of the heel in the Achilles’ tendon could be related to lack of proper warm-up, overtraining, improper pedaling technique, or improper seat height. Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication are enough to take the edge off for most people, but if the pain persists, stop in to learn about advanced therapies we offer, such as injection therapy and extracorporeal shockwave treatment.

You May Also Like: Another Chronic Achilles Success Story

Cyclist Shoe Choice Matters

“Proper shoes are the most important piece of cycling equipment,” according to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. “Cycling shoes must have a stable shank to efficiently transfer power from your feet to the pedals. The lack of shank support in sneakers allows the foot to collapse through the arch while pedaling, which may cause arch pain, tendon problems, or burning under the bottom of the foot. A rigid shank protects your feet from the stress of pedaling.”

It’s especially important to choose the best cycling shoes for preventing foot pain if you meet these conditions:

  • You participate in the sport three or more times per week.
  • You have preexisting conditions with your feet or a history of foot pain.
  • You wear orthotic shoe inserts for heel or arch control.
  • You have bunions or hammertoes that require extra shoe width and depth.

Casual riders without foot problems may find enough arch and instep support in a good cross-training shoe. For example, combination cycling-hiking shoes have become popular in recent years.

Some riders may instead find that toe clips are the best way to avoid foot pain. The benefit of this system is that your shoe and pedal will work as a cohesive unit to transfer power from the hips to the feet in the most efficient way. Beginners interested in using toe clip systems can find the most diverse combinations by the French manufacturer Look.

Cycling Biomechanics

As sports medicine doctors, we can also help patients with their biomechanical form. We’ll take a look at how you bike and offer suggestions on movement and bike setup to help you prevent injury and pain. Our strength-training and conditioning programs will make sure you’re strong in every major muscle group – from the gluteals and quadriceps to the calves and hamstrings.

Contact our NYC sports medicine centers to schedule a consultation and take the first strides toward injury treatment or prevention.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.