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Recumbent What IS that thing?! Recumbents may be odd looking, but they have many advantages over a "wedgie" bicycle. Discuss the in's and out's recumbent lifestyle in the recumbent forum.

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Old 11-07-09, 07:50 PM   #1
Clutch J
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Foot pain...Pedal recommendations?

Hello.

I'm greatly enjoying my newish Stratus XP with one exception: I'm suffering from the foot pain not uncommon when using smaller, mountain bike-style pedals on recumbent bikes. The pain is both numbness towards the bottom of the foot as well as what I perceive to be nerve issues higher on the foot towards the ankle. It happens with both feet. I am not yet 50 and in generally good health. Today it hurt after fewer than ten miles

I'm become very fond of my Speedplay Frogs over the years and of being able to walk comfortably once I've dismounted. I am more of a bike tourist than racer and like to be able to walk into coffee shops, etc. Alas, it seems that the Frogs are not appropriate pedals for my recumbent.

So...Can anyone recommend a different recessed, mountain bike-style cleat such as the Crank Bros eggbeaters? I mention them because they appear to offer a larger surface area than my Frogs. Or am I fated to switch over entirely to the larger, road-bike style cleats and shoes?

I've now seen this thread-- http://www.bikeforums.net/archive/index.php/t-768.html -- and am now a little worried that the condition is associated with the position of the BB relative to the seat, something not so easily altered!

Thanks for any and all suggestions!
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Old 11-07-09, 08:03 PM   #2
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For me, using conventional SPD's, a pair of good stiff soled shoes solved the problem. I replaced some worn out Northwaves with an apparently comfortable pair of Shimanos. Any ride of over twenty or thirty miles resulted in at least mild discomfort no matter how adjusted. A pair of Sidis eliminated all problems.

I always thought Sidis were overpriced. I now think they are overpriced and sometimes worth it.
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Old 11-07-09, 08:31 PM   #3
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Maybe your Frog cleats need a little modification. Try this guide: http://mysite.verizon.net/vze2qy7h/frog_surgery.pdf
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Old 11-07-09, 11:00 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clutch J View Post
Hello.

I'm greatly enjoying my newish Stratus XP with one exception: I'm suffering from the foot pain not uncommon when using smaller, mountain bike-style pedals on recumbent bikes. The pain is both numbness towards the bottom of the foot as well as what I perceive to be nerve issues higher on the foot towards the ankle. It happens with both feet.
I think you've missed the crucial thing: what kind of shoes do you have, and how well do they fit?
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Old 11-08-09, 02:16 AM   #5
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Shoes are fine

I'm wearing some Specialized mountain bike shoes with which I've been very pleased for over a year. I've used them on extended tours on other bikes with no problems. To paraphrase Spike Lee, "It must not be the shoes."
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Old 11-08-09, 02:20 AM   #6
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I admire your tinkering ability! Me, I need to buy something that works.
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Old 11-08-09, 08:09 AM   #7
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How fast are you pedaling? It may help to select a lower gear and to ramp up your cadence to 90-100 if you're not there already. +1 on really stiff shoes with some molded in support.
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Old 11-08-09, 11:04 AM   #8
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. . . . "It must not be the shoes."
I said that too and for months flat refused to replace perfectly good shoes.

It was the shoes.
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Old 11-08-09, 04:34 PM   #9
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In this case..... I'd say it is the shoes, too. I wear a more or less inexpensive pair of Nike Mtn bike shoes. If I over-tighten them my feet are in trouble within 4 miles. Numb, cold toes, pain after extended time wearing them.

Today I wore a pair of "wind-proof" socks with a thin sock liner - too thick and I could feel the tightness within a mile.

I guess I'll break down and buy a better (and slightly larger) pair for the winter. But what I have is great during warm weather months.
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Old 11-09-09, 11:27 AM   #10
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So, if it IS the shoes, then I'm really confused because my current pair is very comfortable. Are you folks thinking I need to dump mountain-bike style shoes in general, switching to road-style, or should an extra-stiff mountain-bike shoe do the trick? Or am I missing something?
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Old 11-09-09, 07:19 PM   #11
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Agree stiffer soled well fitting shoes are probably the major part if not the complete solution.

Where are your cleats located? Particularly with higher bottom bracket recumbents, cyclists find locating the cleats closer to the heel tends to be more comfortable. Some even extend the mounting slots to allow cleat location even closer to the heel. If your cleats are not located as close the heel as possible, you might try this before buying new shoes. And if (when) you do buy new shoes, try the cleats back towards the heel.

Probably not the problem, but if new stiff shoes and rearward cleat location does not resolve the problem, you could replace the stock insole with firm insoles that support your arch evenly (try out multiple types, SuperFeet etc.). Since you do not have these symptoms on an upright (when you probably have more force on the foot due to weight of your leg + muscular force), this would be a last resort to try. The inserts are most often helpful with plantar fasciitis or similar problems.

Last edited by Giro; 11-09-09 at 07:50 PM.
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Old 11-09-09, 10:59 PM   #12
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Quote:
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So, if it IS the shoes, then I'm really confused because my current pair is very comfortable. Are you folks thinking I need to dump mountain-bike style shoes in general, switching to road-style, or should an extra-stiff mountain-bike shoe do the trick? Or am I missing something?
In general, just because the shoes fit in one orientation (upright) is no guarantee that they'll work right in another (recumbent). When I've changed things around (new shoes, switching from thick winter socks to thinner summer socks, whatever) I tend to tighten the laces and straps too much. My feet start to hurt pretty quickly. When I loosen thngs up my feet last all day. Give it a try.

If you have a professional bike fitter near you, it might be worth a visit. Some of them will turn up their noses at a recumbent, but some will enjoy the challenge. There's one near me: http://bicyclefittingservices.com/ that works on anything bicycle.

In terms of too-snug winter shoes & socks, several of my friends use SPD sandals, wool socks, and SealSkinz socks. This combination is waterproof and warm, according to them. I haven't tried it- I haven't found sandals that will fit my size 13's, plus I use orthotic insoles to alleviate my falling arches.
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Old 11-10-09, 11:27 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Clutch J View Post
So, if it IS the shoes, then I'm really confused because my current pair is very comfortable. Are you folks thinking I need to dump mountain-bike style shoes in general, switching to road-style, or should an extra-stiff mountain-bike shoe do the trick? Or am I missing something?
Really confused? Been there and plan on many return visits.

For me the issue seems to be only shoe stiffness -- the difference between "this seems plenty stiff enough" and "this thing does not give at all." I now wear Sidi Dominator 5's which are in the MTB category.
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Old 11-10-09, 07:21 PM   #14
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Something different

You could do something really radical. The Stratus works well with a nice big platform pedal. I need to move my feet around too much to stay clipped in. I get foot pain on anything I ride. I get far less with the smooth wide pedals I use on my Tailwind.
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Old 11-11-09, 11:05 PM   #15
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Everyone: Thank you, I really appreciate the feedback.

I've found some nylon-soled Specialized shoes very similar to (but stiffer than) the rubber-soled Specialized pair I've been wearing. That's probably the solution with which I'll first experiment.
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Old 11-30-09, 05:08 PM   #16
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Two more cents...

In addition to the considerable amount of excellent advice that has been written on this topic both here and in other forums around the net, I'm offering up the following for consideration.

I recently started riding a recumbent (2 weeks) and I've experienced toe numbness as well as pain on the top of my foot. After researching the issue and tinkering around with solutions offered on the net, one possible explanation is this:

On a traditional diamond frame bicycle, your foot is either at level or pointing "down" (toes lower than the heel). So blood continues to flow in the direction is was intended without fighting gravity. Conversely, depending on the type of recumbent you ride, your foot is in a pointing "up" (toes above the heel) orientation most of the time. Gravity would tend to pull blood away from the toes, leading to poor circulation and attendant numbness or even ischemic pain (especially if your feet are higher than your seat/hips).

This is further exacerbated by the fact that on a recumbent the orientation of the foot to the pedal and the pedal's power stroke are offset ~90 degrees counterclockwise from a diamond frame bicycle. A diamond frame bicyclist's foot is pushing forward into the wider toebox of the cycling shoe during the high output power stroke. Furthermore, the foot is descending from 12 o'clock to 3 - 4 o'clock in the power stroke and being pulled down into the toebox by gravity.

Conversely, during a recumbent rider's power stroke the foot is not only pushing forward but also pulling down from 12 o'clock to 3 - 4 o'clock in that "scrape-the-mud-off-the-bottom-of-your-shoe" motion. Combined with the pull of gravity, the recumbent rider's foot is being pulled backward relative to the cycling shoe. The consequence is the wider forefoot is being squeezed into the bottleneck of the center of the shoe where it narrows to conform to the shape of the arch of the foot. This puts pressure on the sides of the foot, potentially being a cause of numbness and poor circulation (my guess; no studies to back it up).

So, for the recumbent rider, it's a double whammy; gravity is pulling blood away from the toes and forefoot and the lateral compression of the foot at the arch during the power stroke may be causing pinched nerves. This may help explain why riders who transition from diamond frames to recumbents frequently comment that the shoes they were using without issue on the diamond frame are now giving them problems on the recumbent (or, more accurately, it's usually described as having not been an issue on the diamond frame and now they experience numbness on the recumbent despite using the same shoes for both bicycles). I think this is anecdotal evidence for ensuring you have the best fitting shoes you can possibly find (note I said "find", not "afford"; comfort does not necessarily equal the most expensive shoe on the market); good advice for any cycling but I think doubly so for recumbents where a growing body of evidence is beginning to reveal the critical importance of good shoe fit and proper foot positioning on a recumbent bicycle.

One solution I tried was moving the shoe forward on the pedal (which would mean moving the cleats backwards on the shoe towards the heel) so that the ball of my foot was forward of the pedal spindle; counter to the traditional recommendation of positioning the ball of the foot over the pedal spindle. I found that this relieved the pain on the top of the foot as well as decreased knee strain. There's still some toe numbness but I just purchased a new, wider pair of shoes and I'll see if that solves the problem.

Good luck.

Addendum:

I've used the new shoes for the first time tonight on a 1 hour ride; no numbness. One ride is not definitive; it will take more riding to see if this really was the solution I was hoping for. But at least it looks encouraging based on this evening's ride.

Last edited by Captain Creeg; 12-03-09 at 11:28 PM.
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Old 11-30-09, 05:29 PM   #17
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OMFG, pain on a hammock! SAY IT AIN'T SO!!!!

You might find a pedal that includes a platform helps your problem, along with cleat positioning. If you don't mind single-sided SPDs, I love the Shimano A20s on my road bike, or, if double-sided are a must, I use Shimano M424s on many of my other bikes. You might also consider Crank Brothers...the Mallet has a HUGE platform. You might also want to move the cleat back a little farther on your foot.
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Old 11-30-09, 06:28 PM   #18
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At first I thought this was an old thread. Somebody else was sure it wasn't the shoes. It was the shoes. If I ever get back on an upright, I'll probably find that my shoes only work with my recumbents.
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Old 12-07-09, 04:07 PM   #19
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Speedplay Drilliums. bk
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Old 12-10-09, 11:07 AM   #20
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After various experiments I use Shimano A520's pedals which are the broader platform road pedals in SPD. For recumbents, I use inexpensive Izuma Pearl shoes with velcro closures. I find that using my fancy SIDIS (which I use on my uprights) is a waste since cinched down they fatigue my feet and with the A520's, hotspotting (a new word...you saw on BF first) is not a problem. YMMV.
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