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Pedaling on arch of foot - is that okay?

Old 05-20-15, 03:21 PM
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arskemp
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Pedaling on arch of foot - is that okay?

Hello,

I've recently started biking for my work commute and I am unsure if I am causing unnecessary harm to my body pedaling the way I do. I currently pedal with my foot arch directly above the pedal. When I looked at a few clipless pedals (not purchasing, just curious to what they looked like) I noticed they all seem to be near the ball of your foot. I tried biking this way and it feels awkward (as well as my foot feels a little sore). When biking on my arch I have no foot pain at all. Should I just tough it out and look into switching my foot position or am I fine just biking the way I normally do?
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Old 05-20-15, 03:37 PM
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I say do what feels good to you. There are plenty of people doing it the "right" way who experience pain. If it's wrong for you, your body will tell you.
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Old 05-20-15, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by arskemp View Post
Hello,

I've recently started biking for my work commute and I am unsure if I am causing unnecessary harm to my body pedaling the way I do. I currently pedal with my foot arch directly above the pedal. When I looked at a few clipless pedals (not purchasing, just curious to what they looked like) I noticed they all seem to be near the ball of your foot. I tried biking this way and it feels awkward (as well as my foot feels a little sore). When biking on my arch I have no foot pain at all. Should I just tough it out and look into switching my foot position or am I fine just biking the way I normally do?
Originally Posted by likebike23 View Post
I say do what feels good to you. There are plenty of people doing it the "right" way who experience pain. If it's wrong for you, your body will tell you.
The question is whether it is actual pain (due to foot problems/injuries)...or simply very weak foot muscles that never get used finally experiencing life...and/or simply that you're using shoes designed for basketball not cycling.

For commuting, I presume you're not going that far and as such you're in sneakers...
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Old 05-20-15, 03:41 PM
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This is an excellent question. If pedaling with the center of the pedal near the ball causes pain, that is not good. IMO if you have shoes with stiff soles, I dont think it makes much difference where you place your foot.

As a matter of fact if you place the ball of the foot on the center of the pedal the force comming down the leg is placed behind the pedal axel and your foot has to lever the force onto the pedal. That takes energy that could be used for pedaling.

My attitude about this is that the "ball on the center of the axel" is more conventional lore of cycling that is suspect. Maybe Im just old and cranky but it is my opinion that much "knowledge" about cycling is pretty much BS. It seems to fall into realm of the conventional wisdom that you have to be a fully kitted cyclist on a $5000 bike to be a "real cyclist". End of rant.

Now if anyone has a logical reason why a person cant place his foot on the pedal where it feels right, please let us know. Im always willing to learn.
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Old 05-20-15, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
This is an excellent question. If pedaling with the center of the pedal near the ball causes pain, that is not good. IMO if you have shoes with stiff soles, I dont think it makes much difference where you place your foot.

As a matter of fact if you place the ball of the foot on the center of the pedal the force comming down the leg is placed behind the pedal axel and your foot has to lever the force onto the pedal. That takes energy that could be used for pedaling.

My attitude about this is that the "ball on the center of the axel" is more conventional lore of cycling that is suspect. Maybe Im just old and cranky but it is my opinion that much "knowledge" about cycling is pretty much BS. It seems to fall into realm of the conventional wisdom that you have to be a fully kitted cyclist on a $5000 bike to be a "real cyclist". End of rant.

Now if anyone has a logical reason why a person cant place his foot on the pedal where it feels right, please let us know. Im always willing to learn.
The question is why it feels natural.

Some ultra-long distance cyclists do move the pedal axle waaaaay back to help with hot-foot if they have nerve pain in their feet ( see: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3sC...B0cmNfLVU/edit )....but those folks are custom redrilling their clipless shoes and going a hell of a long way. The OP may simply be determining what feels good from riding work shoes or basketball sneakers....which is my easy assertion since that is the only way you're ever going to easily go between ball-of-foot and arch position. OTOH, the OP might have foot problems-and/or doing something outside-the-norm foot-position wise might screw up other things like knees etc.

Conventional lore tends to be there because it tends to work the best for the target application for most people. Just like there's only one proper knot to tie your shoes with properly and it has been around for hundreds of years (and people have been tying it wrong for most of the last several decades).

If it works, it works...but best to rule out other health issues along the way before declaring something "works".
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Old 05-20-15, 07:46 PM
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A long shot that this is your case ... but here goes:

My wife kept peddling with her arches, and when I told her to pedal with the ball of her foot (like you are supposed to), she said it felt uncomfortable and hurt. When I rode along side her, and tried to figure out what was going on her foot was half hanging of the pedals when using the ball of her foot.

Turns out she has something referred to as "duck feet" where the toes point away from the centre line of the body. If she pedals with her arches, her heel is angled towards the bike a bit, and her toes point away from the bike a bit. If she pedals with the ball of her foot, she has to move her foot over to not hit the crank with her heel (causing her foot to half hang off the pedal). If she tries to straighten her foot while peddling, it hurts because she needs to artificially twist her leg in at the knee.

She did not notice all this on her own.

Solution: ordered some pedal extenders (AKA knee savers) for $20, to push the pedals out a bit so she can pedal with the ball of her foot without: twisting leg, or hanging foot off the edge of the pedal, or rubbing her heel on the crank. Will see how much they help when I install them.
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Old 05-20-15, 08:14 PM
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I think the "duck foot" or even an extreme "pigeon toe" are valid possibilites. Having said that, a couple of weekends ago I witnessed a gal whom I thought was going to have trouble keeping up. She was on a townie (known to be a heavier bike) with fenders and she looked ultra skinny to me. Then I saw her riding with her arches over the pedal axle in something akin to a pair of flats. There was noticeable flex in the shoes.

Guess what. Other than some mild upper body bobbing, she had no trouble at all and wasn't winded at the destination either.

If you think you might take your cycling to the "next level", whatever that may be for you, Get a fitment done and make sure they do knee-toe tracking. Otherwise, do what's comfortable unless your doctor says otherwise. And of course, I'm not your doctor, so there's that.
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Old 05-21-15, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
For commuting, I presume you're not going that far and as such you're in sneakers...
Correct. Just good ole work shoes/sneakers.

Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
The question is whether it is actual pain (due to foot problems/injuries)...or simply very weak foot muscles that never get used finally experiencing life...and/or simply that you're using shoes designed for basketball not cycling.
Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
If it works, it works...but best to rule out other health issues along the way before declaring something "works".
Originally Posted by steve_cay View Post
My wife kept peddling with her arches, and when I told her to pedal with the ball of her foot (like you are supposed to), she said it felt uncomfortable and hurt. When I rode along side her, and tried to figure out what was going on her foot was half hanging of the pedals when using the ball of her foot.

Turns out she has something referred to as "duck feet" where the toes point away from the centre line of the body. If she pedals with her arches, her heel is angled towards the bike a bit, and her toes point away from the bike a bit. If she pedals with the ball of her foot, she has to move her foot over to not hit the crank with her heel (causing her foot to half hang off the pedal). If she tries to straighten her foot while peddling, it hurts because she needs to artificially twist her leg in at the knee.
Excellent responses! Never thought it could be related to a preexisting foot condition. I know my feet get extremely sore (both the ball and the heel) when standing on a hard surface for more than a few minutes with no shoes on (aka kitchen floor). I resolved this just by simply putting a memory foam mat in front of the sink or by putting shoes/flip flops on when in the kitchen. Maybe this is my way of naturally compensating for something when biking.

Originally Posted by rydabent View Post
As a matter of fact if you place the ball of the foot on the center of the pedal the force comming down the leg is placed behind the pedal axel and your foot has to lever the force onto the pedal. That takes energy that could be used for pedaling.
I was wondering about that too. I definitely feel like I am doing more work (particularly in the ankle) when I am positioned in the supposed "correct" way. It seems to me that it would be more efficient the closer you are leg for the reason you mentioned.

Originally Posted by intransit1217 View Post
If you think you might take your cycling to the "next level", whatever that may be for you, Get a fitment done and make sure they do knee-toe tracking. Otherwise, do what's comfortable unless your doctor says otherwise. And of course, I'm not your doctor, so there's that.
Most of the LBSs around here seemed to have the "do what feels best" mentality when I was shopping around a few months ago for a bike. I may have to do some research on where I can do this locally.



Thanks everyone for the responses. It does sound like the best thing I can do is take time to speak to a doctor/podiatrists and eliminate any possible foot related conditions first.
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Old 05-21-15, 09:44 AM
  #9  
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I commute to work and prefer "old fashioned" toeclips. I would wear whatever walking shoes or sneakers that had become too worn to wear to work. About three years ago the sneakers I used were way too flexible and my foot began to ache slightly. I went to Wally World and bought $10 skateboard shoes, that had a slightly firmer, but still somewhat flexible sole. These are very comfortable and I have had no foot issues.
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Old 05-21-15, 10:44 AM
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Don't think that some thing is automatically "wrong". We all have a bit of duck or pigeon in us. Some ride knees out, some, knees scarily close to the top tube. We're all wierdos.
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Old 05-21-15, 04:45 PM
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Maybe it's better for you - Joe Friel's Blog: Cleat position.

ETA: I'm not endorsing this, just reporting. I haven't tried it myself, and this is the only doc on it that I've seen, but I thought the OP would appreciate it.

Last edited by philbob57; 05-21-15 at 06:52 PM.
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Old 05-21-15, 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by philbob57 View Post
Maybe it's better for you - Joe Friel's Blog: Cleat position.
Hmmmm ... I am skeptical, although not discrediting it.

Is he credible with his "9% power increase by pedaling with the arch"? What are the chances he discovered something, that pro racers with million dollar custom designed bikes, and a team of top bio mechanical engineers missed? 9% increase is huge ... people pay fortunes for slight weight savings or aerodynamics that contribute 0.5% in hopes of improving their standing!!!
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Old 05-21-15, 07:48 PM
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Originally Posted by arskemp View Post
Hello,

I've recently started biking for my work commute and I am unsure if I am causing unnecessary harm to my body pedaling the way I do. I currently pedal with my foot arch directly above the pedal. When I looked at a few clipless pedals (not purchasing, just curious to what they looked like) I noticed they all seem to be near the ball of your foot. I tried biking this way and it feels awkward (as well as my foot feels a little sore). When biking on my arch I have no foot pain at all. Should I just tough it out and look into switching my foot position or am I fine just biking the way I normally do?
I think your saddle might be too low. I see many women cyclist riding with the saddle very low to the point where they can pedal with the arch of the foot. If the saddle were at the right height taking advantage of maximum efficiency, you would only be able to pedal with the ball of your foot.
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Old 05-21-15, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by steve_cay View Post
Hmmmm ... I am skeptical, although not discrediting it.

Is he credible with his "9% power increase by pedaling with the arch"? What are the chances he discovered something, that pro racers with million dollar custom designed bikes, and a team of top bio mechanical engineers missed? 9% increase is huge ... people pay fortunes for slight weight savings or aerodynamics that contribute 0.5% in hopes of improving their standing!!!
Since his blog post is over eight years old and I've never seen anything a recent fromhim on the subject, I think he either dismissed it or was proven wrong.
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Old 05-21-15, 08:55 PM
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Originally Posted by StanSeven View Post
Since his blog post is over eight years old and I've never seen anything a recent fromhim on the subject, I think he either dismissed it or was proven wrong.
Nah, he is still peddling his theory:
Joe Friel - Midsole Cleats and Pedals
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Old 05-22-15, 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by steve_cay View Post
Hmmmm ... I am skeptical, although not discrediting it.

Is he credible with his "9% power increase by pedaling with the arch"? What are the chances he discovered something, that pro racers with million dollar custom designed bikes, and a team of top bio mechanical engineers missed? 9% increase is huge ... people pay fortunes for slight weight savings or aerodynamics that contribute 0.5% in hopes of improving their standing!!!
Read the post again -- he found that having the cleats too far forward cost him about that much efficiency. He's not guaranteeing that everyone will boost their power output by 9% (actually, power-heart rate ratio was the metric in question), just that it's something to consider trying. (And he doesn't claim to discover something that the pros are missing, either -- the tip was passed on to him by a former pro cyclist and shoe designer, and as Marcus pointed out, long-distance cyclists have been doing this for a long time. )

Regardless of the numbers, I'm on board. Having the contact point too far forward means you're over-involving your calves in an effort to stabilize your feet with each pedal stroke. Having the contact points in more of a neutral position means you can press down more evenly with your feet.

It's like squatting a weight while standing on your tip-toes, versus having your feet flat on the ground.
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Old 05-22-15, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Read the post again -- he found that having the cleats too far forward cost him about that much efficiency. He's not guaranteeing that everyone will boost their power output by 9% (actually, power-heart rate ratio was the metric in question), just that it's something to consider trying.
In the original article he says that moving the cleat from the ball of his foot to his arch increased power by 9% and many found the same result:

"Why do we place the cleat under the ball of the foot on our cycling shoes? I can find no evidence to support this location. It appears to be simply a result of tradition--cyclists have always done it that way. Last July former pro cyclist and shoe designer Goetz Heine (www.biomac.biz) suggested I try putting my cleats in the arch of my shoes. With some skepticism I tried it. To my amazement my performance improved. In fact, my power-heart rate ratio which I tracked for years improved by 9%. That's a huge change."
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Old 05-22-15, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by steve_cay View Post
In the original article he says that moving the cleat from the ball of his foot to his arch increased power by 9% and many found the same result:

"Why do we place the cleat under the ball of the foot on our cycling shoes? I can find no evidence to support this location. It appears to be simply a result of tradition--cyclists have always done it that way. Last July former pro cyclist and shoe designer Goetz Heine (www.biomac.biz) suggested I try putting my cleats in the arch of my shoes. With some skepticism I tried it. To my amazement my performance improved. In fact, my power-heart rate ratio which I tracked for years improved by 9%. That's a huge change."
Again: Joe Friel found a 9% improvement. No, he doesn't claim anyone else did (or will) in that blog post:

So is there an advantage in placing the cleats farther back? I *believe* so.
...
I've suggested to all of the athletes I coach that they move their cleats back toward the heels as far as they can. All that have tried it reported *feeling* more powerful.
...
Most found it beneficial but some decided it wasn’t for them.
That's it!
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