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Simple Footwear Question/Observation

Old 10-28-16, 10:54 AM
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LHawes
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Simple Footwear Question/Observation

I'm recently back into cycling after a few years off and have been gathering the proper attire over time. I am 63 years old and have a hybrid and a mountain bike and bike only for exercise and the shear fun of riding both street and off road.

I've been riding in my running shoes with no real problems but found an older pair of lightweight hiking shows that I thought might be better for mountain biking. They are much stiffer than the running shoes of course and provide a more stable platform to peddle from. It's just plain easier to peddle with them BUT it requires less effort and strain on my calf muscles to keep my foot level and in position and seems to work those muscles out less than the running shoes do.

My bikes are faster and easier to ride for longer distances meaning I have/get to ride further for the same amount of exercise and if I adopt a good, stiff soled riding shoe then my calf muscles will get even less exercise, which is the main reason I am riding.

I can understand getting good, stiff riding show if you are racing and saving those muscles could make a huge difference in finishing order in a race but for every day exercise? What do you think?

I'm tempted both directions because the stiffer hiking shoes are just better for everything the mountain bike experience presents but the running shoes seem to offer more exercise.

Any thoughts?
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Old 10-28-16, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by LHawes View Post
I'm tempted both directions because the stiffer hiking shoes are just better for everything the mountain bike experience presents but the running shoes seem to offer more exercise.

Any thoughts?

Yeah. Effort is being wasted in the compression of the sole of the softer shoe.
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Old 10-28-16, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Yeah. Effort is being wasted in the compression of the sole of the softer shoe.
I understand most of these threads end up in the purview of those who have ridden for a long time or race and every inefficiency is noted and compensated for with the best, most efficient gear - makes sense. But if one were merely out for the exercise does one need to be efficient - at all?

As that effort is wasted is strain and exercise gained in those muscles with that compression? I understand if one were racing then wasting that effort would be important but for exercise isn't that compression and effort being used to strengthen those muscles needed to compensate for that compression? Curious.
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Old 10-28-16, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by LHawes View Post
But if one were merely out for the exercise does one need to be efficient - at all?
I don't like to waste energy, whether I am on a club century, touring in the mountains or riding to the grocery store. Why would you want to waste energy? If you want more exercise, ride harder. I also don't like the hot spots that can result from softer soles. Finally, shoes that are stiffer all around the foot can help prevent injuries.


Do whatever makes you happy.
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Old 10-28-16, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by LHawes View Post
But if one were merely out for the exercise does one need to be efficient - at all?

As that effort is wasted is strain and exercise gained in those muscles with that compression? I understand if one were racing then wasting that effort would be important but for exercise isn't that compression and effort being used to strengthen those muscles needed to compensate for that compression? Curious.
Well ... you probably need to be "efficient" to the extent that you're not risking injury/pain by doing something that doesn't work for you. If you aren't experiencing pain/discomfort wearing soft-soled shoes to ride in, and you're happy with the results, then go for it.

And yes, in a sense, I would agree that you might actually getting more "exercise" in terms of pure physics - less efficiency means more work, IIRC - although physics was my absolute worst subject in the sciences, hated it, so don't quote me. More "work" in the sense that you are expending extra calories because you aren't moving efficiently.

But, the "work" involved, the force, may not be doing anything beneficial for you. When you go to the gym and use a specific piece of equipment, when you do the movement correctly, you are isolating and working a specific muscle or muscle group in a specific way, designed to break it down under a workload/weight, so it can heal stronger. That may not be happening on the bike in soft-soled shoes - you may be doing more "work", perceived as effort, but it may not be efficient in the sense it's not strengthening muscles in a way that actually benefits you - or at least, it's doing it much more slowly and less efficiently than if you were doing the movement "correctly".

Finally, I guess it depends on your goal. If your goal is just "general health" - primarily aerobic exercise for stress relief, weight control, etc, it probably doesn't make a lot of difference, especially if you are more on the casual, 2-3 short rides a week end of the spectrum. If, OTOH, you're training for endurance sports or general strength/cardio training in a more "serious" manner with some goal in mind, you probably need to pay more attention to the details ... like the correct kind of shoe for maximum efficiency.

There really isn't a "right or wrong" answer to this question - just a "what works for you" answer.
Just MHO, YMMV.

Edited to add: Personally, a softer-soled shoe does not work for me on the bike (even in running shoes I go for more support) - I'm not a big fan of foot pain, and the wrong, inadequately-supportive shoes do that to me every time.

Last edited by DaveQ24; 10-28-16 at 11:28 AM.
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Old 10-28-16, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by LHawes View Post
I'm recently back into cycling after a few years off and have been gathering the proper attire over time. I am 63 years old and have a hybrid and a mountain bike and bike only for exercise and the shear fun of riding both street and off road.

I've been riding in my running shoes with no real problems but found an older pair of lightweight hiking shows that I thought might be better for mountain biking. They are much stiffer than the running shoes of course and provide a more stable platform to peddle from. It's just plain easier to peddle with them BUT it requires less effort and strain on my calf muscles to keep my foot level and in position and seems to work those muscles out less than the running shoes do.

My bikes are faster and easier to ride for longer distances meaning I have/get to ride further for the same amount of exercise and if I adopt a good, stiff soled riding shoe then my calf muscles will get even less exercise, which is the main reason I am riding.

I can understand getting good, stiff riding show if you are racing and saving those muscles could make a huge difference in finishing order in a race but for every day exercise? What do you think?

I'm tempted both directions because the stiffer hiking shoes are just better for everything the mountain bike experience presents but the running shoes seem to offer more exercise.

Any thoughts?
Increased foot strain does not equal exercise! At least not to me. Increased efficiency to me means more than increased speed. There is increased efficiency, increased power delivery, decreased wear & tear on the bottom of your foot, increased ability to pedal through more of each 180 arc. More opportunity to pull up when clipped in. Wearing soft gym shoes or even stiff hiking boots are both inadadequate for quality riding.
If you think of your body as the motor of a car, riding in gym shoes is like trying to power your car engine with Pistons & connected to the crankshaft with no connecting rod bearings. A very unsatisfactory result that you would never tolerate. Why would you purposely make your bike ride like total crap?
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Old 10-28-16, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by DaveQ24 View Post
Well ... you probably need to be "efficient" to the extent that you're not risking injury/pain by doing something that doesn't work for you. If you aren't experiencing pain/discomfort wearing soft-soled shoes to ride in, and you're happy with the results, then go for it.

And yes, in a sense, I would agree that you might actually getting more "exercise" in terms of pure physics - less efficiency means more work, IIRC - although physics was my absolute worst subject in the sciences, hated it, so don't quote me. More "work" in the sense that you are expending extra calories because you aren't moving efficiently.

But, the "work" involved, the force, may not be doing anything beneficial for you. When you go to the gym and use a specific piece of equipment, when you do the movement correctly, you are isolating and working a specific muscle or muscle group in a specific way, designed to break it down under a workload/weight, so it can heal stronger. That may not be happening on the bike in soft-soled shoes - you may be doing more "work", perceived as effort, but it may not be efficient in the sense it's not strengthening muscles in a way that actually benefits you - or at least, it's doing it much more slowly and less efficiently than if you were doing the movement "correctly".

Finally, I guess it depends on your goal. If your goal is just "general health" - primarily aerobic exercise for stress relief, weight control, etc, it probably doesn't make a lot of difference, especially if you are more on the casual, 2-3 short rides a week end of the spectrum. If, OTOH, you're training for endurance sports or general strength/cardio training in a more "serious" manner with some goal in mind, you probably need to pay more attention to the details ... like the correct kind of shoe for maximum efficiency.

There really isn't a "right or wrong" answer to this question - just a "what works for you" answer.
Just MHO, YMMV.

Edited to add: Personally, a softer-soled shoe does not work for me on the bike (even in running shoes I go for more support) - I'm not a big fan of foot pain, and the wrong, inadequately-supportive shoes do that to me every time.
Very helpful, thanks for taking the time. I experience no pain with my running shoes but do feel more exercise of my foot and calf muscles when I wear them but much more stability with the hiking shoes. I'll monitor both and see which direction makes the most sense.

I'm mountain biking this weekend with the hiking shoes, because I will also be doing some err... hiking so I'll see how it goes.
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Old 10-28-16, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by masi61 View Post
Increased foot strain does not equal exercise! At least not to me. Increased efficiency to me means more than increased speed. There is increased efficiency, increased power delivery, decreased wear & tear on the bottom of your foot, increased ability to pedal through more of each 180 arc. More opportunity to pull up when clipped in. Wearing soft gym shoes or even stiff hiking boots are both inadadequate for quality riding.
If you think of your body as the motor of a car, riding in gym shoes is like trying to power your car engine with Pistons & connected to the crankshaft with no connecting rod bearings. A very unsatisfactory result that you would never tolerate. Why would you purposely make your bike ride like total crap?
I'm probably not communicating this very well but I don't need any efficiency per se, just the best exercise I can get for all my muscles.

I don't think the piston rod bearing analogy is all that great and how does wearing running shoes instead of special riding shoes "purposely make your bike ride like total crap"?
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Old 10-28-16, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
I don't like to waste energy, whether I am on a club century, touring in the mountains or riding to the grocery store. Why would you want to waste energy? If you want more exercise, ride harder. I also don't like the hot spots that can result from softer soles. Finally, shoes that are stiffer all around the foot can help prevent injuries.


Do whatever makes you happy.
I don't mind wasting energy if it's being used to build muscle and endurance, anywhere in my body, because I don't need to go faster.

I started wearing the stiffer hiking shoes for exactly the reason you state - it just seemed safer while out mountain biking and "can help prevent injuries."
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Old 10-28-16, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by LHawes View Post
Very helpful, thanks for taking the time. I experience no pain with my running shoes but do feel more exercise of my foot and calf muscles when I wear them but much more stability with the hiking shoes. I'll monitor both and see which direction makes the most sense.

I'm mountain biking this weekend with the hiking shoes, because I will also be doing some err... hiking so I'll see how it goes.
Glad it helped. I wear regular hiking boots at times on the bike, primarily in the winter. My only thing - I learned years ago, NO dangling laces. I've got a couple of pairs of Salomon hiking boots that have an elastic closed-loop lace system, no laces to get caught in the chain.
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Old 10-28-16, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by LHawes View Post
I'm probably not communicating this very well but I don't need any efficiency per se, just the best exercise I can get for all my muscles.
?
With this line of thinking, you could deflate your tires a bit, wear a backpack filled with bricks, shift into a harder gear than normal, stop lubing your chain, wear a tent sized coat for catching a lot of wind, etc..
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Old 10-28-16, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene View Post
With this line of thinking, you could deflate your tires a bit, wear a backpack filled with bricks, shift into a harder gear than normal, stop lubing your chain, wear a tent sized coat for catching a lot of wind, etc..
Great suggestions - I guess I could also ignore your posts as well - but thanks everyone else for being genuinely helpful.

Actually that might be good advice since I'm not in a hurry to get anywhere. I remember when I would train for the ski season when I lived in Park City. I would run the mountains carrying boulders in each hand, just for the added stress and exercise. Got really strong and really good aerobic strength for the coming season. Maybe that back pack filled with bricks would work the same magic?

Last edited by LHawes; 10-28-16 at 01:50 PM.
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Old 10-28-16, 01:38 PM
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One thing to keep in mind is that cycling is repetitive. Wearing shoes that put more strain on your feet will eventually lead to injury. It may take awhile but eventually using soft soled shoes will catch up with you. Supportive footwear will allow you to ride farther and faster for the same amount of effort. Don't know about you but being able to see more countryside during a ride would make cycling much more interesting for me
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Old 10-28-16, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Sy Reene View Post
With this line of thinking, you could deflate your tires a bit, wear a backpack filled with bricks, shift into a harder gear than normal, stop lubing your chain, wear a tent sized coat for catching a lot of wind, etc..
I worked with one personal trainer about 5 years ago that like to get me out of the gym at times - we would do a military long march for an hour down the local MUP, which was paved but also hilly by our standards for this region - he made me keep up an average pace of 4.5 MPH hiking with 25 to 30 lbs of weight in a weight vest. It was a great workout actually, and I enjoyed the challenge of keeping up with a young 20-something man in his prime - I was about 45-46 then.

IIRC, US Army combat troops in Afghanistan/Iraq had about 125 lbs of gear, on average, that they had to wear at all times when on patrol.

So, there is something to be said for the approach if it's done correctly.
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Old 10-28-16, 01:45 PM
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Why not use the hiking boots for hiking and cycling and running? They're bound to outlast the running shoes, and the extra weight should guarantee a better workout.
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Old 10-28-16, 03:20 PM
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The problem with using the wrong footwear (such as running shoes) with certain pedals is that the excessive flexing of the sole of the running shoe can lead to strain injuries to the foot and other parts of the body such as the legs as the body tries subconsciously to compensate for the flexing of the foot and the resulting strain on the foot. A stiffer sole is better. Think of the sole as being the foundation of your pedaling.

Cheers
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Old 10-28-16, 03:25 PM
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Originally Posted by LHawes View Post
I understand most of these threads end up in the purview of those who have ridden for a long time or race and every inefficiency is noted and compensated for with the best, most efficient gear - makes sense. But if one were merely out for the exercise does one need to be efficient - at all?
No, you do not need to be efficient at all. You can go outside and push against your house, or try to pull your car down the driveway while it is in park. You won't go very fast or very far, but if you are just looking to work up a sweat, knock yourself out.

Originally Posted by LHawes View Post
As that effort is wasted is strain and exercise gained in those muscles with that compression? I understand if one were racing then wasting that effort would be important but for exercise isn't that compression and effort being used to strengthen those muscles needed to compensate for that compression? Curious.
I don't race, but I enjoy going fast and far. But that's just me.
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Old 10-28-16, 06:08 PM
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+1 for stiffer soled shoes. I recently had to take a week off biking because of using old worn out running shoes while mountain biking. It started after longer/harder than usual rides on a Saturday and Sunday that the inside of my arch and top of my foot became almost too sore to walk for several days, it began on a Monday and gradually got worse until Wednesday I had to leave work early it hurt so bad. I could barely limp down the hallway out to my truck. Extremely painful and lasted about 5 days. Strange thing is it didn't hurt while I was out riding, the pain came on slowly over the next 2 days. Luckily it healed itself over the next week, but that was enough for me to go and spend good money on a pair of Salomon shoes. These have extremely stiff soles and the grip on the pedals is nice also.

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Old 10-28-16, 06:36 PM
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Dear OP, please get cycling specific MTB shoes. There are several types which can be worn for casual rides and you can walk about in them and not look out of place or get the the click, click, click. Also get some pedals, I recommend the SPD type for your use and learn to clip in. BTW, I am 62yo.

The Wellgo SPD MTB platform with the double side would be a good place to start.
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Old 10-29-16, 09:54 PM
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Between your quads, hamstrings, calves, the muscles in your feet are the weakest link in the chain. Riding for fitness, rather than just recreation, you need to give your feet more support, or you will put them at risk for strain injuries.
I have acute fasciitis in my left foot from over-training in worn out shoes, compounded by a bad step during a 5k trail race.
I just completed a 6-day Tour, 80-120 miles per day, wearing proper road bike shoes, and had no problems with my feet.

If you want to utilize other muscle groups than your quads, consider altering your seating position, to change the mechanics of your pedal stroke. This is what the triathlon guys do, moving their seats up and forward, using more hamstrings and calves, in order to save their quads for the run segment.
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Old 10-29-16, 10:00 PM
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I mostly ride with low top Montrail hiking shoes. I prefer larger platform pedals and shift my foot position as needed. Recently I've shifted my foot so the arch is almost centered over the pedal axle. Feels stronger overall, especially climbing, and less tiring on longer rides. Occasionally I'll shift the foot slightly to put the ball of the foot nearer the axle for downhills and fast flat terrain.

That's a big change from how I rode years ago with toe clips and Detto Pietros locked in with the ball of the foot centered over the pedal axle. That was the conventional wisdom then. Doesn't suit me now.
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Old 10-30-16, 04:14 PM
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I think it best, as some other posters have said, to get a stiff shoe and stay away from too much flex like a running shoe typically has. Also,some athletic shoes, while certainly being stiff, can have much of the arch portion of the sole cut away so that it makes it difficult in some cases to keep the shoe in place on some platform pedals. A uniform sole may be easier to use with such pedals.

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Old 10-30-16, 04:57 PM
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get a pair of one of the bright yellow or red excersise shoes available these days. helps add visibility. you'll never get in shape if you get hit by a car.
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Old 10-30-16, 08:35 PM
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Thank you for all the replies. I just got back from a weekend near Big Bear CA at a friend's cabin that just happened to be perched near the trail head of the Santa Ana River Trail, apparently one of CA's best mountain bike trails as I learned after arriving.

He drove me up about 4 miles to the trail head and I spent a spectacular 1 1/2 hours riding that great trail - with my stiffer hiking boots - and they were really nice and the support was noticeable and much welcomed. I have a nice set of flat pedals and no interest in clipping in but the stiffer shoes were really nice. Could have done it in the running shoes but just don't think it's smart anymore.
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Old 11-01-16, 03:53 PM
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My 2 cents. I wear a hard soled Birkenstock cloth/leather boot. I love these. The Birkenstock footbed holds my heel, arch and ball firmly. I ride a platform pedal with a 3M grip layer and I get good traction. Probably not a common choice, but cant say enough about them. I tried a lot of different footware. I'm 68 and ride 100-150 miles a week.
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