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Has anyone fixed foot numbness by switching pedals?

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Has anyone fixed foot numbness by switching pedals?

Old 02-22-24, 01:15 PM
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Has anyone fixed foot numbness by switching pedals?

I've been riding Speedplay pedals for the last 10 years and have 3 sets of cycling shoes. In any set of shoes, I get numbness in my left food only from my big toe to my middle toe and back to the ball of my foot after I've been riding more than about an hour. I'm wondering if I might find some relief if I switch over to Shimano SPD-SL pedals and cleats. My thinking is that the system seems to have a larger contact area than the Speedplays so the pressure is spread over a larger area. Any thoughts?
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Old 02-22-24, 01:42 PM
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You might. But you also might not.

Are you sure your foot isn't swelling? Compression socks like Swiftwick help me with that. Also getting the fore/aft cleat position correct. Don't know how that works with Speedplay's.

3 sets of shoes. Maybe it's just time for another set. They all had stiff enough soles that they didn't bend at the cleat position didn't they?
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Old 02-22-24, 01:46 PM
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or bigger shoes. I'm older, and my feet have flattened out and thus increased in shoe size. I ride Speedplay. I used to wear a size 9-1/2 to 10, now I ride 10-1/2-11 depending on the shoe. My comfort improved immediately when I got bigger shoes.
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Old 02-22-24, 02:10 PM
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I would first try a shoe insert that provides more support for your foot. I use the Pinnacle Powerstop insoles in all my hiking boots to get adequate arch support. Without this support more weight is put on the heels and toes of my feet.

I stand up as much as possible when riding and look forward to hills for this reason. I stretch my legs and back and give my neck and shoulder muscles some relief by standing up in the pedals.

Switching pedals is less likely to help than finding bike shoes that are stiffer. I replace my bike shoes when they start to flex too much and do not wait for them to wear out completely. Runners will retire shoes after a year for similar reasons to protect their feet.
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Old 02-22-24, 02:24 PM
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Second inserts. Pedaling crushes your arches.
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Old 02-22-24, 03:11 PM
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Hmmm.....never thought of better inserts.
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Old 02-22-24, 03:28 PM
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Interestingly, I have two pair of shoes, a wide pair and a narrow pair. My feet get sore when I wear the wide, but not the narrow. My daily wear shoes are EE to EEEE.
Is this because of the compression afforded by the narrow shoe?
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Old 02-22-24, 03:35 PM
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I will occasionally get numbness on my right foot from the middle toe to the pinkie toe. My physical therapist says that the problem is actually with my lower back that is causing this.
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Old 02-22-24, 04:45 PM
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I went from SPD (2-bolt, mountain) to Look Keo. On the Keos, started out with Adidas road shoes (nice looking, but flexy), and now on Shimano carbon soled RC7s. Each step offered improvement in foot pain for me. So yes, it can help - but it sure wasn’t cheap.
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Old 02-22-24, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01
Are you sure your foot isn't swelling? Compression socks like Swiftwick help me with that.
My first reaction is "I'm too young for compression socks!" But, dammit, the hot spots are starting really early this year. I might have to give 'em a try.
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Old 02-22-24, 06:22 PM
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As you all can see from the responses there are a zillion ideas behind what causes foot numbness and how to cure it. There is no one single answer for any individual. When I was doing fittings we addressed the foot structural support inside the shoe with insoles, valgus with wedges, and upper foot support with the shoe itself, however the single most effective thing we did as fitters was demonstrate how to pedal. Changing how you apply power to the pedals will likely be enough to provide relief to the foot in pain.

The numbness comes from the foot being smashed into the bottom of the shoe all the time. Pushing big gears and heavy pedal strokes makes a poor environment for blood flow to the foot. One must give the blood a chance to flow into the foot on each pedal stroke and can be done by either gearing down to ease the load and increase rpm or by resting the foot on the up-stroke by taking pressure off the foot instead of pulling back, just let it go around the back side of the stroke without any effort. Only in times of needed total power output do you pull up such as sprints or serious climbs.
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Old 02-22-24, 07:00 PM
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Switching to a slightly wider fitting shoe fixed it for me, along with insoles with more arch support. I doubt the pedals are a problem.
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Old 02-22-24, 08:08 PM
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Assuming that all of your road shoes fit well and are stiff enough, I don't think pedal choice would affect foot numbness. However, cleat position might. I just fixed a slight numbness issue in my right foot by moving my SPD-SL cleat slightly (~1.5 mm) forward toward the front of my shoe. Mid-foot pedaling is now all the rage, but I find that if the pedal spindle is too far back (relative to the length of my foot), my ankle does not bend as much during the pedal stroke, which leads to foot numbness.

Caveats:
1. I have only ridden clipless (SPD-SL) for 14 months, so I am a relative noob who may not know what the heck I am talking about.
2. I have very flat feet so the above may not apply to anyone else.

Last edited by SoSmellyAir; 02-22-24 at 10:07 PM.
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Old 02-22-24, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by MidTNBrad
Hmmm.....never thought of better inserts.
At the last shop I was doing fits for, we put arch support inserts in anyone's shoes with a medium or high arch. They were free to turn them down after trying them on the trainer bike - most everyone kept them.

Cycling is a really unnatural pressure on your feet - no flex and the pressure goes up and down without ever going to zero.
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Old 02-22-24, 08:36 PM
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I used to get numbness after 3+ hours of pedaling using flat pedals with trail runner shoes. Various shoes, various sole thickness. I changed to the larger Catalyst Pedals from Pedaling Innovations, which prescribes centering the arch over the pedal spindle. I haven't had any numbness since I switched, and the company's rationale of supporting both ends of the arch makes sense to me, especially as I turned 70. I really like pedaling with trail runner shoes that fit well. Bike specific shoes always seemed too narrow.
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Old 02-23-24, 05:51 AM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox
I went from SPD (2-bolt, mountain) to Look Keo. On the Keos, started out with Adidas road shoes (nice looking, but flexy), and now on Shimano carbon soled RC7s. Each step offered improvement in foot pain for me. So yes, it can help - but it sure wasn’t cheap.
I use Keos (I think they’re easier and neater than SPDSL) and carbon soled Sidis can still get this kind of numbness after about 4+ hours but it certainly staves it off a lot longer than an hour.
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Old 02-23-24, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by choddo
I use Keos (I think they’re easier and neater than SPDSL) and carbon soled Sidis can still get this kind of numbness after about 4+ hours but it certainly staves it off a lot longer than an hour.
Yes, I can still get numbness/pain on longer harder rides, but it's less acute, and something like a bathroom and snack break are usually enough to mitigate it. Though in my situation, I generally need a bathroom, snack, and water refill stop by about 2:30-3hrs anyway, so it's actually pretty infrequent that I'll do a metric century without something longer than a traffic light stop.

So for me, moving from "acute pain within 2hrs" to "annoying pain after 3+hrs" actually makes a big difference.
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Old 02-23-24, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
At the last shop I was doing fits for, we put arch support inserts in anyone's shoes with a medium or high arch. They were free to turn them down after trying them on the trainer bike - most everyone kept them.

Cycling is a really unnatural pressure on your feet - no flex and the pressure goes up and down without ever going to zero.

Any particular arch supports you recommend?
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Old 02-23-24, 10:06 AM
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I haven't found that different pedals will solve "hot foot" or numbness issues, but using an insole with more arch and metatarsal support did wonders for me.
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Old 02-23-24, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by MidTNBrad
I've been riding Speedplay pedals for the last 10 years and have 3 sets of cycling shoes. In any set of shoes, I get numbness in my left food only from my big toe to my middle toe and back to the ball of my foot after I've been riding more than about an hour. I'm wondering if I might find some relief if I switch over to Shimano SPD-SL pedals and cleats. My thinking is that the system seems to have a larger contact area than the Speedplays so the pressure is spread over a larger area. Any thoughts?
You have Medial Plantar Nerve entrapment. See the diagrams below showing the nerve distribution of the sole. This nerve serves the first three toes and the ball of the foot.

Contrary to the suggestions from others above for you to get more arch support, this condition is caused by having too much arch support. This nerve passes along the bottom of the arch. Too much arch support puts pressure on this nerve, causing numbness in the areas served by this nerve.

The reason you have the problem only on your left foot is because your left foot is flatter than your right foot. Having flat feet makes this problem worse, because a flat foot causes the bottom of your sole to make heavier contact with the shoe, pinching the nerve.

To solve this problem, buy a pair of shoes with the least amount of arch support possible. Dead flat insoles. You could also try cutting a hole in the arch area of a pair of insoles, and then putting them into your current shoes, to cancel out the raised arch area built into the shoes.

How I know all this: had the exact same problem. Solved it this way. For me it was the right foot.





Last edited by Yan; 02-23-24 at 12:46 PM.
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Old 02-23-24, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Yan
You have Medial Plantar Nerve entrapment. See the diagrams below showing the nerve distribution of the sole. This nerve serves the first three toes and the ball of the foot.

Contrary to the suggestions from others above for you to get more arch support, this condition is caused by having too much arch support. This nerve passes along the bottom of the arch. Too much arch support puts pressure on this nerve, causing numbness in the areas served by this nerve.

The reason you have the problem only on your left foot is because your left foot is flatter than your right foot. Having flat feet makes this problem worse, because a flat foot causes the bottom of your sole to make heavier contact with the shoe, pinching the nerve.

To solve this problem, buy a pair of shoes with the least amount of arch support possible. Dead flat insoles. You could also try cutting a hole in the arch area of a pair of insoles, and then putting them into your current shoes, to cancel out the raised arch area built into the shoes.

How I know all this: had the exact same problem. Solved it this way. For me it was the right foot.







Wow! Thanks for the response! I'll give that a try.
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Old 02-23-24, 04:07 PM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero
As you all can see from the responses there are a zillion ideas behind what causes foot numbness and how to cure it. There is no one single answer for any individual. When I was doing fittings we addressed the foot structural support inside the shoe with insoles, valgus with wedges, and upper foot support with the shoe itself, however the single most effective thing we did as fitters was demonstrate how to pedal. Changing how you apply power to the pedals will likely be enough to provide relief to the foot in pain.

The numbness comes from the foot being smashed into the bottom of the shoe all the time. Pushing big gears and heavy pedal strokes makes a poor environment for blood flow to the foot. One must give the blood a chance to flow into the foot on each pedal stroke and can be done by either gearing down to ease the load and increase rpm or by resting the foot on the up-stroke by taking pressure off the foot instead of pulling back, just let it go around the back side of the stroke without any effort. Only in times of needed total power output do you pull up such as sprints or serious climbs.
Oh, interesting. I luckily don't get foot pain. I started riding indoors in the winter months 2 winters ago, with a Kickr trainer and a Zwift subscription. I find the Kickr resistance is different than riding outdoors, with a more continuous resistance all the way around the pedal stroke, and too much resistance at times with low cadences. It was a struggle and annoying for the first few weeks.

Now I think my pedal stroke is much improved, more "round" and fluid. I can generate more power while staying seated, too. This is immediately obvious when I'm back riding outdoors. It was good for me.
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Old 02-23-24, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by MidTNBrad
Wow! Thanks for the response! I'll give that a try.
Can't guarantee that you have the same problem, but it's worth a shot. Go to a store and inspect some Shimano shoes to see if they have a flatter arch than your current shoes. Shimano shoes are cheap and I find them very comfortable on long rides, even the lowest end plastic soled ones. I've had many pairs of them.

Last edited by Yan; 02-23-24 at 08:35 PM.
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Old 02-23-24, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Yan
You have Medial Plantar Nerve entrapment. See the diagrams below showing the nerve distribution of the sole. This nerve serves the first three toes and the ball of the foot.

Contrary to the suggestions from others above for you to get more arch support, this condition is caused by having too much arch support. This nerve passes along the bottom of the arch. Too much arch support puts pressure on this nerve, causing numbness in the areas served by this nerve.

The reason you have the problem only on your left foot is because your left foot is flatter than your right foot. Having flat feet makes this problem worse, because a flat foot causes the bottom of your sole to make heavier contact with the shoe, pinching the nerve.

To solve this problem, buy a pair of shoes with the least amount of arch support possible. Dead flat insoles. You could also try cutting a hole in the arch area of a pair of insoles, and then putting them into your current shoes, to cancel out the raised arch area built into the shoes.

How I know all this: had the exact same problem. Solved it this way. For me it was the right foot.




With all respect, how could you possibly know if the OP has high or low arches? This could certainly be the problem, but it could also be the problem I have seen many times from a lack of support. So how do you know it is one and not the other?

It is not hard to tell what kind of arches you have.
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Old 02-23-24, 09:07 PM
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I personally ride in the Specialized supports but my regular shoes have Superfeet and they are both excellent. You may want wider shoes as well and to try compression socks all of those are worth trying but insoles and socks would be the first thing to try. I remember years ago trying Superfeet Copper and thought they would be perfect but like a cushy saddle they weren't' for me so I swore off them for a bit then my fitter recommended the Specialized inserts and I gave them a try and loved them and so I said because I was standing a lot I will go in on the Superfeet just not the super thick ones and they really helped. At that time though I was wearing a lot of minimalist footwear so I think that extreme change was the issue.
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