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Pain with clipless pedals

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Pain with clipless pedals

Old 04-09-24, 12:48 PM
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Pain with clipless pedals

I've been using Look X-Track MTB clipless pedals for about two years on my road bike. (I use MTB clipless because the road cleats don't feel stable when walking, and at 70+, I can't afford a fall.) My saddle is mid-point on the rails and my cleats are centered all the way back based on the suggestion of "Internet bike fitters." Although I'm 170 cm (5'7"), I ride a 49cm Spec Roubaix which is the most comfortable bike I've ridden. A few weeks ago, I began to have pain on the right side joint of my groin where the hip flexors attach to the inner thigh. At first, I though the problem was my Cambium saddle so I swapped it out with an SMP Well S. Still felt the pain, but it also started to feel achy on the left side as well. As an experiment, I swapped out the clipless pedals for a flat pedal and the pain was gone. I noticed that I was moving around on the pedals with my foot closer to the front of the pedals. BTW, the pain makes sense since when clipped in my leg is in a constant repetitive motion without much lateral movement. I like the locked-in feel of clipless pedals and would go back if I can avoid the pain. Any suggestions would be appreciated (there are no competent bike fitters in my area).
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Old 04-09-24, 01:09 PM
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Tough to say if the pedals are really the problem. If you had been using them for almost 2 years with no issues, I can't help but wonder if something else has changed that caused this problem.

Anything else new/different in the past few weeks??
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Old 04-09-24, 01:46 PM
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Hard to say why a particular pedal causes issues. I have experienced this. I’ve been a multi decade Shimano SPD user as well as Look road and SPD-L user with no issues. I then tried 2 different types of Time ATAC pedals, had knee pain with both. Went back to Shimano, problem went away,
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Old 04-09-24, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Ramshackle
As an experiment, I swapped out the clipless pedals for a flat pedal and the pain was gone. I noticed that I was moving around on the pedals with my foot closer to the front of the pedals.
Does this mean that your entire feet are more forward relative to the pedal spindle when you are riding flat pedals than when riding the Look X-Track pedals?

Are your feet also positioned further outward or inward after switch pedals?
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Old 04-09-24, 10:48 PM
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Thanks for the feedback. Took a 20 mile ride on the flat pedals with no pain. The ball of my foot was lined up with the spindle and my feet were perched slightly outward on the pedals. The knee pain I had also experienced was gone. While I can move my cleats forward and insert a spacer on the spindle, I won't bother since I didn't feel any decline in pedaling efficiency with the flat pedals. Besides, I felt more stable out of the saddle due to the wide platform.
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Old 04-09-24, 10:58 PM
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The old rule of thumb that thousands used was to ride rattrap pedals with your new shoes, no cleats. Mount the cleat to maintain that location. If you are placing your foot on the flats differently than your cleated shoes, maybe you need to adjust the cleats to mimic your flat position. (This would not work for me. I need cleats that force my feet to toe in to properly align my knees. If I don't do as my knees ask, I'll have to get new ones. But when I raced, people had been aligning cleats to their cleatless marks for 75 years. It worked for a lot of people.)
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Old 04-10-24, 05:32 AM
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Another thing to think about is the change of stack height when you went to walking shoes with flat pedals.

If your saddle is just a bit too high, you'll have constant stretching of the hips, causing pain. Going to the flat pedals with shoes likely brought your feet up.

You seem perfectly content on the flat pedals, but if you wanted to go back or experiment, you could try dropping your saddle about 5-7mm and see if that clears it up.
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Old 04-10-24, 06:36 AM
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Get a bike fit. Regardless of how far the competent one is.
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Old 04-11-24, 06:26 AM
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If you have that much discomfort, ditch the clipless. Get yourself more of a cycling looking / feeling flat shoe with stiff sole and done. Add in decent grippy pedal, and you will have more pleasure in riding. There is no need to follow a certain "look". Comfort beyond all else.
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Old 04-13-24, 09:05 PM
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This is really simple, really. With flat pedals, you can't lift up on the backstroke at all, so you use your downstroke leg to lift your backstroke leg. I.e. your hip flexors do nothing. Many riders believe this is the correct way to pedal, lifting the back leg with the front leg because the hip flexors are really quite small muscles and it's easy to wear them out or damage them, as you've seen. Using clipless, most folks lift the back leg, but do not pull up on that pedal. If they do when same thing while using flats, they risk losing contact with the pedal and getting hit in the ankle by it on the next backstroke.

I'm one of the cretins with clipless pedals who actually pull up a little on the backstroke. I've ridden 400k rides that way just fine, no hip flexor pain. Over the decades, I've put a good bit of time into strengthening and stretching my hip flexors so they'd do that. Why? Because that's one more muscle to use to spread the load so none of them get that tired. I push forward at the top, just push down a little on the downstroke, pull back on the bottom and maybe 30° of the way up, then lift that leg with the hip flexors, and push forward at the top again. That's how an ancient untalented guy can do pretty well out on long road rides, where it's about endurance and not so much top speed. Spread the load out.

Go on youtube and search for "hip flexor strength training." Do a few of these a couple days a week. I'd say in 3 months of that, you'd be able to put the clipless back on and have no further problems - as long as you do those hip flexor exercises one day a week. I go the the gym twice a week and among many other things, use the Roman Chair doing one set of knee lifts until I can't lift them higher than my hands. Works for me.
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