Cyclists are highly prone to Metatarsalgia (what?!) or “hot foot” and do nothing about it. Metatarsalgia is the term used to describe pain in the forefoot or at the ball of the foot. This pain usually resonates from the first metatarsal head (the ball of the foot just behind the big toe) as pressure is applied in force causing bruising and the compression of the surrounding nerves and tissue.
This pain is often caused by excessive impact (such as running) or hard soled shoes. Cyclists have it bad on both accounts. We apply pressure generated through our whole body weight and additional force from leg and core muscle through this area via carbon soles designed in most part to be stiff (research has shown many to be 18% stiffer than traditional plastic soled shoes) and transfer maximum power to the pedals. Some carbon soles are designed to flex a little however very few come with more than a 1-2mm inner sole and absolutely no arch support. And here in lies the problem. Bio-mechanical research has shown the common cause of Metatarsalgia is from excessive pronation or over-pronation – the collapsing of the arches and rolling inwards of the akle. What do most people need? Support.
Like everything, research into cycling related foot pain is minimal however below are a few suggestions to help **I am not a medical practitioner so consult an professional for expert medical advice. Pain can be caused by one or multiple factors.
* Foot beds/Othotics - these are designed to support the arches and evenly distribute the pressure applied via the metatarsal heads to the pedals. I use eSoles which come with 4 arch support levels but minimal cushioning under the first metatarsal area. These also helped to stop my knees rolling inwards during the pedal stroke. Gel innersoles or custom othotics may be worth investing in.
* Correct cleat positioning – if your cleats are positioned too far inward/forward, you may be applying excessive pressure to the first metatarsal/arch area.
* Choose shoes that fit properly and don’t have the stiffest soles – Bont have a reputation for making high quality shoes that can be heat moulded for a perfect fit but also a very stiff sole. Check that your shoes are suited to your riding ability and style. Some are better for wider foots and vice versa.
* Ice and elevate your foot – this will help with imflamation and swelling. Maybe ask really nicely and get your better half to give you a foot massage…
* Foot strengthening exercises – there are lots of websites and information with appropriate exercises. Your foot has lots of bones and lots of muscles – look after them! Just a couple of minutes a day of stretching and exercising will go a long way.
* Loose some weight – as rude as it sounds, excess weight being transfered through the front of your foot commonly causes Metatarsalgia. Whilst not appropriate for everyone, weight loss will help.
* Rest – nobody likes to sit idol but if you are experiencing Metatarsalgia or associated pain in the foot this is your bodies way of saying have a rest. Low impact exercises such as swimming can only help.
Be aware of Metatarsalgia and consult a medically trained expert if pain persists. There is lots of information available online however it might not be right for you! Take everything (including the above) with a grain of salt…