More power, less pain
Updated: Nov 5, 2018
This must be the ambition of every cyclist, to try to produce more power for less pain. Except for me it wasn't quite like that. For longish rides (double digit hours) I have been experiencing significant foot pain. Its always just the one foot, and a very specific part of it at that. I had rode across America with the problem and the team neatly side stepped it by cutting a fairly large hole out of the side on my shoe. We sort of managed it last year on the John O Groats to Lands End and back ride. Ahhh actually scratch that, I remember the A9 heading north, it was agony and that was using my old and rather more accommodating shoes. For a 24 hour session on the track I wanted to see if I could eliminate this pain. I really didn't fancy it with nothing to distract me. And anyway, there will be no time to stop and swap shoes or put plasters on. I had to find a proper solution.
I was reading through Cyclist magazine ages ago and there was an article on bike fitting. It carried an interview with Phil Burt and it explained how he had worked with some of the current greats. Wiggins, Froome and Thomas amongst others. It also detailed the custom shoes that riders often get made for them. Maybe this was the answer. Fast forward a few months and I thought I'd phone Phil up and explain what I was planning. We had a great chat and I went to see him near the velodrome in Manchester.
The plan with Phil was the do a proper bike fit and then assess the foot pain. I got the whole RETUL bike fit done which was an interesting experience in itself. Phil wondered why I was so low down. Think it was the bike equivalent of those boy racers who sit really low down in the car, almost in the back seat. I raised my saddle height and arranged to see the podiatry specialist Mick Habgood that Phil had recommended.
I met Mick at Cyclefit in London, explained the issue and he pointed out how my right foot was unlike my left. Basically I had a bone sticking out. Aha - that could be the reason it gets sore. He also pointed out the shape of my feet, that the Bont shoes I had were completely the wrong shape for me and that I press down naturally on the outside of my feet. All fixable he said. Awesome. Especially as he hadn't mentioned anything about hacking off the bit that stuck out.
Two feet castings and a few weeks later and I was returning to collect my carbon fibre custom orthotics. Mick had chosen some new Fizik shoes for me as well. Not due to their light weight or stiffness nor because they looked cool but because they actually were the right shape for my feet! It amazes me that shoe shape is not mentioned in any specifications yet there are massive differences between manufacturers. He explained how some customers (myself included) chose the wrong shape and wonder why they don't work well. Its not just about the size.
Anyway, so after a bit of adjustment to the angle of the orthotics I was able to feel they were perfectly balanced and comfortable. The plan now is to spend six weeks getting used to them and then revisit Phil to get the bike fit tuned some more.
Oh how I wish I'd looked into this before riding across America and up and down the UK a couple of times back to back. What a difference that would have made. If anyone reading this has any sort of foot pain they just put up with then I'd highly recommend seeing Mick. Phil tells me he has some ideas to help my bike comfort for the 24, With the new recommended short cranks, the higher saddle position and the custom orthotics I'm slowly becoming a bonafide trackie. I'm still not wearing the ankle socks though,