Cycling requires that the entire lower extremity function as a harmonious unit, and bring sufficient force down on the bicycle pedal to move us forward. This tremendous force begins in the hip joint and thigh muscles, and passes through the ball of the foot to the pedal. As long as the bones, muscles, and joints of the lower extremity are properly aligned with each other, there is an efficient and pain-free excursion of the pedal. The most mechanically efficient alignment of the lower extremity is one where each part of the extremity is parallel to the frame of the bicycle. Deviations from this alignment may eventually cause foot, ankle, lower leg, knee, thigh, or hip pain.
Causes of Cycling Pain: The most common cause of cycling pain is due to the height of the seat. If you have determined that the seat height is correct, then the next most common causes of pain are due to one or more of the following problems:
- A biomechanical foot defect, which does not allow the ball of the foot to sit flat on the pedal. The most common cause of rotation of the ball of the foot so it cannot sit flat on the pedal is pronation. Pronation is a rolling out of the foot at the ankle, causing us to apply abnormally excessive pressure to the inner border of the foot. This rotates the outer portion of the ball off of the pedal. When the foot is pronated, the leg is forced to rotate inward (medially). This causes: abnormal wear and tear on the cartilage of the knee and patella (patellofemoral pain syndrome), and stresses the knee ligaments such as the Iliotibial Band (located on the outer aspect of the knee); and shin splints. In the foot, pronation results in pain under the inner half of the ball of the foot, as well as in plantar fasciitis. If pronation is left untreated, pain and fatigue may occur in the entire lower extremity.
- Bowlegs and knock knees cause the lower leg to rotate inward or outward. When this occurs, the legs are no longer parallel to the bicycle frame; and the foot is rotated on the pedal, so that the outer or inner aspect of the foot is elevated off of the pedal. This causes all of the pedal force to be exerted on half the ball of the foot. When this occurs, foot and knee pain eventually occur. Bowlegs and knock knees will not only cause pain, but will also reduce efficiency and speed.
Short leg syndrome causes the foot on the short leg to "reach" or plantarflex, so that it can sit properly on the pedal. When the foot plantarflexes, it will also rotate inward at the ankle, helping to "make it longer." When this occurs, the inner aspect of the foot is raised off of the pedal. Thus, all of the pedal force is directed through the middle and outer portions of the ball of the foot. This quickly causes fatigue and pain in the foot, ankle, and outer aspect of the knee.
- Painful foot and leg disorders as discussed above, as well as plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, shin splints, and Achilles Tendonitis force the foot to sit on the pedal in such a manner as to reduce the pain. The body tries to compensate by rotating the foot to a more "comfortable position;" thus, the foot is not allowed to sit flat on the pedal. This compensation eventually produces foot, ankle, knee, hip, and lower back pain.
Pain and compensation of the lower extremities causes the legs and knees to turn in or out, so that they are no longer parallel to the frame of the bicycle. This allows only a portion of the foot to sit flat on the bicycle's pedal. The results are pain and a reduction in efficiency and speed.
Treating These Disorders: Custom-made sports orthotics specifically designed for cycling can prevent these disorders from reducing efficiency and causing pain. Our custom-made orthotics compensate for any abnormal twisting or rotation that your lower legs and feet must endure due to bow legs, knock knees, pronation, or short leg syndrome. This allows the feet to sit properly on the pedal, the lower leg's rotation is decreased, and the knees are brought into a more efficient alignment relative to the bicycle's frame. This allows the force generated in our hips and thighs to be passed to the bicycles pedal in a more efficient manner, which helps to reduce pain and fatigue. The bones and joints of the lower extremity are brought into a more normal alignment, helping to eliminate joint and soft tissue pain.
How Our Custom-Made Sports Orthotics for Cyclists Work: The advanced technology we employ enables our orthotics to gently hold the feet in their neutral (or normal) position, helping to correct the foot's biomechanical defects such as pronation. When the foot sits properly on the bicycle's pedal, the leg de-rotates, and the knees are brought to a more normal position. Thus, when the feet function as the efficient and stable foundation that our body needs, the lower leg, knee joint, and the soft tissues surrounding the knee are not subjected to abnormal stresses, and they function in their proper alignment. This reduces fatigue and pain throughout the entire body.
Our custom-made cycling orthotics will also:
- Protect the ball of the foot by quickly re-distributing the pedal force to the entire foot. Cycling applies continuous stress to the balls of the feet each time the pedals are forced down to make the bicycle move forward. Our orthotics also provide shock absorbtion for the balls of the feet through the use of materials that mimic our bodies' own fatty pads.
- Provide semi-flexible support to the arch by "giving" to absorb the shock of each depression of the pedal, rather than our foot (our orthotic acts in the same way that a shock absorber does on an automobile). When our weight is removed from the orthotic, the arch returns to its original height since the material we use has a built-in "memory." This action will help to prevent plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, arch pain, and knee pain.
- Correct short leg syndrome by adding a comfortable lift to the short leg's orthotic. This will help alleviate foot, ankle, lower leg, and knee pain.
Learn how we fit you with a pair of custom-made sports orthotics for cycling.