I have a confession. I rode in a a lot of pain on any distance over 60 miles for a long time. On a century, it’s often so bad it’s impossible to enjoy the last ten to fifteen miles. Eight miles from the finish line at the A-100 the other day, I was worried that I’d done permanent damage it hurt so bad. I didn’t stop though. I pushed on and finished with the lead group.
An hour in running shoes after the ride and I was fine.
My buddy Chuck said they call it Morton’s neuroma, so I looked it up… I don’t know, sounds plausible:
Morton’s neuroma may be caused by pressure or injury, such as from running or use of high heels.
Morton’s neuroma may feel like a pebble in a shoe or a fold in a sock. There may be sharp, burning pain or numbness in the ball of the foot or toes.
Treatment might include arch supports and foot pads, corticosteroid injections, strength exercises, wide-toe shoes, or surgery.
Now here’s the funny part: I knew the problem was my shoes. I’ve known for years. I didn’t have the problem with my last pair…
Here’s the problem: My cycling shoes are badass. They’re a perfect 13 of 13 on the stiffness scale… and they’re white. Oh, and they only cost me $125 (2012 shoes bought in 2014). Unfortunately, they’re skinny in the toes. After 70 miles they make my feet feel like someone stuffed a lit match in my socks. After 100 miles, it’s hard to describe the pain. It’s intense, but it goes away as soon as I’m off the bike for a bit.
Enter the Torch 2.0 from Specialized. The carbon sole on my old pair had cracked so I was in the market for a new pair. I almost went for the Torch 3.0 (the red probably would have worked better now that I have the shoes unboxed) but I can live with what I got because they feel amazing. I wore them for the first time on Tuesday night for the club ride. Once I adjusted the left cleat a little after the warm-up, no pain.
Here’s the fun part; I installed my own cleats. Just to see if I could get them right. Proper cleat alignment, especially when you’re riding 200-250 miles a week, is exceedingly important. Fortunately, there are demarcation lines on the soles so I just lined up the new cleats like the old, and I’m good. Well, as long as the shoes are exactly the same size… but let’s not complicate this complex issue too much. They’re both 44’s.
They’re also really hard to hold together to make that photo work. Anyway, trust me, they’re lined up really close to perfectly. As close as I can get them, anyway, without special alignment tools (which I will eventually pay to use at the bike shop…. I just had to try to see if I could get it right on my own, first).
The key is the feel. During the warm-up, after the first mile, I knew good and well my left heel was out too far. The right felt good. By the time the seven mile warm-up was done, I knew the right was spot on and that the left needed adjustment. My ankle hurt a bit and I could feel it in my knee. Fortunately I’d packed a 3mm Allen wrench before I left. One small adjustment and I was good.
I’ve got 54 miles on them, and 47 were excellently comfortable. The big test will come Friday evening though, when I get the cleats properly aligned. More then.