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Home » Cycling » Winter is the Perfect Time to Dial in the Cleats…. A Tale of Woe and Victory

Winter is the Perfect Time to Dial in the Cleats…. A Tale of Woe and Victory

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I rode all year with my right foot bugging me, just a little bit.  The pain wasn’t unmanageable, but after 80 or 90 miles it was quite intense.  “Searing” is a good word, and the intensity of the pain matched the effort – 20-22 mph average, it was intense, 18 wasn’t too bad. The pain started at the bottom/ball of my foot, toward the outside of the foot, and once it took hold the only thing I could do to relieve it was stop riding.  Five minutes after I was off the bike, I was back to normal again, like nothing was amiss.

I got home a little early the other day, so after I cleaned up my wife’s mountain bike and put a new chain on it, then got mine squared away (cleaned), it was time to spend my normal 45 minutes on the trainer.  I decided that, while I was attending to all of this maintenance stuff, I should have a look at that cleat – so I did.  I posted a link to a video that changed how I looked at my cleats a few days ago and I wanted to test what I learned.

I climbed up on the trainer and pedaled until the pain started to flare up.  I concentrated on how the right foot felt different from the left… then I got off the trainer and looked at both cleats on the bottom of my road shoes.  The right cleat hung over the edge of the sole of the shoe by maybe an extra two millimeters.  It also looked to be just slightly forward of the position of the left cleat, maybe a millimeter or two.  I marked where the cleat was with a pencil then loosened up the bolts.  I slid the cleat to the right so the overhang matched the left cleat, then flipped the shoe around to look at the position of the cleat, making sure to hold it tight to the shoe’s sole so it didn’t slide around too much.

With the shoe upside down, I matched the cleat angle to the outline I’d done with the pencil but back (toward the heel) and over 1-2 millimeters.  I tightened the bolts, got on the bike and continued.  My heel was hitting the crank arm if I moved around too much.  I got off the bike and adjusted the cleat to get a little more clearance for my heel.  My heel still barely hit, so I adjusted one more time to push my heel out…

And pain-free cycling.  

I will endure a $#!+ ton of pain to ride my bikes, but no pain is kinda nice. 

There are a few things at work here:

  1. I had my cleats set by a professional, using Look’s alignment system just this past spring.  
  2. My last set of road shoes hurt too, I thought it was a problem with my feet related to the toe box of the shoes, so as long as it wasn’t causing lasting damage or injury, I figured “meh”.
  3. The pain?  Imagine hitting your thumb with a hammer, but not bad enough to break bone, but on the bottom of your foot.  The pain was considerable.
  4. The pain isn’t limited to the right foot.  Both hurt after 100 miles, but the right was always vastly more intense.
  5. The actual problem has to do with some syndrome that I don’t remember the name of.  I wrote about it earlier this year.  That said, some of the pointers I picked up from that video, mainly moving the cleat back a little more to keep pressure off the toes, made sense and I wanted to see if I could better my situation.
  6. Dude!  It’s awesome!
  7. The off-season is the perfect time to tinker.  We’re riding on the trainer, so all we have to worry about is how the ride feels.  No traffic, no balancing, nothing but how the changes affect the feel on the bike.

The point I’m getting, my friends, is this:  if you can set yourself up so you can’t fail (ie. the pencil outline of the cleat on the sole of my shoe), don’t be afraid to tinker with things.  Try to improve your cycling experience.  Watch some new videos, try new things.  Some will be a bust, but some, like this one in my case, will be homeruns.


2 Comments

  1. Sue Slaght says:

    Wow Jim that’s such great news. I thought you were going to say you had a major injury. Just shows why attention to small details are so important. Cycle on my friend.

  2. bgddyjim says:

    Thanks, Sue. Cycle on I shall – you too!

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