Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash
Foot pain while cycling affects many people. The pain is usually caused by strain on the tissues that run under the bottom of your foot connecting your heel to your toes, known as Plantar Fasciitis. This isn’t specific to mountain biking, but can affect runners, basketball players, and others whose activities place a large amount of stress on the underside of their feet.
If your feet hurt after being on the bike, the first things you should check are your shoe fit, and that you don’t overtighten them.
Check your foot position. If you ride clipless maybe try adjusting the forward or backward position of your cleats so that your pushing through the balls of your feet more. If you ride flats try and asjust the position of your feet on the pedals. To high a saddle positions can also add extra strain to your feet by causing you to pedal with your toes.
You could try shoes with stiffer soles. This is likely to be less of an issue if you ride with clips as the shoes are generally stiffer in design. But flat pedal shoes, or trainers if you use those, will be more flexible and may not offer enough support for your feet.
If none of those things help, or if you suffer from over pronounced or fallen arches then insoles that offer extra padding and support may be the answer.
There are numerous types available, but I was sent a free sample by Soul Insole of their Shoe Bubbles. And I’ve been trying these out on and off the bike for the past few weeks.
On the packaging it states ‘can reduce stress on ankles, knees, hips and spine and helps to relieve symptoms of Plantar Faciitis’. My wife worked for many years in a chiropractor’s clinic where they also sized, fitted and supplied custom orthotics, or insoles, to help remedy and compensate for many foot, ankle, knee and back problems stemming from arch issues. I’m not claiming these off the shelf insoles will cure all your aches and pains, but problems with your feet can lead to pains in other parts of your body which supporting insoles can help alleviate.
Soul Insole’s Shoe Bubbles are labelled as ‘micro-size’. And they are indeed nice and small. Not like those foamy insoles you can buy in supermarkets that are the full size of your shoe. These gel pads are sized to fit in any shoe and to sit only under the arch of your foot. The gel design also means they sit firmly in your shoes without moving around under foot. They come with a sticky backing on the underside to further help them to stay put, but I didn’t need to use this. Either way, they are made to be easily used in multiple pairs of shoes, just swap them to whatever shoe you’re going to be wearing on the day.
The insoles are made of medical grade gel that is antibacterial, odourless, flexible and has a long life expectancy. They are also washable, just rinse them with water, leave to dry and they’ll be good as new. Without loosing their stickiness.
I don’t have arch trouble myself, nor do I tend to suffer from foot pain when riding. But I can see how these insoles would help riders that do suffer with those issues. The insoles offer tremendous support. So much in fact, that Soul Insole recommend users start wearing the insoles gradually over a couple of weeks, starting with an hour or two initially and building up to all day wear. This is to allow your feet to become accustomed to their new position. I managed two hours the first time I wore them before I started to feel an ache in my feet. But after about a week I could wear them for most of the day without any issues.
I use two pairs of cycling shoes, Five Ten Freeriders for my flat pedals and Giro Chambers if I want to ride clipless. I found that the Giro’s have a pronounced enough arch support built in that using the insoles as well was too much for me. I assume this could be remedied by getting a smaller size insole - they come in small, medium and large. The Freeriders are a bit flatter and softer and didn’t cause any problems when worn with the insoles.
Disclosure: I was given my sample of the Soul Insoles Shoe Bubbles for free. However, this article is entirely based on my own experience and opinion.
Soul Insole online shop