Anatomy of a Good Cycling Shoe

There are several questions about your physiology and biomechanics that need to be answered before you can select the ideal shoe for you, and for the purpose of your rides.

Which cycling shoes should I buy?

This may seem like a straightforward question. But the better thing to ask is: Which shoes are right for my feet? If you’ve been a professional cyclist with extensive experience as a bike fitter, like show host Colby Pearce, the answer to that more complex question becomes an hour-long podcast, filled with the nuances of human anatomy.

There are several questions about your physiology and biomechanics that need to be answered before you can select the ideal shoe for you, and for the purpose of your rides. Dial that Boa in—but not too tight.

There’s much to be learned in today’s episode of Cycling in Alignment.

Lake 403s –

Device that expands toe-box –

Cycling Tips Podcast about Bont shoes:

Bont Helix –

Bontrager XXX –

Lintamen –

Hanseeno –

Treadlabs orthotics –

Superfeet orthotics –

Icebug orthotics –

G8 orthotics –

Episode Transcript


Narrator  00:12

Welcome to the cycling and alignment podcast, an examination of cycling as a practice and dialogue about the integration of sport in the right relationship to your life.


Colby Pearce  00:25

Alright, cycle mots. In case you didn’t know this, I’m a bike fitter. So I get a lot of questions about cycling shoes. So I thought I’d take a few minutes to address the issues of cycling shoes or specifically, people ask me what cycling shoe should I buy? There’s quite a bit that goes into this, but I’m going to give you a spoiler. The answer is if the shoe fits, wear it. You’ve probably heard that before. Sorry to be so colloquial. My favorite tip to give people when they’re Shopping for Shoes. Go to a bike shop with a large selection of the appropriate model that you’re looking for meaning if you’re looking for road shoes, go to a shop with a good selection of road shoes. If you’re looking for mountain bike shoes or gravel shoes, go to a shop with a large selection of said category. Say hi to your helpful employee. Ask them to bring you one of every flavor they have in the size that you wear. And then ask them to leave you alone for 30 minutes. And what you’re going to do is try on each shoe back to back. This is key. It’s the back to back sensory experience that enables you to really figure out what’s going on with a shoe and get some idea of how it’s going to wear on the bike. And that part is a challenge because your feet work differently when they’re on a bike. And of course, this is one of the biggest problems in cycling is that you have to mount a cleat onto it and then write it to really get a feel for it. And then of course as soon as you as soon as you do that it’s no longer returnable. lame sauce. It’s kind of like saddles in that sense, except arguably worse. Because there are subtle testing programs. I’m not aware of any tennis shoe testing programs. So how do we figure this out? All right, step one. Do you need insoles or orthotics? Let’s define clearly first. When you go to a shoe, a cycling shoe sales store, otherwise known as a bike shop, and you take the shoe out of the box 99% of all shoes, do not have an insole or an orthotic in them. What they have is a liner. This is a flat piece of foam that’s usually three millimeters thick, and if you took it out of the shoe and placed on the floor and put your hand on it, you could smash it flat. It might have a gentle curve to it, but that’s not going to provide any support for your foot. This is a band aid at best. And for 99% of all riders This is insufficient support in the heel cup or the medial arch or even the lateral arch, depending on your foot mechanics. So most riders need more arch support than is given in a standard cycling insert, or liner. There are lots of off the shelf orthotics that are pre made out there. There are many good brands, I’ll put some examples of some commonly used brands that I carry in my shop in the show notes. The key is to get one that cuts your heel properly and fits your arch height properly with a neutral foot. What do I mean by that? Well, we want you in a position that’s close to subtalar neutral. And when you put your foot in that position, that means not pronated or not supinated then the arch of the orthotic will closely mirror the arch of your foot. I’m gonna unpack a lot more about the details on this with an upcoming episode with Aaron Anderson at orthotics so keep the pants on if you want to know more details. In the meantime, check out the links and you can get some good ideas on where to start. So when you have your orthotic insoles figured out that are the right size for you and the right length for your foot, take them to the shop with you. When the salesman gives you your eight boxes of size 42 and a half shoes, you’re going to take your shoes out of the box, take the liner out of the shoe, replace your the liner of the shoe with your orthotic and then put your foot in the shoe. If you want to verify that the 42 and a half is the right size for you. a really easy way to start this process is when you take the liner out of the stock shoe, put your foot on top of it, line up the heel with the heel of the liner and then look at the the toe profile look at the toe box profile of the new shoe. There should be a gap between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. But how much of a gap depends on some factors. You also may notice that your toes hang over the edge of the liner If they hang over the edge of the liner significantly, then you know that your show your toes are going to be squished to meet the shape of that liner. So commonly, what happens in cycling shoes This is one of my biggest problems of cycling shoes is the toes will be crushed from the side. Because the toes of cycling shoes are rounded off to look really like Italian leather dress shoes.


Colby Pearce  05:21

And this is crap. This is cycling shoes being made in a really old traditional manner, where the Craftsman makes it last and then they smooth the last and aesthetically modify it to make it ostensibly more pleasing. And I’m just going to be direct now nothing pisses me off more because I don’t want my feet to look aesthetically pleasing when I’m riding a bike. Say that again because I know it’s going to rub somebody the wrong way and I’m getting your feathers up on purpose. I don’t want my feet to look aesthetically pleasing when I ride a bike. I want a screwdriver a perfectly functional screwdriver Meaning I want a shoe that is a tool that helps him pedal a bike and allows my foot to take its natural form. This means letting my toes spread out. Most shoes in the market don’t really do a good job of that there are a few exceptions to that rule. So I’ll break those down. I know you want me to name names, so I’ll just do it. So you’ve got your foot on this footbed this liner and you’re seeing if the liner matches up with the toe width and shape of your foot and then you have to make a decision about the length of the shoe based on how crushed your toes are going to be. Some shoes have better toe box shapes than others to shining examples are lake and bought and they can be quite a bit better than a lot of other shoes in the market. The new specialized shoes are pretty good. Also they’ve got a nice wide toe box, as well as the new bond triple x shoes. Those have a nice narrow heel cup and a very wide toe box. So some good examples of some shoes that are starting to think outside the box and make things a little more fidget, which is what we want. We want a shoe that’s based on the anatomy the foot, not based on an artist’s conception of what you should look like when you’re wearing a tuxedo products awesome, but not on a bike. So, the other factor that you’ll have to deduce once you get the shoe on with your orthotic in it, is the volume of the shoe. The volume is just like it sounds, if you were to fill the shoe up with water, how much water would it hold, your foot has a certain volume and shoes have a certain volume. And that can change a little bit based on the playability of the upper although most modern shoes fundamentally the construction is the same. So this is one area where people get confused a little bit, and I’ll try to simplify it. It’s the same discussion acetals.


Narrator  07:53

A lot of subtle websites have 19 models and really there’s a fraction of a difference between most of them. Maybe carbon rails and maybe a little bit of color or slight variances in the base shape, we’re talking very slight. And from a fitting perspective, they make virtually no difference. Well, the majority of shoes are made that way. They’re fundamentally a slightly curved piece of carbon fiber, basically a flat piece of carbon fiber that’s got a slight amount of toe lift, and he’ll rise to it. And I’ll describe what those variables mean. And then a non stretch, do a light or lorica, basically, Naugahyde upper right. I mean, if you’re vegan, you have to be upset about all the nuggets that were murdered to make that shoe. But if you think Nagas are a pest, then you’re fine with it. So you have your lorica or otherwise synthetic created upper and of course everybody wants a power shoot to be as efficient and stiff as possible. So these uppers are not very yielding. They don’t have a lot of stretching them on purpose, so that when you pull up during your sprint, your foot isn’t moving all over the place. And there are some logic to that. But the trade off is if you have bony protuberances on the top of your foot or the side of your foot, specifically, the most common ones I see are the fifth metatarsal head, which is basically the base of your pinky on the top of your foot, or the first metatarsal head, which is the base of your big toe, except on the top of the foot is tends to be where it’s bony. If there’s anything that pushes down on those areas, and those areas are particularly bony or prominent for you, meaning they poke up like a little horns like mine do, then you’re going to have pressure points there. And it’s a funny thing about cycling shoes. You put your foot in it, and initially it just sort of feels like a shoe and maybe doesn’t feel that painful or like there’s that much pressure but after you ride 30 miles in it, suddenly that pressure point becomes very exacerbated and quite annoying. So these are things you need to be a little bit princess when you’re trying on some shoes in particular if you are a rider who has a history of foot problems. If you’ve done affiliate miles and your feet have been never bothered you, then there’s a reasonable chance that you can be a bit blissfully naive about your shoe choice and still get away with it. Although another funny side note is that foot problems can develop over years, I’ve seen multiple clients coming to me and say I’ve been wearing the same pair of shoes for two years. And suddenly I cannot wear them anymore because of this indescribably painful point here, and they point to some random part in their foot. This is the way cycling works. Because it’s so repetitive, a tiny change in your function can suddenly result in a pressure point in the foot. And that pressure point can become intolerable. After a certain number of kilometers or revolutions of the pedal. It’s just the way that works. not unheard of. So when you put your foot in the shoe, what you’re feeling for is the overall volume of the upper. And in particular, where most people have problems is the lateral aspects of the metatarsal heads. That’s that area. I was just describing the base of the first toe and the base of the fifth toe. That’s spicy. far the most common complaint error I haven’t choose. So if the toe box is too narrow for your foot, you’re going to get crushing sensations there. It can manifest in a bunch of different ways it can actually manifest as hotfoot can manifest as pressure underneath the side of the foot. It can manifest as numbness between the toes because your metatarsal heads are being crushed together from the sides, or can manifest as just general foot numbness. But it’s not only about comfort, it’s about performance. If you’re trying to push down on the pedal and your foot isn’t free to slightly expand, and move in a rhythmic way with that downforce and then relax and allow the the force to dissipate, almost like a little bit of a rhythmic spring in that shoe, then you’re going to lock down the foot too much and it’s just going to cause circulatory problems and nervous system inhibition. So there has to be some, a little bit of natural movement, a little bit of natural Ed flow in particular when you’re pushing really hard and the pedals and going hard at the same time on a steep climb because there’s a lot of torque on the bottom side of the foot during each downstroke. So that’ll add up really quickly. It’s very, it’s a very additive type of activity. So once you get your foot in this shoe, you’re feeling for the volume of the upper you’re also feeling for any pressure points. By all our little cool mechanical devices we have on our shoes. Now our fancy stuff velcros and bow have little windy bits and other little clicky clicky buttons and levers and stuff, especially the CDs that are hands a Gizmo stuck to those things, but different shoes come up with different inventions, it seems like now the further we go, the more people are kind of leaning towards just going with the old BOA


Narrator  12:49

system. And what we’re looking for is that those those are sewn into the upper typically or sometimes laser welded and glued into the upper but they have to Have a little plastic base or at the very least, the bow itself has a footprint around footprint that is rigid and non pliable. And if that rigid footprint is on top of a bony protuberance or perhaps resting over a valley, then it can cause pressure points for you. If it crosses a tendon, such as the anterior tibialis tendon at the front of the ankle, when you if you stick your leg out straight and dorsiflex your foot, you’ll see that tendon flex, it’s the one that runs right down the front of the foot and connects with big toe. If that guy is being wrapped too much by a cable or there’s a bow on top of it that may not work for you. So when you’ve got the shoe on, stand up, walk around and you’re happy carpeted foot trying on area and do some gentle one legged squats pushed down on the shoe, put your foot up on the bench bench push down on the bench as though you were driving into a pedal. Feel what the pressure feels like tighten down the upper tighter than you would anticipate you need to during a ride and exacerbated where the pressure points are, if there are any. What we’re looking for is a shoe that holds the heel in a very stable way we want an upper design that drives the foot backwards into the heel cup of the shoe. And then we want a heel cup that’s nice and snug around the heel that doesn’t allow the heel to lift out of the shoe at all. So if you can reach down with one foot and stabilize the base of the shoe and then pull your foot out of the heel cup with the other and there’s a lot of movement there or there’s not a lot of grip. Then unless the heel cup isn’t heat moldable which a few models are but many are not most are not. If your foots pulling out of that heel cup that may not be a very good match for you. We want a nice firm heel cup. So in my experience as a general statement, most modern shoes to have too wide of a heel cup and too narrow of a tub. Again, the Bontrager triple x shoes are one of the best examples of a shoe company that’s made good progress in that department. Another good example is the bond helix. That retention system is outstanding. It pulls the heel directly backwards, you can see by the vector of the cables that it pulls your heel into the back of the shoe. That’s the design of the shoe. The lake four threes are also an outstanding shoe. One of the best shoes on the market bar none in my opinion, it’s like the perfect blend of carbon fiber stiffness with leather, Ferrari driving glove. pressure points that can be improved upon. There are ways to if the shoe fits you perfectly in every way but it is a little too narrow in the toe box. You can expand the toe box. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes to a device that I own at my fit studio. It’s not too expensive. I think it’s about $30 and get on Amazon. And it’s basically a giant pair of metal prongs. And it’s got a hinge in the middle and on one end of the prong is a ball and on the other end is a ring. So you put this thing into the toe of the shoe, you put it at the pressure point, you put the ball on the inside, you put the ring on the outside, you clamp down, and then on the far end, there’s a little screw in a hand neural er that you can tighten down to adjust the tension and you just crank that puppy on there and let it sit. And if you really want to get Gothic, you whip out a heat gun. And that thing will make a nice happy little dome, right where the pressure point is. And that can be an extremely effective way to push out the upper especially for a modern upper that’s non stretch. Which most shoes are in particular the bonds have a very unyielding upper so those shoes are excellent at power transmission. They’re pretty much like driving an old Porsche. They really have wooden boards for selection They go really fast, but they’re not a comfortable shoe. So if your foot is not very bony and very somewhat minimalist in profile looks like your foot has all the bones belt sanded off of it, and it’s somewhat svelte, it might do you might do really well with a bot out of the box. If you’re like me and you have bony protuberances, you have to do all kinds of crazy maneuvers to get a bot to fit right and then it fits great but it takes a lot of work. Conversely, if you choose a shoe like a lake, most like shoes, or I believe all of them now have leather uppers, most of them have leather uppers, and the leather will conform to the upper shape of your foot over time. This is sort of a DIY version of that just takes a little more writing.


Narrator  17:47

One other common question I get is about four hole shoes. So most the majority of cycling shoes on the market for road are what’s called three hole standard. That means a look cleat or a Shimano cleat will bolt directly to the shoe With no adapters necessary, and there are three holes in a triangular pattern. Some shoe manufacturers make a four hole shoe and that is a shoe designed specifically for a speed play pedal. A speed play interface is different than a look or Shimano interface. A look or Shimano pleat has a curve to the cleat so the shoe is curved and the cleat is curved and when you put them together it’s like a convex and concave surface and they fit right at home. But a speed play pedal and cleat are dead direct flat. So in order to put a speed play cleat on a curved shoe, you need an adapter plate to fill that curved void. So that means more hardware, more screws, more nuts, more things to come loose, more heavier stuff. more things to go wrong. And I am a big fan of speed play pedals in general say that from a fitting perspective they offer the best solution for sure they have multiple axle lengths the best adjustability, however, they are not perfect. And one of the flaws in the speed play system is that the pedal platform surface Not the biggest in the world and specifically the width of the pedal platform is not all that wide. those problems can be circumvented and solved by having the pedal be in exactly the right place on your foot, hence the different length axles. They can also be solved by using a four hole shoe. When you use a three hole shoe with a speed play and you introduce that extra layer of adapter it introduces even though those pedals are really well made and they’ve got great quality control it enters is just enough play in the whole system to where it kind of causes a little bit of an issue with everything. Even though with the adapter you’re still ahead Have a look or Shimano pleat in terms of stack height. So if you use a four hole shoe, the whole system just becomes that much more stable. It feels as stable as a Shimano but it’s got better cornering clearance and all the benefits of a two sided pedal and it’s works really well and you get less cleat wear and less pedal where it solves all the hiccups in SP play really. However, the problem there is finding it for whole shoot. Rocket seven makes a custom for whole shoe last used to make four hole shoes. I don’t know if any of the other people do. I’m pretty sure D two does not Linton does bond makes it for whole shoe although some people might shoot me for saying that because they make it and it’s a special order but for some reason they don’t really put it on their website. But now you know North wave makes their own custom speed play adapter that goes on their three whole shoe which is like different than the speed play adapter works a little better, is really quite well made and super slick and is about a millimeter less thick. So there’s that CD used to make a four hole shoe for speed play and they have pronounced that they do not. And I’m going to be honest, this has nothing to do with speed play but see is the last few that I recommend for most of my clients. I used to ride and see be running for several years. Maybe I’ll pack up with Charlie or with Aaron Excuse me, but CDs just there’s modern progressive Italy and then there’s Italy that still thinks it’s 1948 I’ll stop there. One more formal shoe option is like they make their four hole 403 shoe which is their top of the line road shoe, which is the heat moldable version with the bathtub style carbon fiber body and when you put that with a speedlight pedal, it makes an amazing system and brings the whole thing to life works really well. One thing to consider in your shoe selection also, speaking of bond is a bit of your fiber type and your neuro type


Narrator  21:49

your goals in the sport what do I mean by that? Well, are you a very fast twitch athlete who has good reaction time? Are you sprint oriented and criterion oriented. You probably want to shoot with a more unyielding In a little more power transfer, right? a shoe like the specialized has Dyneema fabric and the upper shoe with any non stretch fabric, some more than others a shoe like the maava cosmic kimete ultimate carbon shoe, I believe it’s called has a carbon fiber exoskeleton very stiff, very unyielding. If that shoe fits you, well that might be a good choice for you choose on this side of the spectrum, the bond end of the spectrum we’ll call it our very unyielding, very rigid and they work for a certain neuro type of rider a rider who wants very precise control over their feet and tends to thrive in a situation where they have a high degree of proprioceptive feedback. Right, these types of riders if you can’t figure out what where you fall on the scale, you’re the type of writer who could ride with no socks and feel comfortable or you always prefer a thin sock over a thickly padded sock. If you’re on the other end of the spectrum, you would gravitate towards Rafa shoes, Lake shoes, the older versions of mob x All these shoes were basically carbon fiber soles with flip flop uppers, like they pretty much had almost no real substance to the upper at all. And they allow a lot more feet, foot expansion and foot movement. And so if you’re on that end of the spectrum, you can get away with wearing flip flops on your bike and ride around and feel like you still make almost as much power as you do in your racing shoes. You can wear a thick sock in the winter not really seem to care. You don’t really know what the word proprioception means. So if you’re on that side of the spectrum, then you want to gravitate towards a shoe that’s less structured less stiff, the chances of you getting in a bond and liking it are probably not that good, because a bond is really geared towards Riders on the other end of the spectrum. So when you know yourself a bit, you can look into the philosophy of the shoe and the design and sort of figure out what might work better for you. A shoe with less of a heel counter, less structure, less non stretch gizmos on the top, and probably More leather and natural material based upper is probably going to do better for you if you’re on the flip flop end of the scale. Now all shoes have two factors built into the soul. They have toe spring and heel lift. So if we put our shoe on our table, a flat table, and we rested on the table and look at it from the side, we see that the toes kick up in the front, and we see that the heel kicks up in the back. The kick up in the front is toe spring and the kick up in the back is heel lift. Why do shoes have this? They have all shoe cycling shoes have this or well the majority of them have some heel lift and toe spring and when they’re built properly. They have those in roughly proportional amounts or perhaps a bit more heel spring heel lift. They have it to activate a mechanism it’s called the windlass mechanism. And the windlass mechanism is a function of the foot And specifically dorsiflexion of the first ray which activates the plantar fascia. What does that mean Pierce, English English dude. What that means is as you pull your big toe up towards your shin, that increases the tension in the medial arch, which is the big arch that runs from the the ball of the foot to the heel. Basically, it puts tension on that arch. Now why, why do we care? Well, this is an important part in walking. And when you walk, you strike the heel, and then you roll through the mid foot of the walking phase where the foot kind of lays down on the ground and the arches tensioned and that’s when your arch acts like a small suspension bridge. And then the ball the foot hits the ground and then the heel lifts up but the toes are on the ground and that means you have to dorsiflex your toes in order to have proper walking gait doors. Flex means your toes are bent back upwards towards your knees. If your first Ray in particular, your great toes, it’s known your, your big toe doesn’t have sufficient dorsiflexion. Then you walk funny. And that has implications all the way up to your back, your hips, your back, well through the knees, everything. It impacts everything. So having strong mobile, happily functioning feet is essential to proper walking. And spoiler alert. We’re going to get into this in a future episode with Aaron and also a few other guests I’ve got on my list. But cycling does not do wonders for the function of the human foot. So when we put your foot into what is fundamentally an almost flat piece of carbon fiber on top of a flat piece of carbon fiber,


Narrator  26:51

and your foot would normally have an arch so there normally would be a void under the arch when you stand with proper posture and good foot posture. Assuming that you’re not your foot isn’t so smashed and pronated that you’ve collapsed all the arch out of it, which is unfortunately somewhat common. When there’s that void there, then we but then oh wait, we’re gonna want to control our foot and make all this power. So we’re going to tighten down these bows and velcros and dinghy beanies, and smash that arch against that carbon fiber platform. Well, we forced our foot into pronation. But also we’ve taken away the ability of the windlass mechanism to really work because it’s not going to work in a cycling shoe anyway, without arch support, because the toe doesn’t have a way to dorsi flex, you can’t flex your big toe and push it up when you’re cycling, nor would you want to dorsiflexion and the windlass mechanism are activated by force against the ground that’s a passive activation of that tendon. So how do we passively activated we use arch support. So if dorsiflexion and the windlass mechanism are a fundamental part of the normal walking gait, if we don’t activate that in a cycling shoe, it follows that you’re probably not going to get proper muscular activation during cycling. Now, I’m not saying you can’t ride your bike without our support, I’m pretty sure you can. But I’m also pretty sure that if you made it this far into this podcast, you don’t want to just ride your bike. You’re some sort of performance wizard and you want to ride it as fast as possible. So, go get some foot beds and properly support your arch. Okay, why am I talking about this? For those of you who’ve been around for a little while, you’ll remember an older French shoe company called carnac. carnac had a an insane amount of heel lift in their shoes. Like a ridiculous amount. They also had a pretty solid arch built into their shoe. This was effectively a crude orthotic. If you want to try this experiment at home to see what I mean. You can just stand on the floor with bare feet. Notice the height of your arch. Now. Stand up on the balls of your feet. The first and fifth metatarsal heads. Spread the weight evenly between your big toe, the ball of your big toe and the base. Have your fifth toe and lift your heel off the ground. Look at your arch, it will be curved. So, the shoemakers of carnac figured, well, if we give a shoe of a heel lift that will activate the arch. And it did. It worked in sort of an artificial way, it was like a very crude form of orthotic. The problem is if people have excessive pronation because they’ve been walking around in leather foot coffins their whole life, or they have really lacks foot tendons, and they’ve never been clued into foot posture. Then they put on a car neck and they’re going to get plantar fasciitis or at very least have arch pain because the arches are going to be stretched for the first time ever in their lives. For the record, this is also a consideration if you go out and buy yourself a pair of orthotics and go straight to the moon on arch height. And you have a history of plantar fasciitis or your arches are really tight. Your feet are really tight. Just be cautious. Getting plantar fasciitis is just like that. time that you crashed and landed on your palms and you skinned all the skin off of your palms. And then for the next week you walked around the house cursing and saying to yourself I will never ride a bike again without gloves. Why am I such a moron? And then next week you went out and rubber gloves if you’re like me, because I like gloves in general, except really like nice leather ones. Getting plantar fasciitis is the same thing except maybe even worse, because guess what? We use our feet for a lot of things like you know every time we want to walk to go pee or drink water or get out of bed. So when your feet are injured, you can’t do anything. It really sucks and it also takes eternity to heal. So if you feel plantar fasciitis coming on Be careful. Find some treatment take it seriously because it just takes forever to heal and it really sucks. So


Narrator  30:58

when you Look at your shoes, you can also compare the toe spring and the heel lift of the shoes that you are considering purchasing. In most modern shoes. To be fair, it’s pretty close. The difference between a DMT and Northway, a mamak. And a Shimano in terms of heel, lift and toe spring, it’s probably not more than a couple millimeters. But there are a lot of shoes in the world. And I just want you to be aware of what those factors are. Because this is one of those nebulous factors that people don’t really consider when they’re buying a shoe. Or maybe they’re not aware of it, and they go from one pair to another, and the toe spring changes. And they are really careful about measuring their cleat position and getting them in the same place. And they just can’t figure out why the shoes feel so different. That’s one of the biggest reasons if the toe spring in particular, forces you into more dorsiflexion. That’s going to increase the windlass mechanism in that foot. And that’s going to have a big impact on the plantar fasciitis, plantar fascial tension, and that in turn, will will change muscle recruitment factors and things like ankling it’ll stress Your facial system all the way up the leg probably all the way up into your back. So ultimately that can have a non trivial impact on your writing, especially if you change shoes midseason have done this fire drill many times and change shoes mid season and has completely destroyed me because I am, as we’ve discussed before, well towards the end of the adapt adaptation cycle of bike fit, hence, bike fitter. I get a lot of questions about custom shoes. I’ve ridden in a lot of different custom shoes in my whole racing adventure, I’ve also had a lot of custom foot beds and orthotics. And we’ll talk I’m not gonna unpack that a whole lot about that here because I am going to get into depth on a future episode with Aaron Anderson. That’s coming up. So like I said, keep your socks on. I said pants before but socks would have been more apropos. Keep your socks on people. Alright, so I will expand a little more on orthotics and foot beds because I know people are gonna be running around in circles on this if they listen to this and they don’t have any do not go to the drugstore and get Dr. Scholl’s those are a nightmare. They’re gonna be way too thick way too blobby. They won’t fit in your cycling shoe. Even if you get them in there, your foot will probably fall asleep to be a terrible solution. So as I mentioned, I’ll put a few links to some brands in the show notes. But the common off the shelf ones that I have had success with our tread labs. They’re made the US. They’ve got a carbon fiber one carbon fiber footbed and a thermal plastic one. And each size comes in four different arch heights. They’ve also got metatarsal buttons, so they’re very customizable, really cool. That’s a great company. I worked with them this year at the F camp and they got I think seven or eight of the writers using their puppets. So that’s a great product. Another one I’ve had some success with is super feet. They make a carbon model footbed. That one’s pretty good. The Archer it’s a bit limiting. It’s a little low. It’s like it’d be about infrared labs. They’ve got a small a medium, a large and XL. The the super feat is between it’s like barely above a small. So it only works for people with pretty low arches and there’s no option to go up from there. So we have to build up the arch underneath by adding an arch cookie it’s called where we cut out some little foamy bits and do some taping and gluing. And then you boost up the arch some that can work. Another brand that some of my Steve Hogg fitting colleagues have used and had success with is ice bug. That’s a good option. I’ve seen a couple of those in person and they seem to be pretty well made and reasonable. Another brand that I’ve used in the past and had great success with and clients seem to love them if you’re more on the end of the flip flop side of the spectrum is G eight, a G eight foot bed those are Australian made and they have replaceable arches and five different sizes but you can also custom place the arch by snapping it on little prongs and move it forward, backwards left and right. So that allows a fair amount of customizability the the limitation on those foot beds is that the guy who made them.


Narrator  35:04

He prefers a model where he has a lot of foot motion in the cycling shoe, which I’m not opposed to at all. It doesn’t work for me. But it does work really well for some clients. So you have to figure out what works for you. So if you want a footbed, with a little more compliance, a little more motion than the GA is a good bet for you. The arches do push against the planet faster and give you really more of a proprioceptive feedback, but they’re not strong enough to provide you with a real structural support. So an orthotic can provide two functions. It can either just provided proprioceptive feedback to let that arch know that there’s something there or it can actually provide a structural support, which physically mechanically holds the foot in a more neutral alignment. And again, we’ll unpack a lot of the philosophy on when to do what with Aaron. But think of it this way. If you’re a massive pronator and you jack your foot up effectively, it’s just like putting a jack under a car To fix a flat tire, that’s that’s a great analogy. So you have a flat tire, your car is lean to one side because the rear tire is flat, so the whole thing is crooked. So you put a jack under it and you click and you raise your car up. That’s effectively putting a mechanical device onto your foot or your arch to hold it in a more subtalar, neutral neutral position. Did you fix the flat tire? Well, no, you just added a device there. Right? Really what we want you to do ultimately is start making power from a more symmetrical place with less pronation less medial collapse, less leaking of torque, right, more stability in the joints. But custom shoes is an interesting world. And I’ll tell you that building custom cycling shoes is a challenging job. I know some of the people who build custom shoes in the US. I know Don Lampson quite well he runs D two, which I think he recently rebranded back as Lampson. I know Casey over rockets Evan, one of the original gangsters of custom shoemaking Bart Sheldrake has retired, which is sad because that guy was crushing it and I still have two pair of his shoes which I resurrect every once in a while. In fact, I even shot some photos of my lust shoe prototype that’s lust. Lighten up speed technologies. This was the child of Bart Sheldrake and Bart is literally a mad scientist this guy’s work work for I believe he worked from our Marietta for a while as a rocket scientist. No kidding. And these shoes are amazing. Imagine a cleat attached to a carbon fiber curved orthotic that wrapped up around the foot as high as you could go without without really passing any of the vertical surface. So going as high as you could vertically and then stopping and then simply use two seat belts to attach the carbon fiber cleat. To your foot. That was Bart shoe, you could see your sock through the in between the seat belt straps. I raised those shoes, the Olympic Games, they’re badass. So that makes them really old now since I’m as old as dirt and the Olympics were dirt minus 40 or whatever, so they’re pretty old shoes, but I did raise some apple devalue a couple seasons ago, however, I had to replace the uppers. And I made a bond, lust hybrid. I literally saw a bond upper off of one of my shoes and glued it onto the list. What was beautiful about the love shoes is there was 00 accommodation for aesthetics. None and this drove some people crazy. I this shoes got visceral reactions from some people when I wore them. They would walk up to me and be like, What the hell’s on your feet? Or I would hear guys in the peloton be like Dude, I’m pretty sure Bobby julik actually said to me one year at Torrey Georgia. I thought we were done with those already. Can you just be done with them? Which is pretty funny. So I was working close to done with them anyway, I’ll put up a photo of those so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about in the show notes. I’m warning you they’re serious garage tech. They’re like 1516 years old and I ripped them apart and super glue them together with a bond upper so prepared for some garage action. Simmons racing who I believe is out of Florida. He makes some really nice looking shoes now he also does skates there’s a big skating crossover between those two worlds for some reason


Narrator  39:27

Casey at are seven is also a skater as well. So there’s that there’s rivo in California. I’ve seen their shoes online never seen him in person. They look like they’re quite nice product. That’s not sure I’ve seen a couple pairs in person. And they seem like they’re well made. And then there’s of course I was get the question about Adam Hansen’s handsy, no custom shoes, which are perpetually not for sale, but seem to be available and he raises them in Europe and they’re like, they look like he took his foot addicted and carbon fiber and then glued a bow on the side. That’s pretty much what or under behind the cleat. They’re about as minimalist and extreme as you get, which is pretty much Adam Hansen’s entire life. Adam is Jocko Willink on a bike. And I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. He is a super freak of super freaks. In case you don’t know Adam Hansen holds the record for the number of greatest, the greatest number of grand tours consecutively completed. Like literally gyro tour vuelta Gerald well tour volta on and on and on. I think he I think he went to 17 which is maybe it’s 16 anyway we can look it up. That’s it, whatever any teen is astounding. So Adams, a super freak and he also makes shoes. I think he also like sells microprocessors and trade stocks and owns a country. There’s one minimal cycling shoe brand Oh, and I mentioned that I’ve never seen in person but some of their design ideas look pretty interesting. It’s called Linton will put a link to that site in the show notes as well. He’s got a couple minimal issues and then he has some kind of more conventional shoes that are still pretty have some interesting ideas. I’ve frequently been close to buying a pair of those just to try him out because I’m curious because he’s really thinking outside the box. So that makes the design pretty interesting, but I have yet to actually see them in reality, so I can’t tell you what, what how they function. If somebody’s got some experience out there with gentlemen and they want to let me know, please send me a note. And hit me with some info. I’d love to hear more about it. That’s cycling in alignment at fast Disclaimer, I am subjected landslide, landslide emails, email and slides from time to time. So I appreciate your patience. Because of the power of the internet. We have now confirmed that I was wrong about hence he knows amazing grand to a record he did 20 grand tours in a row. That’s a two with a zero after it. Holy crap, dude. That’s the law bike riding. Like I said, that just reaffirms super freak of super freaks love it. One other variable to consider when you’re purchasing your shoes is the drilling of the holes. There’s really no standard for this. Shoe manufacturers just sort of put the holes where they think they go. And what that means is certain brands will have holes that are a little further back, and certain brands will have shoe holes that are drilled a little further forward. If you’re using speed play, for example, and you have you’re using a three hole shoe with a four plate adapter, you can use their extra long aluminum adapter plate and that gives you a massively increased range of motion. On the other hand, if you’re using for example, a DMT shoe which tends to have holes that are drilled a little farther forward with a look Keo cleat, which has arguably the worst for after adjustability of any cleat on the market, then you might not be able to get your cleats far enough back because you’ve got a combination of those two factors. shoe with holes that are really forward and cleats that don’t have a lot of for adjustability or lateral adjustability for that matter. So think about these things a little bit when you’re purchasing your shoes and if you take your old shoes in if you’re dead set that you want to maintain your cleat position, you can do some eyeballing to make sure that your current position will match up with the new one. You just have to use a little X ray vision and a little creative bench architecture to perhaps align the shoes so that you can see where your cleat would go on the new shoe. That’s a good idea also you don’t want to buy the shoes and get home and then put them on and then find out they’re in the wrong position and you’re out of room. You can drill out shoes and make holes longer and make new holes that I’ve done it several times it is semi challenging to a huge pain on the you know what’s to impossible depending on the design of the shoe for example some modern zeros have a molded compartment where the cleat nuts will be stationed. And so when you try to Drill around that you end up hitting some carbon fiber architecture or some I beam or something and there’s nowhere to put the nut without a lot of journaling.


Narrator  44:08

People ask me if I can do that I can, am I willing to not necessarily and the number one reason is this one of the reasons bark got out of making shoes. Carbon Fiber particles, when you dribble them or drill them are extremely small and they embed in your lungs and they pretty much stay in your lungs forever. So even with an N 95 mask or some crazy filtration system, you’re inhaling some carbon fiber dust. And carbon is really cool, but it’s not something I want to work with. So I’m I’m really grateful for the people who do work on things like carbon fiber bikes, so I can ride them and choose but that is not something I’m signing up to do to be honest, because I prefer to have my long pulmonary function be as optimized as possible. I’m not exactly a vo to Monster so I got to save what I got, man. No Jonathan fighters. Remember that we’re trying to get a shoe that has a really solid heel cup that drives your foot into the back of that heel cup. That’s really the first parameter for selecting a shoe. And when you try all these shoes on back to back, the idea is that you can feel different pressure points and have insights, ah, the upper on this shoe. I thought it was okay until I try it on the next four shoes. And then I realized it’s really probably too tight. Or Oh, I thought this upper felt okay, but then I can tell that after I tried on the next the subsequent shoe that I’m probably going to get a pressure point from this bow, a dial right here, for example. These are problems that you will be potentially unique to you and your foot. That’s what brings us back to our original rule about if the shoe fits, wear it. So when you try them on back to back, you get that that side by side comparison, it really enables you to have those little insights. And what we’re looking for is for a moment of attentiveness on your part during this process so that hopefully out on the road, you don’t end up with a shoe that just is a complete nightmare and clamps your foot down in all the wrong places. Ideally, we want shoes that have as little impact hinged on the freedom of the toes as possible. Realistically, there aren’t a lot of great options out there for shoes that do that. I’ve mentioned a few of them. But I’m going to make my first next. My claim to fame will be when I make a cycling shoe that allows complete foot freedom but still transmits power effectively. I’ve got a design in my head. Are you a carbon fiber person? Are you a shoe manufacturer? Do you have connections in these areas and you want to make a shoe? company come talk to me. Let’s make it happen. I’ve got seriously crazy ideas. I’ll stop there because also i’m going to unpack this in another future episode with a surprise guest.


Narrator  46:51

No, I’m not going to tell you who she is. Because it’s a surprise. I just said that. You’re not listening. But here’s a hint. Check out this resource. There’s a website called it feet freaks. That’s feet FET freaks fr e They’ve got some really cool resources and sections on there. There are a few former cyclists involved in this site and some other brilliant people. And it’s really got a lot of resources about how to make your own shoes, how to buy minimalist shoes with some really extensive minimal shoe lists on there, not just your normal, humdrum, vanilla washdown minimal shoe lists, but some pretty obtuse brands that you probably haven’t heard of before. Um, there are really good resources to learn about feet and about how to move with postural consciousness of the foot. So if you’re interested in this topic, this is one of the best resources I found recently. I just discovered it and I’m still unpacking it all myself. So go forth and educate myself using the internet. One question I commonly get is how long should I expect to ride in a shoe before it breaks in before it really feels like home. And that depends a good bit on how far off the shoe fit is from your foot to begin with, which is why I’m walking you through this process. Because if the shoe is really far off, it’s going to take a while and unfortunately what happens is the foot actually will change and mold to the shoe. And this is not desirable. This is why I want you to be so attuned to pressure points when you’re trying on the shoe. Because feet will change based on the structure of a shoe and in particular with a racing shoe or a shoe that’s got a non stretch upper and a carbon fiber base and sometimes some really aggressive heel cups, heel counters. We see riders actually having I see people having bony growth and fascicle deposits being laid down in areas where they have a lot of pressure on the feet. And this is not optimal. You do not want your foot to mold itself around your footwear. This is this is countering counter to the philosophy of what we want, which is to allow your foot to be a natural healthy structure that supports weight enables gait enables running, you know, things like going to the refrigerator to eat food or cook dinner. Really important stuff. When you can do that, then it’s functional, if you’re if you’re cycling shoe is, is changing the load of your foot or the muscular load muscular strength of your foot or limiting it limited limiting it, then you’re gonna you’re working towards dysfunction, not integration. That’s not what we want. So if your shoe doesn’t feel quite comfortable in, I would say two weeks of very consistent riding say five or six times a week and you’re getting pressure then you either need to consider having that shoe altered somehow. Like in the way we spoke about with my little ball and ring, Gothic manipulation device or heat gun. Or consider if you try those methods and you still can’t make enough room to make those pressure points go away, then you got to consider that that shoe doesn’t work for you. Leather is different. Most shoes have a synthetic upper, and those will take longer, but they also ultimately conform less to the foot, they’re really not going to change that much to be honest. Maybe inadvertently, through some breakdown of materials, but leather will actually change and mold to the foot and conform to the foot. The old school trick used to be riding, get caught in a rainstorm on purpose, and then ride really hard tighten your shoes down and ride really hard on them. And then the leather would just mold right then they were it was like old school heat molding. If you have further questions about shoe fit, and you feel that I miss something or I wasn’t clear, or you just wanna yell at me or give me a high five, or I solved all your foot problems. Hit me back. You can do that via electronic email. However it requires that you use the tiny pads in the end of your fingers and the Corti to make the emails cycling in alignment at fast Thanks for listening, stay safe and Belfast. Thank you for listening to the cycling and alignment podcast. Hope you enjoy today’s show. If you have some feedback about the show, you can email me at cycling in alignment at fast That’s all just like it sounds cycling in alignment at fast labs Comm. We’ll also put the link to this email in the show notes and some links to some socials


Colby Pearce  51:46

in case you want to hit us up there. We appreciate the positive feedback if you liked the show. If you didn’t like it, well, that’s okay. And let me know about that too. The thoughts and opinions expressed on this podcast are those of the guests or not They do not represent fast labs. Fast talk, Chris case, Trevor Connor, Santa Claus or anyone else.



Thanks Have a good day.

Related Episodes