The Importance of Proper Shoes and Pedals

In cycling, there are three contact points a rider has with the bike: the seat, the bars, and the pedals.  All three contact points are important, but it is your shoe and pedal interface that has the biggest impact on your overall comfort and performance on the bike. The shoes and pedals are the foundation of a rider’s ability to make power and move the bike forward.

The area where your cleat meets the pedal is quite small. As you pedal and apply force, this small area takes on a tremendous amount of load. If not properly supported under this load, your feet can become easily irritated and uncomfortable. This can be made worse when riding in hot weather as your feet swell even more. No two people’s feet are alike. There are a lot of different shapes and types of feet, requiring you to give time and attention to the proper combination of shoes, insoles, cleats and pedals to keep your feet in comfort as you ride.

When you are pushing 90 RPM for several hours on a small imperfection in your alignment, this is quickly magnified leading to inefficiencies and possibly to injury. A stable foot is the starting point for keeping proper knee and hip alignment lessening the potential for injury. In addition, a stable foot combined with a rigid shoe/pedal platform can mean more energy goes to moving your bike forward. Keeping everything “in line” allows for a better application of force to the pedals and for a more efficient use of your limited energy stores.

With a huge variety of shoes and pedals to purchase, it can be overwhelming to determine what the proper combination should be to maximize your comfort and performance on the bike. To help you in your gear search, we’ve put together a list of tips for choosing shoes and pedals that will keep your feet pedaling happily.

1. Get shoes that fit

Seems like a no-brainer, right? But you would be surprised the number of riders who overlook what goes into a proper fitting shoe. Remember, any slight imperfection will be amplified over the miles you are riding.  Shoes should not be too tight as your feet need to have room to swell as the day warms up and the time “on your feet” adds up. At the same time, a shoe that is too loose will result in your feet moving inside the shoes, decreasing stability and efficiency.

Shimano S Phyre WhiteCyclists often experience pressure or “hot spots” on their feet as they ride. To alleviate the chance of this happening, it is important to wear shoes with a good retention mechanism that can be adjusted easily on the fly. Whether ratchets, laces, or Velcro straps, find the retention mechanism that works best for you and can be easily adjusted to keep your feet secure and comfortable. It is also important to buy shoes with room for footbeds or arch support that can also help eliminate pressure points and correct for misalignment to work towards pain free pedaling.

Giro Empire ACC Reflective

2. Use footbeds to correct alignment

Foootbeds allow for a more precise and secure fit of your cycling shoes, providing proper alignment and tracking which is critical for efficiency and healthy knees. Since everyone’s feet are different, the footbeds that work for one cyclist might not be the best choice for another. The right footbeds should give your feet ample arch support for the huge amount of load your foot carries as you pedal and offer as much or little cushion as you need to keep your foot comfortable over the course of a long ride.  Features such as metatarsal bumps will also help with “hot spots”.

3. Get help with your shoe setup

From cleat placement to footbed choice to pedal type and shoe selection, there are a lot of pieces that need to work together to ensure you are pedaling comfortably and maximizing efficiency. While you might be able to feel areas of discomfort as you ride, having an expert view your pedal stroke as you ride can help identify any misalignment or inefficient movements. It is important to have your fit evaluated by a technician who has a thorough understanding of biomechanics and how they relate to cycling. This can help ensure that your fit is optimal and that you are riding as comfortably and as efficiently as possible, while at the same time minimizing the chance of injury.

Sidi Wire Vent Carbon Push redHere at the shop we have the Contender Biomechanics Fit Studio. We have built a dedicated fit studio utilizing all of the latest technology available. All of our fitters at Contender Bicycles have undergone comprehensive training to understand the human body and the biomechanics of the body on the bicycle. We offer a 1-hour Basic Fit session to cover all the major areas of adjustment necessary to establish a safe and neutral position including cleat, seat, and handlebar adjustment evaluation. The 2-hour Contender Biomechanic Fit combines our fitting principles of the Basic Fit with data acquired through Dartfish’s video analysis software and the CompuTrainer. Feel free to come down to the shop or call for more information.

4. Care for Your Cleats and Pedals

There are lots of great pedals out there. Make sure that you choose a pair that you are Look Keo 2 Max Pedalscomfortable with clicking in and out of the pedal quickly. Certain pedals offer more adjustability and others are easier to for entry and exit. Make sure to focus on what will work the best for you rather than what is the lightest or cheapest. Whatever pedals you choose, it is important to stay on top of cleat wear and tear. Worn out cleats are unsafe. They impede your ability to safely engage/disengage your pedals, and they can cause instability which will put added pressure on your joints and ligaments particularly in your ankle and Achilles, increasing chance of injury.

Shimano XTR 9020 PedalAs the one point of contact that is responsible for powering the bike down the road or trail, this area is of utmost importance to have a successful day on the bike both for comfort and performance. We hope our tips and suggestions for getting the most out of your shoes and pedals will help you find further success in your riding. Come down to the shop or give us a call to discuss our wide selection of pedals and shoes or to schedule a fit session to make sure you are properly aligned for the most comfortable and efficient ride possible. Happy cycling!


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