Cycling Podiatry - What Kind of Foot are You?

Cycling Podiatry - The most common forefoot positions?

Posted by Julian Wall

As I sit here on my journey into London thinking of what topic to challenge the minds of the cycling aficionados, it’s the forefoot that once again comes to mind.

Clear understanding of The Foot

My last blog piece was about the connection of the foot against the pedal but that was speaking quite broadly. As I alluded to in that piece, a clear understanding of the forefoot is by far the most important aspect to what I am doing.

The different forefoots you can be

Before we go any further, let me break down the forefoot positions in their most general of forms. These positions are what we see when the heel or more specifically the subtalar joint The meeting point of the lower-leg and foot), is locked in its most neutral of positions. It’s by no means clear-cut but they are a good starting point to figuring out what to do next. Clearly, there is every foot type under the sun: big ones, fat ones, curved ones, boney ones and no two feet (even on the same person) are the same.

Cyclist Foot5

1st MTPJ - The power-centre of the foot

Cycling is a static-foot sport

In a static situation such as cycling and skiing, we have a very different movement that’s required. We are not asking the 1st MTPJ to act as rolling pivot through the sagital plane like when we are walking.

However, we do need it to act as a stable and almost immobile pivot, similar to if it was a supporting pillar at either end of a bridge. Remembering that the primary movement at the forefoot level during cycling is lateral to medial (outside to inside), it’s the eventual contact of the 1st MTPJ that will provide the most amount of power. The longer it takes the 1st MTPJ to find an adequate ground reaction force to work against, means the longer it takes to generate the appropriate amount of power for that individual. Not to mention the additional and therefore unnecessary tracking movements of the joints above it that would be seen as a knock-on effect of the foot’s unnecessary rotation.

The cycling foot under load

Our sport is based on repetition so in the absence of a single traumatic injury like falling from the bike, it’s my opinion that the far majority of the injuries that I see within static sports are the end result of poorly distributed forefoot pressures.

There’s a common goal in our industry that suggests that instead of purely treating the injury itself, we primarily focus on the cause and eliminate this from occurring in the first place. Whether it’s the lateral aspect of your forefoot that’s going numb first before engulfing the whole foot, the inside ankle bone is regularly clashing against your crank or the anterior-lateral aspect of your knee is tracking poorly, by supporting and distributing the pressures evenly across the whole forefoot we ensure that no single aspect is bearing the brunt of each cycling revolution.

Simply put, by activating the medial (inside) column in each foot, we are just putting each individual in the positions they were meant to be in, in the first place.

About the author

Julian Wall, Co-founder

Co-founder, general manager, bike fitter and bike designer. Jules rides an Open U.P., Seven 622XX, Trek Top Fuel & a Trek Emonda SLR. Jules enjoys riding off-road on his U.P. and MTB racing. When he's not on his bike he tries to keep his garden under control, walks his dogs and enjoys nature.
Julian's Cyclefit bike-fit speciality is that he leads Cyclefit's work with professional teams and riders. In his element when he is calmly working through complex problems with someone whose livelihood depends on the outcome.

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