Foot pain in cycling – an individual case?

During bikefitting, athletes with hurting feet frequently ask us whether they are the only ones with this problem. A recent Australian study concerning exactly this topic by Uden, Jones and Grimmer has now been published. This study is based on the responses of 373 participants. More than half (53.9%) indicated that they suffer from foot pain during cycling. Most of them (61%) reported that the pain – which they described as ‘numbness’ and ‘burning’ – was mainly located at the forefoot (including toenails, toes and ball of the foot). These descriptions clearly hint towards a too low comfort inside the cycling shoe and an overstraining of the sensitive efferent pathways in the forefoot! It is furthermore stunning that the risk of foot pain substantially increases both with fixation in a clip-in pedal (71%) and an increase in the amount of kilometres cycled per week (above 60%). The straining of the foot increases with the usage of a clip-in pedal as the whole foot pressure is compressed to a small area of about 60mm².


The contact point foot – pedal is in cycling primarily responsible for the force transmission from the rider to its bike. More than 50% of the study participants indicated that they suffered from foot discomfort. This shows both the importance of this contact point as well as the optimizing potential! Wrong settings or an improper choice of materials, like unfitting shoes or maladjusted cleats, can substantially increase foot pain. As the usage of clip-in pedals already decreases the contact area, these need to be adjusted optimally and individually. The study shows that aside from the saddle also the feet need to play a decisive role in bike fitting. Existing discomforts can be recognized and limited, for example by using customized cycling insoles.

Foot pain is thus definitely no individual case!

Source: Uden, H., Jones, S., & Grimmer, K. (2012). Foot Pain and Cycling: A Survey of Frequency, Type, Location, Associations and Amelioration of Foot Pain. Journal of Science and Cycling, 1(2): 28-34.

Author: Daniel Schade