What is Cycling Foot Pain?

Cyclic Foot Pain

Cycling foot pain is extremely common among avid and recreational bikers alike.  Below is a summary of the common injuries faced and the best way to go about treating them.

The Feet's Link to the Pedals

Besides selecting a bicycle that meets your specific needs, proper shoes are the most important piece of cycling equipment. Cycling shoes must have a stable shank to efficiently transfer power from your feet to the pedals. The lack of shank support in sneakers allows the foot to collapse through the arch while pedaling, which may cause arch pain, tendon problems, or burning under the bottom of the foot. A rigid shank protects your feet from the stress of pedaling.

Cycling Foot Pain: Biomechanics and Cycling

Biomechanics, the study of external forces on the living body, plays a crucial role in efficient, satisfying cycling. For example, when seated on a bike with hands on the handlebars, the hands, shoulders, and front axle should all be in line.

By enhancing the biomechanics of the foot, podiatric physicians specializing in sports medicine can improve the mechanical functions of related body parts. If, for example, an experienced cyclist’s knees hurt after a 30-mile ride, the problem may be a biomechanical imbalance. A podiatric physician can alleviate the pain by correcting that imbalance through prescription orthotic shoe inserts. Training and conditioning methods should also be evaluated.

To preclude pain before it starts, podiatrists advise stretching the major muscle groups used in cycling – the gluteals, the quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings – before and after getting on the bike. Riders should start slowly and work up to normal cadence, or rate of pedaling. The seat is at the proper height when knees are slightly flexed and hips are over the knees.

Podiatrists recommend the use of a pulse monitor for a cycling-based training regimen. Some models strap around the chest, while smaller units wrap around the wrist or the thumb and display the pulse rate as you ride.

Ask your We Treat Feet podiatrist about an appropriate pulse rate while you ride. Usually, the same criteria applies as with running: your pulse should be 60-70 percent of the maximum for efficient training.

Major Causes of Cycling Foot Pain

Experiencing Foot or Ankle Pain?

We’re here to help! Contact our friendly staff and connect with our expert doctors

Signs and Symptoms of Cycling Foot Pain

Numbness or Tingling

Often felt in the toes or ball of the foot, this can be due to nerve compression or tight shoes

Sharp or Shooting Pain

This can occur in the arch, heel, or ball of the foot, possibly from overuse, improper foot positioning, or inadequate arch support

Burning Sensation

This might be felt along the sole of the foot, indicating nerve compression or poor circulation


Prolonged pressure and repetitive motion can lead to swelling in the feet


Muscle cramps in the feet or calves can occur due to overuse or electrolyte imbalances

Hot Spots

Localized areas of intense pain, often felt on the ball of the foot, due to pressure from pedaling.

Stiffness in Joints:

Stiffness in the toe joints or ankle can develop from repetitive motion or incorrect foot alignment on the pedals

Skin Irritations

Blisters, calluses, or other skin irritations can develop from friction inside cycling shoes

Difficulty Walking

After cycling, experiencing difficulty in walking normally can indicate a problem

Cycling Foot Pain Treatment

Cycling Foot Pain: Competitive Cycling

Undertaking a successful cycling regimen frequently results in the desire to match skills with others. There are four categories of competitive cycling. Category I denotes world-class competition – with conditions and strategies an average cyclist would not be able to navigate. Category II is also advanced, and employs such techniques as drafting, and involves certain “courtesies” of cycling etiquette.

Categories III and IV offer opportunities for fit cyclists to go out and test their mettle against other enthusiasts of the sport. No special equipment is required, only the desire to compete and an adequately trained, biomechanically tuned body. See your local bike shop for schedules of races in your area. As with all competition, start at a low level and work your way up the categories. Remember, put safety first, and enjoy yourself.

Before beginning any exercise program, be sure to check with your physician.

Investing in a cycling-specific shoe is a good idea if you have had preexisting problems with your feet or wear orthotic shoe inserts. Most orthoses control the arch and heel, and for cycling, usually require critical forefoot balancing. Riders with mild bunions or hammertoes should select a wider, deeper shoe that will accommodate the deformity.

Select a shoe that’s right for you among models designed for racing and mountain biking. For the casual rider without known foot problems, cross-training shoes provide the necessary support across the arch and instep in a shoe that can be used for other purposes. They also provide the heel lift that cycling shoes give. Combination cycling-hiking shoes meet the needs of the casual rider well, and have recently become popular.

Proper shoes and clips or cleats working as a unit are important to achieve maximum efficiency in transferring power generated by the hips to the foot. For most efficient pedaling, shoes should extend fully under the ball of the foot.

Experiencing Foot or Ankle Pain?

We’re here to help! Contact our friendly staff and connect with our expert doctors

We treat feet podiatry has been proud to serve the Maryland area’s Foot & Ankle needs for over 15 years! From bunions to twisted ankles to diabetic wound care and everything in between.

Our experienced team is dedicated to get you back on feet again!