Calf/achilles strain WITH rearward cleat placement

I have used a traditional ball-of-foot cleat placement forever. Currently my bikes feel like they’re too low in the front end so I’ve moved my cleats back on both road and dirt shoes. After moving saddle forward and seatpost down, I appreciate the more forward position in most cases and seated power feels a bit easier. But I am getting significant calf/achilles strain which I’ve basically never dealt with, even with US 12/~46 feet, very long legs, etc. And I do have a history of serious achilles issues with running. Beyond that I do feel like it’s harder to accelerate with the rearward cleat position which is not as big of a deal on the road as it is on singletrack when you need to burst up over terrain features etc.

Any ideas about what other bike fit issues could be causing this? Seems contrary to conventional widsom about using rearward cleat position to mitigate achilles strain caused by traditional forward cleat position.

As my fitter says any time you make a semi large cleat adjustment take it easy for the first few weeks. Different loads on different muscles and joints. It will take the body sometime to get back in sync and learn the new pattern.

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Thanks, I appreciate that insight.

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Too rearward a cleat position strains my calves too. Couldn’t tell you why.
I have settled for 10-12 mm behind BOF.

Yeah thanks. I think I’m actually in about that range. I have current model Fizik road and MTB shoes. With the rearward position I feel like my toes and calves are trying to push against something that isn’t there, and like I am trying to flex my arch into the pedal stroke. I have rigid arches and “subtle cavus foot” insoles which have an opposite shape/strategy to traditional arch supports; they cause me to pronate. So that might be part of it. Will definitely have to see how I adapt and I feel like I might decide to revert to BOF.


I did this for awhile (slammed the cleats as far back as possible). It’s been all the rage with triathletes.

Not sure, but I think it aggravated my knees. During my build this spring on the bike, started to get patellofemoral syndrome. Moved the cleats forward, and wallah…instant improvement.

Cleats too far forward will aggravate my calves and Achilles :man_shrugging:t2:

Wow, your feet mechanics and pedaling technique seem very similar to mine. Rearward cleats may not be for us.

I had also tried soles (Specialized BG) which have made the outside of my knees very painful. Now i am starting to understand why.

I may have found another reason for my achilles issues: I went for a long road ride Sunday after taking Saturday off with foot and achilles tension after a hard friday night MTB session. The ride started out with the same pain. But I stopped and loosened the shoes (Fizik double velcro wrap) and found that the tension rather miraculously disolved without the velcro straps cranked down. I haven’t been on the MTB since but it will be interesting to see if simply not cranking down the velcro resolves the issue completely.

Summary: Fizik shoes with velcro strap closures can become too tight and seemingly restrict function of my feet, which translates up the chain to my achilles tendons and calves. Sort of a bummer as with really skinny feet I like to crank down my shoes pretty hard. Anyway…

Moving the cleat back takes away some lever effect on the calf. It has really eliminated my issues of lower leg. If I had calf or Achilles issues I would think the problem might be elsewhere. Would not see how going further forward could help a person with those issues. Will be following.

Happy Cycling

Yeah its certainly been counterintuitive that Im moving my cleats back and all of a sudden I have calf/achilles problems. And since I have a history with it, mostly from running, I am sensitive to it. I am finding that it seems to be related to the velcro straps that wrap around the midfoot or maybe to the insoles I use.

Since I don’t see it mentioned, it’s worth a comment to consider. Depending if and how much a person points their toes at the bottom of the pedal stroke, a saddle height adjustment may be useful in conjunction with the cleat fore-aft adjustment.

If a rider points their toes in the bottom of the stroke, moving the cleat forward or rearward will impact the functional length of the pedal stroke.

  • Ex: For those moving the cleat rearward (and having a toe point), they are actually making their effective saddle height LONGER with that cleat shift (since the foot is effectively further down and away from the crank/BB/seat).

  • It’s not a 1:1 length change since people don’t typically toe point at the same angle as the seat height. But a large change like 10mm rearward cleat shift could lead to needing maybe 2-4mm saddle height adjustment.

For those riders that have a mostly flat foot at the bottom, this is a non-issue. It may be minor overall even for typical toe pointers, but it is worth consideration at the very least, because the basic idea of shifting the cleat rearward will reduce loading in the calf/achilles regions. So if this change makes that works, there may be other factors (like saddle height or shoe fit as mentioned above).