Foot/arch pain from riding out of the saddle

After finishing MV Sustained Power Build, I decided to do a couple of easy weeks before restarting with base. During that two weeks, I rode exclusively in Z2 but took the opportunity to work on pedaling drills, riding aero, and spending more time out of the saddle. By mid way through the second week, I began developing pain in both arches that I first assumed was a case of plantar fasciitis. By the first week of base, I was in significant pain both on and off the bike.

The more I evaluated the nature of the injury, the less I felt it was plantar fasciitis. My pain wasn’t located in the typical area associated with PF, but further toward the middle of the foot and in the arches. Arch support in my cycling shoes and street shoes seemed to make the pain worse and my feet just felt “bruised” for lack of a better description. Going barefoot, wearing flip flops, or something with absolutely nothing touching my arches were the most comfortable options.

Since I knew fairly precisely when the issues began, I felt there was a pretty good chance that some combination of the extra drills, aero riding, and/or out of the saddle riding was causing it. By process of elimination, I’ve narrowed it down the likely culprit to the longer and more frequent bouts of out of the saddle work. Since reducing my time out of the saddle back to my previous volume, the pain has improved dramatically and I’m now back riding relatively pain free.

I’m now left with trying to figure out WHY the almost immediate flare up and pain. One area I’m evaluating is that my cycling shoes have custom orthotics that provide a TON of arch support. The added arch support keeps my knees happy when riding seated, but my suspicion is that I was essentially bearing too much weight on my arches when out of the saddle.

Does anyone have experience with something similar? Is this just a case of too much too soon? How should I balance the need for arch support with the fact that the arches aren’t really supposed to bear your full weight? Any advice or personal experience appreciated!

For fitting and choosing arch support, we look at the foot contact and arch support in two positions:

  1. With the rider seated, thighs about level with the floor and tib/fib vertical.
  2. With the rider standing on both feet.

We look to see if there is a change in foot contact area and arch height. Specialized has a heat sensitive foot plate that makes seeing the shape change easier. You can do the same with the “wet foot” test like they sometimes to for running shoe selection. Do that test for each position above and the 3rd I share below.

In your a case, I would add a 3rd test, like #2 above, but stand on one foot.

The goal being to see if and how much your foot shape changes under load. It’s possible that you get more shape change when standing and that may lead to excessive loading from the insoles under the arch. It may mean the right amount of arch support for you is a somewhere between the current insoles and something a bit less.

The need to change likely hinges on the level of pain, how quickly it arises, how often you will be standing, and the overall distribution between seated and standing use. You may have to strike a balance between competing interests.

1 Like

Were the custom orthotics designed specifically to be paired with the cycling shoe?

I’ve noticed some cycling shoes have a footbed design that causes my ankle to pronate, and not be in a neutral position.

Adding an arch support to a shoe like that (if the arch support was not designed with that specific shoe in mind) would put more pressure on the arch.

Another thought is to concentrate on weighting the ball of your foot evenly from inside to outside when pedaling, and don’t let the inside of your heel drop. This prevents your ankle from excessive pronation, and alleviates pressure on the arch.

(The background for my comments is that I have a chronic ankle injury where I pay attention to stuff like this. Trying to avoid surgery #4!).

1 Like

Very good information @mcneese.chad and there are several points there that I will bring up to my fitter the next time I visit (maybe sooner rather than later). The insoles I’m in are the Specialized/Retul heat moldable variety that I was fitted for at Retul headquarters in Boulder. It’s been almost a year agon, but as I remember it we definitely did #1 and I feel like he also had me do position #2 but I couldn’t swear to it.

From your post, it sounds like it’s something that can crop up though and something I should keep an eye out for going forward. My suspicion is that knowing I was having issues with a lack of arch support (which was causing some minor knee pain) he erred on the side of a little too much support.

1 Like

Good points Dave, thank you. The shoes are Specialized S-Works 7’s which do have some degree of varus adjustment built in. The fitting process for the insoles is done without the shoes, so it may well be exacerbated by the shoe itself. Again, a good point I’ll definitely discuss with my fitter.

I don’t feel that my feet are pronating and pressure feels relatively even across the bottom of my foot. That is to say, I don’t sense an uncomfortable amount of pressure on my arches, in or out of the saddle. I do wonder a bit about saddle fore/aft and cleat positioning and any affect that might have on my knee/ankle position when out of the saddle.

Well, sounds like another visit to the fitter may be in order…

1 Like