Indoor trainer pain

I’ve been riding for approximately 2 years and I am generally pain free riding outdoors.
This includes periods of load of up to 400km per week and crit racing. I have had a bike fit within the last 12 months and feel like my position is good.

My problem occurs when riding on a trainer. Everytime I try, I suffer pain in my feet, ankles, achilles and knees.

I have just started a training block on traineroad and can feel the same issues creeping in again - it progressively gets worse.

I feel like I may be tensing my whole lower leg and this is causing torque from the feet through to the knee.
The feet, ankle and achilles feel like strain while the knee is painful below and under the patella.

I’m trying to determine if my pedaling technique changes indoors and if any drills or cues can solve this.
Is it possible I’m excessively ankling on the trainer?

Any help would be appreciated.


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What is your setup??

Have you explored rocker plates?

Currently on a tarmac with speedplay pedals on elite direto trainer.

Have experienced same issue on different bikes/trainers and with Shimano pedals.

I haven’t tried a rocker plate, but could potentially help.

Have you read any of Kelly Sturrett’s books? Chad recommends him on the podcast from time to time and he has a completely different way of thinking about moving, joints, muscles, self maintenance etc. I have gained some great benefit from using a voodoo floss band and I wonder if there might be some maintenance that would benefit you as well.

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I haven’t read any of the books but definitely something I will look into.

Maintenance will no doubt help manage the injury, but I’m hoping prevention may be possible.

Being locked into place isn’t normal. I often get hands falling asleep and a sore butt that I don’t get out on the road.

My indoor training is going to increase this fall due to covid19 so I’m going to look into rocker plates.

I have a rocker plate and it’s great. I don’t want to go back. However, it seems a bit of a stretch to think a rocker plate is going to solve this.


Yeah, a rocker plate can help solve some discomfort issues that don’t present on the road (e.g. sore hind parts), but I wouldn’t expect it to solve this. (Numb hands are solved by changing hand position and not over extending your wrists as many do esp in the drops.)

IMO, there is probably a fit issue here that’s being masked by adjustments on the road - frequent standing/stretching, stoplights, and other things that just aren’t there indoors. The trainer will quickly expose fit problems, and I think that’s what’s going on here.

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My Pennies worth.
I Had the feet issue 2 - 3 months ago… That was me just tightening my Shoes too much. I now Arch my foot as i tighten the Boa’s and allow for my feet swelling up due to heat etc.

I read an article just the point i started getting slight Knee pain, the article was perfect, Cycling plus Physio stated he was seeing a lot of knee issues being reported during lock down. The main thing that is causing this is the mussels are in more tension due to the workout intensity not the same as being on the road, He recommended Leg stretching, You know the one where you grab the foot and pull up to your Butt. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat about 5 times, i do both legs as part of warming up. This has greatly improved the patella pain that i was experiencing, due to the knee being tracked incorrectly. Hope fixing feet and knee helps with other issues. If Not Look at additional stretching of lower leg region. It may be seeing a physio a few times to get professional advice.

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If you can get the MP1 via a 20% off deal it is worth it. Have had mine since March and no regrets at all.

I could have built one for less $$ but not sure how much due to the design and robustness. I do quite a bit of indoor riding. Let me know if you have any other questions. Pic of my setup.


The Saris unit looks well done. It seems a bit pricey but I totally understand wanting a quality unit and not wanting to spend a month in the garage building your own.

I only have a 7 foot ceiling in my trainer room so I’m going to have to figure out how much clearance I have for a rocker plate.

That or a similar design via DIY can be done that is low and effectively no maintenance, since you can use pure gravity for leveling force.

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7 foot would be pushing it for sure especially when standing up.

Thanks! I’m going to have to study the rocker plate topic next.

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Just curious, do you mostly ride in resistance or ERG mode on the trainer? I don’t get pain (yet), but I do feel my knees being worked more when doing SS or higher in ERG mode. Maybe it’s in my head, but it feels like it takes a good bit more effort to get past the dead spot at the top of the pedal stroke vs the same wattage outside (even on a steep climb). It’s made me wonder if it puts more strain on the joints that they normally wouldn’t get outside.

I’ve done previous training blocks (zwift) in resistance mode and riding this block (traineroad) in erg mode. Same issue.

The over tight shoes theory is interesting. I may be subconsciously making my shoes tighter for indoor sessions knowing it’s intense - similar to ratcheting shoes tighter before a sprint.
This compounded with feet getting hotter indoors and expanding due to no airflow might make my feet cramp.

If I tense my feet I can feel ‘torque’ through my ankles, up the shin and into the knee. Something I’ll definitely have a play with.

I’m also interested in a rocker plate. But will try and solve the issues without spending too much money first. I’m not sure my handyman skills are up to a DIY.

The last backup is a refitting. I’ve been reading a lot about fitting (Steve Hogg, Neil Sainsbury, James Thomas) and their opinions that quite often riders have their saddles too high based on knee angle. They recommend dropping 20-30mm and often moving cleats back.

I am hesitant to change a professional fit I received less than 12 months ago.

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  • Depending on your trainer, some strategically placed foam blocks or firm sponges can allow some amount of rocking motion with minimal effort and cost. I can probably give you more specific ideas if I know what trainer you have.

I have the original elite direto

Does this happen no matter what % of FTP you are riding at on the trainer? Or is it tied to specific interval types?

My problems were tied to trying to do sub-threshold to just above threshold (so ~95% to 110%) for intervals starting at 3 minutes ish. I could do long (30 minute) sweet spot intervals, or short 1 1/2 minute VO2 max (120%) intervals without issues, but the range I mentioned would just kill my knees.

What fixed this for me was:

  • Being really cognizant of my position on the bike on the trainer - getting the InsideRide Kickr E-Flex helped with this. Once I got this, I noticed that I wasn’t sitting square on the bike when it was on the trainer. This asymmetry was masked by the fact that I didn’t need to “balance” on the bike.
  • Working on ankle mobility
  • Constant ab / hip / one-legged strength exercises to make sure I was really stable on my trainer - every week, rain or shine
  • Foam rolling my calves + front shins - these would tighten up, and then get into my knees

Hopefully these will help you diagnose when this happens / what triggers it, so you can start building a program to fix it

Edit: Fixed by bad grammar “Goes this happen” to “Does this happen”