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.

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.

The use of toe clips, and their degree of sophistication, begin to separate the casual rider from the more serious devotee. Toe clips range from traditional clips to newer shoe-cleat ensembles -- "clipless systems" -- that resemble ski bindings. Many companies model their units on the French manufacturer Lookª. A Look-compatible unit will offer the most diverse combinations of shoes and clips from which to choose.

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.