ASK RIDE… How do you determine you have your shoe cleats set up correctly?

Hi guys,

A simple question to start: how do you determine you have your shoe cleats set up correctly?

David  (Frankston VIC)

Hi David,

Research and theories continue to evolve on how to best position your cleat to obtain optimum performance.  The ‘safest’ approach is achieve performance through avoiding injury.

It is important to list some of the issues which may arise when your cleats are not set up properly.  The absence of the following gives you an idea that you must be pretty close to the money.

The most common issues I see in the clinic related to simple cleat position problems would be:
-Calf muscle tiredness, stiffness or cramping (or in extreme cases achilles tendon pain) due to cleats positioned too far forwards;
-Knee pain (either lateral = outside of the knee, or patellofemoral = behind the kneecap) due to not enough ‘float’ for the rider’s biomechanical demands; or
-Pain in the ball of the foot due to the cleat being positioned so the ball of the foot is directly on top of the pedal spindle.

Cleat position can also have a play in contributing to injuries relating to saddle height (most common cause of ‘petellofemoral’ knee pain).

Cleat position takes in to account many variables: the fore and aft position of your foot on the pedal, rotation (‘float’ = heel in / out), proximity to crank arm (known as the ‘Q-factor’), and foot angle on the pedal (known as ‘cant’).  Whilst best advice if you present with problems such as the above would be to consult with a health practitioner experienced in dealing with cycling position (or a bikefitter practicing injury prevention), the majority of cyclists will have few issues if their cleat is positioned to allow the ball of the foot to be aligned just in front of the pedal spindle.  This ensures the calves are not placed under undue load by reducing the length of the ‘torque arm’ of the foot between the ankle and the pedal.  It is also recommended the cyclist positions the float of their cleat to allow their foot and therefore knee to track through a ‘natural’ stroke (rather than a ‘neutral’ stroke).  In practical terms, ensure the foot sits inside (ideally in the middle) of the float, allowing the heel to track either in or out as your natural foot and knee biomechanics require it to so throughout the pedal stroke.

Should issues continue whilst riding, it would be best to get your position reviewed professionally.

Safe riding!

Blair Martin

Blair Martin, Physiotherapist, specialises in cycling, running and triathlon related injury prevention and rehabilitation. He runs his own popular practise in Sydney called The Body Mechanic.

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