Cycling: Shoe Fit

Improper shoe fit amongst cyclists and triathletes is a common problem and can affect their foot comfort, bikefit and power output. Foot discomfort includes symptoms like numbness, tingling, burning and shooting sensations and whilst they might seem common they are not a normal part of cycling.

When fitting shoes for the bike there are three core elements that should be considered.

1. Length

a. Problem: If the length of the shoe is incorrect then the position of the cleats is compromised and the biomechanics/bikefit will be affected. The pedal stroke does not cause the foot to lengthen as much as when we walk or run. As such the shoe should be shorter than your typical running shoe. Problems arise when riders go up in shoe size to gain adequate width at the expense of an overly long shoe.
b. Recommendation: The insole length should be just approximately 5 millimetres longer than your actual foot.

2. Width

a. Problem: Shoes that are too tight increase the risk of numbness and tingling as they can compress nerve structures within the foot. Tight shoes can also irritate bony prominences of the foot eg. bunions. Problems arise when cyclists try to use only one brand of gear. You might like Specialized but you might not have a Specialized sized foot.

b. Recommendation: When standing on an insole minimise the expansion of the forefoot to a minimum. Width can be helped by soft natural upper materials that mould around to the foot like leather.

3. Volume

a. Problem: Some feet are very skinny or much thicker on the spectrum of foot sizes and this can create issues with shoe fit. Feet that are more slender can complain of slippage of their heel and will at times go for shoes that are too small for a tighter fit. Broad feet typically have issues similar to wide feet where they are irritated by increased friction and compression. This is the least common issue that we see.

b. Recommendation: For slender feet select shoes that use a BOA dial closure as they tend to help them fit better. Sometimes a Custom Cycling Specific Carbon Orthosis can help fill the shoe and hold the foot position better than traditional foam inserts. For large feet shoe choice is paramount but an extra piece of advice is choose white over black shoes. The black dye shrinks the leather more than the white dye so a white shoe of the same make and model can typically be a touch looser.

Common Fixes

  1. Improve shoe fit
    • Recommend shoe based on length/width/volume requirement
    • Recommend shoe based on closure system
  2. Improve cleat position
    • Reposition cleat
    • Swap old for new cleats
    • Swap cleat system entirely
    • Add shims
  3. Custom Carbon Fibre Orthoses – Cycling Specific

If you have any concerns or wish to discuss your particular situation/problem you can make an appointment with the Eden Sports Clinic where I run a Sports Podiatry clinic. Visit or call 01732 666050.

All images have been shared with permission.

Mr David Gruhl

Specialist in Podiatric Sports Medicine

David assisted in the opening of The Pedaler in Brisbane, Australia. It was one of the first ever combined cycling shop and podiatric practice. The Pedaler was the home of the Cobra9 Cycling Team who rode competitively in the QRTS, NRS and even participated in a UCI sanctioned event. During his tenure at The Pedaler X Cobra9 David treated newbie cyclists, amateur racers and World Champions. Back home he used to race in local crits, on the track and even dabble in a 3day stage race but now you’ll find him on the trails on his XC MTB.