For many years now my flat feet have struggled with the beating put forth during any given day of cycling. After suffering through and treating plantar faciitis as best I could, there was/is soaking those feet in an ice water foot bath with epsom salts, orthotics of varying elevation, and of course being more selective with the shoes I wear both on and off the bike. There were ‘good foot days’ and ‘bad foot days’, the latter outnumbering the former. After a while, my ankles began to ache, forcing me to ride with neoprene ankle braces.
During a particularly brutal climb a few weeks ago (I had never done this climb before), I was forced to change my pedal stroke. The granny gear had already been engaged, and for the next three miles there would be no relief. In one brief moment, I learned that I have always been a toe-down kind of cyclist, trying to eke out every last watt of power from each stroke. In an effort to relieve the pressure on the front of my foot, I went to a heels-down stroke for a few strokes and ended up using an entirely different set of leg muscles. Alternating ten strokes toes, ten heels, I found myself actually able to gear up a little. Over the next few weeks I became more aware of my cycling style; heels-down during climbs, toes-down when taking off from a stop.
Of all the things I have tried over the years to ease foot pain and discomfort, this single action is responsible for improving the ratio of good foot days to bad. If you suffer from cycling-specific foot discomfort, attention to the pedal stroke truly worked for me.
I’m also getting older, but the only way to deal with that is acceptance 😀
It’s the old Greg LeMond “scraping mud off your shoes” technique.
Varying your foot movements works well to relieve paint, but be careful about your ankling technique — you can really injure your feet. You should drop your heel just a touch after the top of the pedal stroke, but dropping it too much is a recipe for tendonitis and plantar fascitis.
Of course your foot feels better: you’re stretching it!