Why do I get pain in my arch when I ride?

Contrary to popular belief, arch pain does exist within cycling.  The long held view that arch pain/strain only occurs with running or ambulatory activities is incorrect.  Why?

As we know, cycling is an incredibly repetitious sport.  With repetition, there is huge potential for a small issue to become a large one over a period of time.  Generally, the work performed by your foot can handle the rigours of cycling but in some cases, certain foot types can generate arch pain.  The location is typically on the outside of the foot as opposed to the inside with runners.

There a multiple reasons for outside (lateral) arch pain.  The most common relates to the shape of the foot and the incongruent shape of your stiff carbon cycling shoe.  In many people, the outside of the foot is quite flat (I hate the term lateral arch) and the cycling shoe in this region certainly isn't.  Different cycling shoes vary in their 'drop' and if your foot can't bend around this carbon shape, then pain will emerge over time.  Different shoes have differing levels of sole curve which can accentuate this issue.  

Another reason for lateral arch strain relates to the width of the foot and compression from the cycling shoes upper on the lateral border.  There is muscle, nerve and vascular tissue on the outside of the foot in that location and constant compression will trigger an ache.

Another cause for lateral pain is fatigue and strain on the small muscles on the outside of the foot when under load.   The lumbricals and abductor digiti minimi quinti muscles (yes, that's their real names) are located in the region and act as stabilisers for the foot when under pedal load.  Certain foot types, pedaling styles and lower leg angles can place higher loads on these structures causing fatigue and pain over time.  An understanding of the mechanics central to the problem is required to fashion a solution.

If you suffer from foot strain or other niggles when you ride, make a time to see our Podiatrist or Physiotherapist for an assessment.  We have all the tools required including bespoke cycling insoles required to reduce peak load on these structures and allow you to get more enjoyment from your riding.

Nathan

Podiatrist

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