Who Wants New Shoes? Some Advice…

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As bike fitters, as you would imagine, we see a lot of cycling shoes and feet, of all descriptions. A very common question is “I’m thinking of buying some new cycling shoes, do you have any advice, my friend rides with x y and z?” or “there’s an offer on these cycling shoes, what do you think?”

There are hundreds if not thousands of blog posts, cycling news sites and You Tube videos reviewing shoes. Most of them talk about sole stiffness, closure type, width of shoe, material of the upper, ventilation, all of which are great topics, however one of the most important subjects is almost always never talked about, and that is cleat position. This is vital to a bike fit and overall comfort and performance for the rider.

We typically see 5-6 brands of cycling shoes, Shimano, Specialized, Fizik, Sidi, Giro, Mavic. Of course there are many others, but these tend to be the most common. These are all great shoes, very good quality, range of sizes and colours. However…..there are a number, which, are better overall…..when it comes to cleat position and comfort as a result of this.

This is when it gets interesting, and I will expect a good few comments from this… 🙂 On average, if we see a rider with foot problems and sometimes calf discomfort, they will generally be using a shoe from Sidi and Fizik. Why? ….Fore Aft cleat position is to blame. As I mentioned above, the reviewers often do not talk about this, and many riders base their purchases around these reviews. Sidi and Fizik position the cleat holes, quite far forward on the shoe, in other words, towards the toes. In the last couple of years, the Fizik cleat position has improved and they have provided a slot for the threaded part to slide back and forth, but are still placed too far forward on the shoe. Sidi, I believe, have not changed for a while.

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Shimano, Specialized and Lake Cycling shoes, on the other hand, offer very good fore aft adjustment. Other decent shoes, in this regard are Giro, and sometimes Mavic. In a simple size comparison, Euro 44.5, there is as much as 15mm difference between a Shimano shoe and a shoe from Sidi or Fizik. You might be thinking…15mm….that is nothing….but it is a huge difference at the shoe, as this is the only place on the bike that you are truly locked into and all the power goes through. Take a look at the photos below of Specialized, Lake and Shimano shoes, note how far back the cleat holes are:

This can make a massive difference to foot comfort and power delivery to the pedal. Our clients sometimes describe the sensation of their toes having to grip the inside of the shoes in a claw like fashion, when climbing or under load, we like to call this “angry toes” This can often lead to the inner soles being completely worn through from the toes digging in, trying to hold onto the inside of the shoe! Whereas this is hardy ever a problem with shoes offering a more rearward cleat position.

One other thing to note, is that the offerings form Sidi and Fizik are not “foot shaped”, they are typically narrow towards the front of the shoe, which can squeeze the toes together.

Again the shoes from Lake, Specialized and Shimano are more “foot shaped” allowing the toes to spread out and relax.

Of course this is not an exhaustive post about all the foot injuries, shoe types and brands, and nor is it meant to take anything away from Sidi and Fizik, but just giving the rider some more information which is not often spoken about, and the ability to be able to make a more informed decision before purchasing a pair of sparkling new shoes.

If you have any questions about your shoes or feet problems whilst cycling or are looking to purchase a new pair, drop us a comment and we will try our best to advise you.



Joe Hickerton – Cyclocross Bike Fit Case Study

Ken Buckley, Team Manager of Spokes BPC Race Team, shares his write up of team rider Joe’s  recent bike fit.

Joe Hickerton Retul.jpg“Joe Hickerton is a prominent Cyclocross racer in the south region and gets regular podium places in the Wessex Cyclocross League.

During the Christmas break he visited Spokes BPC Racing team sponsor, Vankru Cycling for some assistance with his position.

Vankru Cycling are a Level 3 IBFI independent fitting studio and Master Retul fitters. Also voted amongst the top 10 bike fitters in the UK by cycling weekly.

Joe has had bike fits before but never one specific to his discipline of cyclocross. The demands of his event differ from traditional road cycling and so a specific riding position is crucial. Weight distribution and centre of gravity are a much greater concern when races are littered with slow tight corners taken at low speed.

They began by thoroughly assessing Joe’s mobility in the physio room. They discovered Joe has good hamstring and hip mobility. But displays some pronation and external rotation of his feet. Assessments also showed some left leg instability – something to work on away from the bike! This influenced the decisions in adjusting cleat position, saddle height and the drop from the saddle to handlebars.

With Joe’s knowledge of his event and the expertise of Vankru they spent several hours making changes to his position which aimed to improve his efficiency of pedalling, power transfer and handling of the bike.

The most notable changes to Joe’s position began with the cleats on his shoes. His cleats were moved backwards from being forward of the ball of the foot, all the way back so that they were directly underneath it. Joe immediately reported that it ‘felt right’ and there was less wasted effort through the ankle and foot movement. An interesting start to the fit!

Next came adjustments to the shifters and the saddle. One of Joe’s main goals of the bike fit was to improve the handling of the bike in low speed tight cornering where he felt he was losing valuable time. Joe’s saddle was moved backwards slightly to improve weight distribution across the bike, and then lowered to compensate for the changes to his cleat position and saddle setback. This also allowed his handlebar position to be altered. The bars were rotated forwards slightly whilst moving the shifters upwards in the opposite direction. The result of this was a more comfortable hand position where the flat of the bar follows directly into the hoods. Having the right feel through the bars and pressure through the hands is crucial for such a technical event like Cyclocross.

After some final small tweaks here and there, Vankru used the Retul 3D Motion Capture system to assess the changes to Joe’s position and record the results. Interestingly they managed to achieve a drop in back angle of -2 degrees for Joe whilst leaving him feeling more comfortable on the bike and more powerful through the pedals.

A lower back angle is something that aerodynamics enthusiasts usually look for as a quick and sure-fire way of going faster! The problem with just slamming your stem to achieve this effect is that it sometimes comes with a price of reducing your power output. By aiming to lower the front end of your bike in conjunction with a bike fitter you can be sure of a drop in handlebars without compromising your efficiency!

Whilst Joe is an expert in his event, Vankru work with riders of all experience levels to make them faster and more comfortable on the bike.

Joe has since been out testing his position and bagged an awesome 4th place in the hotly contested Coventry RC Boxing Day Cyclocross, won by Stephen Roach of Raleigh GAC.

Thank you Vankru for the support!

Check out Vankru’s website for details of their fits and prices. They are super busy, so book your CX bike fit now before the season kicks off again to avoid disappointment.”

Ken Buckley – Team Manager, Spokes BPC Race Team